REVIEW: Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Papa John’s is getting into the holiday spirit.” – Press release for Papa John’s new Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

“What the hell do Philly Cheesesteaks have to do with the holidays?” – Me

Yes, Papa John’s has decided that the best way to show their Christmas/Hanukkah/whateveryoucelebrate spirit is to offer a limited-time Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Rejoice! Sound the trumpets!

Or, if you’re from Philadelphia, shake your fist angrily at yet another pizza bastardization of your beloved sandwich. At least, that’s what I imagine people from Philadelphia are doing. While they can’t seem to decide who offers the best cheesesteak within their own city, they can probably all agree that Philly Cheesesteak Pizza is bullshit.

Not that Papa John’s is the first offender in this regard, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. But they do seem especially fond of taking other foods and turning them into pizzas. The Fritos Chili Pizza had barely been released before the Philly Cheesesteak came along, and earlier this year they released a Double Cheeseburger Pizza.

Papa John’s describes their Philly Cheesesteak Pizza as “hand-tossed pizza crust layered with creamy garlic sauce, steak from the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company, fresh onions and green peppers, then covered with mozzarella and provolone cheese.”

Before you oo-la-la over the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company, know that they offer bulk steak that’s been fully cooked and blast-frozen, including a Value Pack, which is described as “The economical choice—marinated with Soy Protein for maximum value.” But hey – at least it’s actually from Philly, right?

Before I get to the bad, I’ll address the good parts of the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Don’t worry, it won’t take too long.

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Slice

The steak – sorry, the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company steak – was sliced thin and was tender; I didn’t have to wrestle with it like it was beef jerky. The onions and green peppers added a nice bit of crunch for contrast. There was plenty of gooey cheese topping the pizza.

Okay! Moving on. First off, the steak, which I would consider the most important part of the pizza, was practically tasteless. It wasn’t even salty. While the onions added a little bit of their flavor, the green peppers were tasteless, and I only knew they were on the pizza because of their color and crunch.

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Close-Up

The real food crime that took place here was the creamy garlic sauce. From the first bite onward, it overwhelmed the rest of the toppings. I love a good, garlicky white pie, but this sauce just made me sad. It tasted extremely over-processed and bitter.

In fact, it took me a bit to figure it out, but I was finally able to pinpoint that the most off part of it was that it had the taste of bile. I know that sounds gross and extreme, but that’s the most accurate way to describe it.

All of the toppings on Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza were tasteless or unimpressive, but the worst offender by far was that creamy garlic sauce. It took this pizza from underwhelming to straight-up unappealing. Hell, if you’re going to use a processed sauce on a cheesesteak pizza, why not just use Cheez Whiz? To state that Cheez Whiz would have improved any pizza should let you know that you should pass up on this holiday offering. Bah humbug.

(Nutrition Facts – Nutrition Facts not available on website.)

Item: Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza
Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Onions and peppers add crunch. Angry fist-shaking. Steak is tender.
Cons: Steak is generally flavorless. Peppers are flavorless. Creamy garlic sauce tastes like bile. Wishing there was Cheez Whiz on my pizza. Creamy garlic sauce tastes like bile.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza

Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza

Being fortunate enough to live in an area with a large number of mom ‘n’ pop pizza shops, I’ve seen the cheeseburger pizza road before. (But not an actual Cheeseburger Pizza Road – if I saw that, I would move there immediately.)

I’ve found that small pizza joints tend to have a wider variety of toppings and, thus, a wider variety of specialty pizzas, ranging from cheeseburger to taco to gyro to something with pine nuts and Hoisin sauce. Okay, I made up the last one, but it’s not out of the question.

Comparatively, most chain specialty pizzas and toppings in general are pretty pedestrian. I consider myself lucky if I can even get white sauce as an option. If they do decide to branch out, it tends to be towards Crazy Town, like shoving hot dogs or seven different cheeses into their crusts. In fact, a lot of the insanity in chain specialty pizzas involves shoving shit into the crust. I’m looking at you, Pizza Hut.

Papa John’s went a different direction with their Double Cheeseburger Pizza, however. They put the crazy on top, not in the crust.

Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza Slice

Here’s what Papa John’s has to say about the Double Cheeseburger Pizza: “Featuring a zesty burger sauce covered with a double layer of 100% real beef, dill pickle slices, fresh cut roma tomatoes and 100% real cheese made from mozzarella.”

I have several points of contention with this description. Let’s start with the burger sauce.

Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza Burger Sauce

First off, the words “zesty burger sauce” are both generic and sound like they should be about five miles away from my pizza. Upon tasting, I uphold this idea. On its own, the flavor of the sauce was distinctly mayo mixed with ketchup, aka the poor man’s Thousand Island dressing. Call me crazy, but fresh-from-the-oven hot mayonnaise is not appealing.

Next we have the double layer of real beef. “Double layer” is a questionable quantity, and that really showed here, as I found the beef pieces to be rather sparse. Furthermore, the pieces of beef were small and remarkably flavorless, which is a bad trait for a pizza that’s supposed to taste like a burger.

Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza Pickles

The tomatoes and cheese were just fine, but the real issue was the pickles. While the beef had a weak showing, the pickles certainly made up for it in spades. It appeared that Papa John’s used the same pickles you’d find on a regular fast-food burger, which sounds promising on paper but did not translate at all to a burger party in my mouth.

I could not escape the pickles. There was a slice in every bite. After I’d done my duty for the purposes of this review and eaten the pizza as-is, I tried removing the pickles in an attempt to have a slice of pizza that did not taste like a jar of brine. It was impossible. Even with the pickles themselves gone, the juice had been absorbed deep into the crust.

