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Upper Crust: meh...

Was in Coolidge Corner last night looking for a quick bite to eat and we settled on Upper Crust; I remember having a delivery pizza a while back that was pretty tasty. This visit was pretty disappointing. I've seen a lot of discussion here over the merits of different styles of pizza but I think my experience falls outside of that; this pizza was just lousy.

We had a daily special pie (steak & basil):
- Crust was flavorless and of the thin, crispy, crackery variety.
- Cheese was also flavorless; I've never before felt the compulsion to add salt to a pizza.
- Sauce was the one bright spot, especially the chunks of tomatoes that appeared near the outer edge of the pie. These were very sweet and flavorful but there just weren't enough.
- Toppings were a mixed bag. The steak was of the flavorless chunk variety that seems prevalent in bad Chinese food but the basil was fresh and very fragrant.

There seem to be plenty of mixed reviews on this place but I haven't come across an outright bad one - has anyone else had a similar experience? At this price we could have had three times the pizza at a place like La Mamma and been infinitely more satisfied (and also disgustingly gluttonous but that's a different post...).

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  1. Jordan Tobin ā€“ or whatever the founder's name is ā€“ he needs to stop expansion now. Iā€™m a big fan of Upper Crust, and it can still be great. But it definitely has become more inconsistent over the past year or so. He needs to work with the locations he currently has, and the couple about to open, and solidify their pizza-making foundations. Then, when all's good again, and consistently good, fine, continue with more expansion if he wants. But if he cares about quality at all, he needs to put the brakes on expansion for a while. I mean he can make plenty of money with the seven or so locations he has now. Does he really want to become another Domino's? I hope the answer is no.

    EDIT: Gee, where did that rant come from? I must have been hungry. :o)

    4 Replies
    1. re: Alcachofa

      I have to agree. In my circle, I have sent dozens and dozens of people for a slice on Charles but the magic got lost awhile ago. Not sure what or why, but the slices, although good, are missing something great?

      And the toppings can be frugal to the point that a friend recently ordered double hamburg and onion to get a decent pie - that's justs crazy to pay for an acceptable amount of toppings!

      1. re: gyppielou

        Though to be fair, pizza in Italy is served with very minimal toppings compared to what Americans have come to expect. Maybe they're trying to be authentic?

        1. re: BobB

          99% of the time, toppings make a pizza worse. They mask the flavors of the cheese and tomatoes, they make the crust soggy, and they are usually of poor quality. A simple tomato, mozzarella, and basil pizza is almost always your best bet, provided the ingredients are good.

    2. I agree with the comment about inconsistency. I was there for lunch yesterday and was unpleasantly surprised by the flavor of the crust and the cheese and the steak. However, I was there sometime last week for lunch as well and the spinach and mushroom special of the day was one of the best slices of pizza I'd had in a while. Great flavor in the veggies that complimented the sauce perfectly and just the right amount of cheese.

      2 Replies
      1. re: SouthEndGirl4

        I tend to defend Upper Crust. If you want a straightforward, traditional pie with a limited number of toppings (cheese, pepperoni, maybe mushrooms) Upper Crust can whip one up with the best of them. I generally think people ask too much of the humble pizza. Steak and cheese may sound good in theory but I would guess the results are usually disappointing (especially on a paper thin crust). Upper Crust shines when the toppings and crust don't compete with one another. My advice: keep it simple.

        1. re: bakemeacake

          I don't know anything about the steak and cheese pizza at Upper Crust but I'll second the notion that they're sliding into inconsistency. For many years I have been a big fan of their pies but in the last several months the pizzas I've ordered have ranged from their usual standard of excellence to downright poor.

          Just last night I ordered a large magherita pie from Upper Crust on Newbury and received a pizza that had been cooked improperly (burned) and constructed poorly (crust was all messed up and there was practically no tomato or tomato sauce anywhere to be found).

          Being a weak hearted soul, I cried extensively. Bad pizza always ends in tears.

