Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Great Pizza Adventure #12 - Pizza Hut

People in Fort Wayne say there's something special about our Pizza Hut pizza, that it sparkles in your mouth, and that Pizza Hut pizza from, say, Battle Creek, Michigan just isn't as good.  At least they used to before Dick Freeland died and all the Pizza Huts went downhill.  Or at least that's what they say.  

Who's Dick Freeland?  Only the local Pizza Hut magnate who built a THIRTY MILLION DOLLAR HOUSE before he died.

Until this recent Great Pizza Adventure, and before covid, the majority of Pizza Hut pizzas that went into my belly did so via their glorious buffet.  Now those are gone, never to return.  And my life is definitely more empty because of it, and so is my belly.  Was Pizza Hut the best pizza in town?  No, but it was pretty stinkin' good.  Definitely top tier quality.  And to be able to shovel as much into your pie hole as you were physically able to for seven or eight bucks was an amazing deal!

But again, all that is over.  "No Pizza Hut buffet" is the new normal.  And I blame Fauci.

Anyway, so this was my first pizza from the Hut in about two years and I was hoping it would be good.  After the semi-disappointing Papa John pizza and the Ziffles and and and I was really needing a pick-me-up.  Normally I would go to the original-in-Fort-Wayne place about two miles away but since I'm trying to keep these reviews from places in and around the 46815 area code, I chose to go to the one on Stellhorn.  And here, for you dear reader, I took a major risk.  About five years ago I knew a guy who installed Comcast cable in all the Pizza Huts and he said he would never eat at the Stellhorn location from the things he saw in the kitchen, and he lived right by the place.  But for you I'll risk a night on the throne.


I went to their web site and found a special... $9.99 for a large three topping.  Yumbly!  With tax it came to $10.80,  or 1080p.  Ordering was easy and it was truly ready in 15-20 minutes, like they said.  Here's the online picture of what my pizza would look like.  Let's see... 32 pepperonis* and, er, I'm not going to count all the sausages.  Or the tiny bacons.






Here's what I got.  It kinda looks like the same pizza, but one that got hit by an ugly stick.  And only 26 pepperonis, although lots more sausage** and certainly no lack of toppings.  We'll call it even.  The bacon amount was negligible, just barely enough to know it's there.

At 35.8 ounces it's about in the middle of the pack.  Way to go average, Pizza Hut.  




13.5 inches... not quite the 14 inches as promised.  I bet Dick Freeland wouldn't have let this kind of shoddy quality control go unpunished.

The sauce had a good flavor and was plentiful, just the way I like it!  The crust had a solid crunch where it's supposed to crunch, chew where it's supposed to chew, not soggy, decent flavor.  No complaints about the amount, flavor or quality of the cheese and the savory meats.  Kudos!  You made a solid pie!  I have no idea why people are saying you've gone down in quality in the past few years.  

And the best thing is... no food poisoning!

Weight: 35.8 oz
Diameter: 13.5" 
Cost: $10.80

Service: 8
Crust: 8
Sauce: 8
Toppings: 8 (quantity) + 8 (flavor) / 2 = 8
Value: 8 (30.17 cents per ounce) / 7.5 cents per square inch

                  Overall Score: 8

                  Flavor Score: 8.0   (I'm seeing a trend here)

Well I did NOT see that coming.  Maybe it was lowered expectations or coming after two mis-fires but surprisingly Pizza Hut is currently on the top of the heap!


* It's a good thing there weren't 33 pepperonis or I'd suspect Masonic involvement.

** Okay, I did count them.  52, give or take.


Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Great Pizza Adventure #11 - Papa Johns

It was a Friday of a very long and wearisome work week so I decided that I was due to treat myself.  I've been holding off reviewing Papa Johns because it's my favorite chain pizza... a tried and true gustatory friend and after the last few duds I was ready for some goodness.

I had me a coupon for $8.99 for a large one topping.  Wasn't it not that long ago that they had the same deal for $5.99 and even $4.99?  With my old-guy memory it was probably 12-16 years ago but it doesn't seem that long.  Anyway, because of the coupon code I decided to call it in.  I found the phone number of the Papa Johns about half a mile away and called at 12:45.  Then instead of someone picking up the phone there was a call tree.  So I picked 3 to place an order.  More phone tree?  Alright.  I picked 3 AGAIN to place an order (why did they make me do that twice?  To make absolutely certain I was wanting to order a pizza instead of, say, schedule a haircut?).  Then someone obviously from India picked up the phone.  I tell him what I want and that I have a coupon code.  He informs me that I'm ordering a pizza from the Maplecrest location, mumbles a bit, and then asks what I want.  I tell him again and he tells it back to me, somehow taking a long time to do so.  My pizza will be ready in fifteen to twenty minutes.  Hogwash.  It's 12:45.  I'm not falling for THAT trick again!  

