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Iggies Pizza and other B-More disappointments

Disappointment #1: Iggies Pizza

So today, since Iggies is almost literally ten paces from my job, I decided to investigate what all of the clammer over their pizza was about. I viewed their menu online but was not forewarned about the price. Suffice to say, I was startled reading how much I'd have to invest in a standard 8" cheese pizza. But it was easy to see why; Iggies seems to be all about adding a "trendy" upscale spin on an otherwise blue collar meal. I've been to these types of places before and they usually pale in comparison to honest, family owned and neighborhood driven counterparts, especially in the arena of pizza. Anyway, I coughed up $8.50+ tax for an 8" Quattro Formaggi which had obviously spent a smidge too much time in the oven. That may have been the culprit, but I doubt it could explain the sad looking pie. What was supposed to be roasted garlic tasted more like they spread a garlic paste under the cheese, and it overwhelmed the pizza along with the taste of burnt embers. The use of cheese was stingy, at best. For the same amount, I could have bought at least 6 Mama Celeste pizzas from Shoppers and been outstandlingly satisfied. Same size, better value.

Disappointment #2: Blue Moon Cafe

You know, it seems like most places that are raved about in local papers and spoken highly of on AOL City Guide I have a bad experience with. Such was the case at Blue Moon. It could possibly have been the wrong day, or maybe the alignment of the celestial bodies, but I probably won't be going back for a redemptive meal. First of all, eating here is a tight squeeze. Now, I had the unfortunate experience of getting here by 10am on a Sunday, so anyone who's been here can imagine the wait that had already formed. I waited in the cold, in my car, and in the cold again for at least 25 minutes before my name was called. OK, I can excuse that; business is good. Anyway, I am finally seated with my guest and, being the caring and concerned male that I am, I chose the less comfortable of our seating options at the table: the chair next to the door. Mind you, it's a blustery morning outside, so not only did I have to constantly move my chair up for incoming patrons, but I'd also get a nice shot of cold air down my back every time the door was opened. Whatever, I excused this also and chalked it up as part of the experience. Besides, we hadn't eaten yet.

One thing that had already irked me was the unfulfilled hopes of fresh squeezed orange juice that had been a raved about item in the City Guide. It was only 10:30 am and they already ran out, so I had to settle for an iced tea. The major disappointment came when I decided to order a Western Omelette to find that they did not offer American cheese. What? A menu offering omelettes and you don't have American cheese? What kind of establishment is this?!! Needless to say, that was the final and deciding blow. I'd much rather have gone to either of the Double T diners and probably would have saved a couple of dollars as well. City Guide and City Paper let me down on this one, but the experience was educational nonetheless.

Disappointment #3: The Real Thing

Not such a surprise, I'd mainly fault this establishment with not delivering on the expectations of such a bold name. The "Real Thing" was a real disappointment in many ways but, to its merit, was not unlike any other Baltimore cheesesteak (this is a sub shop, by the way). The bread was a little better than the usual flimsy, could-substitute-as-hotdog-roll type of bread that I've experienced. The true test of structural fortitude for any cheesesteak is whether or not it can survive a "to go" trip. My sandwich barely made it home, and within a couple of bites it was ready to collapse on itself, which it eventually did and I wound up eating the rest with a spoon and fork. Not a good experience. I'm from South Jersey, so my cheesesteak expectations are a bit high, and on that note, the Real Thing does not deliver anything beyond the usual Baltimore sub. Next time I'll suck it up for the 45 minute trip to South Street Steaks in College Park for a much better attempt at the "real thing".

Edit: To their credit, though, The Real Thing did not provide nearly as bad an experience as the overly hyped Captain Harvey's. Ugghhh, who keeps suggesting this place? Not only was I served meat from a heaping pile that must have been sitting on a grill for hours, when I got the sandwich home (a 20 minute drive), it was a mangled mess and the cheese wasn't even melted. And to think, I spent $9 on that mess of a sandwich.

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  1. iggies promote high quality ingredients not super sized value meals. plenty of local sub-shops will offer 2 for 1 special 8" card board sysco pies for $8 and change. this may be perceived as value to some consumers. in adhering to thin crust tradition, the crust of the pie is charred to have that textural contrast. this lends support and depth to the toppings. not a big fan of superfluous cheese on anything. when you go to iggies, you get a solid thin crust pizza w/ incredibly fresh ingredients at a higher mark-up. this means substantial incr. in raw cost due to incr. in energy & commodidites and low currency valuation since most of their raw goods are from europe. iggies is not for all consumers but they def. do have certain flavor profile that behest most pizza parlors in the baltimore area. this is of course IMHO.

