Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? When it comes to pizza, maybe not. Just writing this column brings back thoughts of hot melted cheese, peppers, pepperoni, and a variety of other delicious combinations that top pizzas.
In the last six months, the downtown square in McKinney has welcomed five new restaurants, three of which are dedicated to the almighty pizza. Mellow Mushroom, Amato’s on the Square and Brother’s Pizza joined the already established Cadillac Pizza Pub and Sauce on the Square. With the additional three already located downtown, that brings the grand total to five. That’s right, five pizza joints all within 200 yards of each other.
With many new restaurants to choose from, families are forced to face to their nemesis, the infamous weekend decision, “Where should we at dinner?”
On Dec. 18, 60 dedicated “pizza-teers” embarked on McKinney’s first pizza crawl. With cardstock in hand and pens at the ready, every individual put their pallet to the test, ranking the restaurants’ ability to conjure up the perfect pizza pie. It almost seemed like a crime to try to choose the best pizza in downtown McKinney. Keeping in mind that with five establishments in the confines of the downtown area there is something for everyone, we attacked the assignment with gusto.
Each restaurant was at the ready as we walked in with empty stomach (at least for the first couple of stops) and high hopes. Hosts and hostesses treated us like royalty, while general managers or owners met us with gracious handshakes and welcoming smiles. The front of the house knew what was at stake, and they knew the scoring began the moment we walked through the door — well before the pizza arrived at the table.
Even though our assignment was to simply rate the pizza, the human factor set in and it was impossible to disregard service, hospitality, and the preparations for our arrival as a group. Comments were made about previous experiences to various restaurants — some positive, some not so glowing.
“Doc,” Vranici, the owner of Brother’s Pizza, stood out amongst the rest with his hospitality, treating his patrons like family. His second location just off the downtown the square is three weeks old and it’s off to a great start. His large slices of New York style pizza arrived at the table fresh out the oven. His crispy, yet decadent crust stood out amongst the other restaurants.
Doc established his credibility an experienced pizziaolo as he told us about his historic roots in New York and how pizza has been a part of his life as far back as he can remember. He brought out bags of flour, cans of tomato sauce, and the mozzarella cheese he uses in his pies, thus illustrating his superior ingredients that separate Brother’s from every other pizza place. Brother’s isn’t just another pizza franchise, it’s a way of life for Doc.
After visiting three restaurants I could feel my pants begin to tighten. My group and I slowly staggered to Mellow Mushroom for the last stop. Replete with pizza and beer, I could barely walk in straight line, but after laying witness to the bright neon lights and zealous orange interior, I embraced a second wind.
Mellow Mushroom has store fronts all over the nation, so it doesn’t have that hometown feel that downtown McKinney is known for. With an abundance of beer on tap, the Mushroom is a lively hangout, and offers the arbitrary ingredients on pizza that most diners are not used to. Their crust has the lightest crust of the five, with a distinct yellowish hue, it has an undeniable sweetness from the molasses in the dough.
Mellow Mushroom brought out the “Holy Shitake” and the “Thai Dye.” Both different than any other pizza you’ll find around here, the curried chicken was appetizing, but the sweet chili sauce made it too much like desert. The Shitake was incredibly rich with the drizzle of garlic aioli and truffle oil, but you must like mushrooms if you want to indulge in this pie.
Voted best pizza in McKinney by a Dallas Morning News poll earlier this year, Cadillac’s wood fire pizzas are consistent, and meet high standards. They have a distinctive cracker crust, and an array of toppings. If you’re craving Cadillac’s pizza try the weekdays, otherwise you’ll enter the realm of “Club Cadillac” on Friday and Saturday, when live music and drinks take center stage over the food.
Sauce on the Square and Amato’s on the Square have a diverse menu — pizza isn’t at the forefront and it shows. Sauce on the Square out-did Amato’s according to the score sheets, but fell short of the rest.
Sauce’s four-cheeses pizza with fontina, goat, parmesan, and mozzarella was succulent, but something about their dough fell short of the rest of the pizza restaurants. Others at my table also gave the flavor combination of the four cheese pizza a big thumbs up. Too much flour on the dough left flecks of charred dust on the base, and little rise in the crust left for a somewhat crispy and chewy crust. Those at my table also gave the flavor combination of the four cheese pizza a big thumbs up.
Amato’s Italian sausage makes for a great pie, but their pastas and entrees are the focal point of the menu. The pizza crust is chewy, ingredient toppings are traditional and on this particular night, the Italian sausage that topped the melted mozzarella was very tasty, if you are a fan of Italian sausage.
By no means is this a formal restaurant review, but the pizza connoisseurs of McKinney have spoken. After much thought and ample amounts of starch consumed, we feel as though Brother’s has the best pizza. Atmosphere, service and amenities were not scored it was all about the pizza.
And the results are, as ranked by the pizza crawl pizza lovers (drum roll please):
#1 – Brother’s Pizza
#2 – Cadillac Pizza
#3 – Mellow Mushroom
#4 – Sauce on the Square
#5 – Amato’s on the Square
Is downtown McKinney ready for five pizza restaurants? Time will tell….
Story contributed by Colin Bado