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Woodpecker Pizza opens in downtown Milwaukie

Not every restaurant ribbon-cutting ceremony features a pizza pan and pizza cutter, but Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson came up with the idea to set the event apart from others.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Woodpecker Pizza owner Lindsey Morstad, left, wields the pizza cutter, while Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson and Cindy Kauffman hold the ceremonial red ribbon.And just before he and Woodpecker Pizza Wings & Sports restaurant owner Lindsey Morstad sliced the red ribbon in half on Wednesday, March 19, Ferguson welcomed the new business to Main Street.

“We are glad to have a new family-friendly restaurant in downtown Milwaukie,” Ferguson told the small crowd gathered in front of the site, located in the spot formerly occupied by Milwaukie Kitchen & Wine.

As for the name of the restaurant, Woodpecker was Morstad’s radio name when he was a long-haul truck driver.

Value in the pizza crust

“This is something I have always wanted to do. Sometimes when you go out to a pizza parlor, you don’t get good value for money, so I decided to build pizza the way I like it, and so far, so good,” Morstad said, of his new business, which officially opened Feb. 26.

He makes his own sauces and his own dough, of course, but Morstad has come up with a way to get customers to eat the entire slice, including the crust.

“I have created a handle to hold the pizza slice, but it’s folded over,” he said, noting that there is sauce and cheese under the handle, so customers “are getting good value.”

Morstad calls his cooks “pizza engineer architects,” and said he and his staff take time putting each pie together individually, and not like “fast food pizza.”

His favorite is the Hawaiian, with Canadian bacon, pineapple, smoke Gouda cheese and lots of garlic.

Other choices include cheese, cheese with pepperoni, vegetarian and the P & O, with pepperoni and olives.

His most unusual pizza is the spicy chicken, made with Woodpecker’s signature hot sauce and chicken.

Whole pizzas, range in price from $12, for a small cheese pizza, to $25, for the large Woodpecker and all-meat pizzas; large whole pizzas will feed four to five people.

Cheese, pepperoni and Hawaiian slices are available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, when the lunch special of a slice and soda for $5.50 is in effect.

Salads also are available, starting at $5, along with build-your-own pizza options.

Woodpecker also features a variety of drinks, including beer, wine, hard cider, soda and bottled water.

Wings, sports round out menu

But there are other menu choices, which brings us to chicken wings and sauces.

“At first I wasn’t going to have wings, but everyone seems to be into wings, and this is a sports bar, so I needed to add something to the menu,” Morstad said.

But he didn’t want to simply offer customers regular wings with an overpowering bleu cheese sauce, so Morstad came up with three of his own dipping sauces: Woodpecker hot sauce; Woodpecker burn in, burn out; and Woodpecker spicy peanut sauce, which “starts out with a mild buttery peanut butter taste, and then the heat kicks in,” he said.

Other dipping sauce choices include honey garlic, honey barbeque and roasted garlic.

Wings are priced from $7, for six pieces with one sauce, to $18, for 20 pieces and three sauces.

As for the sports bar aspect, big-screen TVs will broadcast Blazer games and other sporting events, and, if a game runs overtime, the restaurant will stay open so customers can see the final moments, Morstad said.

At other times, when there are no sports events happening, the TVs will be on, but the volume will not be ear-splitting, he said.

Jumping in

While Morstad is overseeing the cooking in the kitchen, his girlfriend, Cindy Kauffman, is in the front of the house, greeting customers.

The couple kicked around ideas for their dream restaurant a couple of months ago, then decided to take a walk down Main Street. They walked by the site of the former Milwaukie Kitchen & Wine, and saw restaurant furniture piled up inside.

“We talked to the landlord about the furniture, and he said it came with the building. We walked in the door, and said, this is it. We had no time for should we or shouldn’t we, we just jumped right in with both feet,” Kauffman said.

She added that neither one has ever owned a restaurant before, so it’s all new to them. But they both knew they wanted to be in downtown Milwaukie, Kauffman said, partly because she is a long-time Milwaukie resident, and partly because they see downtown as “an up-and-coming area.”

