ANDERSONVILLE — Pie Hole Pizza Joint got off to a rough start after opening in Andersonville last year to mixed reviews, owner Doug Brandt said, but the business has bounced back to become a neighborhood favorite.
Despite the early success of acclaimed gastropub The Brixton, Pie Hole destination won the "Welcome Addition Award" for best new business of 2013 at this week's annual Andersonville Honors Awards, which the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce organizes to honors people and businesses for their contributions to the neighborhood.
"I kind of thought the Brixton would probably win because it's been really popular and gotten a lot of good press," chamber associate director Jason Cox admitted.
"But Pie Hole got a ton of votes, so I guess a lot of people appreciate having late-night pizza," Cox said.
The award took Brandt by surprise.
He said he was "humbled just to be nominated," and that though his restaurant got off to the a "rocky start" with some mixed online reviews criticizing its quality of service and food, Pie Hole has managed to overcome many rough spots.
"Everyone at the Andersonville location is working hard to make sure we have a fantastic summer," said Brandt, who owns another Pie Hole location in Lakeview.
"Arts Organization of the Year" was awarded to the Neo-Futurists, the experimental theater troupe behind "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," the group's signature presentation of 30 plays in 60 minutes.
This is the Neo Futurist's 25th year in Andersonville.
"They're such an established company, and they bring a lot of energy and traffic to the neighborhood," Cox said.
Neo-Futurists Artistic Director and troupe member Bilal Dardai said, "We've been a part of the community for so long, and we enjoy what were able to bring to Andersonville."
"We like our neighborhood quite a bit," he said. "It was nice to have Andersonville be as grateful to us as we are to it."
The Mathiasson Community Service Award for individuals who demonstrate exemplary commitment to the Andersonville community was given to Steven Pryor and Gregg Rojewski.
They are active, longtime members of the East Andersonville Residents' Council, and Rojewski has been president of the block club for nearly a decade, Cox said
The two locals organize Pack the Car, a charity effort in which they park a car on Clark Street the last Saturday of every month and collect donations of food, toiletries and other things to take to Edgewater food pantry Care For Real.
The "Eco-Andersonville Award" honoring the business or organization that has gone the furthest to minimize its carbon footprint went to the Swedish American Museum. The museum got the award because it's done a lot of work to retrofit outdated lighting, switch to LED lights and cut down on its energy use.
"The museum was such a huge project, and is an example for other businesses that might want to make those type of changes," Cox said.
The Tuesday awards gala at the Fireside Grill was attended by Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and Ald. Patrick O'Connor (40th).
Other Andersonville Honors Awards
• Area bar and restaurant Hopleaf won two awards, one for "Best Place to Eat" and the other for "Best Place to Drink."
• Lebanese food joint Taste of Lebanon tied with First Slice Pie Cafe for the "Off the Beaten Path Award," a new award category created to highlight neighborhood favorites located outside of Clark Street, Andersonville's main commercial corridor.
• Women & Children First, a feminist-focused indie book shop that recently organized a book signing in Andersonville featuring former President Jimmy Carter, received the "Good Neighbor of the Year" award, which honors a business recognized as a staple of community support and customer service.
• The Sir Spa, a spa for men, won the award for "Services Organization of the Year."
• Andersonville Wine & Spirits won the award for "Best Place to Shop."