Monthly Archives: July 2012

Mack’s VS. Sam’s (Battle on the Boards)

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True Boardwalk Za’

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First timer

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Big time photo bomber

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Mack’s Pizza

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Nostalgia in the air

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Creeper in the back

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Tourist

Castro:

Wildwood. Oh, how I loathe that name. I’ve always been considered a Cape May/Ocean City man myself. Call me crazy, but I’m definitely NOT a fan of walking 8 city blocks from the boards just to enjoy the beach. The cringing sound of that robotic tram car, ordering you to get out of the way. The endless sea of pimple faced carnies, taunting you to win your sweetheart a giant stuffed tweety bird. The wife beater wearing, tribal tattooed-lowlife with a newport stuffed behind his ear is eagerly pushing past you to score a phone number from the girl sporting “Italian swag” on the ass of her shorts. It’s these reasons, coupled with the hundreds of thousands of other people who flock here to do the exact same thing that you’re doing, that make this place my least favorite site to vacation. However, one thing that Wildwood boasts is a half a century old rivalry between 2 of the biggest pizza names in the state of New Jersey. When you hear the word “rivalry”, your first thought usually isn’t pizza.

Eagles VS Dallas.
Tyson VS Holyfield.
Alien VS Predator.
Bayside VS Valley.
2Pac VS the world.

These are just a few of the rivalries that immediately come to mind. This particular feud dates all the way back to the late 50’s. Mack’s Pizza VS. Sam’s Pizza Palace. If you ask any 20 people who they prefer, I can almost guarantee you’ll get a 50/50 split. This preference is mostly due in part to tradition. Where you ate growing up. There were no other choices when you hit the Wildwood boards. You were either team Sam’s or team Mack’s. Today we set the record straight and let you know who makes a better shore pie.

Mack’s Pizza
3218 Boardwalk (between Pine and Wildwood) and 4200 Boardwalk (between Roberts and Baker)

I’ve been eating Mack’s just about as long as I could utter the word pizza. I’ve guzzled gallons of birch beer and housed hundreds of their sweet sauced, thin slices. I’ve always been semi-partial to the finshed product of Mack & Manco (R.I.P) over the pies of Wildwood Mack’s. Having said that, I’ll still always hold a special place in my clogged heart for Mack’s. As of recent, I’ll have to admit that they’ve been slacking big time. For example, my slice today was extremely greasy and wasn’t even piping hot. Under cooked and oversauced pizzas, shotty service and extremely long waits seem to be the norm nowadays here. I’ve done my research on these findings and I have a definitive answer as to why these trends are becoming more and more prominent with Mack’s. My theory is they’re stuck in the mindset that people are gonna eat their product regardless because they’ve already made a name for themselves. Just as long as the box is stamped with the purple “Mack’s” logo, people are gonna pay for it. Right? Wrong. If they would just put forth a little more effort into the way that they build their pizzas, like the Mack’s I remember eating as a kid, then this review would be singing an entirely different tune.

Sam’s Pizza Palace
2600 Boardwalk (Between 26th and Juniper)

I have to be honest. I’ve never eaten at Sam’s before today. I’ve only seen check in’s on facebook with the occassional argument over whether or not they have the best pizza on the b-walk. I was going in as a blind virgin, waiting to have my Sam’s cherry popped. I’ve been a Mack’s guy my entire life so this is a totally new experience for me. We were lucky enough to get in there before the crowds packed in. At first glance, the interior doesn’t look much different than that of Mack’s. A giant rotary oven. Countertop seating. Boardwalk walk up service. A staff of about a dozen people, each with their own specific job. However, what sets them apart from Mack’s is the attention and love they give to each pie that they churn out. I watched them make about 6 pies while I sat in there, and they treated each one like they were making it for their own mother. The sauce to cheese ratio on their plain pie was damn near perfect. The guy who was making them gently spread out the sauce with a ladle rather than squirting unproportionate amounts of sauce with a plastic hose like Mack’s. The crust was super light and crispy. I felt like I could’ve easily eaten 4 more. Sam’s service by far chumps Mack’s any day of the week. I felt like Sam’s actually wanted our business. Not the other way around. And that’s how it should be. I’d also like it to be known that Mack’s has the audacity to charge $18 for one of their mediocre T-shirts. Sam’s is humble enough to only charge $10. I would much rather rock a sleeveless Sam’s tee while we’re eating shitty local Philly pizza instead of an overpriced, cheaply made Mack’s shirt. Sam’s hasn’t forgotten their roots. No matter how big they are and continue to get, they’ll always put their customer first.