      2. I got a slice at Coolidge Corner a few months ago after reading rave reviews, and was very disappointed. Flavorless and a weird texture. I would not go back.

        1. The Upper Crust on Newbury St. is now across the street from Bostone Pizza, and I have to say, Bostone kicks it tails five ways from Sunday.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tamerlanenj

            i have to agree with you tamerlanej.... i'm a fan of bostone

          2. Overall, I tend to enjoy this style of pizza, and I do think Upper Crust does it well (I usually go to the Coolidge Corner spot), but I have to ask, what were you thinking ordering a steak-topped pizza? Yuck!

            Seriously though, I think you're better off going to Sweet Tomatoes, in Newton or W. Newton...deliciously simple, fresh and flavorful! I love the chunky tomato sauce too!

            2 Replies
            1. re: hungryi

              Sadly "it sounded interesting at the time" is the best defense I can muster... Hadn't had a UC pie in a while and they make many raves about the quality of their ingredients, so we thought it was worth a shot. Of course, that turned out not to be the case.

              I do generally enjoy a thin-crust pizza and the crust here turned out to be the biggest problem. It was somewhere between the consitency of an enormous saltine and an enormous communion wafer, only if that wafer had been overdone.

              1. re: moglia

                An enormous communion wafer! HA!
                That is hilarious! Perhaps you've innovated a new crust-style here!

            2. So I've only had pizza from the Beacon Hill location, but I just ordered one from there this evening and it was awesome!

              It's funny how threads on controversial subjects go (hamburgers being the most controversial, but pizza and bbq are up there too). If it's a negative thread, as this one is, all the people who dislike it pile on and the supporters are nowhere to be found. Likewise, if it's a positive thread (there was a very positive thread about Upper Crust not too long ago), all of the supporters pile on and the detractors generally keep quiet.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Blumie

                I'll pile on.

                I've never understood the appeal of UC..and have mentioned that occassionally. Just don't feel the need to say it every time someone posts that they like the place. If someone likes it, they like it.

                1. re: 9lives

                  So I guess that means if someone doesn't like it, they don't like it?

                2. re: Blumie

                  OK, I'll bite. I've made no secret of my general disappointment with pizza places that I've come across in Boston (and no, I'm not driven by an ideal that comes from my childhood in New York, I actually find the places in New Haven and Chicago to be the best that I've ever come across). If I must have a slice in the Boston area (which is very seldom), I usually find myself at UC. Found them to be essential for Shakespeare on the Common last year, though this year I wound up getting a burger at 75 Chestnut and having enough time left over to stake out a comfy seat for the open dress rehearsal.

                  Have had the house special slice (usually some sort of spinach-and-shroom variant) in Harvard Square, Coolidge Corner and Newbury Street, and have found it to be satisfying if not sublime every time. (But then again, I'm agnostic so I don't know from communion wafers ...)

                  1. re: Dr.Jimbob

                    Have you tried Haymarket Pizza..next to the old Pete's Pub. I had an exceptional slice there yesterday. The pies are there in the case and the key is to get a slice from 1 that's just out of the oven.

                    Galleria Umberto on Hanover is open again..different style..square pan..but I hit them the day before for a great slice.

                  2. re: Blumie

                    I suppose all you have to do is open the door a crack and there will be a crowd ready to follow you through...

                    Anyway, I'm by no means a UC regular and given the wealth of differing opinions I'll chalk my experience up to an off night. Their prices seem to run a bit higher than your average pizza shop on your average corner so I won't exactly be running back.

                    And Dr. Jimbob, I'm a lapsed Catholic so the communion wafer consistency probably provoked a stronger negative reaction!

