The Chameleon is a Northside bar where folks go to get their drink and dance on, play pool and enjoy some fresh air on the patio. But recently the nightlife hot spot introduced a new food menu. It consists mainly of pizza and wings, which sounds just about right for a bar, but the comparison to “bar food” ends there.
On a recent Tuesday evening, my boyfriend Brian and I stopped in to check out the new offerings. It’s basically the perfect spot for us: With his gluten allergy and love of wings and my vegetarianism and affinity for pizza, we could sample each side of the menu.
At first glance, the menu seems small, with just three kinds of pizza to choose from: cheese ($3 slice/$19 pie), pepperoni ($4/$22) or veggie ($4/22), which changes daily. It’s available by the huge slice — 11 inches to be exact — or a whole 20-inch pie. But take a closer look and see that there are seven different crust-seasoning options from which to choose. The purpose isn’t to cover up the flavor, either. The pizza dough is made from scratch, along with the sauce. Seasoning options include Cajun, garlic, cooler ranch, barbecue, peppered or house, but I went with the bartender’s suggestion of Greek. The veggie pizza of the day was Cabbage Carrot Basil Ranch, which I wasn’t sure was my style. I managed to sneak a peek at someone else’s slice and it looked pretty tasty, though — a pile of lightly sauced coleslaw on a slice. I opted for plain cheese.
Three types of wings are available: classic, Chameleon or boneless. The Chameleon confit wings ($10 for six; $14 for 10) are slow cooked in chicken fat so they’re fall-off-the-bone tender and not breaded.
There are seven sauces and seven dry rubs — all different and not simply variations of heat. The dry rubs are the same as the pizza crust seasoning options. Most wing sauces are standard like spicy garlic, barbecue and Buffalo. Brian went with the most popular: Beasters, a mild Buffalo, and a side of Fire sauce, a step down from the hottest.
There are three other menu items: Juan’s spicy cheese bites ($6), stromboli ($6) and fries ($4), also available with all of the pizza crust seasoning options. We decided to share an order of garlic fries.
We took a number and headed outside to the tables on the back patio to wait for our food, which came in short order. The pizza looked just like every slice of pizza I’ve had on the street in New York — a good sign of things to come.
The crust was paper thin and crisp with a rich tomato sauce and just the right amount of cheese — the kind of slice one could fold in half, if one was so inclined. The end bit of seasoned crust was chewy and crisp; I could pick out salt, basil and maybe some oregano in the Greek seasoning. Tasty stuff, whatever was in there.
Since Brian couldn’t decide on one sauce, his wings came nude with two cups on the side. The Beasters was bright orange and rich with some zing. The serrano-based Fire had a good deal of heat and thicker consistency. The wings were whole wings rather than drumettes and were indeed tender without a hint of crisp.
For a dance-club-cum-restaurant, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of food. If you’re looking to get a quick bite without sacrificing good taste, Chameleon fits the bill perfectly.
CHAMELEON PIZZA (4144 Hamilton Ave., North-side) is open 7 p.m.-midnight Sunday; 7 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday; and 7 p.m.-2 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday. More info: chameleon-northside.com.
More Late Night Pizza Options
BY MAIJA ZUMMO
If you went to the University of Cincinnati, this pizza destination is already listed in your drunk-food Rolodex. While Adriatico’s offers menu items beyond their signature Sicilian-style pizza (pastas, subs, zonis, wings, etc.), their garlic-crusted slightly spicy pie is king here. Beautiful, chewy thick-crust pan-cooked dough is topped with housemade sauce and classic pizza parlor options, including peppers, onion and anchovies. Go all out with a Meaty specialty pizza: pepperoni, bacon, sausage, ham and ground beef. There’s plenty of protein in there to offset the alcohol. Delivery 11 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Friday-Saturday; 11 a.m.-12:30 a.m. Sunday. 113 W. McMillan Ave., Clifton Heights, adriaticosuc.com.
Goodfellas’ ever-expanding New York-style pizza franchise has two local shops — one in MainStrasse and one in OTR. Both are open late and both boast upstairs craft bourbon bars. But if you aren’t there for the booze, you’re likely there for the pizza. The hand-tossed slices are huge — like fold-in-half-to-eat huge — made with fresh dough topped with everything from ciliegine mozzarella and meatballs to roasted red peppers. Hungry patrons can grab a slice or two to go from the ready-made options, or order their own 12-, 16- or 22-inch pie. 11 a.m.-midnight Sunday-Wednesday; 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. 603 Main St., Covington, Ky.; 1211 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, goodfellaspizzeria.com.
Lucy Blue Pizza
The family-owned Lucy Blue is a late-night legend, famous for their original walk-up pizza window where Gomez Salsa now slings tacos. Several years ago, Lucy’s relocated to bigger digs at 12th and Main, with real sit-down space, a bar with craft beer (and wine and cocktails) and additional soups, sandwiches and salads. It’s a nice dinner option in OTR, but the eatery also harkens back to its classic past with late hours on weekends to cater to bargoers and industry types. You can grab a hand-tossed pizza with build-your-own toppings or go specialty, like on the BLT (bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomato and ranch). Bonus: If you don’t feel like waiting until late-night, they have a lunch buffet Monday-Friday. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday; 11 a.m.-midnight Wednesday; 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Thursday; 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Friday-Saturday. 1126 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/lucybluepizza.