Archive for the 'Chain / Multiple Locations' Category

Chain Reaction: Battle of Los Angeles’ Fast-Casual Margherita Pizzas

pizza collage

If there’s an empty storefront in your neighborhood strip mall, chances are that a fast-casual pizza joint will be occupying it shortly — that is, if one hasn’t already set up shop. In recent months, a parade of customizable pizza establishments has marched across the Southland, offering an assembly line of meats, cheeses, vegetables and herbs for pizza-goers to mix and match according to their individual palates.

PizzaRev - Pasadena

Southern California-based concepts — including Blaze, Pieology, 800 Degrees and PizzaRev — are going head-to-head with out-of-state contenders like Live Basil and MOD Pizza for market share and diners’ dollars. With so many brands entering the market, seemingly overnight, it can be nearly impossible to distinguish one build-your-own pizza place from the next.

Blaze - Pasadena

Examining the major players by assessing their basic margherita pizzas reveals the essential differences between them. Comprised of just tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil, set on a thin and blistered crust, this Neapolitan classic requires pristine ingredients, sound techniques, and a blazing hot oven. When it comes to pizza, it’s often the simplest ones that reveal the most about an establishment.

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Pitfire Artisan Pizza – Pasadena

Pitfire Pizza - Pasadena

I’ve been a fan of Pitfire Artisan Pizza ever since sampling their slices a few years back, so I was pumped when Paul Hibler and team announced that their eighth location would be right in my own backyard. There certainly isn’t a shortage of pizza purveyors in Pasadena, but you know, a girl’s got to have choices.

Pitfire Pizza - Pasadena

Housed in the abandoned Sizzler on Arroyo Parkway, the new Pitfire is airy and spacious with communal tables, high ceilings, and wide aisles (perfect for parents with strollers—like us!). An eye-poppingly red Mugnaini oven provided a fitting centerpiece to the room.

The Astronomer and I came in for lunch with Baby June last week—our first solo food outing with the little one. Fortunately, she slept through the whole meal.

Pitfire Pizza - Pasadena

Service here is of the fast-casual variety, with orders placed at the front counter and food delivered when it’s ready.

The first dish to arrive was the Fall Farmers Market Plate ($10.85), which included roasted mushrooms with herbed citrus bread crumbs, ginger tomato jam and ricotta on grilled rustic bread, roasted brussels sprouts with salsa verde, and chile roasted pumpkin with garlic oil. The Astronomer and I both agreed that the ginger-spiked tomato jam on toast was most definitely our jam.

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Chain Reaction: Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp® & Olive Garden’s Never Ending Pasta Bowl®

Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp®

My weekday lunchtime habits have changed as of late. Working at a restaurant group with nearly 2,000 locations, I’ve been thinking about and eating at more chain restaurants than I ever did before. Fueled by a desire to scope out the competition and by genuine curiosity, I’ve been exploring places that I used to pay little mind to.

So while I usually dedicate this space to touting the merits of under-appreciated mom and pop shops, I thought it’d be fun to change things up a bit and shed some light on two permanent fixtures in the American dining landscape: Red Lobster and Olive Garden. Humor me, yes? Thank you.

Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp®

First up, Red Lobster‘s Endless Shrimp®! For $17.99, I had my fill of six different shrimp preparations: Sriracha Grilled Shrimp, Parmesan Shrimp Scampi, Hand-Breaded Shrimp, Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, and Coconut Shrimp Bites.

Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp®

The offer also included a salad (not pictured and not eaten) and unlimited Cheddar Bay Biscuits®. Whereas the former was anemic and sad, the latter were tasty lil’ carbohydrate bombs. We asked for seconds, thirds, and fourths. No joke.

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{swoon} Grilled Cheese with Pastrami at The Hat

The Hat - Grilled Cheese with Pastrami - Los Angeles

A co-worker’s birthday brought me and my fellow worker bees to The Hat for a festive lunch. I’ve visited this 63-year-old palace of pastrami twice prior, but didn’t swoon until this time around. Hello, Grilled Cheese with Pastrami!

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