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Pangea‘s Pizza

Al Parker - September 21st, 2006
Millions of years ago, before dinosaurs, before birds, even before Joan Rivers, geological forces drove the earth’s three major land masses into a single ubercontinent – Pangea, a Greek word meaning “all lands.”
A new Traverse City eatery, Pangea’s Pizza, reunites the diverse food flavors of the world’s seven continents into a fun, mouthwatering pizza experience, according to Chris Girrbach, who co-owns the restaurant with his parents Ed and Phyllis Girrbach.
“We are a place where everyone can have a great time, feel comfortable with their family and enjoy some good food and drinks,” explains Chris Girrbach, 27, who handles the day-to-day management of the restaurant. He grew up in Grosse Ile near Detroit, vacationed in Petoskey as a youngster, and lived in Chicago before moving to northern Michigan.
Pangea’s Pizza is at 135 E. Front St., site of the former Andrew Kan Travel Service, which has been extensively remodeled to house the eatery. It’s a clean, open atmosphere with windows running the length of the west wall, overlooking the Jay Smith walkway, which has been spiffed up with the addition of a gushing fountain, refurbished walkway and several tables for relaxing.
When they decided to open the restaurant, the Girrbachs considered several TC locations and several names, including The Grand Traverse Pizza Co., The Traverse Bay Pizza Co. and Daddy-o’s, before settling on Pangea’s Pizza.

They worked through the Downtown Development Authority to get the great location. The family spent several months gutting and renovating both the exterior and interior.
One of the unique architectural devices they incorporated into the building’s design is an outside walk-up window that makes it easy for hungry customers to grab a quick slice or cool soft drink and enjoy what remains of this northern Michigan summer. Eight stools and several tables with chairs provide comfortable al fresco dining.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” says Girrbach, as he sits outside the restaurant on a sunny September afternoon. “We wanted something fun and friendly and that’s what we have.”
They also serve a mean pizza that has kept the place hopping since their opening in June. On an average day the staff of 20 serves up approximately 120 pies and another 100 slices, estimates Girrbach. On their best day so far, Pangea’s customers enjoyed more than 200 pizzas and 350 slices, he said.
With big chain pizza places offering pies for $5, why did the Girrbachs decide to open another pie palace?
“Dad loves it,” says Girrbach, with a laugh. “We thought about a sandwich shop and we definitely knew we didn’t want to go with fine dining. But we saw a need for a place that served pizza, sandwiches and fresh soups. It’s something that was needed downtown.”
Girrbach describes Pangea’s as a compromise between a fine dining Italian restaurant and the large chain places. They serve several domestic and premium beers, plus wines and specialty drinks.
“It’s a place where parents can come with their kids, have a glass of beer or wine and enjoy a great pizza or salad or sandwich,” he explains. “We don’t offer home delivery, just a nice place to sit and enjoy a meal without dressing up too formally.”
With the help of Chris’ brother Fritz Girrbach, a graduate of Northwestern Michigan College’s culinary program, the family developed a diverse pizza menu that features 12 everyday choices. Proving to be among the most popular are the Margarita, topped with basil pesto sauce, tomatoes, toasted pine nuts and fresh mozzarella; the Hawaiian, with its pineapple, prosciutto, tomato sauce, and feta cheese; and the Greek, featuring tomatoes, feta cheese, roasted beets, pepperoni, peppers, kalamata olives and red onions.

Meat lovers will want to try their Protein Pizza, loaded with ham, beef, pepperoni, steak, Italian sausage and bacon atop their house tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella.
For traditionalists, there’s always the classic cheese and pepperoni, in both New York style thin crust and traditional.
But if nothing on the menu strikes your fancy, customers are invited to design their own pie from an extensive list of items, including all the standards, plus more exotic toppings like pecans, spinach, tortilla strips, cashews, chorizo sausage, artichokes and blue cheese.
Those in the mood for something lighter may want to try one of their six salads – Caesar, antipasto, Greek, Capri, house salad and TC Special, which features fresh greens topped with dried cherries, dried pecans, tomato, and gorgonzola blue cheese, all dressed with a cherry vinaigrette.
All seven of Pangea’s sandwiches are served on made-fresh-daily hoagie rolls along with a crispy pickle and your choice of chips, coleslaw or potato salad. With summer fading into fall, Pangea’s has recently started serving hearty soups that are made fresh daily.

Pangea’s Pizza is open Monday - Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday from noon to 9 p.m. To place a takeout order, call
(231) 946-9800.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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