I was recommended by longtime local internet foodie LotusRapper from the Chowhound forum to check out Pizza Garden (PG), to compare with my experience with Straight Outta Brooklyn (SOB). So I picked the worst lunchtime out of the week to head out of the office to try them out! There were thunderstorms plus even a bit of hail, but that didn’t stop me from having a slice at PG then another slice immediately afterwards at SOB to compare…THEN an ice cream-in-a-fried-bun-thing at Japadog 😛
Pizza Garden (Downtown)
Pizza Garden is on Smithe near Granville, around the corner from the Commodore Ballroom and beside The Orpheum. They also have a location on Commercial Drive and another one at UBC. According to their website, they were supposed to open a location on Main St, but seeing as their website hasn’t been updated in 4 years, I’m not holding my breath.
They were furiously preparing big delivery orders when I got there around noon. They don’t open for lunch until 12:00. You can see right into the gas-fired pizza oven. It’s dome-shaped on the inside.
Wood-fired? They better change that to gas. But I’ve had good pizza out of wood, gas and electric ovens, so I think it’s all about technique, quality, and the type of pizza that you’re into. Their website also says that they use Italian Caputo flour, but I saw bags of flour beside the oven that said “Passione Pizza” on the side. It didn’t look like Caputo flour, but might be either this:
Not “00” Caputo flour, but might be a moot point because the crust came out crackly (eaten within 5 minutes of coming out of the oven).
“Meat Lovers” slice. At first glance it looks good…but too much cheese to be truly Verace Pizza Napoletana. They do 17″ pies here, cut into (I think) 8 slices per pizza. At $2.75 (including tax) it’s cheaper than SOB but the slices are also smaller.
I think the toppings were fennel sausage, soppressata, and capicollo. I couldn’t find any takeout menus to verify. My minor beef (lol) with this meat lover’s pizza is that they cut the meats wafer-thin, so you only get a whisper of meat flavour, and the meat also gets a bit dry (which I think would get worse as it sits under the heat lamps). I’d rather they cut the meats thicker and put fewer slices on the pie. But then most people don’t think like me :/
Cornicione (Italian for “I’m a pizza snob”) is puffier than SOB.
As I mentioned above, I was able to eat this slice hot, within 5 minutes of it being pulled from the oven. The crust was crispy and crackly in that way that I like. It’s surprisingly closer to a Pizzeria Farina-type crust that I thought it would be. I wonder how the slices hold up after sitting under the heat lamps for a while. I don’t know if they warm up the slices for you here like they do at SOB…
Slices at PG are cheaper but smaller than SOB, but whole pizza prices are comparable, taking into account the different sizes. PG does 12″ and 17″ pies, whereas SOB does only 14″ pies. (FYI: Pizzeria Farina does 15″ pies.)
I have minor quibbles about amount of toppings, thinness of toppings, and whether it’s true “Neapolitan” style…but it’s still a good slice of pizza. I’d eat this over Panago any day.
While I still had the taste of PG in my mouth, I rushed to SOB to compare…
Straight Outta Brooklyn Pizza
I tried the White slice for $4.00 (not including tax). The White contains mozzarella, smoked provolone, ricotta, grana padano, garlic, and oregano. Visually, a huge difference between PG and SOB. This slice had a more compact cornicione and was thinner overall. Definitely a more NY-style slice than a quasi-Neapolitan-style slice.
Even though they warmed up the slice in the oven when I ordered it, it didn’t get crispy.
I will ask them to heat up the slices more next time. The cheese still felt a bit too room-temperature for my taste. And if they can get more crispness on the bottom, all the better. Besides that, I got a nice smokiness from smoked provolone and noticeable zingy hit from the garlic. But personally, white sauce pies always come off as a bit dry after eating 2/3 of a slice. I prefer tomato sauce pies, with the one exception of Pizzeria Farina’s pistacchio and mortadella pizza.
Pizza Garden vs Straight Outta Brooklyn in a nutshell:
- PG slices are cheaper but smaller.
- PG is quasi-Neapolitan whereas SOB is NY-style.
- SOB adheres to NY-style more than PG adheres to Neapolitan-style.
- PG philosophy is more toppings equals better, SOB philosophy is “less is more”.
- PG crust is puffier, crisper (straight out of the oven, at least), whereas SOB has more of a chew.
- Prices are comparable.
I’ll have to try a more direct comparison in the future and pit both of their Margheritas against each other. As it stands, neither place quite gave me that “lightning bolt” moment that I get when I eat Apizza Scholls (Portland), Pizzeria Farina (the finocchiona pie), or Community Pizzeria (when they’re parked at Brassneck).
BRAINFLASH: What if we tried cooking a SOB pizza in the PG gas-fired oven? What would happen?! Magic???
I was still feeling gluttonous after the pizza, so I went to Japadog to satisfy my curiosity about their ice cream-in-a-fried-bun thing:
Japadog (Robson St. Brick & Mortar)
This was my first time at Japadog’s Robson St. store.
I sat uncomfortably at work afterwards from the brick in my stomach, but at the time this was something I pined for…
Kurogoma Age Ice (Black Sesame Ice Cream in a Fried Hot Dog Bun). The bun was surprisingly less oily than I thought it’d be.
For $2.99 for three scoops, I wasn’t expecting top quality ice cream (and it wasn’t), but it did the job. The black sesame flavour was there but not particularly strong. Good enough. The fried bun had a bit of sugar sprinkled on the outside, so it reminded me of some Asian fried doughnut. It’s a smart product cuz Japadog already has the buns are right there, and they have a deep fryer for doing their “Shaked Fries”, so they just had to stock ice cream.
But now that my curiosity is satisfied, I probably don’t have to eat this again for a very long time.