There’s an article from June 2006 Philadelphia magazine hanging on a corner wall in Sam’s, out of sight, that simply states “The best pizza in town is Sam’s on the boardwalk, not be confused with Mack’s which is famous; but darned if we know why.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Sam’s pizza totally dropped Mack’s off the 30th floor of the Nakatomi tower and claimed victory as the BEST pizza on the Wildwood boards. Yippie Ki-yay, Motherfucker.

Plichter:

Contrary to Castro, I have to admit that my love affair with Wildwood has been rekindled during my most recent visits. Don’t get me wrong; Wildwood is still the #1 tourist destination for both the scum of the east coast and Quebec. (Every time I visit, I seem to encounter more and more license plates from Quebec. I don’t get it.) But the fact remains that some of my most memorable summers were spent there between the ages of 18 and 20 years old. Whether it be drinking wine from a Pepsi bottle on the boardwalk with Bill Quinn, jumping into a random convertible with Drew LeCompte, getting lost trying to find Tom Reamer’s short-lived shore house, or stealing a fire extinguisher with Greg Meyer at 5am, the memories are endless. I could seriously ramble on about these experiences and many more for hours on end, but I’ll save that for my Wildboys Debauchery Blog. We were forced to pin two pizzerias against each other until only one emerged victorious, and that’s exactly what happened that day. To be quite honest, the decision was a little bit easier than I anticipated.

Being to so many pizzerias in my lifetime, it’s gotten harder and harder for a place to really stick out in my mind. Case in point: I vaguely remembered eating Sam’s a few times in my life but couldn’t really pinpoint how good it was. After going roughly several years without their pizza, I can tell you that the memories of Sam’s came flooding back as their pizza flooded my taste buds. This was a great example of a traditional, thin sliced, east coast pizza. Simple, inexpensive and tasty, this pizzeria could easily be a go-to joint if I lived in the area. Not only was their pizza enjoyable, but the employees were very pleasant as well. Every once in a while, we get a little extra special treatment when people find out we’ll be reviewing their pizza. We left that part out until after our slices were done, but were still treated respectfully and courteously regardless. All in all, this was a great experience that set the bar pretty high.

I’ll never forget how excited I got when I heard they were opening up a Mack’s affiliate in South Philly. That location was opened by Joey Mack, a member of the Mack family who broke off and opened Joey Mack’s right off of 10th and Oregon. The details to this story are erroneous, but the point is I was super stoked for Mack’s to open up in South Philly. From what I remembered, Mack’s was the shit back in the day and would be a welcomed addition to the neighborhood. But after that subpar experience, I began to second-guess how good Mack’s actually was. “Dude, the Mack’s in Wildwood is way better than this. Right?” But the truth is, it’s not. I think Mack’s is totally overrated. The slices we got that day resembled something found on Frankford Ave; undercooked and stale looking. And I don’t mean at a pizzeria on Frankford Ave…I mean literally on Frankford Ave, behind a dumpster or next to a trashcan. They certainly didn’t taste any better than they looked either. But to top things off, their counter girl who served us was pretty rude. I don’t like being spoken to like a child, especially when I know what I want and have been to a thousand pizzerias in my lifetime. If ever there were a pleasant memory of Mack’s in my lifetime, it was erased from my brain forever on that day. This is just another example of a boardwalk pizzeria that has been unjustifiably hyped up over the years. Sorry Mack’s supporters, but you should reevaluate your allegiance because this pizza is mediocre at best.

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Pizzeria UNO

Pizzeria UNO

Arrgghhhhh-tisan

Deepest of dishes

Down with the thickness

Classin’ it up

Forks n’ knives n’ napkins oh my!

“You always cross your arms. I wanna be the one who crosses his arms in this pic.”

Uno Chicago Grill (Pizzeria UNO)
789 Franklin Mills Circle, Franklin Mills Mall.

