It’s not that chain restaurants are bad, per se. I’ve worked in a few in my time and it’s not like they were evil organizations bent on world domination. They just cooked uninspiring food for people who didn’t know any better.
But here you are. You do know better. And still we find ourselves trapped with people who think a restaurant that has locations across the country must be good.
We do not hate our chain-loving friends and relatives. Quite the opposite! We love them and want a better life for them. A life full of dishes cooked by people who care about your experience, with owners connected to the community and made with food that wasn’t designed in a lab.
It’s time to Break the Chain.
This week’s victim:
Hi. I used to work at Pizza Hut. I also worked at Little Caesars Pizza. I’ve made the pies, put them in the oven, pulled and cut them and even folded the boxes they go in before I delivered it to people’s homes. I am complicit in spreading mediocre pizza to the world.
But have you heard about GOOD pizza? Locally made pies with lots of interesting flavor combinations and silly names? Pizza that you don’t just endure, but legitimately crave? Because we’ve got a lot of it.
For many people in the city, the pizza discussion begins and ends with Empire Slice House and its sister restaurant Easy E. If you’re looking for a giant pie with crisp crust and a ton of crazy topping combinations, you’ll be hard pressed to find better. Meat Lover’s lovers will want to get The Notorious P.I.G., but for a really different flavor, don’t overlook the Brussell Westbrook. Best of all, if you can't handle an entire pizza, just grab a slice or two at Easy E.
Every pizza is a personal pizza if you’re determined enough. But at The Saucee Sicilian, all of their pies are sized for one or two people. Or, in my case, one or two pizzas at a time. No matter what their arch nemesis Tim says, Saucee is one of the best pizzas in town and, frankly, in the country. My personal favorite is the Tusa, thanks to a blend of chili oil and red sauce topped with spicy capicola, sopressata, Italian sausage and mushrooms. Add some whole roasted garlic cloves for an extra bump of sweetness.
OKC’s original artisan brick oven pizzeria is still just as good as it was when it opened in 2006. Pizzas are medium in size and feature a crispy-chewy crust covered in excellent flavor combinations. The all-time king is the Truffle Shuffle, with roasted chicken, mushrooms, spinach and truffle oil, but you can go classic with a pepperoni and house-made Italian sausage on marinara. Great place for vegans and gluten-free folks, as well.
One look at Gusto’s massive oven ought to tell you this place is serious about their neapolitan-style pizzas. The Cherry Tomato pie (covered in capers and calabrese peppers) is an absolute must for fans of big flavors, but a classic Margherita the Queen is a delight, as well. While plenty of pizzerias do other dishes well, Gusto truly goes a step further with a non-pizza menu that rivals some of the best in the city. Also: BRUNCH.
A new addition to the city, Wheelhouse Pizza Kitchen has already got a handle on some bonkers combinations and equally audacious names. Guido’s Speedo was my favorite: a very meaty pie with a lovely tart pop of pepperonicini. If you like a Hawaiian pie (and I do), opt for the Skinny Samoan, which comes with an added boost of heat thanks to fresh jalapenos and tangy goat cheese. For dessert, the Nutella spoke will be devoured before you know it.
The Stone sisters have truly made pizza a family affair with a menu that is full of tasty pies and funny stories. If you want different, this is the place for you. The sprouted spelt crust is a true original. While you can certainly eat too much, the Stones are pretty dedicated to healthy eating, so there are tons of options that you won’t find elsewhere. Like spice? Order Every Man’s Dream and take your Prilosec.
If any place on this list comes close to the number of locations you’ll find with national chains, it’s Hideaway Pizza with locations in OKC, Tulsa and even Arkansas. But the quality remains as good as the mom-and-pop shops you love thanks to dedicated kitchen staff working from some classic recipes. For a supreme that’s not a supreme, get the wonderful Hideaway Special which puts a different topping on every slice.
Nobody does taste-alike pizzas like Jo’s Famous Pizza. A taco pizza with taco sauce? Check. A cheeseburger pizza with a mustard drizzle? Double check. I mean, even the chicken Caesar salad pizza will scratch your itch for both items. Grab an order of Boomers — bacon and cheese stuffed jalapenos — to heat up your night.
Locations in OKC and Tulsa make this one easier to find, but still not as ubiquitous as fans would like. Upper Crust’s style of pizza is a mix between Hideaway and The Wedge — smaller pies with a bountiful pile of toppings. I highly recommend the Flying Pig, which uses a blend of marinara and bbq sauce and tops it with chicken, bacon and a drizzle of ranch. This pizza is more Oklahoman than a fundamental misunderstanding how taxes work.
Do not leave without a giant Rice Krispie treat. That’s rule No. 1. Second rule is don’t talk about “Fight Club” (everybody there is sick of that movie). Rule No. 3 is that if you can’t decide on a single specialty pizza, you order the Suicide Pie with a slice each of The Full Monty (Meat Lover’s), Loaded Hawaiian, Supreme, Lady Margherita and others. For the truly adventurous, Green Lantern has spinach, pear, spicy capicola and feta cheese.
I will not have the argument about whether Chicago-style deep dish pizza is actually a pizza or a casserole. I just won’t. Frankly, I do not care what they call it, because The Heat’s deep dish is so good it might be illegal. The especially hearty Meat Lovers combines not just the usual pepperoni, Canadian bacon and house-made Italian sausage, but also bacon and summer sausage with The Heat’s thick, tomato-y red sauce and gooey cheese. Schedule a nap.
Folks, it turns out OKC has such a strong pizza game that this is going to be a two-parter of sorts. Look for another Break the Chain dedicated to sending you absolutely anywhere but Papa John's in the near future.