Pizza parlors have long been common ground for kids and adults. In these low-lit, grungy spaces, children poured every soda in the fountain into indestructible plastic cups while parents sipped their beers, everyone united in the wait for piping-hot pizza.
Varsity Pizza, formerly Blue Tiger Pizza, is an update of that model, tailored for a more highbrow Meridian clientele. Absent are the filthy carpets and wooden benches. A bank of large windows lets in natural light and a stylish wine bar is stocked to accommodate a new brand of customer. The communal vibe lives on there in the form of plenty of family seating, an easygoing atmosphere and classic parlor-style, medium-crust pizza that patrons will remember from childhood.
Case in point: The Combo ($16 for a medium) comes with red sauce, pepperoni, sausage, peppers pickled in-house, mushrooms, olives and two kinds of cheese. Calling this pie "loaded" is an understatement—a better word would be "besieged." Each slice is bound to its neighbors by ropes of mozzarella and provolone, and the toppings nearly buckle the crust.
It's worth the mess. Each bite is deeply cheesy, and the flavor of the pickled peppers is a bright counterpoint. The real star is the crust. Neither too heavy nor too light, it has a pronounced and complex flavor with a hint of barley.
No pizza joint would be worth its salt if it didn't have a few salads on the menu. The Caesar ($4 for a side) is elegant. Topped with parmesan, the romaine is crisp and the dressing has a mild, seafood-y funk. The lemon slice on the side can be either a garnish or a citrus fix.
Varsity Pizza first opened as Blue Tiger Pizza in October 2017, but quickly fell into the orbit of nearby Varsity Pub, and is now in the process of rebranding, though a Blue Tiger logo still hangs over the door and a chalk illustration of the large feline crouches near the bar.
That discolored cat is a fitting symbol for the restaurant, a throwback to the pizza parlors of yore that has made upgrades to the kinds of pies bought for Little League teams and childhood birthday parties. Meridianites looking for a place to take the family—or, alternatively, escape the family for a reasonably-priced date night—may find their standby at Varsity Pizza.