                  3. I've never been a fan of the Upper Crust. I think it's highly overrated and just because Jack Welsh says he likes a place, does not mean it's good or because they get awards from local mags because they advertise does not mean they are the best. I just find the sauce to be too garlic heavy (maybe that's the inconsistent part, because I've also had the sauce and it's not been that bad). I don't think it's a horrible pizza or anything, but I sure like other places much better and think you get a better deal for your dollar (and better taste) than what you get at Upper Crust. I'd rather spend my money at the original Regina's location in the N. End or go to Bostone Pizza on Newbury any day.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: BackBayGirl

                      Yes, I admit it, I go to UC because of Jack Welsh and Boston Magazine. :rollseyes:

                      Had a pepperoni and mushroom last night and it was incredible. As I said in my rant above, when they're on, they're ON. Their off nights are the problem.

                      1. re: Alcachofa

                        I knew that was the reason you went there. LOL! It's just funny to me though that some people (not you) go to places and say they like the places because they're thought of as "the best" to go to--not because they actually are the best. I hate that!

                        Yep, I agree w/ you...when they're on, great, but unfortunately for me, lately, they've been off a lot more than they've been on, which is why I'd rather go elsewhere.

                        1. re: BackBayGirl

                          I did mean to add: I do agree they need to retire that Jack Welch quote. Enough already with that.

                    2. I am a big fan of Upper Crust. I almost always go to the Newbury St. location and have never eaten at the one in Brookline. However, the whole pies are usually much better than the slices, because when you order a whole pie you get it hot and fresh out of the oven; with a slice it could have been sitting there for a while. I agree with the other posters who advise to keep the toppings to a minimum on this style of pizza (thin crust). I find the crust to be very tasty, but I'm sure there is variability from pie to pie and across locations. I do worry they are expanding too fast.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bella_sarda

                        That's funny--I usually think the slices are better than the pies, b/c they benefit from a little bit of extra crisping of the crust. When I have it delivered (which is often, I'm one of the fans) I usually put the slices in a 400 degree oven for a couple of minutes to get the "by the slice" crust.

                        1. re: cmd

                          Agree 100%. At both Bostone and Upper Crust, the slices are better than the pies if you get take out or delivery. Eating in, you get a bit better result with the pies, because they dont have as much time to cool and get soggy.

                      2. I had an upper burnt pallet the last time I was in there. I don't get it. It was totally crappy. Hot, drippy pizza. I was not impressed.

                        I stand by this: my favorite Boston pizza has always been Little Stevie's on Boylston street. Super sketchy place, with the parmesan chained to the wall (seriously), but the pizza there is good and cheap.

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: paulmcevoy75

                          I have had Upper Crust in Coolidge Corner many times, always hoping it will get better, but usually I get it because I am going to see a movie next door and I'm in a hurry. This pizza stinks! I don't understand how they stay in business.

                          1. re: paulmcevoy75

                            Little Stevie's is gross, even at 3 AM. Worse than Hi-Fi even, and that's saying something.

                            1. re: Dax

                              Dax, you obviously are not drinking enough. Little Stevie's is delicious, especially when your other option is coming of the roller at 7-11.

                              1. re: sailormouth

                                I'm pretty sure the times I went I was pretty far into my cups. Once I got a slice with mushrooms then they handed me a somewhat lame slice with a bunch of slimy canned mushrooms just thrown on top *after* heating the slice (but not the mushrooms) in the oven. I would, however, happily eat two of their spinach pies post 2 AM but I'm a bit of a Spanakopita glutton.

                              2. re: Dax

                                Oh! Little Stevie's, fuel of my high school years. The quality has gone slightly downhill (and god knows I would NEVER order anything but a plain slice), but the prices are great and it's still pretty damn good pizza. For what it's worth, I've always thought Upper Crust is reliably fine but rarely great...but then, my favorite Boston pizzerias include Pini's in Somerville and JP's Same Old Place.

                              3. re: paulmcevoy75

                                I don't understand your complaint. Did you want your pizza cold and dry? Do a little extra blowing next time.

                                1. re: tamerlanenj

                                  "Did you want your pizza cold and dry?" Sounds like the pizza at Little Stevie's