Tuesday, November 8, 2011

[HOT LIST] Michigan pizza chains

Domino's Pizza Wisconsin 6 Cheese. Photo by Nicole Rupersburg.
Metro Detroit is luckier than most when it comes to our run-of-the-mill pizza chains. Just because a place has a corporate headquarters and franchisee options doesn't mean you should have to suffer bad pizza. They may not be fancy, but our major pizza chains (many with locations throughout the U.S.) know how to make good 'ol America pie, from hand-tossed round to our very own homegrown Detroit-style deep dish. These places offer a diversity of styles and overall smashability that would make other cities weep if they knew what they were missing. (Chicago, we're looking at you. Your pizza is abysmal. Truly, truly awful. From your dried-out pie crust deep dish to your dried-out cardboard thin crust. Good God it's bad.) And blessed are the Detroiters, for they shall inherit the cheap eats: we've got some of the cheapest pizza in the country AND with the most variety. WEEP CHICAGO; WEEP!

#1 Jet's Pizza
(Sterling Heights*)
Just the smell of Jet's Pizza will have us salivating like a pack of wild dogs. And as soon as that box opens we will tear into it like a pack of wild RABID dogs. That extra-thick (yet still pillowy) deep dish crust with the crispy edges, especially where the cheese runs a little over and bakes in; the stretchy, slightly tangy mozzarella; the spicy pepperoni; the well-balanced tomato sauce ... everything about this 'za is on-point. Add a side of extra-buttery Jet Bread drenched in mozzarella and parmesan and, well, let's just say that to witness the scene of our frenzied feasting is a sight no human should be forced to see.

#2 Hungry Howie's (Madison Heights)
Just because you say "garlic butter cheese crust" really fast doesn't make it an actual flavor. But it seems to work every time so we're going to stick with it. Hungry Howie's was the originator of the flavored crust, available in 8 different flavors (including "garlic herb" and, separately, "butter cheese"). Everything about their regular old round pizza is good: sauce, slightly spicy and good; cheese, gooey and good; pepperoni, crispy at the edges and good; crust, chewy and golden from the butter and good. Hungry Howie's pizzas are utterly smashable (seriously, you can just keep eating and eating and eating...). A large is considered a single-serving portion at EID headquarters so you better bring your own.

#3 Buddy's Pizza (Farmington Hills)
Many of you will balk that we dare rank Buddy's not one but TWO places after Jet's. Well, you can start a blog and build a fan base and then you can write your own list; this one is ours. We love Buddy's, we do; especially that crispety-crunchety taste of biting into that oil-soaked deep dish crust. Yep, this is a true Detroit original, the birthplace of the Detroit-style square deep dish invented around the same time as electricity and the Model T. (We're kidding, electricity and the Model T were TOTALLY invented in different centuries, and really electricity wasn't so much invented as harnessed.) Okay, so maybe not that old, but 65 years is still pretty old. The recipe has only been improved over the years, and now they've got four new signature pizzas with gourmet toppings to celebrate their golden age.

#4 Domino's Pizza (Ann Arbor)
Normally Domino's would be found in the absolute dead-last position for any pizza compilation list after years and years and years of inexcusably bad pies (and we have a *very* high threshold of tolerance for less-than-tremendous pizza), but after hearing some good buzz over their new "Artisan Pizza" line (tryin' to be all gourmet and whatnot) we gave it a shot. And it was...not bad. You've got a choice of four different styles of crust and a wide selection of specialty pies. The Wisconsin 6 Cheese on hand-tossed parmesan and asiago crust was heavy even for us, but the flavors were more or less on point (more feta and less cheddar, FTR), the sauce decent, and the crust chewy and flavorful. If you swore off Domino's a decade ago after one too many inedible pizzas, we recommend you give them another shot.

#5 Little Caesars (Detroit)
Yep, the pizza tastes like cardboard. There are no two ways around that. It's bad. But it's also cheap, and you gotta give it to the place that launched the large $5 Hot-N-Ready concept. As promised, they're hot, they're ready, and they're $5. Select locations also offer their square deep dish Hot-N-Ready from 4-8pm for $7 (call your local store for details), and these are fully decent (if not on the same level of Jet's or Buddy's). Other things we love about Little Caesars: the Italian Cheese Bread (garlic butter-soaked square pizza dough covered in melted cheeses and Italian spices) and their crowning achievement, Crazy Bread (extra sauce, extra cheese, ALWAYS). They also now have 8 different flavors of wings that sound tempting...did we mention we also love wings?

Bubbling under Papa Romano's (Commerce Township), Cottage Inn (Ann Arbor), Happy's Pizza (Farmington Hills)

*Cities denote corporate headquarter locations.