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joe's NY pizza in santa monica = hyped & awful

I tried and must report..Sorry but this pizza is terrible. Horribly bland sauce, Costco tasting toppings (especially the sausage which tastes like that swift premium junk you had as a kid.) Yeah it has a NY style crust (thin and foldable) but that also means it tastes like cardboard.

They do not take credit or debit cards. That's a big mistake in a tourist area like Santa Monica. The block of Broadway where they are located is a bit sketchy and over run with homeless people panhandling strangers. Next door is a liquor store if you need an ATM and next door to that is a "water pipe" store -- a place selling pipes and paraphernalia for "tobacco." It’s not the best block to be on when carrying cash only.

It’s been over hyped for its arrival. If you want a chewy crust I still recommend Abbott Kinney Pizza also in Santa Monica and in Venice. I’ve posted here in the past that Abbott’s pizza was good. Even Dagwood’s on Wilshire has a much better sauce than joes. This joes place is not the answer to your pizza dreams.

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  1. There are obviously many different pizza camps, and I'm afraid you and I won't ever be sharing a tent.

    1. I tried Joe's with my NJ SO and it met with his approval. It is a bit over-hyped though, I'll agree. And we both still much preferred Vito's over Joe's. As a complete side note, one of the guys behind the counter (he seemed like the manager, but I'm not certain) was loudly chewing out one of his employees. Of course I don't know the details, but the guy seemed like a jerk. I'm so not a fan of public humiliation.

      1. Well HG...to each his/her own..for many transplanted NY's ..Joes is a bit of home...its hard to explain ... it is one of those..."you had to be there.."...when the guys in my office go to NY they order Dominoes because they don't like NY Pizza...go figure

        1. awful is awfully exaggerated b/c joe's is a typical ny slice, for those that want that.

          4 Replies
          1. re: epop

            it's true, I wouldn't necessarily expect someone who didn't grow up on NY pizza to be wowed by a Joe's slice. but for those who did, it's a little slice of heaven.

            1. re: epop

              I tried Joe's last night for the first time. A slice of cheese and a slice of sausage. It was good but far from great.
              I will go again and order a fresh pie or at least wait for a fresh pie to come out of the oven to taste the real pizza. My cheese only slice was tired, like a slice that you kept overnight in your refrigerator and then threw in the toaster oven. The cheese was hardened on and had lost its melty quality. The crust also tasted like a day old Bay Cities roll that you heat up again--it's lost its pop.
              The sausage slice (probably my fault because I went there wanting sausage and got it without considering what they had available) just had slices of sausage strewn about loosely on top. The cheese and crust were the same as above.
              My Vito's slice, maybe because it was fresher, was much better.

              I'm not a New Yorker; I was born in Santa Monica. I've only been to NY once, so my comments don't come from an authenticity point of view.
              My conclusion based on 2 slices: their ovens are not hot enough. To get the crust to their desired doneness (which is also how I like it and except for here and Vito's and Mozza, I always order pizza well done) they have to overcook the rest of the pie. It's like trying to get a good char on steak on an inferior grill. By the time you get the crust you want, the rest of the steak is overdone. If their ovens were hot enough to blister the crust just as the cheese bubbled, they have a great pie.

              1. re: Wolfgang

                And this is why you need a wood burning oven, which puts out an interior temp of 700 degrees on the deck, and hotter at the dome. With rare exceptions, a Baker's Pride or similar oven just won't do the job. They do have high tech gas fired ovens, and I have tried the pizza in two of them in LA - Pitfire and CPK, and found them both wanting. Still either Mozza or Antica for me, depending on what kind of a pie I want.

                1. re: Wolfgang

                  Ideally, the crust of a NY-style pie should be crisp without cracking. Joe's tends to err on the side of too crisp but I *much* prefer that to most places where the pizza sags and droops.

