Lookout Mountain Pizza Opens: Ain't (Not Neither) No Honky-Tonk


V I E W P O I N T S

Me and mah baby went honky-tonkin’ Saturday night in the wilds of rural Dade County, swillin’ likker at a speakeasy and windin’ up a-layin’ in the grass in the rain watchin’ them little colored lights flashin’ in the sky.

OK. Seriously, where mah baby and I actually went Saturday night was out to dine in the genteel ambience of Lookout Mountain’s newest restaurant, then on to commune with the community at the annual Independence Day fireworks at New Salem.

But we really did begin the outing by putting a small bottle of red wine into a brown bag. And we really did pour the wine into plastic glasses and drink it on the premises of a Dade County commercial establishment. (All of it, because we didn’t want to take any along with us to the New Salem Community Center, choosing to risk violating the permissible alcohol blood levels [“And how are you enjoying the fireworksh, Sheriff Crossh?”] as opposed to the open-container laws [“Yes, Deputy, we are sober precisely because there is wine in that bottle.”] )


​​Well! The purpose of this opinion-cum-nooz piece is to tell you that Chris Stone has at long last opened his Lookout Mountain Pizza Company, where mah baby and I dined Saturday night. The restaurant, across from Canyon Grill at the intersection of 136 and Scenic Highway atop Lookout, is open Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. until 9 or 10 p.m.--“Or until the dough runs out,” says Stone--and he invites all to come up and try his gourmet brick-oven pizza.

Oh, and to bring along any desired wine or beer in their own brown bags. Stone provides corkscrews, bottle openers and glasses, but has no license to sell booze.

Which brings us to the honky-tonk reference at the beginning of this article, to say nothing of its tone of heavy sarcasm. Both owe their existence to Lookout Mountain Pizza’s unique status as the cheese-covered, sauce-oozing, pepperoni-studded embodiment of the Dade County Commission’s determination to interpose itself between the voters and their will as expressed in last November’s liquor-by-the-drink referendum.

Chris Stone and his restaurant gained fame in Dade County long before the first pepperoni was sliced as Stone tried, and failed, to make the pizzeria the first restaurant in the unincorporated county to serve beer and wine. The county commission dragged its feet on an ordinance to regulate the newly permissible liquor sales as the winter of the new year blossomed into glorious spring, finally yanking off the cloth to reveal an ordinance that seemed tailor-made to keep small businessmen like Stone from serving anything stronger than sarsaparilla at their artisan eateries.

Specifically, prohibitive licensing fees, a requirement that to serve alcohol of any kind an establishment must seat 60, and strict rules forbidding a proprietor to allow brown-bagging if he has in fact managed to procure a license, finally induced Stone to throw up his hands in defeat.


Dade commissioners have admitted on the record that their purpose in permitting the liquor referendum at all was to open the county to big corporate players like Logan’s or Chili’s. They have denied fashioning their ordinance specifically to crush small businesses like Stone’s--but have repeatedly made reference to their shared abhorrence of smaller establishments to which they have severally referred as "honky-tonks,” "hole-in-the-walls" or “watering holes.”

Stone decided finally he had enough headaches with the credit-card readers and the Coke vendor to wrestle the local gummint and 200 years of blue laws. He opened without fanfare, without a press announcement, and without a liquor license on Saturday, July 1, just in time to feed me and mah baby before we boogeyed on down the highway to see them little colored flashin’ lights.

Traffic, he said, had been slow and steady, exactly the “soft opening” he’d been hoping for. “It’s been just about perfect,” said Stone.


And so was the pizza. Me and mah baby had a handcrafted “Sophia” pizza, with the delicious Italian sausage that mah baby is incapable of resisting. Stone explained to us that the sausage, as well as the cheeses he uses, are shipped in from a gourmet Chicago supplier. The flour for his pizza dough--which takes 30 hours to develop to oven-readiness--he imports from Genoa.

And his oven, I cannot help adding, is fashioned from volcanic rock that came all the way from Mount Vesuvius, which put on such a display of flashin' colored lights in the sky in A.D. 79 as to destroy the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Honky-tonk indeed.

Stone, an airline pilot, began his journey into restaurant ownership with a pizza-making class he took in New York City in 2002. He shared a small apartment there with five or six other pilots who, like him, regularly found themselves spending the night in the Big Apple between flights.


Whether it was destiny or a desire to get out of a crowded apartment that led him to take the class, Stone became obsessed with pizza making to the point he built a brick pizza oven at his home, then procured a smaller portable one he could take on the road to vend pies at outdoor events. He has been planning to open a restaurant since he bought the old Art Box, a small gallery on Scenic Highway, in early 2016 and began renovating the small building.

Stone said he made his long-delayed debut on July 1 because the credit card machine, suppliers, Coke vendors, et cetera, all seemed to stop snagging and start working smoothly just in time for Independence Day weekend. “Everything just came together,” he said.

Stone says he will continue opening Fridays and Saturdays for the foreseeable future. If business slows, he may go to alternate weekends. For now, he and his wife, Cindy, both still have day jobs, and their only helpers are a daughter and son-in-law. But if business goes well, who knows? Stone may hire more help and expand his hours.


Photos: Above: Stone's wife, Cindy, chats with diners at Lookout Mountain Pizza. (Note me and mah baby's brown-bag vino in foreground.) Further up, sacks of imported flour, the pizza dough Stone handcrafts from it, and one of the finished pies he makes from it, as half-eaten by mah baby and me.

If you’d like to support Stone’s business, and incidentally eat a delicious artisan pizza you will find nowhere else in Dade County, Stone urges you to drop on in. You are welcome to bring the beverage of your choice though Stone regrets he can’t sell you one.

Me and mah baby can recommend the place. And we are here to tell you that Lookout Mountain Pizza is not, neither, no honky-tonk.

Oh, and as for them colored flashin' lights: It really did rain.

Editor's note: Except for the one that's out of focus, all photos in this article were taken by mah baby.


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