Apparently Detroit-style pizza is a thing. I live in Detroit and had no idea this existed until a few well-timed local trend pieces preceded the national rollout of Little Caesars' Detroit-style deep dish this week.
In the same way that, I don't know, a dog would call sex "regular-style," there's a certain way of preparing Detroit-style pizza. On the surface it's a deep-dish pizza, but a Wikipedia entry (also unaware of this existence!) says that Detroit-style pizza comes with the marinara sauce over the toppings, and the crust is "noteworthy because in addition to occasionally being twice-baked, it is usually baked in a well-oiled pan to a chewy medium-well-done state that gives the bottom and edges of the crust a fried/crunchy texture."
Oh, OK. I know what that is now. Still not calling it "Detroit-style," though.
There are a handful of places around Metro Detroit that do this recipe well, which gives me pause when Little Caesars, albeit a locally based chain with local roots, decides they want to try this out a national scale. But Little Caesars is the fourth-largest pizza chain in America and it's cool to say you're imported from Detroit now, so it makes perfect business sense.
The Little Caesars "Hot and Ready," a regular, $5 round with pepperoni, is the chain's signature item and has been a staple of my diet for the past 15 years. In high school, the dance teacher would grab a bunch of Hot and Readys every day after school and sell slices by the dollar to raise money for the pom-pom squad. My college paper's staff would pool together our money every Thursday and buy as many of them as we could to spread around. Post-college, it's the ultimate lazy-guy dinner with plenty of leftovers for lunch. It's greasy, cheesy cheapness that's by no means gourmet, but can leave you just a bit more satisfied than your average McDonald's value meal.
That said, how does the new Detroit-Style Deep!Deep! Dish rank next to the iconic Hot and Ready? I decided to grab one on the way home from work yesterday, picnic in front of the abandoned Brewster Projects, crack open a cold Ghettoblaster and listen to Diana Ross while wearing a Justin Verlander jersey to prove how really fuckin' Detroit I am — or maybe I just did only one of those things because it was too cold.
1. The order
Never do a walk-in order at Little Caesars between 5 and 6 p.m., first of all. I was promised a 15-minute wait, but that turned into 30. No big, because they gave me free Crazy Bread to make up for it. Score! Bonus Crazy Bread is like finding a $5 bill in your couch. A $5 I wish I had, because the Deep!Deep! is $8. But my Deep!Deep! is hot, fresh out the oven and waiting for a tour of my digestive tract.
Little Caesars, let's talk. If I'm going to pay three bucks more than the Hot and Ready, then at least make me believe I'm getting my money's worth with a little bit of visual trickery. The pizza doesn't fill out the whole box and just kind of looks thrown in there. That said, we've got eight even slices here. I read that the corner pieces are the best pieces for this type of situation, and look! We've got eight corner pieces. I see what you're doing here, Little Caesars.
Noticeably absent is the whole marinara-over-the-toppings thing but we'll get to that in a second.
3. What's it taste like?
Little Caesars' pizza sauce is a little spicier and more heartburn-y than the average so I can understand why it's not doused on here like the kind of deep-dish you'd get at a local joint like Buddy's or Shield's. Also, it comes in boxes instead of fresh on a pan, so imagine spots of marinara soaking through the tops of your pizza box. But where I was hoping Little Caesars would be a little innovative, they weren't. The cheese blend on the Deep!Deep! is the same as the Hot and Ready, so you don't get the gooey drippings as you would on a Chicago-style deep dish.
FYI, this is a typical Little Caesars print ad:
But as you can see in real life, we've got a lot of cheese but a severe lack of drippage:
The pepperonis are the same and the pizza sauce is the same. This almost tastes exactly like a Hot and Ready. But the crust...is different. It's crispy, but not overcooked. It's thick, but still light. It's buttery and garlicky, but neither are overpowering. And my hands aren't greasy. The crust is pretty damn good. A little bit of ranch dressing, too? Even better. The crust on the Hot and Ready has no taste to it, so this is definitely an upgrade.
4. Microwave Reheatability Factor
The true test of pizza consumption is to see how well it holds up the next day. Because I'm not in college I keep my pizza stored in the fridge, sometimes in neat plastic containers for that extra dose of responsible adulthood.
Does it taste better for breakfast after nuking it for a minute? Yes. Very much so. The cheese is a little gooier and and all the flavors in the crust are nice and settled in. The crust is still pretty crispy, too. I could see this being a prime candidate for a hangover cure.
5. Final verdict
I really, really wanted the Deep!Deep! to be special, but I have to keep it real and possibly piss off the billionaire that's marketing this: It's really just a crispier Hot and Ready. No, it really is: Some Little Caesars locations already had a $7 deep dish, but the company decided to establish a "research kitchen" behind Comerica Park, tweak the recipe and raise the price it by a buck.
I know us Detroiters like to think that because we have coney dogs and Faygo, we have some kind of edge in the food world. It's time to be honest that in terms of food, we still have a long way to go before we can be recognized as a culinary destination. This Detroit-style pizza adds little to make us stand out.
But to be fair, it's not a bad deal for $8. Eight slices — a buck per slice. As I said before, if you want a 2-for-1 dinner and lunch, here it is. Splurge a little and ask for some other toppings — I wonder how Little Caesars' three-meat combo would go with the Deep!Deep!. If you want real Detroit-style, visit Buddy's or Shield's when you're in town. If you want something fast, decent and cheap, go to Little Caesars.