It’s been 85 years since Fry’s Spring Station became a cultural centerpiece in the neighborhood, and for the second time in its lifespan the iconic building and the business inside it have been overhauled. A couple of months ago, Ben Thompson (founder of The Rock Barn) and Tommy Lasley (formerly of Orzo) joined forces with owner PK Kamath to breathe new life into both the space and the menu. The team considered rebranding with a new name and identity, but Thompson says when they learned about the building’s history and significance to Fry’s Spring, they couldn’t bring themselves to change the name.
“It was a hub for the community, a place where kids’ parents worked and where kids would hang out after school and buy candy,” Thompson says, adding that he and his partners spent a lot of time researching the building’s history and getting to know neighborhood residents who remember when it was a service station. “Pre-integration it was a place where blacks and whites worked alongside each other. It represents a sense of place, and we couldn’t just change its name.”
So it’s still Fry’s Spring Station, and it’s still a place where you can pop in for a pizza and a beer. The space has a similar layout to before, with new tables and chairs and updated “textures and finishes.” Thompson says he wanted a clearer distinction between the bar area and dining area, and his favorite addition is the indoor-outdoor bar, which expands onto the side patio and can be closed off at the end of the night by pulling down the garage door.
The renovation was a team effort, but the kitchen, for the most part, is Lasley’s baby. The plan was to simplify the food, making it healthier and more balanced. What was once an expansive selection of more than a dozen pizzas, heavy pasta dishes and grilled sandwiches is now a smaller menu that fits on the front and back of an 8.5×11″ sheet of paper.
“It’s not fancy by any stretch of the imagination,” says Lasley. “It’s a simple, in-house, from-scratch restaurant. We make our pizza crusts, sauces, vinaigrettes.”
The menu features eight pizzas baked at 650 to 700 degrees, including a classic margherita-style, the veggie-heavy Garden Sink, the Fungus Amongus with pancetta and white sauce and the Pig Poppa with four varieties of meat. For a twist on pizza there’s the manciatta, which Lasley describes as a flatbread pizza with a salad on top—with steak, shrimp or spinach and goat cheese.
If you can’t get enough gooey, melty cheese, consider the After Midnight—a hearth-baked loaf of bread stuffed with mozzarella and fontina, garlic butter and chili flakes—or the Just Like Heaven, freshly pulled mozzarella topped with olive oil and herbs, served with grilled flatbread. For something a little lighter, there are five side dishes such as broccoli rabe and shaved Brussels sprouts with pancetta.
“These are just great veggies that we try to touch the least amount possible,” says Lasley.
Four salads and three pastas are also on the menu, and Lasley says he intentionally designed those to be split among diners.
“Almost everything is designed to share,” he says. “There’s an absence of protein at the center of the plate, so you can get a gnocchi for the table, pass it around.”
Lasley will run the kitchen for now, but the team has also recruited John “Johnny Meat” Schaible, who previously worked at both The Rock Barn and Orzo. Schaible will work alongside Lasley in the beginning, and the plan is for Lasley to eventually step back and let Schaible take the reins.
As for the bar, the beer menu is more streamlined. Thompson says they removed domestic beers such as Bud Light, and the drink menu consists of more cocktails created by General Manager Tyler Wood, plus a carefully curated list of drafts, bottles and wines. And, just like the food, some of the booze is intended for the entire table—beer, wine and cider is available in one-liter carafes, and you can order a Spanish-inspired porron, a glass pitcher designed to pour the wine straight into your mouth.
“We want it to be approachable and accessible,” Thompson says. “It’s not about the prestige. It’s just about having a good red table wine, if that’s what you want.”
The latest iteration of Fry’s Spring Station is open 11am-10pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11am-11pm Friday and Saturday. For more information, check out frysspringstation.com.