I get to the store ten minutes later as they're pulling my pizza out of the oven.  Ah!  The peak of burn-the-roof-of-your-mouthiness!  There are only two employees (and one follows me out the door after I pay... not stalking me, just leaving work) and neither are your traditional pizza story kids.  I ask about the phone ordering process and am told that they can't even hire enough people to make pizzas corporate automated that.  Gotta love the extra unemployment money!  (And why did I switch to present tense?)

And here it is!  It certainly LOOKs like an authentic Papa John's pizza.  Seems a bit skimpy on the sausage, though.

But what's this?  A large is supposed to be 14" but this here pizza's only 12.5 inches.  Heck, a MEDIUM is supposed to be 12".  So either this is a slightly large medium by mistake or a very small large.  This papa is NOT happy!

However taste is where it's at and it's been a looong time since I've had a P John.  That ever-important first bite is... just pretty good.  More bites.  More pretty good, but it's not like I've been welcomed home after a long journey away, which is what I was expecting.  PJ must be off their game today!

The flavor is good but it's just not as good as almost every other PJ pizza I've had from this location, almost like it's a Chinese knock off.  You might even be tempted to think that, being smaller, that the flavor would be more condensed, but no.  The crust has a nice, slight crunch but there are a couple of bits that are absolutely doughy, like they didn't run the hole-puncher over that spot.  The cheese and sauce and toppings taste about as expected... maybe they forgot to add enough salt?  I dunno.  I'm flummoxed.  

I'm not saying it's bad, not even remotely, it's just that the Papa normally delivers a consistently solid pizza but this time, like my week, it just isn't up to snuff.  Whatever the score below is should be a full point or more higher based on just about every other pizza I've had from this place.  Still, not much of the pizza survived to the next day, so that says a lot.

Weight: 31.4 oz
Diameter: 12.5" 
Cost: $9.71

Service: 4
Crust: 8
Sauce: 6 (PJ could always up the sauce)
Toppings: 6 (quantity) + 8 (flavor) / 2 =7
Value: 8 (30.9 cents per ounce) / 7.9 cents per square inch

                  Overall Score: 6.6

                  Flavor Score: 7.0

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Great Pizza Adventure #10 - East of Chicago

 Sometimes one picture can say it all.  Here is one such picture.

Why is there uneaten pizza in this box?  That is the story I'm about to tell.

About 10 years ago East of Chicago opened up pizza stores in Fort Wayne.  I ate at one once and obviously wasn't impressed enough to go back.  Then all the Fort Wayne stores closed and the only ones left were near small towns like Ossian and Grabill.  After trying the above pizza I can only conclude that East of Chicago couldn't compete against real pizza places and had to head to the sticks.

One summer day I knew I was going to be at a park in Leo, a town about ten miles away, with my kids over lunch time.  Why not surprise them with pizza?  A gluten free for them and, let's see, how about a pan for me.  After all, their website says "It's what made us famous.  Our Signature Crust.  Light and airy with a Crunch!"  Oh yeah, that sound good!  Half sausage, half pepperoni? Please!

Looks pretty good, doesn't it?  It failed to measure up to a full 14 inches (just 13.5) but that seems pretty common.  Inexcusable but common.  I go in for the first bite and... yes, the crust had a nice crunch.  The cheese was a bit on the this side but wasn't overly cheap. The sausage had pretty good flavor and there seemed to be average+ amount of toppings. The sauce was so non-descript that I forgot to review it.

But it wasn't super delicious.  It was just okay.  Average.  In fact, it may be the most average pizza I've had so far.  And here's the thing: it's doughy.  It doesn't seem like it should be, because there isn't a lot of actual crust, it's just that it kind of sits in your stomach like a dough ball.  "I'm sure it's just the heat and that once I reheat it at home, in air conditioning, it will be much improved," I told myself.  It wasn't.  Dough ball in the gut and not much in the flavor department.  I tried to finish it because I'm cheap and there just didn't seem to be a good reason not to.  

And to add insult to injury, they didn't have any specials or coupons so I paid a massive $14.97 for this mediocrity.  And to think that I could have spent $9.50 for a consistently "very good" Papa Johns.... hey, maybe that's what I'll do next!

So how about those stats?

