This ain't no hamburger
I went to my brother's house in Leland recently and he said "I'm getting In-n-Out for lunch," and I said, "no you're not, you prostitute." For the impossibly uninformed, In-n-Out is the best burger chain on the west coast. It kind of resembles Cook-out insofar as they like dashes in their names, they make good burgers for cheap, and they print Christian bullshit on their products. Another similarity is that neither of them sell goddamn pizza.
I remember Paul Stephen of the Star News mentioning the Princess Pizza guys would be opening this place. I would link to the article/blog post but the Star News site is still, inexplicably, locked behind a paywall. Anyhow, I guess the gents from Princess Pizza figured the name In-n-Out worked for an entire half of America, it oughta work for them, too. The name 'Princess Pizza' sure as fuck didn't work. What the fuck do I do at a place called Princess Pizza, play dress-up alongside my dollies and eat crumpets with my tea? Anyway this new joint is called In-n-Out and they serve pizza in Leland.
Three years ago I reviewed Princess Pizza in downtown Wilmington. They got one of the worst ratings I've ever given out: 7/8 recircs. "The sixth worst pizza in Wilmington" is not something they ever felt inclined to print on their pizza boxes, apparently. I bring this up because, man, I was not expecting to like In-n-Out's pizza, in any way, shape, or form.
My initial impression was that it looked like an amalgam of Papa Johns and NY-style pizza. The crust looked a bit poofy and soft in the faggotiest of ways. The cheese looked a bit overdone. But it had promise. It definitely looked better than the Princess garbage I've had in the past and at $9.99 for an 18", the opening of this pizza box held my interest.
The star here is the cheese. I assume it is Grande, but I'm not sure. It tastes like the cheese you get on every pizza that has ever knocked your socks off. Normally I'm not a cheese fiend but this is an exception. That is partly because the rest of the pizza was markedly crummier than the cheese. The sauce was alright. No complaints but no great compliments either. It wasn't a pasty, overspiced and overcooked mess but it wasn't great, either. Probably above average in terms of local pizzerias, though.
The problem with this pizza is with the dough. And it's not even really the formulation of the dough, because in a lot of ways it is pretty good. It seemed properly salted and the consistency was alright. The big problem is that they cook their pizzas on screens. This resulted in the cheese burning on top and the bottom of the pizza being whiter than my fat ass. If they cooked this thing directly on the deck it would be really, really, really good. Instead, it's just pretty good.
Man up, gents. Pizza peels might seem scary at first but you bitches can do it. I know you can. Contrary to what the pizzeria failures in this review's comments say, real pizza is never cooked on a screen. That's childish shit. Man the fuck up.
Also, what's the deal with turkey substitutes for pork products? I think these guys are Muslim. I don't mean that in mean/jokey way, I think they are. But c'mon guys. It's just a fuckin' pig. And I'm a fucking American let me eat dem pigs.
3 1/2 recircs out of a possible 8 recircs (lower is better)In-n-Out Pizza & Subs - $9.99 (18" pie) / $1.99 (slice)
1735 Reed Rd., Leland, NC 28451
Gas Station Greasebomb
A sub shop attached to a gas station. Since this combo seems to work for numerous Subway locations I'll give this joint a chance. Taking over from Big D’s Philly Cheese on Gordon Road is On The Road Sub Shop. The reason they get a mention here is because they serve pizza as well as subs and for a buck fifty before tax I figured it was worth swinging by since I was in the area.
These guys hail from Olean, NY, which is sorta in between Canada and Pennsylvania rather than in New York. I've never been to Canada but the pizza in PA is fucking consistently garbage. It might be easy to assume On The Side will be serving up NY-style pizza, being they're sorta from New York. However, the further you get from NYC, the worse pizza gets. There is an oasis here and there which radiates quality pizza independently of the city, that's true. But Buffalo is not one of them and I'd wager that Olean isn't either.
Here we have the slice. For a buck-fifty, the size was good if not impressive. The crust didn't look too offensive, at first glance, but the cheese and sauce seemed reasonably nightmarish. The first bite sang one malevolent note to me: School Pizza. I don't know if that's a legitimate genre of pizza but we all know what it means. I don't even know if there are regional differences between school pizza; there probably are. The important, binding characteristics are the shoddiness and the charm. The school pizza I'm born out of is that of a pasty, heavy sauce; a greasy, tasteless cheese and a heavy, greasy crust as seen below:
My only assumption is that there is so much oil on the bottom of their pans that the dough sort of deep fries itself. The whole product is weird but not without its merits considering the nostalgia factor.
I keep trying to forget that this place is a couple minutes away from Brooklyn Pizza and remember that it's a gas station sandwich shop. On the one hand, if you are driving down I-40 and pull off onto Gordon Road to get some gas, this place might be a fucking godsend. Personally if I were on a road trip and the place I was getting my gas housed this place which sells cheesy saucy grease-bombs for $1.60 after tax I would jizz in my pants instantaneously. An excellent gas station find. On the flipside, if you live nearby, then buying pizza from here instead of from Brooklyn is the absolute apex of stupidity. Still, give it a whirl; the people seem nice. Maybe their other food is great.
