People driving an hour outside of Toronto to visit a popular takeout-only pizza joint
People have been driving an hour outside of Toronto experience a popular pizza joint where you can't even sit inside and dine.
They also don't do delivery.
Cowabunga is totally takeout-only, and they've been dominating Hamilton's food scene over the course of recent lockdown years.
It all started with three pizza-loving friends who found an existing pizzeria they wanted to renovate and make their own... in March 2020.
It took them until October 2020 to finally open Cowabunga.
The founders have an impressive collective resume that includes time at other popular pizza spots Shorty's, Mai Pai and CIMA, as well as Quatrefoil and Aberdeen Tavern.
Cowabunga keeps its menu simple with a tight selection of eight pizzas plus one rotating feature and dips.
"Social media was a big part of our success. We also did things a little differently for a pizzeria," Cowabunga co-owner Justin Tanada tells blogTO.
"The majority of our orders are pre-orders for time slots as opposed to calling in and getting told how long the pickup will approximately be. We also don't offer delivery, we believe it's worth the travel."
They serve your basic cheese and pepperoni options which start at $14 and $17.5o respectively, but they're doing these basics right with cupped and charred pepperoni, every pizza starting with a leopard-patterned bubbly crust.
Things are taken a little further with their version of a Margherita ($17.50) that incorporates jalapeno pesto, a Garlicky Greens ($18) pizza with kale and charred broccoli and something they call a "1Up" with truffle cream, white truffle oil and smoked Maldon salt.
"It's not a cheap pizza but we make sure to stay competitive with our market and offer excellent value," says Tanada.
There's also their signature Cowabunga pie ($20) with popcorn chicken, pineapple and peanuts (yup, you read that right). Dips are similar in style with your basic garlic plus jalapeno ranch and truffle parm options.
"We don't keep track of how many people from Toronto come to Cowabunga Pizzeria but there's a lot. We have a good amount of regulars that are out of towners to Hamilton," says Tanada.
"On weekends we definitely notice a lot of people from Mississauga and Toronto come through. Someone a few months ago came to Hamilton from Timmins and the first place they wanted to stop at was Cowabunga Pizzeria. It's a good feeling."
They open at 3 p.m., but start taking calls as early as 11 a.m. for orders.
"On Fridays and Saturdays we're usually fully booked from 4 to 7 p.m. so we recommend people call ahead of time," says Tanada. "People often call days ahead for those time slots."
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