Nick Bryan’s employees kept clocking out for late-night eats and after a bad slice of pizza found its way back one night, he realized: “We need to capitalize on this.”
At the time, Bryan and his wife Lori were operating an escape room business, which has since grown into so much more. In late 2016 the couple bought a building on Highway 31 in Fultondale that previously operated under the name of Pine Bowl. Bryan rolled out a couple pool tables, provided an arcade and opened up three escape rooms for whoever accepted the challenge.
Fast forward almost three years and the Bryans have an Italian-inspired menu to go with their “event venue.”
Their restaurant, Mad Pies Pizzeria, shares real estate with 31 Escape—a family-friendly escape game that offers three different rooms with three different scenarios for problem solvers of all ages.
In total, the family-owned amusement center offers food, axe throwing, haunted attractions, an arcade center, two pool tables and even massage chairs for the less-adventurous crowd.
Bryan, who owned and operated Gardendale’s Nightmare at 3008 for several years, is known for his spooky attractions, but insists his escape rooms aren’t laced in horror. His “spook house” is however, stacked with terrible fun.
The haunted houses are open for business six times throughout the year.
-Mid-summer Scare: June 28 and 29
-Haunt Season: Sept. 21 through Halloween (weekends only until Oct. 24)
-Food Drive Weekend: Nov. 1-3
-Toy Drive Weekend: Dec. 6-8
-Valentine Haunt: Feb. 14 and 15
-St. Paddy’s Day Haunt: March 14 and 15
Opening for the last weekend of June will be a mine-themed haunted trail known as Camp Mary Lee.
“You never get the same show twice,” said Bryan. “Everything gets changed, routes get changed or we add onto it. And all of our haunts are themed, so there are no movie characters in there. It’s all straight out of our heads.”
He often collaborates with his staff for the next awful idea, writing and scripting scenes sometimes deep into the night.
Bryan recently brought in a designer from Universal Studios to take his shows to “a whole other level.”
By day, Bryan is the owner of Shade Maker Roofing and Construction, which allows him to handle most of the many building projects that happen at 31 Escape venue. From the walls to the props to the very floor plan of 31 Escape in Fultondale, he and his family have built their business into a diverse experience not found elsewhere in Jefferson County.
“Here in the venue of 31 Escape we have three escape rooms, soon to have four escape rooms, we have Birmingham axe throwing, we have our arcade, Mad Pies Pizzeria and three haunted houses all in the same location,” said Bryan.
The pizzeria idea came to him a little more than a year ago after a customer brought the ‘nastiest looking pizza you’ve ever seen in your life’ back to his pool lounge. He saw the sad dough and the greasy toppings and realized he could beat that—he would keep his clientele put when it came time to eat.
Today, the Bryans offer a full menu featuring pizza by the pie or the slice, appetizers, wings, sub sandwiches and sodas. Their Truck Stop (meat lovers) pizza was first on the scene and remains a crowd favorite. Bryan says his favorite pies are painted in white sauce, instead of the traditional tomato sauce.
“The white sauce glues the pizza together,” he explained.
Agree or not with his take on sauce, Bryan has shaped up a pretty sweet recipe in Fultondale.
This story originally ran in the Summer 2019 edition of North Jefferson Magazine.