Their pizza just isn't, unless you're looking for a trip down school pizza memory lane.
School pizza can hit the spot.
6 recircs out of a possible 8 recircs (lower is better)On The Side Sub Shop - $1.60
6648 Gordon Road, Wilmington, NC 28411
Great Space, Great Pizza, Great Price ... Leland
I love the layout of this place. It's small and quaint, kind of an upscale version of a traditional NYC street pizzeria. There's limited seating (only two 4-tops that I could see) and half the seating is a large bench along the right-side wall so you're probably going to be sitting sorta next to a random hobo. I like that. I love to pop a squo next to people at bars to make em nervous, ya see. I sidle up next to 'em and give 'em the eye, ya know. Like I'm sayin', "hey, old timer, I see ya. I do. And I wanna do ya." Then I lick my lips. Knocks 'em out every time.
They also have a few stools at a counter you can sit at. This is like a fucking Chef's table so sit here if you can - and if you don't have any friends - and if you want to watch your food get made. You get a bird's eye view of the entire kitchen operation. Which was pretty cool. I mean they were pretty slow so it was just a few middle-aged Italian-y looking guys getting orders ready, slinging pizza and doing busywork, but the ability to see your food being made in front of you is kind of nebulously invaluable. Especially if you've ever seen Waiting or Kitchen Nightmares.
As per my habit, I added crushed red pepper and oregano to my slice. So if you are a nancy who doesn't like spices or spiciness, do not be afraid of the above picture, dear lad. Size-wise, it's not a really big slice of pizza. It kind of reminds me of the slices you will get in-shop at Brooklyn. Also, like Brooklyn, this slice clocks in around two bucks which is a steal. As I think you can see from this picture, it was also made with some care. As I said, business was slow when I was there and they also employ the glass-display-case-of-pizza thing where pies are left out and then slices are re-fired as needed. Often, having display pies, it seems, means you are going to get pies made with some fucking integrity and love rather than some weird discs of cheese and terror, mashingly sliced up by some raging, coked-out, half-drunk and half-hungover cook in the back. I'm looking at you, Slice of Life.
The crust on this slice was alright. I'm not head-over-heals in love with it or anything but it was definitely above passable. Hell, it being properly-salted and crispy puts it above most local places. But it kind of struck me as tasting a little yeasty and all-purpose-floury. I'm grasping at straws here for something to complain about, don't mind me. The cheese was very good, whatever they used. Probably Grande, but fuck me I don't really know anything. Also, they used a lot of it. It might not seem like it from the picture, but they did. Often, as you may know, I rail against pizzerias for using too much cheese. But that is only when they use a lot of bad cheese. This was good cheese. It was fatty and greasy and lovely. The sauce was barely discernible, which is fine, if not perfect. You don't want sloppy sauce on a pizza. I'm looking at you, Avanti.
Overall it was a very well-balanced slice, and cheap. I know it's funnier when I'm blacked-out on a fifth of whiskey ranting about really terrible pizza (I'm looking at you, every one of you), but this pizza was pretty damn good.
Also, Falcone's, you guys need a website so I can link to it. Get in touch, I'd take partial payment in store credit. My brother's birthday is coming up in a month and this shit is real, I'm on a boat.
Never shall I have a first born, for I shall surely love this place more than ... it
At first you might look at this pizza and say, "fuck me that slice is small and it's half bubble, fuck that." But check this out, this slice only costs a buck. Though this slice was small, it was abnormally good. Though there is clearly oregano on there, I didn't do it. If you've read my other reviews, you know I love oregano and apply it liberally. Beyond that, the cheese was just damn excellent. I don't know what they use but my first guess was Grande, which is a great cheese for a dollar slice. The sauce was lightly applied and therefore nondescript but also inoffensive.
Then we come to the issue of the crust. On the one hand, it was not exactly my type of crust - it was too thin and insubstantial. On the other hand, it was cooked exceptionally well, tasted fine, and hardly withstands any legitimate complaints. You might notice and be offended by the bubble in the middle of the slice. I can understand that but I grew up with bubble pizza, love that shit, and refuse to pander to your silliness.
In the above picture you can see the bottom of the slice. There is something vaguely Neapolitan about it. Yet after seeing the complete and final product it kind of reminds me more of some unleavened Jewish bread. I don't really mean this in a bad way because I was truly floored by this pizza. Though for me a slice is often made or broken by the crust, this slice really impressed me with its cheese. The crust was more than passable and the sauce was barely there but the cheese shone through like a motherfucker.
But then I went back again. I'll be honest when I say that I love this place. I love their dollar slices (they far outpace any dollar slice you will find in NYC and kill many slices that are north of $2.50 locally), love their wings, their drink prices, their location, their staff, their outdoor bar, just about everything. When I remember how terrible Fat Tony's was at this exact location, my heart is so warm that hobos flock to it for warmth.
However, on my second visit, my slice of pizza was merely 'pretty good.'
