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Nov 21, 2013 11:14 AM

Papa John's... Is it a cultural thing?

I spent a year in the US about a decade ago and Papa John's was the be all end all of pizza in the midwest. Some people were absolutely fanatical about it. I ate it but lumped it in somewhere better than domino's and worse than pizza hut.

When it came to Canada I was curious as to how it would be received. Now I know it all comes down to personal preference but I haven't met anyone that really likes it. Do we have different tastes then our wonderful American neighbours or do we simply have better/higher quality chain pizza options?

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  1. I grew up in the US Midwest, near Chicago, and it's strange: There are some of the most fantastic indie and small chain pizza places imaginable and then there are CHAINS like you would not believe. A strip mall in a depressed suburb (like Calumet City) will have some ghetto mobility store like Boost or Cricket, a check cashing store, dollar plus and guaranteed a Domino's. In cities like Gary the only extant businesses are Church's Chicken and Domino's (or Papa John's). Chain pizza is all a lot of people know- I'm not exaggerating. I actually find the pizza situation in Calgary better because if you ignore the 2-for-1 dross and garbage like Pizza 73 (Nova, Pizza Pizza etc in other parts of Canada) you actually will find a lot more choice and some decent family-run options instead of Dominos ad nauseum.

    1. Originally, and now back in NY. Went to school in Ohio for four years. Midwestern pizza is for the most part vile. People do like what they are used to, especially with pizza. Midwest pizza usually includes a (relatively) spicy tomato sauce. crust is an afterthought and cheese is not always a "traditional blend". But if that is what You start with , it is often Your preference. Papa John's started out trying to use "quality ingredients" but quickly succumbed to the quantity over quality" (imho).In NY , I am still surprised by the in-roads some chains have made here.

      1. I went to school in the midwest and if we were ordering pizza, it was Papa John's every time. Not because it was good pizza, but because we were poor college students and with PJ's, we could get some great student discounts, and for no charge, they'd make the crust "double thick". These days, a huge thick crust is the last thing I look for in a pizza, but when you're trying to stretch your pennies as far as possible, it's a bonus! With the free little cup of garlic butter, we could make free "breadsticks" with the giant crust.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Boston_Otter

          This. Most of my Papa John's consumption took place in college for all the reasons outlined by Boston_Otter. This was also before it became de rigueur to tack on $2.50+ as a "delivery charge" above and beyond tax and tip.

          When I still ate pizza (now gluten-free, so my options are limited), I didn't reach for PJ's as much (their coupons usually aren't as good as Domino's or Pizza Hut now that I'm not a student and also not trying to feed an army of poor college student friends), but I get nostalgic for the crusts with garlic butter and they are the only one of the three major chains to follow my instructions and make it how I like it (well-done bake, double cut).

          I do absolutely disagree with the comment above about Midwestern pizza being vile. There are plenty of lovely independent places around here with great pizza, but they tend to be a dine-in thing here. The majority of the Midwest (Chicago excluded) is not as population dense as you'll find on the East Coast and we don't have the food delivery culture that exists like in other, more pop. dense places. Growing up, the only food places that delivered were the big chain pizza places (and that's Domino's, Pizza Hut, and later Papa John's). Jimmy John's moved in and started delivering. But that's it for the most part. Chinese delivery is virtually non-existent, and it's a rare occurrence for any other kind of restaurant. And those independent pizza places that will deliver tend to have a very well-defined and far more limited delivery range than the chains. So if I want the convenience of someone delivering food to me while I sit in my pajamas, it's Domino's, Pizza Hut, or Papa John's and my money is going to the one offering the best coupons at the moment to help me mitigate the mandatory delivery charge now. If that be Papa John's, I'm getting Papa John's.

          1. re: amishangst

            I've been living in the midwest - Tulsa and Kansas for the past 20 years and I also disagree with midwest pizza being vile. Many independent places out there, especially in Tulsa. However Salina has 3 nice independents with the recent addition of a brewery that makes a brick oven pizza. That said, I was never a fan of Papa John's, it was a late comer to the areas I was in. Domino's, Pizza Hut, Godfather's, Big Cheese, Pizza Inn were more established. I tried them once, didn't care for the sauce at all.
            Why do chains continue to survive? Delivery hours and convenience for the most part. I'd happily pay twice as much for pizza, and sometime pay 3 to 4 times for a couple of local places. However, they are open limited days of the week and limited hours. I've certainly never considered Papa John's a dominate player in the pizza market where I've lived.

        2. We order Papa John's because they bring it to our house. No one has to put on pants. It is a hot food product that we can have when I would rather burn up my kitchen than cook in it.

          We found a good local place that delivers Monday-Friday, so we order a lot less Papa John's now.

          3 Replies
          1. re: sub_english

            just wondering, do you have a "designated pants wearer" to answer the door when the delivery person arrives?

            1. re: 51rich

              For our purposes, "pants" is defined as "clothes suitable for public." My husband generally answers the door in pajama pants.

            2. re: sub_english

              I once saw a "movie" that sounds like your pizza delivery experience. :)

            3. To me it's the best of the corporate pizza chains, which isn't saying much. At least it actually tastes like something, unlike dominos whose cheese especially tastes like nothing. Pizza Hut has flavor but i find them to be all the wrong ones. The crust reminds me of greasy crumbs pressed together and it's terribly oversauced with that acrid and off flavor red goo.

              I prefer smaller places, but even those are often terrible too. You know, the places where the grease just pools up on the slices and the whole thing is limp like a wet noodle.

              Anymore, I just order pizza to feed a lot of people cheaply or when we are very lazy and don't want to go anywhere or cook.