Detroit Medleys

8BallMotorCity

A chance meeting with a friend I haven’t seen in decades (yes I said decades), and one pizza place we were going to that was closed on a Monday, led us to our destiny.

8Ball

8 Ball Meatball in the historic Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore, is worth going out of you’re way for. Well if you live in Fells Point or a neighboring neighborhood (ha) you don’t have to venture too far.  But honestly at times it felt like I was in another universe. And based on this experience, this alternate universe is one I welcome on at least a semi-regular basis.

But first here is more about them, their menu, and contact info, and my previous pizzeria reviews of historic Fells Point.

My friend and I cut right to the case and saw two pies we wanted to order, based on the name alone.

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We ordered the Motor City and the 8Ball aka Meatball.  Our server was in agreement.

Before I continue I honestly heard (honestly I’ve never heard) of Detroit-style Pizza in passing.   But I didn’t know it was a a thing. And I didn’t know if would be something I would be a part of, and what a beautiful experience and first impression it would be.

The 8×10 square shaped pies are perfect for sharing.  It looks deceptive that one might be enough for one.  But with it’s thicker, yet not too heavy of a crust, similar to Chicago-style pizza, a couple of those slices might be enough.

Oh it was enough. But how beautiful these three pies were.  Did I say three? We only ordered two.  More on that in a bit…

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The Motor City was my favorite.  Maybe because it was the first pie I tasted.  It just had everything perfect going for it.   The simple combination of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and pepperoni was perfection.  That pepperoni is something I’m still fully appreciating a few days after the fact.  The crust, the perfectly burnt and oily side of the crust is the reason why I write about this, and sometimes so specifically.  This was the pie.   And it’s one of my favorite pies ever.  Can someone send me some now? So good.

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The 8 Ball Meatball was good but in honestly pales in comparison to the Motor City. Maybe we were expecting bigger pieces of meatball, but that’s a fault of expectations. The tiny meatballs were charming but maybe I didn’t get to taste enough?  The chives and parmesan were a nice touch yet this doesn’t compete with the Motor City.  That Motor City I tell you.

This is the part where the manager figured out I was a blogger and I had my friend who was a photographer.  The conversation got really good and really quickly.  This part easily couldn’t have happened but our stay became much more about the education, the experience, and all the nuances of this restaurant and the history of how they started serving Detroit-style Pizza.  Which has only been a few months by the way.

And I did mention a third pie right?

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Brian, the manager, has proclaimed that he will put their Buffalo Chicken Pizza up against any in the city.  This is one he gave to us on the house. Talk about world class service. We didn’t expect it, didn’t ask for it, but everything was aligning properly.  We were supposed to be here on this night and no other (at least for now) and free is always more fun.

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The melange of Buffalo sauce, cheddar and mozzarella (which is always a beautiful cheese combination), red onion, blue cheese drizzle, and those tiny piece of buffalo chicken meatballs made for a real treat.   Those chicken meatballs really did it for me. This is a masterpiece and I’m not just saying this because Brian said so.  It’s really that awesome.

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And it was never messy.  It was all organized.  As my friend stated, all the pies were served clean and the pieces broke apart with no effort whatsoever.  It’s those little details that mean so much.

And I must say, as much as the Buffalo Chicken is fantastic, and it really truly is, it still is a slight notch below the Motor City to me.  I really think it might be the simplicity of the Motor City.

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After all this we also got to meet Paul, the head chef.  And even though it may have been a quieter evening he still took the time to talk about his history in the restaurant business throughout many cities he’s cooked.

He mentioned his training in learning how to cook Detroit-style at Buddy’s Pizza from the man himself.  How cool is that?  We would have never heard any of this if we didn’t come in.  I’m being a bit nostalgic over something a few days ago but encounters like this don’t happen enough, so I want to show my enthusiasm any way I can.

8BallTin

We also learned about the pizza being cooked in the blue steel pan.  Nothing glamorous. It’s just a simple steel pan.  I think some of the best work is done when using the most simple of contraptions but there’s a genuine soul and feeling behind the operation.  This is what we felt here.

Paul said that he uses garlic confit oil in the pan to cook his masterpieces.

What a masterpiece this pizza and this experience was.

As we kept talking a few other pies that were on the menu were shown to us and our mouths just kept watering.

At the moment I knew I had to come back.  I wanted to maybe try every pie and save this for one blog post.  But no,  this deserves another commentary.   How this will match or top this experience I don’t know.  That’s not what I should be striving for.  I should be striving for all the great pizza experiences possible.  And I will.  And I will.

This is one of those experiences that came together as organically as possible.  What we thought would be at the most 30-45 minutes turned into an upwards of a two hour experience.

