Keeping the passion in pizza alive

ISU students Heather Anderson, left, junior in agriculture and life sciences education; Jade Byerly, sophomore in meteorology; Clayton Thomas, junior in management information systems; Josh Peterson, junior in graphic design; and Liz McDonough, junior in journalism and mass communication, eat a pizza called Louie’s Favorite, a Chicago-style pizza with pepperoni, bacon, mushrooms and onions on Friday, Sept. 17 inside Black Market Pizza. One of Black Market Pizza’s owners Greg Harvey said he is “trying to break the rules” of pizza with different flavors and styles.

Stefanie Buhrman

It’s lunch hour on the Saturday that Iowa State plays Iowa. Inside the doors of Black Market Pizza, the seats are empty. Everything is quiet except for the low rumblings of Billy Joel and Queen coming out of the jukebox.

Mobster art is everywhere. Right beside the exit, newspaper clippings are plastered on the wall. Behind the counter stands Greg Harvey, one of two owners of Black Market, eager to make a pizza and see a customer.

Business at Black Market Pizza had been down all summer, and the restaurant in Somerset has just barely been making ends meet. The owners are feeling a pinch, but Harvey has one hope to keep his business alive. His self-proclaimed “Mom-and-Pop” pizza shop will be featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” in October.

The owners received a call from the Travel Channel in the early months of 2010 after a customer had featured the restaurant on their website for competitive eating.

Black Market Pizza serves the Maui Waui pizza, which Harvey claims is the “hottest pizza in the world,” piled with hot chili sauce, sausage, jalapenos, habaneras and pineapple. Finish the large-sized pizza in an hour in the restaurant and you win a free T-shirt.

The Travel Channel spoke to Rick Van Voorhis, the other owner, and asked him several questions about the business and the food they offered. Van Voorhis and Harvey were told that they might hear back and they might not.

“We thought we’d never hear from them again,” Harvey said. “But they called us back and said they didn’t want us to be the challenge. They wanted to spotlight us as one of the local places that are independently owned.”

Emily Graham, associate producer of “Man v. Food,” was in charge of planning and setting up the shoot. She worked with Harvey to see which food would be featured on the show.

“They really had foods that are delicious and unique,” Graham said. “They really represent what we call chow-down foods. They have a really unique outlook on pizza that they are trying to bring forward.”

Although they were originally scouted for the challenge food, Harvey is glad that his pizza was not the challenge food.

“I didn’t want to do the challenge here,” Harvey said. “I really wanted them to focus on the other things that are unique. When it comes to pizza, we’ve got big nuts. We have concepts that no one else has thought of in this realm.”

The episode will feature their sweet potato crust, the Reuben pizza and their bacon double cheeseburger pizza. Graham commented on their ability to combine sandwiches and pizzas to create the best of both worlds.

“Sweet potato crust, for us, is a remarkable thing,” Harvey said. “It’s something that nobody else can or is doing.”

Harvey described this crust as delicious and nutritious. Sweet potatoes replace one-third of the flour used in an average crust, and it has no bad fats.

“He’s really proud of [his crust],” Graham said. “It’s something we’ve really never seen. It’s healthier, which Adam [Richman, host of ‘Man v. Food’] really likes.”

Members of the “Man v. Food” crew along with Richman came to film their segment of the show on Aug. 14. Though they originally planned to film their segment in the Ames location, they had to move to their Ankeny location because of the August flooding.

“Ames was our first choice,” Harvey said. “It’s our baby. It’s the genesis of Black Market. We were grateful to have them either way.”

Upon arrival, the crew took apart the ceiling, brought in better lighting and carried around what seemed like mountains of film. The filming took about 10 hours. Tense and shy at first, Harvey was able to loosen up.

“I was [hooked to a microphone] all day, and at the end, we shared a Reuben pizza together,” Harvey said. “The whole thing just worked out so well.”

Harvey had the opportunity to spend some personal time with Richman the following day.

“What a nice guy,” Harvey said. “What an incredibly smart man. He is not a dummy. He knows more about this business than I’ll ever know.”

Richman advised him to stock up on and have specials on the pizzas featured on the show, to expect lines and to expect a boom in business.

Now Harvey is sitting through what is considered the calm before the storm, but not as quiet as he expected. Four days after that quiet Saturday, the dynamics have changed.

The tables are almost full of people young and old alike, students and families. Harvey chats with a table of students who are eating the BLT pizza, a suggestion from his wife Andi, who also works at Black Market.

After shutting down the Ankeny location and almost losing their Ames location, they have seen an increase in traffic. Word has gotten out. They were determined to hold on until their “Man v. Food” showing.

“It’s ours,” Andi said. “It keeps us out of the shelter and it’s fun to come here even when you aren’t working.”

After an emergency meeting of the owners, they decided to try to keep their dream alive in Ames, and things are looking hopeful. They are always working to improve their quality and service, but they currently rely on Richman and his show, which airs Oct. 6.

“And in a way, I feel he might be our guardian angel,” Harvey said.


Watch Black Market Pizza on “Man v. Food”

Oct. 6 at 8 p.m., Travel Channel

Try them out:

2610 Northridge Parkway Suite 107 (in Somerset)

Weekdays: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m.

Weekends: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Delivery, carry out, dine in.


No stranger to tragedy

The closing of the Ankeny location and the near loss of his Ames store is not Greg Harvey’s first run-in with tragedy.

After losing his own tiling business in Arizona after the housing market collapsed in early 2006, Harvey, his pregnant wife, and their two kids lived in their vehicle for two weeks.

Harvey and family then moved up to Gilbert to live with his brother to get back on their feet. After working for three years, he was laid off. After that, Harvey started Black Market Pizza with coworkers.


The Featured Pizzas

The Reuben

Thousand Island sauce with sauerkraut, corned beef and Swiss cheese.

The Bacon Double Cheeseburger

Just like your favorite burger without the bun. Beef, bacon, onion, pickles, tomatoes, American and mozzarella cheese.