I would like to officially rename Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza to Papa John’s Precariously Plentiful Pickle Pizza. With sad beef, warm mayo sauce, and so many brined cucumbers that it made me want to make about 15 Pickles the Drummer jokes throughout this review, I cannot in good conscience call this a cheeseburger pizza.

To use a forced basketball analogy, Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza needs to work on its fundamentals. For right now, I’m benching it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/6 of a small pizza – 260 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 600 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 8 grams of protein.)

Item: Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza
Purchased Price: $6.00 (on sale: regular price $12)
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: I got it for 50 percent off. The tomatoes and cheese were fine. Metalocalypse. I only ordered a small. If you put pickles on everything you eat, this is your dream come true.
Cons: Pickles overtook everything. A chain restaurant that left the crust alone but still made an awful specialty pizza. Warm mayo/ketchup sauce. I wish I was actually good at basketball. The double serving of burger was a double serving of sadness.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie

Papa John's Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie

Happy National Cookie Month! Break out the Oreos and snickerdoodles, because this October, we’re celebrating cookies.

Though I can find no record of the origins of this commemorative month on the Internet, it’s safe to assume its birth can be traced back to 1904, when President Theodore Roosevelt held the Nabisco Conference in Washington, D.C. There, Roosevelt mediated the signing of a peace treaty between Ambassador Pop N. Fresh of the Pillsbury Republic and Lieutenant Bertha “Mrs.” Fields of the Cookie Rebellion Army, ending a ninety year civil war. To celebrate the momentous occasion, Roosevelt signed a federal enactment declaring the month of October in honor of the newly found peace.

This year, Papa John’s will be celebrating National Cookie Month by offering to fatten you up. After you finish stuffing your face with copious amounts of grease, processed cheese, and tomato sauce, you now have the opportunity to indulge in dough and chocolate chips with the pizza chain’s new Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie. The fresh-baked, family-sized cookie regularly costs six dollars, but can be purchased for only five dollars with any pizza through October 27.

After witnessing the promotional photos of the Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie, it’s clear to me that Papa John’s is relying upon the gimmick of a cookie in pizza form. This pizza-cookie duality is familiar to me. As a child, I recall numerous kindergarteners bringing to school a “cookie pizza” for their birthdays. It was always a treat, especially when the center of the cookie failed to cook through, providing each and every tumbling tot with a yummy serving of salmonellosis. Nothing’s more entertaining than a classroom bursting with sugar-high kindergarteners suffering from explosive diarrhea.

The Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie comes packaged in a miniature pizza box. The cookie was much smaller than expected, appearing rather measly in its flimsy aluminum tin. The promotional photos had made it seem enormous, large enough to feed an entire orphanage of impoverished street urchins or a single Honey Boo Boo. What sat before me was an eight inch pan of cookie resembling a circular plate of baklava, capable of realistically feeding four to eight people of average appetite as a dessert.

Papa John's Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie Closeup

As promised, the cookie was warm, even after sitting in its cardboard box during the preceding pizza feast. In both taste and aroma, the Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie reminded me of freshly-baked Nestlé Toll House cookies. Super rich from the melty chocolate chips, the cookie possessed a soft and moist interior, evoking memories of homemade chocolate chip cookies, warm out of the oven during a cold winter.

Too often, the pleasantries of a chocolate chip cookie are ruined by a rubbery, overcooked bottom. Fortunately, even the underside of the Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie was soft. The edges of the cookie were similar to brownie edges, offering a bit more of a crunch than the center.

Papa John's Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie Slice

Warm and gooey, Papa John’s Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie is delightfully sweet and somewhat addictive. However, after gobbling up my second slice of the cookie, I found myself in desperate need of a glass of milk. The Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie is extremely dense, and will potentially clump in the back of your throat when consumed devoid of cow-juice.

I also found myself in desperate need of a copy of Richard Simmons’ Sweatin’ to the Oldies. Upon reading the nutrition facts on the Papa John’s website, I was shocked to discover that a single portion of the Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie contains 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 22 percent of the daily value. By eating two-and-a-half slices, I consumed more than half of the recommended amount of saturated fat. And that doesn’t include the pizza I ate beforehand.

As a strapping and chiseled young buck, I have to watch my figure. If I’m not careful, all of those lipids could go straight to my thighs. Then, much like Shakira, my hips won’t lie. They’ll tell the complete and unadulterated truth — that I’m a lazy, overweight American whose diet consists mostly of jelly donuts and Cheetos.

Papa John’s new Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie was a tasty treat, but I can’t see myself purchasing this cookie again in the future, especially after seeing the nutrition facts. In addition, the portion seems rather small for a price tag of five or six dollars. I could easily eat this entire tray by myself on a Friday night, slumped on the sofa while watching the movie Mannequin. (I don’t care what you think. It’s a good movie.)

If I’m looking to experience a gigantic chocolate chip cookie, I’ll gladly buy a package of Toll House cookie dough and mush it all together into one giant cookie. After all, it would taste pretty much the same as the Papa John’s Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie.

If you really must, be sure to try out the Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie while the five dollar promotion is still in effect. Grab your wallets, cookieholics.

I’m looking at you, Cookie Monster.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Slice (39 grams) – 195 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 13 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Papa John’s Mega Chocolate Chip Cookie
Purchased Price: $5.00
Size: 1 cookie (8 slices)
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Warm, gooey, and soft. Slightly crispy edges. Ambassador Pop N. Fresh.
Cons: Extremely dense. Ridiculously fatty. Seems overpriced. Kindergarteners with salmonellosis.