I can only hope for not the same exact experience but everything coming together masterfully and harmoniously.

But for now, get to 8 Ball Meatball.  This pizza is incredible and off the charts.

Ideen

 

I Was Scared At First

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Over the past few days I was thinking a little too hard about how to follow up last weeks’ incredible feast and experience.

I shouldn’t take this to or much of what I do too seriously.  It’s pizza.  It’s always going to be fun even when it isn’t.  As someone once said, even bad pizza is good.  No that’s not entirely true.

Perhaps because it’s a murky and rainy morning in May as I write this that my mood is thrown off kilter.   But every dark cloud has many cheesy linings.  And if you’re talking cheesy, I couldn’t think of a better pizza to talk about than the Screamin’ Sicilian.

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Here is the link to find their pizzas.  Alright until next week.  Ha…

I realize that today is a day of celebration and I may have missed a golden opportunity to talk about something unique.  I may get to that next week.

It’s pouring out there.  A frozen pizza is perfect comfort food in a time when comfort is not only necessary, but well, comforting.

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Frozen pizzas always had always been a staple of my life when I was a kid.  I can safely assume that goes for many of us.  It’s an easy alternative to cooking and cheaper alternative to pizza delivery, dining out, or maybe even cooking general.  Many pies will go under $5.  The Screamin’ Sicilian went for $7-8 and is worth every cent and then some.

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Over the past few months I would their artwork on their boxes and I would immediately be scared, and somewhat put off.  I see an open mouth with frozen pieces of pepperoni and cheese, and I immediately walked (don’t run) to the nearest exit, or nearby aisle for a safe haven to hide and maybe just leave.

All jokes aside, one day I examined a little bit closer and saw the label was much more humorous than I expected.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously.  Maybe I should lighten up on that.  But fake moustaches on anyone make me scared.  It’s not my business.

But the point of all this is to try different things, even if it’s just frozen pizza.  Trying new anything adds to our memories and adds to things to talk about either with friends, or with ourselves.  And I don’t mean in a schizophrenic sense either.

Going through their pizza menu, I wanted to find one that gave me enough comfort but not to the point where I can’t leave the house.  Actually on days like this, staying in is perfect.  I went with the Mambo Italiano.  This pizza was perfect.

The description mentions something about taking this pizza to the mattress and some cliche terms that start with the letter ‘b’, but I’ll let that slide haha.

Upon opening the package I could just sense that something special was about to happen. This is why you never judge a book by its cover.  And by the way, because they got me thinking so much about their artwork, I bought a pie anyways.  So it worked on me.

20 minutes later after heating I was dazzled.  The cheese and sauce is great.  The pepperoni is good.  The crust was heated and toasted (thanks oven) perfectly. But it’s the meatballs.  I could smell them first and did they smell something awesome.  I picked off a few pieces for me and it was beautiful.

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Some of the meatballs became baked into the golden brown crust that felt like it rose to the heavens.  This is more art.   And the generous amount of toppings shows the kind of soul and character behind this operation.

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I’ve only had a fifth of the pie.  It doesn’t take much to give me comfort.  And it also means I have meals covered for the next day or so.  Ah the little things.

I’m a fan and I think I would like to do this again.  I may or may not do another post about it.  But I’m thrilled to be a part of something so fun.

Here is their contact info, once again the store finder, and all their infos.  Yes they actually call it all their infos.  I’m loving this company more and more.  Their sense of humor if infectious.

I feel comforted.

Ideen

 

Halal’s It Going?

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Happy April.  That got here quick didn’t it?  I felt like I was making the same statements for the same months last year or even this year.   Happy Spring to you too.

You can call this the Iranian New Year Special.

Columbia, MD is a town I’ve written about before and about this chain too, but it also does have its local businesses, and local is what I always strive to write about first.

UpperCrustSign

Upper Crust Pizzeria has been a staple of the town and nearby neighborhoods for a number of years.  In the vicinity there’s two other strip malls with all the chains you need (or don’t), for your convenience, that you could easily pass by this local pizza place and not even know it.

I’ve done the same the thing many times and I’ve also hesitated ever ordering from here to the point of grabbing food from a place next door or nearby.  That’s over and done with now.

The establishment is unassuming.  And you know the places with little decor, limited seating, and no website (that I know of), could turn our to be some of the better pizza and food experiences.  It’s the hidden gems, the hole-in-the-walls, and the off the beaten paths that are truly special.  At least for this go around, this was all that.

That sentiment doesn’t always ring true.  I’ve been to some mom and pops that have turned disastrous, but they usually come through and show why local is the way to go, as much as possible.