    2 Replies
    1. re: curious4food

      I can respect that. Maybe this sort of thin crust isn't my thing. I tried Joe Squared and wasn't particularly blown away either. And I guess I can do away with the "high quality ingredients". The always affordable corner pizzeria always sufficed well. I guess I'll stick with searching for more of those. Next up: Matthew's and Fortunado's.

      1. re: curious4food

        Also, Iggies has a "no tipping" policy, so there prices may seem on the high side but if you eat in, its the same price.

      2. Wow. I certainly hope these all haven't been in one small time period or you might be so melancholy that you'd never want to step outside your door to eat in Baltimore ever again. Thanks for the reviews. I've never been to The Real Thing and your experience with Bull Moon seems just unlucky.

        But I was pretty surprised with the poor trip to Iggies. I really enjoy Iggies; I think it fills out a good niche around here. No, it's not the place to go for a bargain pizza, I agree. If you want bargain, get a frozen pizza or order a half price pie from Maria's, or better yet, make a pizza yourself - it's super easy, super cheap, and super delicious. What I find at Iggies is a friendly establishment with friendly people. I love sitting at one of their large tables and talking to people whether I've brought friends myself or not. I also think that if you noticed the pizza was burnt, you should have taken it back up to them. It happens, and I've never had a problem with asking them to fix these kinds of things. Something like that is up to you to bring to their attention. I guess that I feel like I'm paying a little bit for the 'experience' (for lack of a better word), and their pizzas always come out pretty delicious for me.

        Sorry your experience wasn't as good.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Wangus

          Matthew's is a great pie, but make sure you try Pizza Johns if haven't already.

          1. re: bmore_flavor

            definately try the pie with "both" cheeses at matthews. it's devine.

        2. i'm not going to get on here and crush iggie's because their product is ok. does it equal the money spent for it? no. (but in reality most food doesn't) is it mind blowing pizza? no. is it terrible? no.

          i have been there, and it's not spectacular. it's quick, it's ok, but judging from what others have said, i can understand what you experienced. the mama celeste comparison? i think that might be a stretch.

          1 Reply
          1. re: wild bill

            No stretch. Mama Celeste would have made for a much better lunch than what I had today. Maybe it was a bad day at Iggies or just a bad pie for me. I just want to give an informed opinion.

          2. It sounds as though your criteria for food is solely on price. Would you have been happier, say, at Iggie's if the pizza was $4.25 instead of $8.50?

            5 Replies
            1. re: baltoellen

              I think everyone would be happier. Heck, I know I'd be happier if my favorite restaurant slashed their prices in half. And? Isn't price considered in most cases when assessing an eating establishment? My criteria, of course, is not based solely on price. If that were the case, I'd limit my diet to Ramen noodles and chicken gizzards and only eat out at Mickey D's. Sorry if I misled you to thinking that my bias is based on price alone. It's ultimately up to everyone to try these places themselves. They might have a great experience, like the one I was anticipating.

              Funny as it is, no one really seems to care what I said about the other two places. Maybe Iggies has a cultish following of sorts or something. I'll keep that it mind the next time I decide to slam a place here on CH. Tough crowd......

              1. re: jharris

                Granted, I think you're getting a bit harsher of a verbal slewing than you really deserve. But most people I think just feel like you didn't like the food NOT because it wasn't good food but rather because it wasn't what you expected. Regardless of if that was what you meant, it does come off a little like that.

                Don't be put off though, reviews both positive and negative are what make CH great. Just know that you might need to firm up your points and wear a bullproof vest if you're planned on criticizing an overally enjoyed establishment.

                1. re: Wangus

                  If I may offer a cases in point to back up Wangus' observation.

                  In the Iggies portion of the review you mention not liking "trendy" pizza, and having an issue with Iggie's pricing. Yet the item below the Quattro Formaggi on the menu board is the Pulti - Tomato sauce and Mozzarella, for two bucks less for the small size than the Four Cheese. Based on the comments you make, it sounds like you would prefer the cheaper, simpler pie.One wonders why you went with the choice that seems to have been predictably less likely to be what you wanted.

                  Same with the Real Thing - You admit it's pretty representative of a Baltimore Sub, then slam it for not being a Philly cheese steak.

                  And I share Bob W's puzzlement about the Blue Moon review.