Weight: 40.6 oz
Diameter: 13.5" 
Cost: $14.97

Service:7
Crust:5
Sauce: 3 (on the half that had sauce)
Toppings: 6 (quantity) + 4 (flavor) / 2 =5
Value: 5 (36.9 cents per ounce) / 10.5 cents per square inch

                  Overall Score:4.8 (bumped up because of easy ordering)

                  Flavor Score:4.0

East of Chicago has the distinction of beating out Pizza King... and that's about it.



Monday, June 14, 2021

The Great Pizza Adventure #9 - Ziffles

Ziffles has been around forever.  When General Anthony Wayne boated down the St. Mary's river, he rode his horse due east and prompted ordered himself a pulled pork sandwich.  No lie.

Now I've not been of fan of their BBQ, even though enough people must love it for them to have such longevity.  And I've NEVER had their pizza before, but since they are a walking distance away I thought it was about time.

I placed my order on a weekday around 11:30 and was told it would be thirty minutes.  I found that odd because most regular pizza places quote a time of 15-20 minutes and it's usually done in 10.  But hey, maybe they're busy or maybe it just takes that much time.  So I meandered around a bit and showed up exactly thirty minutes later and there it was, waiting for me. 

The pizza itself looked, well, like a pizza.  Their 14" large was just a shade lacking.  Weighing a hefty 43.4 oz, though, makes it the heaviest pizza I've reviewed so far.

They didn't have any "specials" or coupons so I paid full price, which is $12 for a thin crust cheese pizza and $1 per topping.  It wasn't until I got home that I realized that even though I got half pepperoni and half sausage that they charged me for two toppings.  What's up with that?

It looked to have a decent amount of cheese and other toppings, but I couldn't count el pepperoni due to the cheese placement.  Pity if you like crisp pepperonis.  It seems like a decent amount of meats, although not worth paying double over.

  

The big question is how does it taste?  Into the hopper went a slice of sausage and... where's the sauce?  And strangely, after the first piece there was a slight numbing feeling in my mouth... very weird.  The sausage was just okay, not tons of flavor and kinda sad, considering what I paid.  I was hankerin' for some dipping sauce or a sprinkle of garlic salt.  It gets a 3 out of 10.

The pepperoni piece was better.  Oddly it had more sauce, which makes me think the sausage absorbs it, but overall it only gets a 4.5 out of 10.

The cheese was decent quality (not as good as Raimondos) and the crust had a bit of flavor but not too much.  It was thin but not crisp.  Overall I was disappointed, especially having paid fifteen bucks!  I had another piece of each and put it aside to have for lunch the next day.

As best as I can tell, during the night, some pixie must have flown in and sprinkled magic dust on the pizza.  Either that or when I reheated it in the oven I rejuvenated the pie into what it should have been... the crust was crispy and the flavors more pronounced.  

Now that I think about it, the pizza wasn't exactly piping hot when I picked it up yesterday. Could it be that my pizza sat around for fifteen or even twenty minutes, losing precious heat, crunch, and flavor?  I'm not going to risk another $15 to spin the wheel finding out when there are better and cheaper options out there.

So how about those stats?

Weight: 43.4 oz
Diameter: 13.5" 
Cost: $15.12

Service:5 (due to probably being given the wrong time)
Crust:5 (3 day 1, 7 on reheat)
Sauce: 3 (on the half that had sauce)
Toppings: 8 (quantity) + 4 (flavor) / 2 =6
Value: 5 (34.8 cents per ounce) / 10.6 cents per square inch

                  Overall Score: 4.8

                  Flavor Score: 4.7

A meager 4.7 Ziffles... so sad.  This puts you just behind Mama Mia's.
Between this and your flavorless BBQ, how do you stay in business? 

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Great Pizza Adventure #8 - Oleys

So here we are again, eating and reviewing pizza.  This time it's Oley's, a long-time local place with two locations.  Everyone raves about the south-west location but the entire south-west portion of town is filled with lah-tee-dah folk who think they're all that (and a couple of bags of organic avocado-oil fried chips).  Hey south-west folk... the Dupont/Carroll area has been the hot part of town for at least the last ten years.  Get over yourselves!

Ahem... where was I?  Oh yeah.  So the "good" Oleys is a "good" thirty minutes away, and far outside of my "pizzas of 46815-ish" scope, so I went to the Oleys a mile or two away.  I also didn't get the double-crust deep dish pie that is their specialty.  That beast would have set me back at least $25.  I had it once and it was good (and only cost $18 back then) but that's a completely different animal than the pizzas I've been reviewing.