I was all set to order a standard or maybe a slightly unique pizza on this day.  But then after scanning the dry erase board (I love that) menu, at the very bottom I see the Halal Meat Pizza.   This would be a historic first for me.

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I had no idea what the pizza would entail.   I didn’t know if there would be a different crust, cheese, or sauces.   None of the above.

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It was a cheese pizza, with tomato sauce, and that crust.  Wow this crust.  Let me say some more about this.  I ordered a personal pie and I did the smaller triangle slices.  As the weather gets nicer this is the kind of consumption I’ll be looking for more.  It’s not necessarily a thin slice.  It’s their slice.  And that golden brown color is a sight for happy eyes.   This was beautiful.

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Now let me get to the Halal meat.    What a pleasant surprise that is also included chicken and they didn’t half-heartedly throw on these toppings.    There’s a lot but not too much that the pizza takes a back seat.

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The beef was seasoned similar to gyro meat and it was magnificent. If it was gyro meat then I’m happy with that too.  The diced chicken was a nice touch.  And in my usual ways I pulled plenty of the toppings off and enjoyed them on my own.  But in this instance it’s not necessary.  Everything complements itself perfectly.

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I’m dreaming about this crust right now.

Now I’m really wondering how other Halal meat pizzas would fare.  It’s not a frequent occurrence on pizzeria menus.

There’s no website but this page can look to the menu and all other necessary information.

I don’t know when I’ll be back.  That sounded a bit too dramatic.  I’m in the Columbia area at least once a month.  And I’m always seeking out hidden gems of all kinds to write about.  So maybe I will try another one of their hopefully awesome pizzas.  I’m overstating this but the crust on this one was just so special.

And speaking of special I’ve contemplated going to ratings system for pizza and maybe the other universes I speak of, here and here.   It would likely be a 5 star system with half and quarter stars when necessary.    If I do institute this, I will go back and rate previous postings I’ve made.  It’s just a thought I’m contemplating and appreciate any feedback.

So far I’ve liked my reviews to speak for themselves.

 

Blessed,

Ideen

 

Fifty Shades of Great

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Actually it’s more than 50.  You can’t put a number on this but the Fifty Shades of Red from Vin 909 is a scrumptious and scintillating pie.   I could throw all the other superlatives that start with the letter ‘S’and any other letter, but this is one of those overall experiences that will resonate with me for a long time.

You know when you have those Grade A (not I won’t be using a bunch of happy words that start with ‘A’ unless it also happens organically) nights out with awesome food, drinks, company, conversation, and service that it tends to come up often in conversation?

Restaurants are more competitive than ever and many are attempting to stand out and differentiate themselves from the crowd.  Vin 909 has done it by the having a welcoming entrance, an approachable and folksy feeling front porch (which is used for outdoor dining when it’s a warmer climate), a cozy waiting area, and even more cozy bar and dining area on the inside.

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All this without any food being sampled.   One more thing, the many times I’ve driven by I’ve felt an energy emanating from the building and the surrounding area.  I equate the visual of the outside as somewhere we go could if we’re checking into Heaven.  There’s no religious connotation with what I just said.  It’s just meant an an expression, and as an experience.

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But I’ll tell you this Eastport Style Pizza was the equivalent of a religious or more I’d say a spiritual experience.

Now I don’t often seek out loads of meat on my pizza.  I like grilled chicken as my preferred protein and lots of vegetables.  Actually I really like to keep it simple.  I like cheese, I like white, I like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, mushroom, and of course pesto.

However, I wasn’t alone for this meal, so a mutually enjoyable pie was needed for this occasion.  And I’m all for expanding my horizons and getting out of the comfort zone.  But as you can see the pizza menu is loaded with all kinds of creativity and excitement.

I wish I could tell you the best part of this pizza.  I truly don’t know.  But that crust was jaw droppingly magnificent.  Maybe that was the best part.  But these toppings are all fresh. No matter how I phrase it words will not do it any justice.

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I adore how the cheese melted all over this pie.  It gives it a true authenticity that you don’t always see.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that other pizzas are any worse.  This was just the good stuff.

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Even the way the prosciutto, pepperoni, and sopressata is layered on top is art.  That’s a lot of red meat.  And it may not be for the faint of heart or more of the discriminatory taste, but this was a gem.   That basil and paprika is the perfect counter balance with all that heavy meat.   I’m glad I got to share this pizza for I only had a few slices.

Did you see those slices?  Some were in the standard form and others were more square shaped.  I love how that worked out.   The presentation right before on the pizza stand makes this all come full circle and completes this mastery of a pie.  It’s not just the food and drinks, it’s everything leading up to it.  The anticipation, the build, and the payoff are all part of this enjoyable process.  And when it’s actually enjoyable, which this was, we’re talking a world class meal of epic proportions.