              2. That Joe's only accepts cash is a big thumbs up, in my opinion! Standing in a line of ten people all trying to negotiate a $5 credit card transaction for a couple slices of pie is not my idea of fastfood... You like Abbott's in Venice, and think Venice is generally safer than 2nd St./Broadway in Santa Monica? Haven't heard of any recent wildings around the Promenade. Sounds like Joes is not the answer to *your* pizza dreams...

                3 Replies
                1. re: silence9

                  I haven't tried the pizza but I agree with you - shouldn't denigrate a fast food place for not taking cards, and also for not being in the most pristine area. Heck, then we should all bash Harold and Belle's if that is the case (regarding location). Or Philips BBQ, etc.

                  1. re: monkuboy

                    Or Langer's.
                    Or Bulgarini Gelato.
                    Or anywhere in KTown.

                  2. re: silence9

                    There is a branch of Abbotts located in Santa Monica on Pico Blvd directly across from SM College. They even have parking there. I was referring to that location.

                  3. Pfft. I'm a fan of Abbott's but much of what you say about Joe's is plain silly. In particular, there is nothing seedy about that area aside from the homeless people, and I haven't been approached once despite eating there several times. Sitting outside eating a slice of pepperoni with the sun shining on the ocean is good living...

                    Tastes differ, but I definitely prefer the pizza at Joe's to Abbott's. The reliably crispy thin crust is almost impossible to find in CA. Dagwood's, I'm afraid, isn't even in the same league...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: a_and_w

                      i had a horrendous horrendous horrendous experience at dagwood's.

                      for me,joe's is really good (i think i've been there about four times so far) and the last time was just the best. a couple slices all straight from the oven and a diet coke and then of course another slice fresh from the oven, it was cold outside and inside the tiny storefront it even felt a little like ny city. and there were no lines just a few customers.

                      as for the credit card situation, i do find it annoying, i'm one of those bums that don't really carry cash usually,

                      anyways, in my opinion, the slices here might just be better than the much lauded vito's.

                      1. re: a_and_w

                        At the recommendation of a friend, I tried a pizza at Dagwood's with the crust extra thin and extra crispy. Have to say, it was surprisingly decent -- definitely in the Lamonica's category. I still, however, prefer Joe's.

                      2. i think this thread is largely a debate between apples and apple jacks, and therefore, moot. if you want artisinal pizza, fine. if you want wood-fired pizza, good for you. if you want a no-nonsense slice of NY-style pizza, Joe's is great. i've never been a new yorker, but i can still appreciate it for what it is. all the naysayers are making what i would call an unfair comparison.

                        8 Replies
                            1. re: epop

                              Hear to the fourth power. heck, MY favorite pizza is the stuff made on Friday Pizza night at Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park. On Friday's, they use a super thick crust, and top it with your choice of real cheese, soy cheese, or rennettless cheese.

                              I get it with as many veggies as I can put on and regular cheese.

                              It's thick and filling, and not like any pizza I know.

                              But I love it.

                          1. re: rameniac

                            Joe's was not a great no nonsense slice last night. If that's a great slice, then New Yorkers are high.

                              1. re: Wolfgang

                                i've been to joe's on a few occasions now, and have had both slices right out of the oven and ones that had been sitting on the counter a while. though there's a noticeable difference, i've been pleased with both. i think it's just a different aesthetic; all this talk of wood-fired ovens and piping hot freshness is like, so californian. again, i'm not a new yorker, but i almost want to say that the pizza should be a little bit grungy and non-pristine. kind of like NYC itself.

                              2. re: rameniac

                                Maybe but the OP specifically mentioned Abbott's and Dagwood's, neither of which is wood-fired.

                                1. re: a_and_w

                                  naw was just referring to the thread in general and how wood-buring, pitfire, and mozza started cropping up in the responses.

                              3. To which his/her own.

                                To those who tried a reheated slice - you won't have that problem if you go during prime time, or when they start to open for lunch (around 11:30). The crust was crispy, slightly chewy, and the cheese was not rubbery. It's not the best pizza, but it's not awful. It's just a typical NY slice.

                                I don't think the area is seedy or unsafe just because there's some homeless people (mainly near the beach front usually). A slice of pizza cost $2.5, so I don't see people cashing in the dough to get enough money for that.

                                1. wait, what? seriously?

                                  i have to respectfully disagree. if you're comparing joe's to abbot kinney (which i also like but for different reasons) i think you're looking for another kind of pizza!

                                  a lot of people have already said what i am thinking so i'll keep it at that but i just had to throw in my 2 cents in favor of joe's.

                                  1. I'm sorry but to reference Abbott's & Dagwood's in the same discussion as Joe's is ridiculous.

                                    Sounds like you are looking for a $$$$ pizza experience, which defeats the purpose. Artesianal pizzas have their own benefits, but LA is sorely lacking in that category as well. Been to Abbott's and Antica, and they define hyped & awful.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ElJeffe

                                      After having a fresh Sicilian and a fresh cheese pie, I can say that Joe's is a good, tasty slice of pizza. It's something I will look forward to if I'm walking around down there and it will be enjoyable, especially after a few drinks. It's not a great slice, something that I'd tell others that they have to try because they're missing out. I think Joe's deserves neither scorn nor lavish praise.

                                    2. I have been to Joe's, Vito's and Brownstone Pizza all in the last 30 days and my thoughts are:

                                      Joe's - Not a bad slice. Didn't even come close to living up to the hype, though. I'd happily have one anytime. Sometimes I think people on this board put places like Joe's on a pedestal just to knock them off. The pizza could have been made of 14ct gold and given away for free and people would still be bitching.

                                      Vito's - I thought the crust was thinner and the cheese slice tastier. I did notice that on slices with more toppings, the dough was slightly "dougheier." All in all, my favorite of the three.

                                      Brownstones - (in Eagle Rock) - Man, the guys running this place were friendly. The texture of their pizza was spot on as was the ratio of cheese to dough. The problem here was that the sauce was bland and the topping (in this case sausage) on our pizza was pretty flavorless too.

                                      Bottom Line: My nod goes to Vito's but I wouldn't turn down a slice (or pie) from any of these places.

                                      1. Well, it's all been said but I'll chime in. Joe's is a great slice for those accustomed to a good greasy, thin, chewy slice. I have been to Joe's several times and have yet to be disappointed either w/ the service or the food (though I'd not order the white slice again--too much garlic salt, no real garlic). The bash on one of the safest areas in SM is laughable.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: marlane

                                          Wow, my white slice was loaded with real garlic. Maybe you caught them when they ran out?

                                          1. re: wutzizname

                                            the slices are not that oily either, but it did taste pretty darn good or maybe i was just hungry and it was cold outside and the slices at Joe's just felt like a comforting safe haven of sorts.

                                          2. re: marlane

                                            Greasy? My one complaint is that there's not enough oil! That's why I recommend getting a topping like pepperoni, instead of plain cheese. Also, as others have noted, they use fresh garlic on the white slice, though truthfully it's not my favorite either.

                                            1. re: a_and_w

                                              I find Joe's very dry, too. I haven't been to Joe's in NYC but my previous impression of pizza slices (in NYC) is very greasy. I always have to dab the oil off with napkins before I eat.

                                              1. re: fdb

                                                There used to be a place (where Tlapazola Grill is now) called Yammie Pizza. Your description pegs Yammie's pizza perfectly. I loved it, even as I felt my blood slowing with the major grease infusion it injected. I'll probably live a couple of years longer than I would have simply owing to the passing of Yammie's.

                                          3. Just wanted to add my bit-tried it today and found it good. Not out of this world, but good. I enjoyed the crispy crust. Not sure which I like more- this or Vito's-but since Vito's is closer to me I'll probably be there more often. All in all Joe's is a good place for pizza if I'm in SM. One note, I did have a reheated slice, and would love to try it fresh from the oven. Regarding the neighborhood-if only I could afford to live waterfront maybe I'd be one of those "scary" homeless people panhandling strangers-if only!

                                            1. As someone who grew up on Bleecker St, I figured I had to try it (I liked Bens on Mcdougal & 3rd better)...

                                              Went today...original poster comments about neighborhood have me baffled - bad neighborhood?!?! Maybe she got some bad acid at the head shop next door beforehand! In fact, I thought the head shop added to the authentic, ny vibe!

                                              Had a regular slice, and a white slice. Crust was a little brittle and hard - not crazy about it. Prefered the white slice, but the jarred, minced garlic turned me off.

                                              If I wanted a slice, and was within about 100 yards I might return. Can't imagine anyone outside of SM driving there.

                                              FWIW, I prefer Mulberry in BH. Much better ambiance as well.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: manku

                                                Yeah! Mulberry in BH definitely gets my vote. My favorite NY pizza in the 90's was Two Boots until they sold it to another family who RUINED it! I haven't found another favorite since, but Mulberry is the closest in L.A., the sauce is so yummy, the toppings are so fresh and they use real cheese. I am looking forward to trying Joe's though your comments are all so different it's hard to get a solid opinion from here. At the beach, I like Bravo on Main St. but it's not always reliable, and I've found it's better as a slice than when I buy the whole pie bcs it's crispier when they warm it up. And Abbot's is better as a pie than a slice (the slices often sit too long in the warmer and the cheese is waxy) and who really eats broccoli on their pizza anyway? yechk

                                              2. Went there recently. Thought the pizza was decent enough. The sauce could use a little zip. They need most of all to work on improving their environment and customer service. It was lacking character mostly.

                                                But it you're in the area and want a decent slice for $2.50, I certainly wouldn't call it "awful"! Better than a lot of pizza in my area, for example.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Liquid Sky

                                                  Agree. Sauce is bland. But I thought the crust was amazing. A good option for cheap bite when in the area, but I personally won't be driving out of my way for it.

                                                  1. re: Alimentary My Dear Watson

                                                    Joe's BLOWS
                                                    Best thing that can be said about the dismal slice of uninspired dough they sold me with third rate cheese and bland sauce was that it made me think of how much I miss seriously great pizza in New York...

                                                2. went last night, as i have been to the one on bleeker st several times. i must say even the one in NY has gone down hill over the last few years. the pizza i had in santa monica was dry and not good at all! VITO's is a much better pie. very disappointed in Joe's.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: murrayg

                                                    Vito's needs to get their crust crisper with more char.

                                                    1. re: JimmyC

                                                      I am 47 years old and grew up in Brooklyn, NY. I have lived in LA for close to ten years. I think the problem here is that the truth about what "good pizza" really is seems to get lost in translation with not only the folks living out here in California, but for all the people that never grew up in NY as well. I am baffled that people on these boards even compare Mozza or any wood or brick oven pizza with Joe's. It is not apples to apples. I wouldn't compare Lombardi's in Manhattan or Tortones in Coney Island with Joe's. It's two different animals. Mozza is really great, but it has nothing to do with Joe's. So, for all who want to know what makes a "good slice of pizza", it's simple. Just go to Joe's in NY or Joe's in Santa Monica and get a fresh slice out of the oven with no toppings. This is what a slice of pizza should look and taste like: Not oily, not a ton of sauce, no toppings of pineapple or even pepperoni for that matter, stands up straight and does not sag when you fold it, and you could order it without sitting at table and wait for a waitress. The only problem I had with Joe's in Santa Monica were the tourists (or natives) asking for spinach pizza, and the fact that you might sometimes walk in and not get a fresh slice. It's just not as busy as the NY Joe's that is constantly turning over pies because they are so busy. How anyone could think that Mulberry Pizza is better just amazes me. It doesn't come close. Vito's is good, and I actually prefer Vito's Margarita slice to his regular slice because his sauce doesn't have that same sweetness as Joe's. So, if you want the best wood oven slice in California, go to Mozza. It is truly a work of art. If you want just a slice for the walk, stop in at Joe's in Santa Monica and remove all thoughts of "California Style" pizza, because real pizza is not what has been produced in California until Mozza and Joe's came here.

                                                      1. re: igbklyn

                                                        Hallelujah bklyn,

                                                        Now can we all put and end to this thread?

                                                        1. re: ElJeffe

                                                          Wait! That was only my opening statement!

                                                          1. re: ElJeffe

                                                            some of us still disagree greatly. frankly there's a lot of other pizza out there, here in LA and elsewhere. casa bianca represents chicago south side pizza as well as joe's represents ny pizza. the same goes for antica. mozza is a great tandoori naan.

                                                            as a ny'er it frustrates me to hear people from my town speaking so definitively about their own tastes when the world is ever more complex than provincial cosmopolitanism makes room for. my 2 cents.

                                                      2. i had a regular slice as well as a mozz slice and i dunno. if it was hot hot hot out of the oven maybe it would have been better? but overall, it was just, eh? not bad not good. i dunno. and vito's is good but very pricey for a slice and i did not have enough topping action when i got mine there.

                                                        1. this debate will never end, apparently.

                                                          all i know is this. joe's has an awesome crust. some may think it's crackery, some may prefer vito's leathery whatnot, but i freakin' love it. and there's no other pizza in town that has it, at least not within my limited sphere of pizzial familarity. other places, like vito's may have better toppings, non-canned tomatoes, or premium cheese, i don't care.

                                                          JOE'S CRUST rools. and that's why i'ma keep going there.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: rameniac

                                                            100% correctness. rameniac knows of what s/he speaks.

                                                          2. The point in all this is am I willing to travel to SM (from SGV) and try a so so pizza when in a 15 mile radius I can find at (the very) least a few dozen mom and pop pizzerias that all offer something different including some owned by former New Yorkers, and actual Italian transplants, among others?
                                                            If, I'm ever out in Santa Monica, I'll give Joe's a try, but I'm not heading there specifically for their pizza. I've been to SM and Venice over the years and it's always the same touristy and homeless people everywhere, mind you I'm for helping them out but SM people just go about their daily lives looking down on these people, not doing anything. If I go to try a pizza place, even a good one, I usually have a reason to be in town--and the Third Street Promenade(or the polluted beaches) is not enough incentive.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                              Well, you can always go to the Saturday Farmer's Market at SM, grab a slice of pizza at about 11:30AM when the fresh pies starts to come out, hit a couple of the British shops if you like teas, pies and bangers, check out the new Monsieur Marcel on 3rd st promenade, so it may not be a complete loss...

                                                              Anyway, I always piggyback trips - hate wasting gas and time.

                                                            2. ok, i would eat at joe's again i just think i wish my slice was right outta the oven...and i love the beach!! hmm...regardless of the hideousness of the 3rd st. promenade.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: jessiebelle

                                                                There's a sit down pizza place in Long Beach, Papa Lucci's, and that's only a block from the beach, same as SM and great small town ambiance minus 3rd street, for a seaside pizza.

                                                                1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                                  and the beach even though it's near the ports is just as polluted as SMs.

                                                                  1. re: b0ardkn0t

                                                                    I'm also sure you can find great or even just good pizza places in Manhattan Beach, or even the OC, if I have to travel might as well make it somewhere you want to explore and where you'll find people less snobby(although I see no reason why they should be in the first place).
                                                                    Papa Lucci's pizza by the way is wood fired.
                                                                    Their pastas are also great. Very traditional but very good.

                                                              2. Joe's is OK..... However their pizza and vitos the toppings are shaved on Now that i think of it so is lamonicas. i prefer more substance for the money you pay for toppings. $2.95 per topping at joes. My favorite is Brownstone Pizza in Eagle rock. Good Sized slice with thicker cut toppings. and Only $1.95 per topping per whole pizza. Hmmmmm $1 less and more for your money? Brownstone ALL the way...

                                                                Brownstone Pizza
                                                                2108 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Skunk2Racer

                                                                  Brownstone is a good option when you just can't get into Casa Bianca.

                                                                  Also, they have a great thin crust and owned by local Eagle Rock residents.

                                                                2. I found Joe's to be a perfectly passable Slice for the area. Vito's is still numero uno in my book.