So instead I got a supreme <ducks>.  Yeah, it's not a half pepperoni/half sausage like most of my other reviews, but that would have cost me a whopping $10.95* for a 10", and for just $12.95* I could get a supreme.  It's my blog, my wallet, and my digestive system so I'll do what I want!

 

Whoops, there it is!  I'd bore you with another picture but how about you just take my word for it that it came in at a perfect ten inches?

The crust was thinnish, nice and crisp.  The back of the crust was tasty with a slight puff.  There was a good amount of high quality cheese and lots of toppings.  Unlike the chains where the pizzas roll through a conveyor belt oven and get cooked for X minutes (so they have to reduce the amount of each topping when you order more so that it all gets cooked) a local place slides 'em in and out of an oven so they cook the pizza until it's done.  Did I mention that the toppings seemed to be of a decent+ quality?  Not B. Antonios quality, but good none-the-less.  As to be expected, the finely ground sausage tasted just like all the other local places, but they added a lot of it.  

Oh, I should mention that the supreme includes (from their menu) sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, green olives, onion and cheese.  There is no mention of "sauce" and oddly, I couldn't find much in the way of sauce.  Did they forget it?  It tasted good, but for a sauce-guy like me this was a disappointment.  Also the pizza was moist but not greasy.

In summary, there was a lot of good non-pretentious flavor despite the "missing" sauce. 

So how about those stats?

Weight: 24.5 oz
Diameter: 10.0" 
Cost: $13.99

Service:8
Crust:8
Sauce:2 (there just  HAD to be sauce but it must have cooked in)
Toppings: 8 (quantity) + 8 (flavor) / 2 =8
Value: 5 (57.1 cents per ounce) / 17.8 cents per square inch

                  Overall Score: 6.2

                  Flavor Score: 6.0

* Plus 7% Indiana Sales Tax Plus 1% Greedy Mayor of Fort Wayne Restaurant Tax

 

Friday, April 9, 2021

The Great Pizza Adventure #7 - B. Antonios

A few years ago my beloved and I enjoyed the ambiance of B. Antonios, a locally owned pizzaria with two locations.  Most notable is that they offer gluten free pizzas, which is what my baby needs for her gustatory health.  While there I filled out a VIP card and since that time I get an email offering a free personal pizza every March.  I've never used the coupon because I'd pretty much be using the restaurant because we rarely go there (as in it's been three or four years).  But because of The Great Pizza Adventure I decided to ignore my morals and go for it*.

The deal was for any personal pizza, including their deluxe pizzas.  So I took a detour from my pepperoni/sausage pattern and got a Meatza.  


 

Normally this puppy would cost $8.  It's got pepperoni, sausage, ham, bacon, woodchuck, zebra, ground beef, alligator, sea cucumber, Michael, and mozzarella.  A one topping personal comes in at $5.75, in case you were wondering.  A small pepperoni (likely 10") is $9.50 and it just goes up from there, all the way to X-Large ($20.75 for one topping).  This is a high-class establishment, as you can tell from the prices!  They even say so on their web site: "The Premier Pizzarria!" plus you can listen to the custom Pandora station that they play in the store.  Don't tell Little C, though... I don't think the world is ready for Little Caesars Radio.


7.25" inches ain't bad for a Personal pizza.  It also weighed 11.9 oz, just a smidge more than a Pizza King Personal Royal Feast.  

In the pizza world this is the bizarro opposite of Pizza King.  For one thing, this pie is loaded with quality ingredients.  There was only an adequate amount of cheese but it was hi-grade stuff.  The rest of the toppings were also very savory, though slightly salty.  I didn't test each type of meat 'cause it's my free birthday pie and I just wanted to enjoy it.  It could have stood with a little more sauce but again, the sauce was quite good, flavorful but not overpowering.  The crust also had good flavor with just a tad of crunch to it.

Overall it was a very good pizza but not so good that I was thinking "ME WANNA SHOVE THE ENTIRE PIZZA INTO MY  MOUTH NOW!"  It is a pizza for a nuanced and well-developed palate.  Unfortunately I don't have that.  I have a broad-stroke, cartoony palate.  Giving me this pizza was like giving a box of 128 Crayons to a color blind person.  

Also it wasn't worth the price, at least for a cheap-skate like me. 

So how about those stats?

Weight: 11.9 oz
Diameter: 7.25" 
Cost: $8.64 / free

Service:8
Crust:7 (more crunch please)
Sauce:7
Toppings: 6 (quantity) + 7 (flavor) / 2 =7
Value: 3 (72.6 cents per ounce) / 20.9 cents per square inch

                  Overall Score:6.4

                  Flavor Score:7.2

 

* BUT WAIT!  THERE'S MORE!