The wine (more on the wine pictured here) made the pizza that much better and the pizza did the same for the vino.   The tea helped settle the stomach, and helped with that full feeling I had when departing.

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How else can I say how great this was?  I can’t say enough.  I’m so partial to Vin 909 and my romance with the restaurant predate me ever setting foot inside.  All that’s left is to keep the love affair going.

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That means a return engagement when the weather breaks.  Actually my intention is to make many visits.  And not all will be for the blog.  Some memories are meant to be kept internal and some should be shared.  But I think this is a place that I want to appreciate without the pressure of writing and taking pictures.  Same goes for many others but Vin 909 will always hold a special place in my heart.  Oh and being in Annapolis helps!

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It’s been a pleasure reminiscing about a meal in three installments (Here is Part 1 and Part 2), and about a place a I was reminiscing about before I even walked into Heavens Gates. Yes I did just say that again.

One thing I forgot to mention is they don’t take reservations.  Seating is first come, first serve.  Wait times can go past an hour.  And you know a place has got some cache if patrons are waiting that long.  Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

How do I follow-up next week?   Well I’ll do my best.  But for now this is one to savor.

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If you’re in the area or visiting I highly recommend Vin 909.   Here is more about them, their philosophycontact info, and most of all one of my best friends’ organizations which they support, Anne Arundel County CASA.

I never got the chance to meet Alex Manfredonia, who is the owner and general manager. But in case he does read this, I just wanted to say thank you.

Ideen

 

 

Something New

This week’s post brings me back to Virginia, and specifically the Herndon area.

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I had never heard of Rubino’s Pizzeria but this is what makes this gig fun. You can drive around any city, town, or neighborhood and you’re going to find a pizza place.   I feel like an explorer of sorts seeing where this journey will take me.  I have so many places like this stored away for future posts (hopefully) that now is as good a time as many to talk about one.

So this was a month ago and I found myself passing through the region, where I saw many a strip mall and shopping center.  With the power of technology and the Internet I was able to pinpoint a few places nearby.   But they weren’t as close to me as I had surmised.  So I said to myself I’ll let it come to me, and sure enough moments later I get to the Village Center at Dulles aka Clocktower & Village Center.

All the standard chains and box stores were visible but fortunately at the very end of one side of the strip you have Rubino’s.

This was during lunch rush so I am a little more objective as to the time, the crowd, the energy, and everything in between.

It was busy, the crowd was a lot of employees, government workers, tand corporate types.   So you’re going to get a lot of folks trying to expedite their visits and get out as soon as they can.

I ordered three (count ’em three) slices and my wait time was about 5-6 minutes and that was reasonable for the time frame.

In sequential order I will recap my carry-out order.

Rubino'sCheese

First, the cheese is very good.  The mozzarella, the sauce, and the crust mesh perfectly.   I forgot to mention that these are NY Style Slices, and they’re going to be thinner than what some of us might be used to.  But this worked here.

The picture above may look funny as  I literally opened it as soon as I got out of the restaurant, and you see that bubble or hole.  I attribute that to anything but the pizzeria itself.  This is a really good cheese that I’d be happy to have on-the-go or sitting down.  Nothing that bill blow you away but a strong slice for sure.

Now onto the bacon part of the discussion…

Rubino'sMeatLovers

The Meat Supreme with bacon, sausage, ham, and pepperoni was not my favorite.  The toppings were fine.  They may not have seemed as fresh a I would have liked but there was something else missing.   It seemed as if the flavors were too overpowering and I didn’t get to taste much of anything.   I picked pieces of them off and enjoyed them individually but it still wasn’t what I had hoped.   It wasn’t terrible but I didn’t find it very good either.  I ate about half and saved the rest for later.

Rubino'sBBQChicken

The Barbecue, Chicken. and Bacon I saved for last but this didn’t work.  I didn’t care for the bbq sauce and that really compromised the slice altogether.  The chicken was find but again it didn’t taste fresh.  And the bacon got lost in the shuffle.   I barely ate more than a few bites.

For all three the pizza crust itself was really good.

Rubino'sHangSign

In reading their story I do appreciate how it’s family run and that they now have three stores.  They’re three brothers that grew up in the area and went to school nearby.  I love finding out information like this and hope they expand and end up with more successes.

I am in Virginia quite a lot so if I pass through, I will give them another go again.

Rubino'sCoke&Slice

And $3.99 for a coke and a slice for this area is pretty unbeatable.

I hope you all are having a wonderful Thanksgiving Weekend and I wish you all the joys of the holiday season.

Take good care.

Best,

Ideen