Listen. I end up in all different parts of America that aren't New York all the time, and sometimes I end up eating pretty bad pizza in those places because I forget where I am or I hear a place might be good or I'm with a group of people and they want to eat pizza and who am I to argue? I ate a terrible quattro formaggio in a strip mall in Houston like two years ago after going to the opening of a contemporary Latin American art show at the MFAH with Becca. When we got to the museum I was still all revved up from the drive and then Becca went to a panel and I was wandering around alone and there's a James Turrell tunnel in the basement. (And if you don't know, which probably I wouldn't if I wasn't in love with an art historian, Turrell is the artist Drake ripped off for all the sets of the Hotline Bling video.) And there was no one else in there except for the security guard. I was like, "DUDE would you please take a video of me doing Drake's Little Teapot dance in here?"
And he was all "absolutely not."
So I was all, "c'mon man, my girlfriend is gonna think it's so cute and funny."
But he was like, "if I do it for you, I gotta do it for everyone."
Then I was like, "There's no one else here! No one will know!"
And he looked at me very seriously and said "I'll know."
Anyway, after that we got pizza and it was absolutely awful, but I didn't write about it then because I don't write about all bad pizza I eat. But every so often, there is a pizza parlor that's such a perfect storm of bad food, bad service, bad aesthetics, that I feel like I gotta warn strangers to stay away. And King Dough in Bloomington, Indiana is such a place.
I went to get lunch at King Dough with a friend who I believe wishes to remain anonymous because Bloomington is a small town and he doesn't need to be the recipient of any undue Midwest passive aggression. We were in the middle of running errands and right nearby. I didn't think pizza was a bad idea, it seemed quick at least. And I'd noticed King Dough on a handful of other visits. And besides, I've had some pretty decent pizza, or at least really fun and pleasant experiences, in pizza shops all over the place. But not so with King Dough. I didn't know what I was getting myself into when my Anonymous Compadre and I walked inside, and I certainly wasn't expecting to have my mind blown, but I didn't expect to be punished either.
The decor was a red flag right away but I'm a pretentious urban sophisticate so I just chalked that up to the quaintness of a college town. But like, if you're gonna disrespect that Dan Higgs drawing at least do it well, right? And I'm all for keeping holiday decorations in a place of business to a minimum (I've served six tours in the War on Christmas), but I was in a Target the other day buying shitty winter gloves and an ice scraper for my car because I didn't know where else to get both of those things in a city with no bodegas, and I literally saw almost that exact same display in their like, quirky tchotchke section. Maybe it's an ironic reference? Whatever it is, it's not working.
The menu was suspect for a few reasons. This is very expensive food for Bloomington. I think "Vegan Pile" sounds fucking gross as a name for a food. I find the "Kilmister" befuddling. (1. Capicola and fucking BBQ SAUCE? Why? 2. What is it about this pizza that is supposed to evoke Lemmy?) And as Becca pointed out, what kind of awful person thinks it's okay to cutely name something after the H-Bomb? But like, whatever, I guess. While that H Bomb reference lets on that the owners might be rockabilly (god forbid!) there are worse things in the world, and I was hungry. We ordered a Margherita and a Prosciutto Arugula pie to split, as those seemed like safe and hard to fuck up options. The place wasn't that busy so we figured even if it wasn't great we could eat and get on with our errands.
Little did we know King Dough had other plans in store for us. It took 35 minutes to get our two pizzas. 35 whole entire minutes. Longer than an episode of Seinfeld, shorter than an episode of the L Word, too long for pizza. The place had a wood oven, and feel free to fact check me on this, but I think a properly used wood oven cooks an entire pizza in like two or three minutes, right? So why did it take over half an hour to get two smallish pies in a restaurant that wasn't very busy and where half the people inside were already eating? I'll tell you why, because they don't know what they're doing.
Our pies finally arrived though, and they did not look too good. Wood fired pizza is supposed to be slightly charred. The char adds a smokiness and depth of flavor to the pie that can't be achieved in a gas oven without burning. When I get a wood or coal oven pizza, I expect it to be a pretty dark in some spots. But like most good things, char is only useful in moderation. This pizza's crust was burnt blacker than the Sharpie mustaches on Ken Nunn's phonebook ads. It was burnt blacker than the cover of Smell The Glove. This crust was burnt so black King Dough might get sued by Anish Kapoor. (Just in case you're thinking I'm smart for knowing who Anish Kapoor is, don't worry. I literally typed "black paint that only one guy is allowed to use" into webcrawler.com to find out his name.) And to add insult to injury, this disgusting crust formed the border of a pizza that wasn't even cooked through all the way in the middle!
Look at that! You can straight up see bits of translucent, uncooked dough on the bottom of this floppy mess!
So now that we've established that this pizza takes forever to arrive and is poorly cooked, let's take a moment to talk about how much the ingredients fucking suck. The mozzarella on the Margherita pie tasted like fucking butter. The more I ate it, the worse it got. And it was drowning in a sea of runny, bland sauce. "But what about the dough?" I can hear you thinking. "The dough from which this place derives its name? Surely that part is at least palatable?" Well dear reader, I can't tell you how the dough tasted because it was either burnt to a crisp or nearly raw. I'll tell you this though, the parts of the crust that were edible tasted like they needed salt. When I asked my friend what he thought, he took a bite and chewed in silence for a moment before declaring "well, I've had worse pizza." That might be true for him, but I'm not sure I can say the same.
At the end of the day, the Prosciutto Arugula pie was at least edible. But you could put prosciutto and arugula on a turd and I'd probably like it, so that doesn't really count. It still was cooked poorly. The sauce still sucked. But the Margherita really stands out to me as one of the worst pizzas I've ever eaten in my entire life. And so, it's really an appropriate pizza to close out 2017--the year Prodigy died and Woody Allen didn't (prayer emoji that this awful old shithead finally drops in 2018), and Biff from Back to the Future II became president in real life. The pie at King Dough might not be the pizza humanity wants, but it is the pizza we deserve.