I couldn't just steal a pizza from this local restaurant.  A chain, possibly, but not a local.  So I bought a sausage roll for $10.  I don't have a lot of experience with sausage rolls but not having experience has never stood in my way of making a goober of myself.

 


And here it is.  It was 7.5 inches long and sorry but I didn't think to measure the width and girth.  But I weighed it...  15.85 ounces, including the garlic sauce.  I guess I should have removed that because it's just water weight.  Oh well... I'm new at this.

As you can see, I have lovely hands, as evidenced by my lucrative hand model career.  But enough of me.  The sausage roll is chock full of chunky sausage pieces.  Once again, not much sauce but overall this seemed to have more savory flavory than the pizza.  It was perfectly cooked, at least as far as I could tell.  The only issue I had was the flavorless "garlic" butter sauce.  It brought a little extra life to the party but it had about half the flavor of Papa John's magical elixir.

Should the Mrs. and I ever venture out to B. Antionio's again this is what I'll be eating. No points or whatnot this time... maybe that'll be my next series. 

 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Great Pizza Adventure #6 - Little Caesars

Out of all the pizza places on my list, this is the one I feared the most.  It came out when I was in college, back when it was "Pizza! Pizza!" and you got two pizzas in a long box for just $5.  It was a deal even though it wasn't that great.  Over the years, when some school or church group has an event, they almost always pick Little Caesars.  My recollection of it is "It's okay pizza if it's free."

So here goes nothing.  Well, here goes $5.40.  Ordering was quick and easy, once the person in front of me finished her interminable ordering.  COME ON, WOMAN!  IT'S A LITTLE CAESARS!  When it was my turn the box was in my hand within seconds of payment being rendered.  KA-CHING!

No split pepperoni/sausage this time.  It's time for the big reveal:


 

Sorry about the shadows... it was nice and sunny! 30 pepperonies on a decently cut pizza.  It's also a full 14 inches.  So far so good, Little C.



 

First bite.  Um, who forgot to add the flavor?  On my second bite I got some sauce and that was actually pretty good with the flavor starting to peek out at me.  Perhaps bland is intentional so as not to scare off children?  The next few bites were not too saucy, not too greasy.  On it's own the pepperoni gave up it's flavor profile... mild.  Very mild.  Cheese was on the scanty side, enough to cover but there were some parts without cheese, not that it would have made much of a difference.



 

I went for a bite of the crust and Little C reached new lows.  There was absolutely no flavor.  Nothing.  Store brand white bread has more character than this.  And throughout the entire tasting the pizza didn't give up a single crunch.  It wasn't soggy, just lacking any character, pretty much just existing to hold the toppings.  It was so un-worthwhile that I didn't both to eat any of the crusts, leaving a bunch of pizza bones behind.  It weighed in at 35.25 ounces and normally I subtract the weight of the box but in this case I'm also subtracting the weight of the pizza bones.

I had low expectations and this pizza met my expectations.  It IS much better hot off the presses instead of sitting in a youth pastors car for an hour but still, I can think of a lot better things to buy with $5.

So how about those stats?

Weight: 29.4 oz / 25.10 oz w/o bones
Diameter: 14" 
Cost: $5.40

Service:9
Crust:1
Sauce:3
Toppings: 5 (quantity) + 1 (flavor) / 2 =3
Value: 10 (21.5 cents per ounce) / 3.5 cents per square inch

                  Overall Score:5.6

                  Flavor Score: 1.7

 

This is about the time I start to re-evaluate my scale.  This rated .1 higher than Dominoes but this is completely due to getting the pizza quickly and it being super cheap.  All the other numbers make it fall on it's face and yet it STILL beat Pizza King.  How does that place stay in business?  Now I'm having to go back and add a Flavor Score to all these, and it looks like Little C can't even keep up with Pizza King.  That's so sad.

This pizza was so devoid of flavor that I tried this Garlic sauce that I had picked up a few days earlier at Walmart.  Ah yes, finally a way to get gobs of Papa Johns garlic dipping sauce at home!  A splash of flavor is EXACTLY what this pizza needed.  Except that it wasn't.  This was a nightmare!  Bad to worse!  While the Little C pizza was bland, it wasn't offensive.  This stuff was.  It was extremely eggy, like someone sprinkled garlic powder onto a bunch of blended egg yolks and called it good.  Just plain nasty.