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Arthur Mac’s Little Snack opens with funky pizzas, hot wings at Emeryville’s Bay Street mall

Mercury News 3/28/2023 John Metcalfe, Bay Area News Group

Any American mall needs its staples: brand-name clothing stores, 3D-movie theater, a weirdly high number of makeup shops and at least one pizza joint.

This January, Bay Street Emeryville came dangerously close to losing its identity when the California Pizza Kitchen suddenly closed. But never fear, folks who like to have pizza after trying on Victoria’s Secret: Things are back to normal with the April 1 grand opening of Arthur Mac’s Little Snack, an expansion of the East Bay’s Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack known for brick-oven pies, hot wings and craft brews. (Soft openings are scheduled this week from Wednesday through Friday.)

The original Arthur Mac’s is by the MacArthur BART station in Oakland – thus the name – and another, larger one will open in late 2023 or early 2024 in Hayward. (Fun fact: It’s going to have a decommissioned 1990s BART train car for seating and playing retro video games.) The Emeryville location earns its “Little” moniker by being the smallest of the trio. It’s designed for diners who might want a bite before dinner or while shopping. Grab a beer and mushroom-and-sausage slice, say, then head over to the AMC and watch John Wick triple-kill people in the dome.

The vibe: The restaurant is perched one floor up on the mall’s just-opened Bay Break Dining Terrace, right next to a new Shake Shack. Arthur Mac’s is known for its beer gardens; here that takes the form of the terrace’s communal outdoor area with a gas-fire pit and furniture for lounging. Throngs of locals and tourists toting shopping bags enjoy drinks and the stunning clouds over the Bay.

The restaurant is filled with natural light and rather spartan, with a counter of pizza trays fronting a long row of beer taps and liquor bottles. (This Arthur Mac’s happens to have a full bar.) Pops of color come from skateboards on the wall, classic arcade cabinets with “Street Fighter II” and “NBA Showtime” and bathroom wallpaper that’s like standing in a hurricane of pizza slices. A cooler offers packaged meals from Caprese salad to pickles, and a fountain dispenses cane-sugar root beer and ginger ale from Alameda Soda Co.

The food: The pizza, available as slices and pies ($4-$5 for a slice, $20.50 and up for a pizza), stretches the definition of “snack.” Cold-fermented dough comes out of the oven meaty and chewy with a crust like a breadstick on steroids. In fact, if there was such a thing as a “crust-lover’s pizza,” this would be it – and it totally works when you dip it in house ranch and the bracing jalapeno-garlic, which is eerily similar to Cheese Board’s magic-green drizzle. There are some fun pizzas on the menu, like a Golden State Curry ($24.50-$32) with minced mozzarella and tikka masala and a Leche con Carne with carne asada and buttermilk sauce. And the Green Party is a white pizza with piquillo peppers, roasted ‘shrooms and pesto.

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The heat level of the hot wings ($9.75 for five) is dictated by the sauce, with tikka masala being mild and habanero-pineapple the spiciest. Chicken nuggets ($8) are better than they need to be, and the SF Style french fries are tossed with garlic and parmesan (because that’s a San Francisco thing?). Vegetarians might enjoy the cauliflower hot wings ($11) or mesquite-smoked jackfruit taquitos ($7.50), and for dessert there are root-beer floats and malted-vanilla soft serve with chocolate sauce ($3.50).

The drinks: Local draft beer is in abundance. On a recent visit, there were more than a dozen options (averaging $8 a pint), from Fieldwork to Faction to Ghost Town, with more promised soon. There’s a limited selection of wine ($10), plus cocktails that employ fresh herbs and produce, such as a Cucumber Collins and a Dublin Mule with ginger beer and whiskey ($10).

Details: Open noon-9 p.m. daily at 5614 Bay St., Unit 238, Emeryville;

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