Castro:

“Corporate pizza? C’mon doughboys…you’re better than that.” I know what you’re thinking, but hear us out first. I watched a pizza special on the travel channel a while back which highlighted the origins of deep dish pizza and it got me thinking. “Are there any places in Philadelphia area that serve truly authentic Chicago style deep dish pizza?” A quick google search proved Negative results. However, a sponsored link led me to Pizzeria Uno’s homepage. Scrolling through pictures on their site made me realize that Uno may be the boys of dough’s only hope to scarf deep dish pizza aside from a roadtrip to the windy city.

Let me learn you some knowledge. Deep dish pizza originated in Chicago in the early 1940’s. Word on the street is this style of pizza was invented by Ike Sewell, an All-American linebacker for the University of Texas. Ike loved the taste of pizza, but it was never enough to fill him up. He wanted to create a pizza that could fill a person of his stature up without having to consume 2 pizzas at a time. In 1943, Ike rented out the basement of a corner mansion in busy downtown Chicago in hopes of bringing his idea to life. Ike ultimately named his restaurant “Pizzeria UNO.” It was in that dingy basement that deep dish pizza was born. Deep dish pizza’s crust is crazy thick and resembles a pie crust more than the average crust you’re accustomed to. The pizza dough is pushed into a 3″ cake pan. The dough is pre-baked before the toppings are added, to ensure it’s completely cooked by the time it hits your mouth. The dough is buttered and spread with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese. The toppings are then piled in. Typically, heaping portions of meats are used to give it that authentic Chicago touch. Finally a layer of sauce, using chunky crushed tomatoes, is spread out with another sprinkling of cheese.

Today we decided to go with their signature pie, “The Número UNO.” It’s essentially just a works pizza (sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, onions and mushrooms). It was hand delivered by their manager with a giant pair of steel vice grips and slammed on our table. “Be careful, the pan is extremely hot” says she. Thank you ma’am, but I’ll be the judge of what’s hot and what’s not. Yeah, so after I burnt my hand on the pan, we gave it a minute to cool off. This allowed all the ingredients to settle in the middle. It was like lifting a piece of grandma’s lasagna onto your plate. Extremely heavy. Massively thick. Carefully prepared. Don’t even think about trying to eat a slice with your hands. Things will not work out in your favor. Flatware is essential to conquering this beast. I was quite surprised with how much I enjoyed it. The many different toppings gave it a unique taste. The buttery, flakey crust was a change to the normal crunchy, blackened crust were used to. The sausage was my favorite part. Giant slabs of spicy pork sausage to give you the meat sweats that every man deserves to get a few times a month. One deep dish pie is more than enough to feed you and 2 of your sloppy friends.

I’ve always favored UNO as a local spot to sit down and grab dinner before a movie or just to have a few drinks. Recently, they’ve done some renovations and added a shitload of rarities to their beer menu. Not to mention, their artisan thin crust pizzas have some pretty solid street cred. I usually find myself getting a “create your own pie” when I go. UNO’s deep dish pizza makes me wish Philly had a wider selection of deep dish restaurants to choose from. Until that day arrives, let UNO fix you some T.L.C in their Número UNO. DDP for life.

Plichter:

I think it’s no secret that I don’t particularly like touching the food I eat. I know, I’m a weirdo. If the opportunity presents itself, I always try to eat with utensils. But given the fact that pizza is primarily eaten by hand, I usually just grin and bear it. However, since tackling a deep-dish pizza requires the use of a fork and knife, my germaphobe demeanor was left at the door at Pizzeria Uno.

We try to avoid chain restaurant pizzerias when it comes to our reviews, but we figured it doesn’t hurt to visit one of the few that stand above the rest. Pizzeria Uno, along with California Pizza Kitchen, is an establishment that transcends the mediocre competition such as Pizza Hut or Domino’s. My last visit, nearly 10 years ago, didn’t really impress me. But my tastes have changed since then, and everyone deserves a second chance.

