Thursday, August 19, 2010
Oasis Bar & Restaurant
Name: Oasis Bar & Restaurant
Location: 153 Harry L Dr., Johnson City, NY 13790
Phone: (607) 797-9782
Cuisine: Pub fare, "Hot Pies"
Price: Standard bar prices. $8.50 for a large pie.
The Oasis is a bar located on Harry L Drive in Johnson City and is among the area's oldest establishments, cranking out its famous "Hot Pies" since before the Treaty of Versailles was inked. 92 years later, it lives on as a fairly popular local bar and restaurant. I've passed by the Oasis a ridiculous number of times over the years and at some point, I knew I'd have to give in and try out this legendary food. Tonight was the night.
So what exactly is a "Hot Pie" anyway? In short, it's pizza. You might wonder why pizza wasn't a good enough name for this stuff, and I'm not quite sure that anyone has the answer to that question anymore. One theory is that "pizza" was the name given to the crust/sauce/cheese/topping style food made by Italian immigrants in the Binghamton area, while "hot pie" was the name preferred by Eastern European (mostly Polish) store owners. I don't really buy that theory though, given that Consol's (definitely an Italian restaurant) advertises its thin-crust pizza as a "hot pie." Otherwise, the theory does make sense, as the center of the Hot Pie Universe seems to be the northeastern-most section of Johnson City and Binghamton's First Ward (north of the railroad tracks). Places like Sharkey's (1948), Red's Kettle Inn (1942), and The Oasis (1918) all still carry on the name and are located in more or less the same general area, an area with an extremely high concentration of people of Eastern European descent. If anyone DOES know the difference between pizza and hot pie, if there is one, please comment on this post...I would like to know and I'm sure there's somebody else out there who cares. Right?
Anyway, Oasis. 1918. That's a long time to be in business! I ordered a hot pie with half-cheese, half-pepperoni and went to pick it up. The building itself looks like a converted house (it may even have some rooms for rent above it) with a brick facade in front. On the inside, there's a pretty nice looking bar off to the right as you enter, complete with a giant fishtank and neon lighting. There are some tables for seating off to the left, and up the stairs straight ahead, there are a sizable number of tables and booths adjacent to the kitchen area. It's a far bigger space than I expected, and it was a pretty chill atmosphere aside from the fact that there was the crappiest of crappy pop music blaring from the speakers. I got my pizza...errr....hot pie ($10) and was on my way.
So, how was my first proper "hot pie" experience? Ehhh, I'd have to say I'm not a fan. This was quite possibly the oddest pizza I've ever had, and not particularly good, but it did help me figure out some things about this area's pizza traditions. For starters, I now understand Brozzetti's a lot better. Brozzetti's, if you'll recall my prior review, is a total anomaly in the world of pizza. It has a soft, bready crust and a different blend of cheeses on the top than the usual mozzarella. Oasis's Hot Pie is actually fairly similar, a far lesser version, but definitely kindred. It also consists of a very soft crust and the cheese on top was most definitely cheddar. The crust did not taste anything like Brozzetti's sweet-and-salty, weirdly delicious crust...rather, it was more similar to the greasy, almost-fried crust you'd find at Nirchi's or any of the other area "sheet pizza" peddlers. So in essence, Oasis is kind of the halfway point between the two styles.
How did it taste? Ehhh. I'll stop short of saying it's awful, I just simply didn't care for it. The greasy crust definitely is the dominant force with this pizza and there's something just a little off-putting about its flavor. The cheese (like I said, cheddar) doesn't really help matters much, and the sauce is standard tomato variety that gets rather hidden in the mix. I can tell you this though: if I were drunk, this would probably taste much better, for what it's worth. Really, if the crust were less oily/greasy...I would've enjoyed this pie a whole lot more than I did. So, not a complete failure, and worth a try, but in the end, I did not care for it much.
So ends the saga of The Oasis, the little bar that could since the Wilson Administration, since before my grandparents were born. Count me out, but may they keep making their Hot Pies for another four score and twelve years!