When Franz Gilbertson, aka the proprietor of south Minneapolis’s Good Times Pizza, stumbled on the former Peter Pan dry cleaner space fresh after returning to the Midwest from Seattle, he thought maybe it was time to follow through on an idea he’d been toying with for a while: building a laid back neighborhood watering hole that just so happened to serve tavern-style pizzas.
Gilbertson was charmed by the prospect of converting the Kingfield space, right by his new home. “It made a lot of sense to me to work on trying to start a project here,” he says, reflecting on Good Times' pure beginnings.
After struggling to get a hold of the landlord and finally signing a lease, he discovered what kind of a person he was in bed with (proverbially, duh).
Plain and simple: Gilbertson might have some regrets in this area.
Run of the mill HVAC updates, done by the landlord’s recommended contractors, dragged on for months longer than they should have. “And then all of our windows keep getting broken,” says Gilbertson. “I went through I think it was a total of six separate incidents over the course of maybe four months where I would drive the kids to school every day in the neighborhood past this corner, and there would be one or multiple windows broken out, smashed -- like the back door, a few different windows.”
Eventually the culprit was found – “it turned out to be a sort of vendetta against [the landlord], someone that was angry with him over some sort of conflict in the past” – but between those molasses-slow renovations and glass repairs, Gilbertson says those delays caused him to finish up about two years later than anticipated.
When Good Times finally greeted its first guests, it was in mid-February of this year. A month later, the pandemic pushed the fledgling business into a takeout-only scenario.
“I had really envisioned Good Times being a lot more of a neighborhood watering hole that also happened to make these style pizzas – incidentally, you know? Not for that to be the focus. Basically, not that pizza would carry it.”
Thing is, Gilbertson’s pizzas are delicious. And if he’d been just a neighborhood bar, or one with a menu that didn’t so readily lend itself to carryout, Good Times would be experiencing straight-up Bad Times right now.
Good Times’ pies are uniquely craveable, and unlike any other offered in the metro. House varieties toe the line between feeling like comfort food and fancier than expected. The #3 (a combo with ’roni cups and dill pickles) started as a joke but, to Gilbert’s surprise, has been a big hit. Their white pie (Mozzarella, house ricotta, roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, and Grana Padano) would never turn up at a dive. Build-your-own toppings include the likes of dino kale, anchovies, fennel sausage, and Mike’s Hot Honey.
They don’t have sides of ranch.
Each pizza starts with a three-day fermented dough drawing from Gilbertson’s culinary school training in baking and pastry. Though they’re most reminiscent of those pub-style pizzas (a la Heggies) that go so well with beer, these super thin darlings also clearly borrow from Detroit-style, in that they’re totally crustless save for a crown of charred cheese where the mozz’ meets the pan. Crispness is the name of the game here.
At 10 inches round, they’re basically personal size, and come wrapped in a paper sleeve that echoes the parlor’s nostalgic vibe. Sure, they’ve got lovely wine to go (including bubbles!), but another way the original spirit of Good Times perseveres through the pandemic is in the form of novelty ice cream treats like Drumsticks and Orange Dreamsicles.
“When we opened, we were scooping ice cream cones,” he explains. “Last spring, we started bringing in these kind of prepackaged treats that are easy just to hold.” Sure, they’re intended “for kids”… but they’re also perfect for grown-ass adults who can have little a treat. No one’s going to judge you.
Friendly staff members send a text message when orders are ready for pickup. They don’t do third-party ordering systems, and don’t deliver. It’s old-school like that, and they’re stickin’ to it, dammit.
While retrieving your goods, soak up the details inside the tavern Gilbertson built: its ‘70s-era wall-mounted animatronic chef with a Dalí mustache. A popcorn machine (now quiet). The tabletop PacMan game. A jukebox stocked with his personal CD collection. All patiently waiting for the other side.
In short: Good Times has been through hell, but Gilbertson and crew have continued to radiate warmth while kicking out incredible pizzas, knowing that even better times are on the horizon. Go visit them and see what we mean. (Just call first.)
322 W. 38th St., Minneapolis; 612-354-3589
5-9 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday