Pizza John's in Essex
Having the day off and being overcome with a bout of Warthogism (defined as the desire to drive all over the Baltimore area in search of delicious pizza), I decided this afternoon to drive from my Federal Hill home out to Essex and try Pizza John's, which is much lauded as having one of the best pies around. Cruising up 95, a woman in an SUV (on her cell phone, natch) decided to change lanes into the space currently occupied by my tiny car. Swerving with a prayer into the left lane, I found that it was fortunately currently unocccupied.
Finding the place, I pulled into a vacant parking space near the entrance and headed inside. I ordered a large pepperoni and sausage, what was listed on the web site as "real onion rings", and given that I was still shaking from my near death experience, a beer. You order at the counter, pick up paper plates and napkins at a kiosk, and pick up your order when it's ready.
After drinking my beer and calming down, my number was called. I picked up my food at the counter and headed back to my table. The onion rings were a major disappointment -- the standard frozen pre-formed rings you can find anywhere. But the pizza was beautiful -- a thin crust loaded with homemade sausage and thinly sliced pepperoni, shiny with grease.
However, just as I was starting to take my first bite, they paged my license plate number. I got up went to the counter only to be told that someone had hit my car in the parking lot, then driven off. A very nice couple had witnessed the whole thing and gotten a description and license plate number of the offender. By the time I made it back to my table, my pizza was no longer just-out-of-the oven hot. Nevertheless, it was a very good pie -- still-crispy thin crust, a tangy sauce, and perfectly proportioned toppings. The sausage was especially good.
This place is quite popular, and it's easy to see why. It's not a fancy pizza, like Iggies, nor an untraditional pizza, like my beloved Matthew's. Both the couple who got the license number of my hit and run guy and the police officer who came to take the police report spoke very highly of the pizza, and the cop also mentioned that he is a big fan of the subs as well.
My verdict: it's definitely worth the drive. It's probably not worth dying on the highway or suffering damage to my car for, but it's definitely worth the drive. It deserves to be ranked highly in any discussion of the top pizza places in the Baltimore area. I will try to report tomorrow on how it holds up reheated on the second day.
Pizza John's is my favorite pizza in Baltimore, hands down. I get so annoyed with my lazy friends who profess to love pizza but who haven't been to Pizza John's because it's "way out in Essex". I also like Matthew's but it is a distant second to Pizza John's. My family drives out to Essex almost every weekend to order a large pepperoni, green pepper and onion pizza.
One tip- if you are coming from any sort of distance (we have about a 30 min drive to get there) call your order in about 15 minutes before you are set to arrive (barring any car accidents!) and your pie will be ready for you a couple of minutes after you walk in the door. (This is a must for us since we have a kid who isn't too great at waiting).
I'm a huge fan of Matthew's. It's number one with me, but as has been said previously, pizza is definitely an individual taste. Nevertheless, I was impressed with Pizza John's, enough to drive way out to Essex.
I got three meals from a large (six gigantic slices). It reheated well the first time when I put it on foil and stuck it in the oven, but the next morning for breakfast I just tossed it in the microwave and it wasn't nearly as good.