What’s on the menu this week is leftovers. Hello Pizza. Fish and shrimp tacos from White Castle. Don’t like it? Tough. Go read somewhere else. I was out of town for a few days, and so I am dishing up what’s left in the fridge.
First of all, a visit last week to the new Hello Pizza in Edina. And let me preface this with a few words of wisdom from the old philosopher: so much of happiness depends on expectations. And if you go to Hello Pizza expecting it to be anything like Ann Kim’s other pizza joint, Pizzeria Lola, you are likely to be sorely disappointed. If you adjust your expectations in advance, you may be more satisfied.
At first glance, I had a hard time figuring out whether Hello Pizza was supposed to be an ironic post-modern homage to the frumpy and charmless neighborhood pizzerias of yesteryear, or whether it just looked like that by accident. For decor it offers the neon lighting, molded plastic seating and institutional tables that you may remember fondly—or not so fondly—from your high school cafeteria, plus a disco globe and a big photo of Lionel Richie.
Which was kind of a surprise and a disappointment, because Ann’s other pizzeria, Pizzeria Lola, is such a smart, good-looking, and innovative place. Granted, when I reviewed Pizzeria Lola back in 2011 I grumbled about the prices: “nearly $80 for two, including tax and tip—with only one glass of wine between the two of us.” But I also conceded that “we had had a very good meal, and we could have spent a lot less, if we had wanted to.”
At Pizzeria Lola, the pizzas come in varieties like Korean BBQ (Grass Run Farm beef short ribs, mozzarella, scallions, arugula, sesame, soy-chili vinaigrette) and The Forager (crimini, shitake, and portabella mushrooms, taleggio, fontina, tarragon, truffle oil).
At Hello Pizza, the half-dozen pizzas that are available by the slice ($3.25-$4.50) are pretty much the ones you remember from the old days: classic cheese, pepperoni, Hello Rita, (basically a Margherita), Hello Trinity (sausage, pepperoni and mushroom)s, and a veggie supremo (shown here).
You can get more interesting varieties of pizza—such as the Smokey the Pig (barbecue sauce, smoked mozzarella, house cured bacon, smoked onions, rosemary, and maple syrup, $22), or Spicy Broccoli (white sauce, roasted broccoli, fresh mozzarella, calabrian chile, red onions, picholine olives, garlic, and lemon zest, $21), or you can create your own combinations, but those are only available as whole 18″ pizzas ($16-$17.50, plus $1-$3.50 per additional ingredient).
When I visited the Hello Pizza website afterward, I learned that “Hello Pizza is inspired by the ubiquitous New York slice shop, with the same attention to craft, ingredients, and grease, that place a classic New York slice in a category of pizza all its own.”
Okay, now that I get that, I feel a little less grumpy. Hello Pizza’s pies really are a pretty faithful rendition of the kind of thin crust pizza you can get by the slice, walking down the Avenues in New York City—or walking through the Minneapolis skyways, for that matter. And the prices aren’t really that much more than you would spend for a slice or a pie in Manhattan or the Skyway. (Although $7.50 for a glass of Malbec does seem a little high for a pizzeria.) But then again, I have never thought of slice shop pizza as much of a treat—or as a place where I would want to sit down for a meal.
White Castle fish and shrimp tacos
This one has been sitting in the fridge even longer. A couple of weeks ago, I got a coupon offering free fish and shrimp tacos (regularly 99 cents) at White Castle. The coupon got recycled before I got around to using it, but my curiosity was piqued, so I headed over to the White Castle and ordered one of each. When I paid, the manager handed me a questionnaire; if I completed the questionnaire, I would get a $5 White Castle gift card, on the spot. I don’t remember all the questions, but they were all stuff like, was there too much dressing, not enough dressing, or just the right amount. On a scale of 1-5, would I recommend the fish taco to friends enthusiastically, or not at all.
At any rate, the crispy fish tacos and crispy shrimp tacos were about what you would expect for 99 cents. Lots of breading, lots of dressing and lettuce, not so much fish or shrimp. They were to authentic taqueria fish and shrimp tacos what White Castle sliders are to hand-made burger joint burgers. In this case, at least, you get what you pay for.
And I actually came out around $2.90 ahead, so I really can’t complain. Except I can’t figure out what I’m going to do with a $5 White Castle gift card.
(BTW, I am not sure whether the survey and/or fish and shrimp tacos are still available.)
Read previous coverage of fish tacos in the Daily Planet: La Sirena (Courtney Algeo, 2011); Glaciers Cafe (Jim Mork, 2012); El Norteno (Jim Mork, 2012); La Casita (Jim Mork, 2012); and Republic (Jeremy Iggers, 2012).