Don’t pinch yourself (unless it’s what floats your boat), don’t power-cycle your monitor, don’t panic. This is legitimate, this is for-real, you are not experiencing a wire cross somewhere in the tubes. Papa John’s has a location that does dollar slice pizza. It is on 28th between 7th and 8th. We have reviewed it. Yes, this is still Midtown Lunch. While we generally aim – rightfully so, IMO – to steer our lunch dollars towards the little guy, we are still doing a comparison of individual pizza slice purveyors that sell for a dollar per plain cheese slice. This fits the criteria, and it is up to us to advise for or against. In the past, there’s been no issue calling out awful dollar slices just as easily as there’s been no issue lauding surprising good finds in unlikely places. As this, the final column in $1 Slice-o-Rama comes to a close, do we end off with a corporate underdog story or do we merely shake our heads at having done a necessary, but not joyful, service to the lunch community?
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A Charitable $1 Slice-o-Rama Downtown: Are you simply not willing to engage in the $1 slice phenomenon? Check out Downtown Lunch's details on Slice Out Hunger, which - while being a downtown event and not during lunch o'clock - is a natural to get amazing pizza at Slice-o-Rama prices. How often can you justify eating pizza as a tax deduction anyway?
Posted at 1:38 pm, October 10th, 2012 | 0 Comments
We’ve done the big kingpin chains and the aggressors in the 6th Ave Pizza War of 2012 (voted silliest war this side of the War of Jenkins’ Ear by the United Nations Committee on War Naming in recess, eating $1 slices at Roll and Go and wishing they’d gone to NYC Fried Chicken instead). When you think of pizza, if you’re lucky, you think of terrible Italian stereotypes that play off a mix of charming historical quirks and reclamation of blatant ethnic stereotypes that actually serve decent slices. Joey Pepperoni’s, which took over the space, format, and food that was previously known as 2-and-a-Can, sits across the street from the Pizza War battleground, almost above the fray of the 75 cent slice. Is 2-and-a-Can’s loss a pox upon the $1 slice space at this location, or is it just a matter of enough Italian-American colloquialisms to fuel the buck slice turnover? Fugeddaboudit. Let’s siddown, kid.
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.
How lucrative is the $1 slice business? Are we really looking at something that, when monetized and capitalized, revenue-streamed and leveraged, packaged and branded, and delivered as an active service to energized customers, is a profit component well worth integration? Or, to translate from the business buzzword crap, is it worth making a pizza oven and valuable store frontage a $1 slice outpost? NYC Fried Chicken seems to think so, and with their only previous Midtown Lunch mention being a 2008 entry from the Brooks Era giving modest mention to the chicken-to-price ratio, could the $1 slice business give this prime corner a shot? With 2 Bros and the rightfully-panned Roll and Go within a stone’s throw and Port Authority in plain view, our northwesternmost $1 slice outpost now falls into our purview. Time to see if they can stack up – er, slice up – with the big boys or if they’re better known for cheap fried chicken.
Roll and Go has been an object of derision since even before its opening. While we all love a good underdog story, we like a generic-and-indistinct-food story a great deal less. Nevertheless, I come to review Roll and Go’s pizza, not to praise it. Midtown Lunch and its readers swiftly noticed Roll and Go’s add-on $1 slice initiative shortly after its opening, which is not at all ironic given its location catty-corner from 2 Bros and down the block from a generic fried chicken joint that also decided to do $1 slices. Here on 8th, from 38th to 40th, we now have three dollar slice options. One is 2 Bros, which was our flagship $1 Slice-o-Rama review, and one is our current target. Does Roll and Go compare? Only one way to find out.
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Port Authority Bus Terminal is the structure we all love to hate. Those unfortunate enough to have to take NJ Transit buses (Decamp for life, if it serves your area) or Greyhound know too well its inner workings, its layouts the architectural equivalent of the Mos Eisley cantina (“nowhere else in Manhattan will you find a more wretchedly-laid out hive of scum and villainy”) and its external visage looking like a boondoggle of an Erector Set. Its seamy underbelly has been no-mans-land for as long as any of us can remember, despite such Midtown Lunch landmarks as Tabata Noodle Restaurant and the as-yet-ML-unreviewed (oh, this is going to be fixed, you’d better believe it) Troy Turkish Grill within a stone’s throw.
Just past the soup kitchen under Port Authority can be found 99¢ Fresh Pizza, a hole in the wall without much to speak of in terms of space. This isn’t a place to linger over your slice and shoot the breeze on matters of court and state – you wanna grab and go here. In our exploration of the dollar slice, are we seeing trends emerge in terms of location vs. atmosphere? Granted, we’re not exactly looking for a Gramercy Tavern dining experience, or even McDonald’s, but who knows what trends yet emerge in the dollar slice experience?
Anthony Bourdain described the “utility slice” as the basic NYC pizza aptly and well. Sometimes all you want is just a slice or two of pizza and a can of soda. 2 Bros has since defined this subset by cranking out plain pie after plain pie, with the occasional outlier of pepperoni pies or mushroom pies, and offering pizza at $1. Earlier this year, we saw open pizza wars break out on one block – the revolution of a 75-cent slice. How in 2012 can this be legitimately done? Where are the corners cut? There has to be some kind of clarity shed on the phenomenon of the dollar slice. People love it and line up to get it. We don’t expect greatness for a buck a slice, but compared to the $2 and up slice, it’s a revolution in value. And as with any revolution, there will be winners and losers. Whose slices are Bolsheviks to the deposed Romanovs? Whose crusts lie guillotined and whose comprise the Directoire? Has 2 Bros become the Batista to an up-and-coming Fidel?
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