                  As Wangus says, your overall tone (intentional or otherwise) seems more focused on complaint about what each place wasn't, rather than taking each for what it is and commenting on how well they did at what they set out to do.

                  1. re: Warthog

                    In the interest of finding at least one point of agreement with the O.P., I share the bafflement about Captain Harvey's. Yes, food in huge quantitites at a low price has an attraction, but there ought to be some enjoyment, too.

                    That said, I'm not sure any cheesesteak travels well. I've always thought of cheesesteaks or subs as being in the category of "eat when and where ordered, or don't bother." I'm not sure even my favorite Philly sandwich, Tony Luke's Italian Pork with Sharp Provolone and Broccoli Rabe would be worth a cheer after a long wait in the wrapping.

                    1. re: Warthog

                      My puzzlement did not end when jharris expanded his remarks.

                      "My guest had the huevos rancheros, which I probably would have liked, but that's not her type of breakfast dish and therefore she was disappointed with it."

                      Well, you know, if I ordered grilled calves' liver, I'd be disappointed with it too, even if it was the greatest plate of grilled calves' liver ever placed before a diner, because I can't stand grilled calves' liver. Why didn't the guest order blueberry pancakes or french toast? Whoever heard of knowingly ordering something you don't like? And if for some reason she didn't know what huevos rancheros is (even though it's described on the menu), she could have asked before ordering it.

                      But don't blame the resto because you order something you don't like.

                      The whole episode just makes no sense at all.

              2. Well, having been only to Blue Moon of these three, I'll only respond to that portion of your post.

                Since I've enjoyed a couple of brunches at Blue Moon, I was very interested to read your comments. Having read them, I still don't know what you had to eat. Did you get a Western omelet with -- gasp -- jack cheese, perhaps, or did you go for something else entirely? And did you like what you ended up ordering? And what did your guest order? And did she like her food? Telling us what you didn't get (fresh squeezed OJ and a Western omelet with American cheese) doesn't really help much.

                Your review reminds me of the book Reservations Recommended, by Eric Kraft (I think). I heartily recommend Reservations Recommended, with no reservations. 8>D

                2 Replies
                1. re: Bob W

                  Obviously, certain other aspects of the trip dominated my opinion of the experience. The omelette itself would have been a little better with American cheese but I went with the cheddar. Otherwise it was a decent omelette at best. I'm a fan of the Amish market's omelettes myself, and hold them as a standard. My guest had the huevos rancheros, which I probably would have liked, but that's not her type of breakfast dish and therefore she was disappointed with it. To their credit, and worth mentioning (forgive me for being human and forgetting), I did have their cinnamon rolls, a breakfast element that's honestly hard to find at most restaurants. They were pretty good, but not worth the trip back.

                  Not surprising, there are a few other reviews on the internet (other sites) that rant on Blue Moon.

                  1. re: jharris

                    I'm not surprised that they didn't have American cheese at Blue Moon. It's a funky little place with their own take on things and not standard diner breakfast. If you want that in that area, you should check out Jimmy's on Broadway.

                2. In defense of jharris I felt the same way about Iggies the first time I ate there. I too thought that the pies were small and the toppings stingy for the price. I was expecting it to be like the Thirsty Dog, a decent size pie covered in toppings. I thought that it was crazy that cheese was an option on some pies and that there were only 4 anchovies and a dusting of olives on my Milo & Mico.

                  Since then I have come to realize that their pizza's really are good. They go for quality over quantity and their crust is the closest to what I've had in Italy. If you want cheap pizza Orioles up on Charles has a personal pie w/ a soda for $5, but if you want "authentic" I think Iggies is the best option on Bmore.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: viperlush

                    Has anyone else had a pizza from Amer's Cafe on Belair Road in Overlea-Fullerton? They have a nice selection w/ meditereanean flair. Very good.


                    1. re: viperlush


                      I think you hit on the point some of us have tried to raise. You describe how at first you compared Iggie's to Thirsty Dog (which is, by your description, shooting for a different style), and felt disappointed that Iggie's wasn't doing the same style. Then you came to view Iggie's in term of their take on the Neapolitan style pizza, and you then formed an opinion based on what Iggie's is, not on their not being something else.

                      As a point of comparison, I don't like the typical doughier style of "thin crust" pizza crust that seems to be very popular in MD. When I reviewed Zella's, I tried to make clear that while I don't personally care for that style, I did think Zella's product was a rendition of that style with better ingredients and preparation than in your typical MD neighborhood pizza shop. Sort of "I didn't like it because..., but I recognize that others who prefer... might".

