Wednesday, September 12, 2012

adventures in Brookings: the Pizza King edition.

Welcome, friends, to the next installment of my Adventures in Brookings series. This particular article will deal with the best damn pizza I’ve ever had in my life, and it comes from a little downtown restaurant called Pizza King.
When I was growing up, we were a Pizza Hut family, thanks in no small part to Book-It. If you were in elementary school in the 90s, you are probably familiar with Book-It: a reading incentive program that rewarded you with Personal Pan pizzas. (This, of course, was before anyone was really concerned about childhood obesity.) For every so many minutes you would read aloud to your parents, you would earn a little star sticker on your classroom Book-It chart. Once you earned a certain number of stars (five, maybe?), you could cash them in for a pizza coupon. 
And you got really dorky pins.
My siblings and I were Book-It champions (I even managed to earn a little Book-It medal for reasons I wish I could remember), so our family of five ate at Pizza Hut for almost nothing.

After I outgrew Book-It (you got cut off at sixth grade), I was drawn to Pizza Hut for their buffets. Plus, they had Cinna-Sticks and stuffed crust. I blame Pizza Hut for my Fat Calla Years.

Pizza King first appeared on my radar one day when I was out to dinner with my friend Allison and her family. We were fairly young, so we had to eat wherever her parents told us we were going to eat. When Allison’s parents suggested Pizza King, I proceeded with trepidation: I had never heard of this place, and HOW could it be better than Pizza Hut and their crispy pan crusts?

I soon learned what a fool I’d been. After one bite, Pizza King’s superiority was clear. First of all, this was the first pizza I’d ever had that was cut into squares, not triangles. Secondly, they don’t put shredded mozzarella on their pizzas: they lay down thick slices of cheese, resulting in much better cheesy coverage. We had gotten a pepperoni pizza, and the pepperonis were all underneath the cheese: this means that the pepperoni won’t fall off the pizza like it is wont to do when placed on top of the cheese. Pizza King had the winning formula, and I was in pizza heaven.
James's first time at Pizza King. He wasn't convinced...
until he took a bite. He was instantly sold.
I went home that night and told my parents that I’d just discovered the best pizza in the world, and it was right under our noses in downtown Brookings. When I told them that it was Pizza King, my parents looked at each other and said, “Huh.” My parents informed me that I had NOT, in fact, “discovered” Pizza King. It had been around since they were young, but they hadn’t eaten there in many years. “Well, next time we want pizza, let’s go to Pizza King,” they declared.

And go to Pizza King they did. My parents were in the same heaven that I was when I had partaken of Pizza King for the first time. Apparently, it was much better than they had remembered, and they bemoaned all the wasted years of eating Pizza Hut instead of Pizza King.

From that point forward, we became a family of Pizza King junkies. We even had Pizza King for Easter dinner one year. Our love for Pizza King grew when we found out that they would let us take and bake: we lived half an hour out of Brookings, and it was difficult to keep a pizza hot for the duration of the ride home. Mom asked Pizza King if they’d bake our pizzas halfway and give us instructions to bake it the rest of the way at home, and they happily obliged. We usually didn’t have leftovers from our take and bake Pizza King pizzas, but when we did, they were fought over.

Whenever I was home on a break from college, Pizza King was always on my to-do list. My sister, who lives in Arizona, is experiencing the same kind of Pizza King withdrawal that I did. She was home in January, and we had taken Dad’s brand new pickup to Brookings. This pickup is his new favorite thing: we were even a little nervous to breathe on it wrong. We picked up Pizza King to take home, and I got to drive the beast of a pickup home. (Side note: IT WAS AWESOME.) Mom was in the front seat, and we were happily driving along. Suddenly, Mom looked in the back seat: “TIM! Are you EATING THE PIZZA?!” Dad had opened up a box of pizza and was snacking away. “That is SO TACKY!” she said incredulously. Dad’s response:  “Well, I can share!” He passed out little squares to all of us, and even Mom had to break down and eat a piece or two. Apparently, no one can resist the smell of freshly baked Pizza King. We were also amazed that Dad was condoning eating – and eating pizza, no less! – in his shiny new pickup: turns out that Pizza King is always the exception to the rule.
After my grandma's 80th birthday party, we all
loaded up and went to Pizza King.
Now that I live in Sioux Falls, it’s a lot easier to make regular visits to my two favorite Brookings eateries: Nick’s and Pizza King. I even spent part of the last night of my 24th year (aka the day before my birthday) having Pizza King with my parents and James.

Next time you’re in downtown Brookings, I would highly recommend stopping at Pizza King for a bite. If you’ve never been there, just stick your head in the door: the smell is intoxicating, and you’ll have a hard time walking away. You’ll even get to see them tossing their pizza dough in the front window.

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