Like Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s “It” or the McDonald’s McRib (which one is truly scarier?), Little Caesar Soft Pretzel Crust Pizza made a big scene last year before stealthily going into hibernation shortly after. But now it’s back. And unlike the periodic resurrections of King’s killer clown and McD’s mysterious meat, the cult-favorite pizza’s return is much more “glory” than it is “gory.”
But it didn’t come alone. Looking like the illegitimate child from a Pretzel Crust Pizza/Crazy Bread love affair, Lil C’s also debuted their new Cheese-N-Pretzel Dippers, which come with a cute little tub of “Aged Cheddar Cheese” (oh jeez, I just described a cheese tub as cute; are you proud of me now, Mom?).
I opened my bag and marveled at the doughy chaos within. Unlike the neat rows of Crazy Bread, the 16 or so Dippers are unceremoniously dumped into a pile. They say the pretzel was invented by a monk who shaped dough into the shape of children’s crossed arms during prayer. If that’s true, then he must have shaped these after Sister Agnes was finished “disciplining” the children’s arms with a yardstick.
Other than that, they do look like Crazy Bread, just firmer, browner, and dotted with translucent salt granules rather than parmesan. And the buttery-ness of my pretzels made the bag as translucent as the salt: even before opening it, the Dippers were tunneling through the paper like Andy Dufresne behind a poster of Rita Hayworth.
Evaluating these Dippers is tricky, because their quality is very much dependent on their temperature. Eaten hot, the experience is largely pleasant. The rich, golden-baked pretzel shell has enough structural integrity to resist tearing (it’s denser than the pizza’s pretzel crust), but the uneven butter coating makes it lighter, softer, and more oily-tasting in select clusters. Biting through gives way to the same fluffy, aerated center in Crazy Bread.
It’s a recognizable “pretzel flavor” that is reminiscent of those microwaveable Super Pretzels, just with a more hearty chew. This is because the thin Dippers have a “crust to bread” ratio that highly favors the former.
Unfortunately, the haphazard salt sprinkling dampens the experience, as some bites are purely bland butter-dough, while others are overwhelmingly salty enough that’ll you’ll be channeling your inner George Costanza: “These pretzels are making me thirsty!” The few bites that are well balanced, though, make me smile contently and whisper, “That’ll do, Dipper. That’ll do.”
And the cheese. Oh, the cheese. The only thing aged about this cheddar is how it tastes like the orange goo on boardwalk nachos that a carny left out too long. Overwhelmingly oily and slightly too coagulated, it takes away from the pretzel goodness by plastering a tangy, slightly zippy taste in the back of your mouth.
But that’s when it’s all hot. If left too long (and it reached this point even after my short ride home from Little Caesars), room temperature or cold Dippers turn into insanely chewy lengths of flavorless rope as the salt begins to fall off. Biting into any remaining salt clusters tastes like you’re munching on a pirate’s doormat. And room temperature cheese? Like a repulsive cube of Cheez Whiz someone tried passing off as post-modern art.
Little Caesars’ new Cheese-N-Pretzel Dippers are certainly an enjoyable alternative pizza side dish, but only under two stipulations: eat them immediately (or keep a microwave on hand), and send the cheese dip directly to
Hell, where it belongs the trash.
(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)
Item: Little Caesars Cheese-N-Pretzel Dippers
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 16 pieces
Purchased at: Little Caesars
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Dippers)
Rating: 2 out of 10 (Cheese)
Pros: Authentic pretzel taste when salt and butter are balanced. Charming patchwork of crispy and light sections. Adorable cheese receptacles. Seinfeld reruns.
Cons: Rare balanced sections. Temperature-based devolution into cardboard. Semisolid satanic cheese. Sister Agnes’ painful wrath.