There were a few hurdles to surmount, she said, adding that when their first pizza oven didn’t work out, Morstad had to drive to Fresno, Calif., for another one.

The restaurant is a family affair, Kauffman said, adding that Morstad’s oldest daughter, Courtney, a PSU graduate this spring, is a server and keeps the books; Morstad’s 16-year-old son, Tyler, works in the kitchen on weekends; and his 12-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, is working out front, bussing tables and getting to know the customers.

The formula seems to be working, Morstad said, adding that even in the short time the restaurant has been open, he has seen customers come back three or four times already.

Community

Kauffman and Morstad are dedicated to helping the community with their new venture, she said.

“We want to bring a community feel back to Milwaukie. I want to bring back the car clubs, and we want to get high school sports teams down here,” she said, noting that team parties or small events of any kind can be accommodated at the back of the restaurant.

The restaurant will be open for Milwaukie’s First Fridays, starting May 2, and Woodpecker sauces will be available at the Milwaukie Farmers Market, opening May 4.

The restaurant also will be a participant in the upcoming Dine Out Donation Tuesdays, a community campaign to help eliminate child hunger at Rowe Middle School in Milwaukie. (See sidebar sbove.)

Kauffman added, “We want to help the kids and we want to make a difference in the community, and we need the community to be here for us.”

For more information about Woodpecker Pizza Wings & Sports, located at 10610 S.E. Main St., in downtown Milwaukie, call 503-387-5798 or visit woodpeckerpizza.com. The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to around 9 p.m., depending on sports events.

Dine Out Donation Tuesdays to benefit Rowe Middle School students

Evan King, the school social worker at Milwaukie’s Rowe Middle School, informally started the End School-Time Hunger Program at the school three years ago, when she offered snacks to hungry students.

But over the past few years she has seen “an increase in the number of families facing economic challenges. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for these families to meet their students’ basic needs,” King said.

The programs from the school district provide some food for Rowe students, but 12- to 14 year-olds, with their growing bodies, need more food to be able to thrive and learn, she said, noting that the program has increased from snacks to having five components.

“We have free breakfast for everyone. At each meal service, we have a share table for extra food, and a seconds serving, so that the kitchen staff does not throw away perfectly good, unserved hot food,”King said.

“We have a guest account to pay for meals for students whose families are the working poor — these families do not qualify for free meals, yet they cannot pay for their student’s lunch. Mid-afternoon we serve a snack to every student who wants one, so that they can continue to focus on their learning. As we like to say, ‘hungry kids can’t learn.’ ”

The program has partnered with organizations in the community, including the Clackamas Rotary Club, Milwaukie Rotary Club, GracePointe Church, Rowe PTA, Oregon Food Bank, La Salle Preparatory School, Milwaukie Neighborhood Associations (Ardenwald, Hector Campbell, Lake Road, Lewelling, Linwood), Safeway Foundation, Bob’s Red Mill and Trader Joe’s, King said.

And the program is helping students and their performance; 72 percent of the staff who responded to a survey said they have noticed a moderate or significant improvement in student concentration during instructional time.

Dine Out Donation Tuesdays is “the brilliant brainchild of local resident Jody Schreffler,” who approached King with the idea.

“It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. We here in Milwaukie have the opportunity to show the world that Milwaukie is not just a wonderful community, but is a community that truly cares about each of its children,” King said.

She added, “Dining out on a Tuesday and telling your server it is for the students at Rowe may have an impact beyond your wildest imagination. It just might be the difference that makes a big difference in the lives of these young people.”

Tell your server at the following restaurants that you are participating in Dine Out Donation Tuesdays, and 10 percent of that day’s proceeds will be donated to Rowe Middle School’s End School-Time Hunger Program: Cha, Cha, Cha, Duffy’s Irish Pub, Gaucho’s Argentine Cuisine, Painted Lady Coffee House, Pietro’s Pizza, Sully’s Cafe, Wind Horse Coffee and Tea, Wine:30, and Woodpecker Pizza Wings & Sports. For an updated list of restaurants, visit firstfridaymilwaukie.com.




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