                      It is possible to not like something at a restaurant, but still recognize the merits it may have for those who prefer that particular style, and provide information that is useful to others to make up their own minds. As film critic Roger Ebert puts it, it doesn't matter if the reader agrees with him, as long as the reader is able to calibrate on Ebert's reviews, and make judgments accordingly - even if that judgment is "If Ebert hated it, I'm gonna LOVE it!"

                    2. Dude, maybe you wouldn't get slammed on so hard if you didn't make references to things like Mama Celeste, McDs, and trying to compare the local joint down the street from places that obviously tries to do things a bit differently.

                      Having said that, I just want to let you know that if you search on Blue Moon on this board, you'll find a decided anti-Blue Moon crowd. I, for one, stopped recommending them because the food has gone downhill (it's still decent but not outstanding like it used to be) but the wait and the poor service hasn't (makes a bad combination for me).

                      I do want to say that I would probably bet a little money (not a lot though) that you'll like Matthews. It seems up-your-alley. Just a tip - my favourite is the stuffed pie but if it's not too pricey for you, get it with all three meats - prosciuttini, capicola, and salami - instead of just one. Otherwise, stick with their regular pizza.

                      1. Cheesesteak can be portable..Granted if you do not have multiple items on it like onions and peppers etchup etc. (ex:Just steak and Cheese works for me). Never thought Real Thing had bad subs either, at least didn't taste like the kind u get in the Grocery Store from the freezer (like Steak-Umms). I believe Ledos hass a good steak and cheese sub, as well as Salvinos in Pikesville...

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: BaltimoreBoi15

                          Having heard that it was good, I walked through the slush last night to Magerk's in Federal Hill for their cheese steak. I had the #1, with fried onions and American cheese. It was probably the best cheese steak I've had in the area.

                          I will add that I'm no expert -- I've been to Philly several times but never eaten one there. But to my taste, it was better than just about everyone else's.

                          1. re: JonParker

                            being from philly, i find it damn near atrocious that baltimore doesn't have better cheesesteaks, considering how many philly people live here. that being said, i would say magerks makes one that is similar to a philly chessesteak, but they are still very far off. glad to see you braved the elements to get one, but be aware that magerks still has work to do on their chessesteak. we need a new cheesesteak thread no doubt.

                            1. re: wild bill

                              I don't think it's "atrocious." Some things are regional -- it always bothers me when people complain that they can't get good NY style pizza, Philly cheesesteaks or Kansas City BBQ here. I wouldn't expect to find a great Maryland style crabcake in any of those cities either.

                              What you can get here is Baltimore style pizza and pit beef, and a cheese steak that, while maybe not authentic, is still good. I hate the idea that you should be able to get anything anywhere -- that's the kind of thinking that leads to chains dotting the landscape.

                              1. re: JonParker

                                I grew up eating Steak and Provolone with everything (yes, hots), I think there are some pretty darn good ones out there in the Baltimore area. I personally don't get the whole cheese whiz thing but you know what, I didn't grow up on that and thats OK.

                                1. re: hon

                                  hon: I first came to Baltimore in the late 70s. I ate a LOT of steak and cheese from Shane's and Two Crazy Greeks. Always provolone and extra hots!

                                  I also ate a ton of Steak-Umm and American cheese subs from the JHU snack bar, but even that was a step up from the cafeteria food 8>D

                              2. re: wild bill

                                Cheesesteak are very easy to predict in this town. Most local, small scale sub shops and bars use H&S Bakery rolls. These rolls are a travesty (IMO). They are particularly bad with cheesesteaks as they don't hold up under even the slightest bit of moisture.

                                The H&S packaging is distinctive. Learn it. Look for it. If you like your cheesesteaks "philly" style, i.e. with an Amaroso type roll that hold up, avoid the places that use H&S rolls. This unfortunately rules out the vast majority of places in the town.

                                MaJERKS, for all there faults, use decent rolls. They used to get Amaroso rolls from Philly but I don't believe they do any longer. Regardless, their roll is decent and they haven't fallen to using H&S (yet).

                                I remember talking to the guy who used to own the now defunct cheesesteak place in the Broadway market. He used to ship his rolls in from Philly. Otherwise, "I'd be using H&S rolls and steak-ums and end up being ... Capt Harveys."

