$1 Slice-o-Rama: Pizza King’s Post-Pizza War Slice
Here we stand at Checkpoint Charlie, the literal and physical border between the great antagonists. For too long has their mutual anger stewed across this otherwise bucolic stretch of earth. Here we stand at a time none thought possible: the end of hostilities. The de-escalation of forces. The boys are going back home from their long, lonely watches, each side waiting for the other to perform the unthinkable. The threat of mutually assured destruction is seen by many now as a thing of the past. The Churchillian forboding state is now lifted. Ladies and gentlemen: the Cold War of pizza has come to an official end, not with a bang but a whimper – or a handshake. 2 Bros and Pizza King, next door to each other on 6th Ave just shy of 38th, have ended the 75-cent slice by mutual agreement which some suspect constitutes illegal price-fixing. While consumers may bemoan not having that extra quarter in their pockets, who knows what kind of damage this price drop has done to the pizza ecosystem? Now that the dust has settled, we can see if the damage has persisted back into the new $1 order.
As much as I would have liked to have done two slices from two places in one day for a post-Pizza War Reconstruction special column, alas, the neighboring 2 Bros next to today’s review, Pizza King (which is basically just pizza ovens inside Bombay Fast Food) has already been covered earlier on in this column under the one-chain-one-review rule I’ve got going. As you see here, there’s still big pull on the 2 Bros name – the line was several deep when we arrived.
“We,” you might say? “Hey MJP, you Neal Stephenson of pizza” (my fantasy world, my comparisons, people) “why the we? You’ve done this stuff solo before.” Friends, readers, pizzaheads, believe it or not, some people have never had a dollar slice before. To buck this trend (rim shot) I have our own lovely, illustrious and prolific jenjfen reviewing Pizza King’s dollar slice in the wake of this historic pizza event. It’s her first dollar slice, and upon hearing this, we had to hold back the staff of Pizza King from a Rocky Horror-esque application of V in red lipstick upon her forehead. Just because the pizza wars are over doesn’t mean this confederacy of pizza-centric food stalls under one roof is at all stable. Are we looking at the Kazakhstan of pizza, spinning itself off after years of dominion trying desperately to remake itself as a midtown pizza power? Or do we see a Chechen pizza insurgency, a simmering resentment left over after both sides back down? Jenfjen and I each offer our own commentary and scoring on Pizza King as the twilight of the conflict turns to dusk.
Three plain on deck, five or six topping slices cooling without adequate heat-lamping. This doesn’t bode well but we’re not here to bode – we’re here to do science.
Cheese: 2/5. It’s clumpy and pretty nonexistent. Moreover, there’s a lot of orange color from the grease doing weird things to the light. At least it’s contributing a good amount of salt, and I like saltyness. But it’s still really clumpy, and big chunks of my cheese kept on coming off with every bite. I can’t think of anything to describe it other than interstital, in an internal organ dividing sense. What’s worse, there’s not enough – at least to me, there should be more cheese.
Sauce: 4/5. This is actually really solid sauce. It’s good, very tomatoey with enough salt from the cheese above. It’s a bit liquidy, though – kinda thin, not as thick as it could be. It’s fine, it’s good, it’s the best part of the pizza.
Crust: 1/5. It’s dry – too dry, way too dry. I mean, it reminds me of a combination of school lunch pizza and Mama Celeste’s. It needs salt, it’s too dry, and it’s too thick without any real rise to the outer crust.
Overall: 3/5. It wasn’t all bad – the pizza was hot when we got it and there was plenty of seating, which I like – I want to be able to take my time and really taste what I’m eating. It kinda looks and feels more like a place to eat a pizza to nurse a hangover, but it’s at least got a place to sit.
Jenfjen’s final score: 2.5/5.
Cheese: Our slices were reheated at least once given the amount of grease on the pizza. While I decry grease blotters, after seeing this grease not go anywhere even when held at a 90-degree vertical, I couldn’t help but be a bit skeptical. I mean hell, when held upside-down, the grease was heavy and dense enough that nothing dripped. It wasn’t light and tasty grease like NYC Fried Chicken’s – this coated the inside of the mouth in an unhelpful manner. Plus, the cheese did come off in great swaths as you tear away at the pizza or bite and pull. Fortunately, it’s really flavorful and dense. While I don’t think it needed more than what we had, it was indeed a bit heavily leveraged into the orange spectrum for preference. It was at least balanced in creaminess and saltiness. Coverage was reasonable and to be expected, but that was it. 3/5.
Sauce: While flavorful and bright, it was on the acidic side of sauces I’ve had thus far, closer in composition to 99c Fresh Pizza. It had the same overly liquid consistency, too. It was the kind of sauce that I wanted to like, but it was far too liquidy and was an active contributor to crust/cheese dissociation. There wasn’t much herbiness to it and its flavor was overwhelmed by the cheese. At least the cheese was distributed enough to minimize burnt sauce bits, but I doubt the cheese/sauce coefficient could err on the side of saucy, or even useful. 2/5.
Crust: Jen said it best. It’s dry in all the wrong places. I had to tear apart the outer crust and poke around the dough to find moisture in there. This slice was reheated at least once and it was done for too long. The underside was overcooked in some parts.
Its 3mm thickness grew to a maybe 9mm outer crust, which is basically no outer crust at all. It had the same thickness variation across the slice, and its density was a dry, resilient density – not a fluffy, yielding one. The upside of this is that the fold held perfectly, but the flat slice literally dangled limply, crackerlike and uniform. The outer crust was uniform in its dryness throughout most of its cross-section and as mentioned before, only moist in the middle. 1/5.
Overall: I know that Pizza King is technically part of Bombay Fast Food but I want to give the pizza people the pizza money. Here, you take your food and pay at a central cashier which serves the Indian and Spanish food stalls inside all together. Great for your logistics, buddy, but this loses points for being A) not a street slice, B) time-consuming, and C) just plain odd. The only saving grace was fast movement in line and equally fast pizza dispensing. However it was reheated, our slice was hot, the place was clean enough, but if you want your condiments, they were nowhere to be found. Jen had to seek out extra napkins since there weren’t any visible on the tables. 2/5.
MJP’s final score: 2 out of 5.
Final score averaged: 2.25 out of 5. If Pizza King is, as camera footage claims, the initial aggressor in the pizza war, then it does stand to reason that something in the chain had to give to allow some kind of profits in the best-case, bare break-even in the worst-case. The results haven’t improved now that the extra 25 cents per slice is coming back to the business. Numerical results in this case may reflect an opinion split in how Jen and myself individually weight our metrics and the characteristics that contribute to those metrics, but the inconsistency across palates, despite the ability to turn over hot slices, reveal that the thorns in Pizza King’s crown are mostly omnipresent.
When 2 Bros’ score is better than the place next door, that may stand as a reason to give both a try. Academically, there were parts of Pizza King’s slices that I really liked, but the rest of it just didn’t add up. I’m definitely going to try the chaat in the back but my pizza pick thus far is still the surprisingly good NYC Fried Chicken.
There’s still fight left in 6th Ave – we’re not going too far for our next $1 Slice-o-Rama pie purveyor. Just because the war is over doesn’t mean there’s still a battle to be fought – to arms, pizza comrades, and once more into the crust!