Mystery Diner in Hebron: Hart’s Saloon known for superb brick oven pizza

Bar provides relaxing atmosphere indoors and out, plus strong carryout options

Not all pizza is created equal.

Preparing a pie can be done a number of ways, and most are pretty good, no matter whether it comes out of a big, commercial oven at a pizza parlor or is store-bought in the frozen aisle to cook at home.

But my absolute favorite method for baking a pizza is an old-fashioned brick oven, like Hart’s Saloon in Hebron uses for its delightful helpings of thin crust topped with delectable cheese and creative combinations of veggies.

We treated ourselves to a takeout meal from the bar that offers filling snacks and sandwiches alongside its main menu of classic and signature pizzas, all consisting of dough made in-house from scratch and baked inside some flaming hot bricks.

When we got home to try the food, we put one slice on our plates and grabbed a handful of each of the three appetizers we ordered.

But before we dug into the finger food, we had to sample a bite each of the cup of Jack Daniel’s Chili ($3) we ordered with added fixings including smoked cheddar cheese and sour cream (fixings cost 50 cents extra).

The chili was amazing, with a unique, smoky finish that reminded me how well the subtle whiskey flavor blended with the traditional ingredients. It also added an interesting edge to the meat.

After the unexpectedly good chili, we moved on to our hand-held appetizers, all of which came with their own dipping sauces from the saloon.

The seasoned waffle fries ($3) were perfectly crispy, and their beer cheese sauce brought big flavor with a little spicy kick to this classic side dish.

Spinach artichoke dip is one of my favorite starters, and I normally like to heap more of it onto a single chip or piece of toast than physically should be possible. So I was really looking forward to testing the Hart’s Saloon spinach artichoke bites ($8), which bring all the gusto of the standard dip into a spherical, breaded pastry container.

Hart’s did not disappoint with this new take on a popular combination. The spinach artichoke bites were good and plenty cheesy, and the marinara sauce that came with them enhanced the eating experience.

With just one more appetizer to clear from my plate before turning my attention to devouring slice after slice, it was time to try one of the saloon’s mac and cheese bites ($8).

Once again, this is a dish I look forward to consuming every time I see it offered on a menu. But these chunks of mac and cheese held together by breading were beyond delicious.

I heard a soft crunch right as I bit through the breading, which was great, and on the inside was plenty of hot and gooey cheese oozing over the noodles. You sure didn’t need the provided ranch for these to taste fantastic, but a dip didn’t hurt.

Finally, it was time to dig into our slices of the 10-inch pizzas. Hart’s makes the pizzas all one size, and they are meant to feed one, the menu says.

We ordered two pies, and I began with the Evolution ($10), which comes with pepperoni, sausage, green pepper and onion.

Next, I reached for a slice of the Italian Beef pizza ($12), with thin-sliced roast beef, roasted red pepper, green pepper, onion, hot giardiniera and bacon.

This one tasted just like an Italian sub, with the added magic of crust baked in a brick oven outstripping what any sandwich bread could do for these luscious toppings.

The giardiniera really amplified this pizza, infusing the right amount of juicy spice to each slice.

To make absolutely sure we wouldn’t need any midnight snacks, we each sampled a bite of the Hart’s B.L.T. sandwich ($9). This one was thick, with plenty of bacon cooked to a nice, slightly brittle crisp, just how we prefer it.

The plentiful serving of bacon was complemented by fresh lettuce and tomato on oven-toasted garlic bread, and together it all hit the spot.

We were absolutely stuffed after sampling the menu at Hart’s Saloon, which is simple, but features items that all pack a serious punch.

We are looking forward to spending some summer afternoons at the Hebron establishment, where the indoor space is relaxing with garage doors that can pull up when the weather is nice. And a separate outdoor back patio features seating in shipping containers open to the air on one side.

Hopefully, some live musical acts are rocking out back next time we stop by.

• The Mystery Diner is an employee at Shaw Media. The diner’s identity is not revealed to restaurant staff when ordering or picking up the food. If the Mystery Diner cannot recommend the establishment, we will not publish a story.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Hart’s Saloon

WHERE: 9932 Main St., Hebron

PHONE: 815-575-8110

INFORMATION: HartsSaloon.com