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Pizzanomics 

A hot slice at a good price

Being on a budget isn't easy -- especially when it comes to eating out. New restaurants are my downfall. I'm compelled to try them. But with my new budget plan, I've had to be a bit more conservative in my restaurant quest: I'm on the lookout for good food and a budget deal.

That led me to H.W. Briggs Pizza on the corner of Boulder and Tejon. Open for about a month now, with a theme of extreme (as in sports), Briggs offers a nice, open, relaxed atmosphere and a decent, affordable lunch.

As the name suggests, their basic sustenance is pizza -- by the slice ($1.75 for the basic cheese) or by the pie ($6.99 and up, depending on what you order). And they offer a fairly good variety of toppings to boot -- important in the realm of pizza. If you are going to build a good pie, you need the proper materials. Items like garlic, pineapple, spicy chicken and green olives add some excitement to the list of usuals.

They've also got a small -- but compelling -- list of sub sandwiches, with names like "The Fourteener," "Road Rash" and "Switch Back." Even though the Road Rash is your basic, traditional grinder (Italian sausage, onions, green peppers, sauce and cheese), the name enhances the whole ordering and eating experience.

Calzones, salads, chicken wings and garlic bread are also available. But the thing that got me in the door is their lunchtime meal deal. For under $5, you get a slice, a salad and an extremely large beverage, which includes refills. For an extra 50, you can customize your slice, which will bring your tab to $5.31. While I wouldn't classify this pizza as "extreme" or gourmet, it is competent. Along with the salad, a notch-above-average with mixed greens, mushrooms, olives, Roma tomatoes and jalapeos, you actually get a filling meal.

There seems to be some confusion as to whether Briggs is an order-at-the-counter operation or a table-side service set up. Rumor has it that there's going to be waitstaff. But at this stage of the game, it seems to be a combination of both. You place your order at the counter and someone either brings it over to your table or yells out your name when the food is ready. On one of the afternoons I was in there, a staffer occasionally came by the table to clear empty plates, offer refills or assistance for anything else I might need. It was a nice touch, especially if they've decided to go in the counter-service direction.

I can picture being in H.W. Briggs on a hot summer day, taking advantage of their ceiling fans and cross breeze, with a mug of Fat Tire in hand. The exposed brick walls, tall storefront windows, high ceilings, stark one-bulb lighting style and various used and abused pieces of sports equipment as wall decorations provide a comfortable and airy hanging out space -- at least during daylight hours. I've heard some people dog the atmosphere at night, saying the lighting scheme doesn't work so well -- that it causes a glare off of the dark tabletops and creates an uncomfortable dining atmosphere.

But these are small glitches and, overall, I believe that H.W. Briggs Pizza has good potential. Centrally located, it caters to the different downtown subcultures, offers satisfactory food and, despite a few quirks, provides some atmosphere. And most importantly, if all you have is a five-dollar bill in your pocket, you can still eat lunch.

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