My second slice was cheese-heavy and it lacked oregano. The slice itself was larger but the crust resembled a more typical NY crust. I had some weird fascination with their thin (almost cracker-like) crust which I had had before, so this annoyed me. Though the sauce was more liberally applied, it remained inoffensive to the point that I didn't make note of it. The cheese was really the main culprit. Whereas the first slice's cheese was great, this one seemed too-heavily applied and, more importantly, of inferior quality.
This could be chalked up to a mozzarella run to Lowes due to low stock and desperation. Or maybe they're realizing that they shouldn't be using good cheese on dollar slices. Either way, I, Pete, your pizza reviewer, refuse to rate this slice just yet. Partially because I've had both a great slice and a mediocre slice and don't know where I stand and partially because I know I'm going back. Because I love this place so I "might as well." Aw fuck I feel dirty for even saying that.
Edit: Okay I'm giving this place 3 recircs. That's pretty fucking good for a dollar slice.
3 recircs out of a possible 8 recircs (lower is better)
Might as Well Bar and Grill - $1.00 + tax
What the fuck am I supposed to write here?
Hungry Heroes opened up a few weeks ago in the desolate clusterfuck of traffic some degenerates call Ogden. Initially I was reminded of the defunct Hungry Howie's business over by Eastwood and Racine. I never went there. I only heard they had flavored crust and that was enough for me. I knew it was bogus.
Hungry Heroes seems, by a fair margin, more legitimate. Meaning they seem to sorta just be a sub joint that sells bread and pizza too since what-the-fuck-why-not-fuck-you-buddy.
This showed immediately when I went there for my slice review some weeks ago. Apparently their air conditioning was not up to the task of cooling a place running pizza ovens, so they said to come back in a week or two for pizza. This bothered me a bit because I had driven about solely for pizza and it was raining like a bastard but at the end of the day I didn't mind too much because I punched a baby so my day was alright overall.
Also they gave me a free loaf of bread. I didn't even buy shit the dude just gave me some bread. They claim to have the best italian bread in Wilmington. I can tell you straight away that's not true because you could get some italian bread from my Mom. She'll probably give you some fruit salad too. Honestly, Hungry Heroes bread is really good, though. Except that they forgot to put any salt in it. Bread without salt is like a tasteless void of pain and discomfort. I still ate it, mind you. However, it made me worry about their pizza.
I was right, sort of; the crust was lacking sodium. However, other than that I would say the crust was stellar. It was so good that I can damn near overlook the under-salting. I mean, I still have to mention it. I'm a reviewer, after all. The crust was the perfect height, well-browned and dry in that sort of way where fuck it you're eating greasy pizza, right? You don't need a greasy crust, too, do you? Oh you do? Fuck you then.
After the crust is a downhill, as might be expected. These guys are all about dough. And Boars Head meat. Are they about good pizza cheese? No. Are they about good red sauce? No.
And there you have it. This place serves up small (16") pizzas as an afterthought. The slices are an afterthought of an afterthought. The cheese is mediocre. It's not offensive or anything. Same thing with the sauce. It's kind of too sweet and it's annoying because damn it's close. And either one of these things could carry the slice into the record books. For Wilmington, anyway.
Rundown: Great crust; bland cheese; bland, overly-sweet sauce. Also cheap as fuck at $1.44 after tax.
Another weird thing about this place is their layout. They have this giant section in the front that is entirely empty and begging for tables to be put in. My only guess is that since they don't have a customer bathroom they're not allowed to have such seating. If so, I don't know where I stand. If a place is too small for a bathroom, wassup? However, let a nigga shit, right? Y'all know you like poopin'.
4 recircs out of a possible 8 recircs (lower is better)Hungry Heroes - $1.44 8024 Market St., Wilmington, NC 28411
Coulda been much worse
I went to this goddamn establishment expecting not much at all. If you recall, I reviewed the original Mellow Mushroom location and didn't have too many good things to say. Recently I had to go to Lighthouse to get a Beer Fest ticket (since a $5 'convenience fee' infuriates me), and figured I'd subject myself to the horrors of Mellow Mushroom pizza again.
Tangent: What was with this year's Beer Fest location? $35 to drink beer in some shitty abandoned lot? Fuck you guys. Especially after last year's awesome Greenfield location. And yes, I do realize that certain regulations may have changed in relation to alcohol and public parks. Fuck you, too.
As it turns out, these slices were slightly more than marginally better than the shitdick bullshit you might be unlucky enough to find at the Oleander location. I found the cheese to be pretty good, and the sauce to be sort of decent. The crust was also okay. The rim was butter- and parmesan-encrusted as always, but in a far less offensive way that at the Oleander location.
Another interesting thing worth noting is that their prices are all fucky. Maybe I shouldn't even mention this but I was charged $2 for slices when they were listed for $3, and $2.50 for PBRs when they were listed for $3. My waitress also said 'have a good night' or something along those lines at least twice and it was fucking 11AM. But that's the sort of shit I can appreciate. Keep rocking those sunglasses indoors, stoner hippy chick, but remember: just cuz shit looks, like, you know, all dark and stuff, it like doesn't mean it's night time. She actually did a good waitressing job besides, though.
Also of note is that these slices are pretty fucking big. I couldn't even finish both and a beer. But then again, I am a shit-filled hosebag of less than questionable merit.