A dynamic duo recently teamed up to take over the kitchen at The Silver Ballroom. Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef opened on April 10 at the popular Bevo Mill pinball bar, serving up personal pizzas, Korean-inspired street food and more.
The concept comes from partners Chris Ward and Melanie Meyer, who are also co-hosts of loudQUIETloud at community radio station KDHX. Ward grew up in Rushville, Illinois, where his family has owned the town’s popular go-to pizza spot, Pizza Unlimited, since 1995. With Party Bear Pizza, he hopes to bring the longstanding style to St. Louis with his mascot, Party Bear – a whimsically crowdfunded Craigslist purchase – at the forefront.
Meanwhile, Meyer brings nearly 20 years of industry experience to the table, serving up a menu inspired by the cuisine of Korea, where she was born. Her culinary resume includes working at The Cheshire with chef Ben Welch (currently of The Midwestern Meat & Drink), who at the time dubbed her “Tiny Chef.” Meyer most recently worked on the line at Lulu’s Local Eatery, where she developed a number of chef specials.
“It’s like two great tastes that taste great together,” Ward says. “I always wanted to do Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef is Melanie’s brand. It’s kind of a weird name putting them together, but we just wanted to have fun with it.”
Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef fills the space previously occupied by Devil Dogs Wienery. In the kitchen, Ward and Meyer cook up their food from scratch, including freshly made pizza dough. Ward describes his crust as thin but not cracker-thin – to that end, the self-professed Provel naysayer won’t put the processed cheese anywhere near his pies. His tomato sauce is tangy with a sweetness to it, and it’s topped with mozzarella, cooked until browned on top.
Personal party pizzas are available in a seven-inch size, available with build-your-own toppings or in unique combos such as The Hoosier with thinly sliced deli ham, mushrooms and onion. Another highlight is Cheese Stix with garlic butter, cheese and marinara sauce. Twelve-inch frozen pizzas are also available to take home.
On the Tiny Chef side of the menu, guests will find an array of tacos and bibimbap bowls. Choose from proteins – also available as side orders on their own – including char siu pork belly, char siu tofu, bulgogi chicken and bulgogi beef. Tacos come with your protein of choice, pico, a lime wedge, cilantro and Chihuahua cheese on a corn or flour tortilla with Napa slaw or kimchi.
Bibimbap bowls come with your protein of choice, kimchi, cucumber and carrot-sesame salad, black sesame seeds, a fried egg, green onion, Japanese-style rice and your choice of two vegan sauces: a sweet and spicy soy-based Dragon sauce or a sweet and salty orange-ginger-plum Pixie sauce. Guests can expect to see fun crossovers between the two menus in the future as well, such as bulgogi pizza with kimchi and a fried egg on top.
“It’s been cool seeing a lot of people coming back to Silver Ballroom to visit us who haven’t been in awhile or ever. We’re sort of pinball evangelists, so this is all just a Trojan horse to get people in to play pinball,” Ward says with a laugh. “I’ve never been happier. I’m in my favorite place around my favorite people in my favorite city working with my favorite person.”
“I love being able to come in and prep, blare music and feed my friends,” Meyer adds. “It doesn’t even feel like work. We’re having fun feeding people and making them happy.”
Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef is open Wednesday through Thursday from 4 to 9pm, Friday through Saturday from 4 to 11pm and Sunday from 4 to 9pm.
Party Bear Pizza and Tiny Chef, 4701 Morganford Road (inside The Silver Ballroom), Bevo Mill, St. Louis, Missouri, facebook.com/partybearpizzaandtinychef