Redefining fast food

Dashing preconceptions at Mad Dash Pizza (& wings)

Taking a lunch break in the shade on Mad Dash’s patio.

Taking a lunch break in the shade on Mad Dash’s patio.

Photo By jason cassidy

Mad Dash Pizza
2391 Cohasset Road
Hours: Wed.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun.-Tues., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Mad Dash Pizza

2391 Cohasset Rd.
Chico, CA 95926

(530) 899-1010

Every now and then, something will come along in one’s life to shatter any preconceived notions he or she may have about a particular subject. In the case of Mad Dash Pizza—the drive-through pizza-and-wings kiosk on Cohasset Road, next to Dutch Bros. Coffee—my experience-proven belief that fast food is junk food had to be completely set aside.

Mad Dash’s food is on the whole other end of the food spectrum from junk food—it is freshly prepared and made with high-quality ingredients. The satisfaction I got eating at Mad Dash recently was easily worth the risk I took of bicycling along the bike-unfriendly route down Mangrove Avenue and over Highway 99 to get from downtown Chico to the little restaurant.

On my first visit, I was pleased to find that, not only were there two walk-up windows in addition to two drive-throughs, but Mad Dash—which opened in December 2009—has also provided two tables with chairs, and shade umbrellas for diners who aren’t in such a mad dash to leave.

It was hot at lunchtime, and Jimi Hendrix’s “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire” was appropriately playing from the outdoor speaker system as I bit into one of my Double Dash Buffalo Bleu Cheese chicken wings ($2.49 for three pieces or $2.25 if added to a personal-pizza lunch). The Double Dash is at level two on Mad Dash’s five-level heat scale for wings. I steered clear of the “competition-level”—the Final Dash, and the After Dash (with 150,000 Scovilles of heat).

I also ordered a Veggie Roast personal pizza (fresh roasted green and red bell peppers, red onion and zucchini) and a medium raspberry iced tea ($6.49 for both).

The wings were meaty and delicious; the cornmeal-dusted pizza crust cradling the nicely roasted vegetables, three cheeses and tasty red sauce made from fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes crackled satisfyingly when I bit into it. And the order was ready quickly—in just a few minutes.

On visit No. 2 (another hot day, another mad dash over the freeway on my bike), I ordered a create-your-own personal pizza, choosing Canadian bacon, fresh mushrooms and fresh basil for my toppings. The toppings list includes feta cheese, artichoke hearts, roasted garlic, and more. I chose the regular red sauce once again (other options: spicy red, creamy garlic and pesto), and a side-dip of habanero ranch dressing. Create-your-own pizzas, which include one topping plus a dip, are an affordable $4.99; extra toppings are 50 cents each. To drink, I ordered a “fire-dasher” (6-ounce) milkshake made from freshly squeezed orange juice and real vanilla ice cream (99 cents).

Once again, my food was ready in minutes and tasted great (and Mad Dash’s sassy habanero ranch, made from scratch, is perfect for crust-dipping). My milkshake, besides being delicious, was the cutest I have ever seen; in its squat little cup with a short hot-pink straw sticking out of it, it looked like a cupcake.

“We make our dough daily. We make our own sauce,” said owner/chef Aaron Souza after I complimented him on his food. Souza, who stressed that Mad Dash is not a franchise, focuses on made-to-order personal pizzas, he pointed out, rather than pizza by the slice that ends up sitting under heat lamps waiting to be purchased.

Mad Dash’s pizza dough is the result of a delayed-fermentation process, which results in the crust’s “complex, artisan-bread flavor,” Souza said. His newfangled oven cooks the stone-baked pizzas in two minutes, thanks to a combination of high-temperature infrared radiant heat with a blast of high-speed convected air at the end to crisp the crust.

Souza will soon add a Farmers’ Market pizza to his menu on Sundays, made with fresh toppings from the Saturday farmers’ market.

“One of my biggest challenges has been getting the word out that we make really great food—fast,” said Souza.

I’ll attest to that.