                                1. re: KAZ

                                  What faults are you talking about? That was the first time I'd been there, and it was a pretty standard Federal Hill bar. Not someplace I'd go once the still-think-they're-frat-boys crowd gets going, but it wasn't awful.

                                  1. re: KAZ

                                    I've had H&S rolls that were good, although not on a cheesesteak (on an Italian cold cut sub from Theresa's in Broadway Market). I suspect the problem is that a lot of places have their rolls hanging around too long and they aren't fresh.

                                  2. re: wild bill

                                    I can't believe that I got ridiculed for assuming that The Real Thing was to imply an attempt at replicating a real Philly steak. Reading the newspaper clippings on the wall of the joint and talking to the guy behind the counter who I thought may have been the owner (who said he was originally from Philly), I thought my assumption was at least educated, and my expectations understandable.

                                    That being said, I have yet to try MaGerks; I also hear Jeno's is decent. I think I already mentioned South Street Steaks down in College Park, which I believe is the closest you're gonna get. As far as the standard sub rolls here, while they usually make for a terrible cheesesteak, they're actually good for crabcake subs; not too much bread to overwhelm the sandwich. Casa Mia's on Taylor Ave makes an excellent crabcake sub, BTW.

                                    1. re: jharris

                                      to explain my reasoning (which you may disagree with), I put it in the same category as when I see someplace claiming "Chicago style deep dish pizza". Those things make me homesick for the south 'burbs of Chicago, but given that I've never found one outside of the Midwest that even comes close, I usually only compare the claimant pizzas to others "faux-Chicago deep dish".

                                      In this case, if I really thought there was anybody in this area, even with a Philly native running the place, who came close, then "The Real Thing" might be a claim I'd expect to take seriously. But this is Baltimore, and as best as I can tell, nobody's found a place around here that would even be in the middle of the pack in Philly, being compared on Philly cheesesteak terms.

                                      So my reaction to the original post was not "Gee, he was right to downgrade them for assumning they'd follow through on the name", but more along the lines of "Dude, did you *really* expect to find that *here*?"

                                      As another poster mentioned, there are some regional or local specialties from various places that it seems *nobody* is able to get really correct outside that region or city. It particularly puzzling in the case of Philly cheesesteaks, since other than the roll, there doesn't appear to be any special ingredient or technique that should not be able to be recreated elsewhere. But the puzzle remains - nobody ever seems to get it right.

                                      Oddly enough, there are counter-examples. I've had an amazing Chicago-style hotdog at a little place in Austin, Texas. The owners are from Chicago, they know the right suppliers, and they import *everything* from the canonical sources in the Chicago area - the Rosen's buns, that "nuclear green" relish, the "sport peppers", the Vienna Beef dogs, and the equipment. It works. If there were a market here, one could do it here, too, I'd bet.

                                      1. re: Warthog

                                        Check out Zack's on Old Harford. There Chicago-style hot dog sports most of those ingredients.

                                        1. re: ko1

                                          Zacks does a decent rendition. Not perfect, but I'd say that I've had other renditions in the Chicago area that were less "right" than Zack's. I just wish it was closer - driving to the opposite side of the Baltimore beltway is a bit much for something inexpensive like a hotdog. That said, though, I do it occasionally.

                                          1. re: Warthog

                                            They have a stand at Harborplace now and I understand they are adding other locations.

                                        2. re: Warthog

                                          I don't think it would be a stretch to expect to find a real Philly-style cheesesteak here in Baltimore (I mean bread and ALL). I thought I had realistic expectations. I mean, I was in Marcus Hook (just south of Philly) and it only took me an hour to get there from here. I didn't realize that those 70 or so miles made such a difference. Between Baltimore Cecil County I'd expect there to be at least one good Philly-esque sub shop. Oddly enough, the best cheesesteak I've eaten in this area was closer to DC (SSS).

                                          It's probable that if many of these places got hold of a good bread like Amoroso's or Liscios, the sandwiches would be that much better. Sadly, to me if your bread sucks, well, your entire sandwich goes down with it.

                                          1. re: jharris

                                            I share the puzzlement, in that I can think of no good reason why one shouldn't be able to make a Philly-comparable cheesesteak elsewhere. But like I said, I've never experienced or heard of anybody actually doing so. I can't begin to explain why that should be.

                                        3. re: jharris

                                          and a block down from Casa Mias on the left is Marias, I know people who swear by the Cheesesteaks there.

                                          1. re: jharris

                                            You're not going to like Jeno's, unless you bring your own rolls. The people and food are great, it's just not Philadelphia-style.