Don’t let the size of the pies at Pizzeria Uno fool you; their deep and topping filled pizzas are more than hearty. Even though this pie was only about 10 inches in diameter, it could still feed two fat Americans or an entire Ethiopian family. “The Número UNO” seemed to be right up our alley, combining all the ingredients of a classic works pie. Being a fan of peppers, onions and sausage, I was actually impressed with how the combination really popped. Most toppings at chain restaurants are bland and anything but fresh, but this was not the case. The one distinguishing characteristic of Uno is their flaky and pie-like crust. When I say pie-like, I mean it’s buttery and flaky almost like that of a chicken pot pie; different than anything I’ve had in a while.

I’ll forever be a thin crust, east coast pizza guy. You can never take that away from me. But if you’re forced to visit a chain pizzeria, give Uno a chance. You might be as surprisingly impressed as I was.

The Bistro at Cherry Hill

The Bistro

Stacked with choices

An open kitchen leaves nothing for the imagination.

Eggplant

Taco za

Tag team, back again…

Taco meat making it’s way to my belly

Sizing up my opponent

The Bistro at Cherry Hill
Cherry Hill Mall, New Jersey

Castro:

The Cherry Hill Mall has undergone an extensive facelift within the past 5 years. The new owners are trying to replicate The King Of Prussia Mall with the addition of numerous high end stores and an upper echelon of restaurants to attract the higher class consumer. One of those restaurants is an open style eatery located in the lower level between Macy’s and Nordstrom. I’ve been coming to The Bistro for the longest. The extensive variety of items on their menu is astronomical considering the location and the size of their kitchen. Seriously. A pizza/pasta station, a brick oven, a deep fryer, and a sandwich/salad area…all cramed within a 20’X10′ open kitchen. It’s pretty crazy watching the cooks work their magic. I’m pretty sure I’ve tasted everything The Bistro has to offer. From their Penne Vodka to their famous tomato bisque soup, I have yet to complain about a visit here. One thing that separates The Bistro from most other restaurants is the counter top seating that lines the perimeter and allows you to view the chefs at work. I don’t know about you, but there’s something truly satisfying about watching your food being prepared right in front of you. The Bistro could easily be one of the places you’d see Guy Fieri and his frosted bangs highlight on Triple D.

Out of all the times that I’ve been bistro’d, I never really dabbled in their pizza, aside from their plain pie. Their burgers and sandwiches always had me sticking to that particular part of the menu. Today, I turned the page and decided to sample 2 of the Chef recommended pizzas. The first was their fried eggplant pie. A traditional pizza that utilizes a sweet pomodoro sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, fresh basil and crunchy pan fried eggplant. I love eggplant. I love fried eggplant. I especially love fried eggplant offered as a topping on pizza. It shows me that whichever chef designed the menu isn’t scared to cross that line which borders normal and unique toppings to showcase their creativity. This pie wasn’t too shabby. The crispy texture of the eggplant mixed with the gooey cheese was a welcomed change to my daily pizza intake. The weight didn’t hold up well on the crust, but the combination of flavors from the eggplant and pomodoro sauce totally redeemed that fact.

The 2nd pie of the day was without a doubt the better of the 2. Who doesn’t like tacos?! Any variation of tacos is usually awesome. When you take the main embodiment of a taco and incorporate it into pizza, great things happen. The taco pie starts off with a fistful of seasoned ground beef topped with filletto pomodoro sauce and smothered with a cheddar and mozzerella cheese mix. After the pizza smolders in their wood fired inferno, it’s taken out and finished off with ice cold shredded lettuce, sliced juicy tomatoes, an extra garnish of cheddarella cheeses and a drizzle of taco sauce. At first bite, you’d think you were eating an actual taco (minus the crunch of the shell). The meat was seasoned to perfection and only hyped up the spicy zing of the taco sauce. I can see why this was one of the only 3 chef recommended pies on the menu. I scarfed down all 6 slices without even thinking. Even the taco meat that fell from my slice onto my star wars shirt got eaten. One thing I would love to see added to this pie would be a little sour cream. I think the cool creaminess of the sour cream would ultimately turn this pizza into greatness. But then again, what do I know. I’m just a doughboy.

All in all, The Bistro pizza experience was all I hoped and knew it would be. Sandwiches and pasta may be The Bistro’s signature items, but don’t be afraid to sample the unique wood fired pizza creations they have to offer. With 15+ pies to choose from, there’s sure to be something to tickle everyone’s fancy.