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One Dish Wonders: The Mellow Mushroom

Mike Sutter
The campus eatery's décor includes the above mural on the outside and an overwhelming interior.

House Special pizza ($19.20for a 14-inch medium)

The Mellow Mushroom on the Drag wasn't my first choice. I had a niece and nephew in town from Colorado, and I was showing them the University of Texas. You've never heard two kids complain more about being hot, especially when I suggested hitting a fried-chicken trailer for lunch.

Reality check: Families with delicate offspring have no interest in our groovy little trailer scene. What they like is air conditioning, so I gave up. I chose the Mellow Mushroom - one of about 100 locations in 15 states - with great care and discretion. In that it was closest to the car.

It looks like a college apartment decorated with whatever the tenants could steal from a Bennigan's, a comic-book store and a putt-putt golf course. Over here are metal RCA signs, over there are painted monsters with Asian lettering and on the wall over the bar hangs a terrible fiberglass sculpture of Willie Nelson paddling a canoe with the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Dude, bad 'shrooms.

My expectations lowered by overheated whiners and the queasy décor, the pizza took me by surprise. The House Special is a kitchen-sink pie loaded with the possibly redundant quartet of pepperoni, ham, bacon and sausage, plus ground beef, onions, green peppers, black olives, tomatoes and of course, mushrooms. Nothing in particular made a bold statement, because this pizza is a cumulative build: decent sauce, respectable cheese and the collected bounty of the prep station on a crust worth its own sentence. The collar is fat and puffy, almost distended, filled with air and steam stabilized by a sturdy exterior crunch. A pizza balloon. And the crunch extends through to the tip of each triangular slice.

With the medium House Special and another, less-complicated medium pie (the Hawaiian, for $12.75), we fed four chronically inconvenienced kids and their four adult handlers.

If we hadn't been saddled with the whole role model thing, we'd have gone with a pitcher of local Bootlegger Brown from about 20 beers on draft. We earned it.

2426 Guadalupe St. 472-6356, www.mellowmushroom.com . Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Mondays-Thursdays. 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays-Saturdays. Noon to midnight Sunday.