Wednesday, March 13, 2013

let's talk about Pizza Hut.

I’m certainly not the first person to say it, but I love pizza. If you recall from an “adventures in Brookings” story a while ago, Pizza King is my all-time favorite pizza place. A close second would be a little tiny pizza parlor my mom and I stumbled upon while I was living in New Orleans. I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it or even where it was (it wasn’t in the French Quarter, but that’s about all I know), but it was amazing: cheesy, spicy, delicious.

But there is one pizza place I grew up with, and it will always hold a special place in my pizza-loving heart… and that is Pizza Hut.
My mouth is watering already.
My Pizza Hut days began with the Book-It program: for so many hours of reading, you got a sticker. 
And you put the stickers on a super-sweet pin.
After so many stickers, you got a free Personal Pan Pizza. I blame my Fat Calla years (ages 8 – 11) on the sheer number of Personal Pan Pizzas I earned. I loved to read, and I would’ve spent all day, every day reading if I could. Ergo, I earned many Book-It stars (I even earned a medal) which equaled many free pizzas.

I had already developed a taste for pizza when, on my eighth birthday, my parents took my friend Allison and me to Pizza Hut. Allison and I ordered a plain cheese pizza (Home Alone, anyone?), and when it arrived, it had Lion King (I was obsessed, remember?) figurines planted smack-dab in the middle. 

Google is the best.
I was stunned: how did Pizza Hut know that I loved The Lion King? It took me way too long to figure out that Mom had given them the figurines ahead of time and asked that they be placed on the pizza, so for years, I was convinced that Pizza Hut was magic.

Like most elementary school kids, I loved meals that came with toys. When given the option, I would almost always choose Burger King or McDonalds (depending on who had the better kids’ meal toy at the time). Pizza Hut briefly got in on the action: they had these rubber puppets that you could buy for a couple of bucks. Through some begging and good (well, moderately good) behavior, I procured two (possibly) Beauty and the Beast puppets (Belle, the Beast, and maybe Chip the teacup, but I could be imagining that) and one glow-in-the-dark Casper the Friendly Ghost puppet (Casper himself, of course).

Again with Google being the
best. I didn't even remember that
I had the shark puppet until
I did a search for Pizza Hut
puppets. This shark is badass.
As I grew older, I spent less time thinking about the toys and more time thinking about the pizza. One of my favorite things was the Tuesday night buffet. I’m not sure if they still do it, but when I was a kid, Pizza Hut would have their buffet on Tuesday nights – the buffet, of course, was usually limited to lunch. If somebody had some kind of appointment in Brookings (dentist, whatever) and it landed on a Tuesday, Mom would haul us kids to Pizza Hut, where we would join Grandpa Harvey and Grandma Lorraine for the buffet. This buffet – and my obvious lack of self-control – is also to blame for the aforementioned Fat Calla Years. I gorged myself on slices of pepperoni and sausage pizza, and I always saved room for the cinnamon sticks. It probably didn’t help that my siblings and I competed as to who could eat the most pizza.

The buffet wasn’t always my Pizza Hut meal of choice. When I would go over to Allison’s house, part of our evening would usually be spent in Brookings. Allison’s dad would haul us to a restaurant of our choosing, and it tended to be Pizza Hut. There, we would order whatever specialty pizza featured the most cheese. We ordered Stuffed Crust when it first came out, and we tried that crazy pizza that came in layers with cheese melted in between each layer (remember that? I think it was called the Triple Decker). 
I was totally right - it WAS the Triple Decker. Gross.
We once ordered a regular cheese pizza without the sauce, and it was amazing.

I went to college in Morris, Minnesota: a town of 5000-ish people and not too many places to eat. I played in a great many concerts during my time at UMM, and at least one of my faithful parents attended all but one of them (and that was because of a blizzard). They are either awesome parents, or they really didn’t have much going on. Anyway, symphonic winds concerts were usually on Sunday afternoons, so we needed to find a place to have our evening meal. Not much is left open in Morris on Sundays besides the fast food restaurants (and Taco John’s was known to run on a “we’re open when we feel like it” schedule), so Pizza Hut became our place of choice. I would gather up stray college friends, and we’d take up a solid part of Pizza Hut. Best of all? As the starving college student, I always got the leftovers.

In the last half of my college career, Pizza Hut implemented the best thing ever: internet ordering. When I was a junior, I worked as the Arts and Entertainment editor of the university paper. The paper was published on Thursdays, so Wednesday nights were spent laying out the pages, putting final touches on stories, and hoping that you could get out of there before 2 in the morning. Wednesday nights were ideal for internet pizza: you could just click through the website (the basement in which we worked had little to no cell phone reception), and presto! You’d have a pizza in half an hour.

Internet pizza came in very handy at my college house, as well. On especially homework-heavy nights, my roommates Nate, Sara, and I would trade off buying internet pizza. We even ordered internet pizza when our cars were buried under six feet of snow during a blizzard, and guess what? Pizza Hut made it to our front door. (We tipped well that day.)

After college, I had a break from Pizza Hut. I didn’t have it at all in Denver (forgot it existed) or New Orleans (couldn’t afford it), but when I moved to downtown Minneapolis, there was a Pizza Hut on my way home from work. Back to internet pizza for me! I could order a pizza at 3 in the afternoon and request that it be ready at 545 (right when I’d be passing by). I didn’t do this too often, as Minneapolis had many other pizza options to explore.
Like Pizza Luce!
But when I was feeling particularly lazy and/or thinking of pizza, it was great to know that Pizza Hut was waiting for me.

I lived alone during my Minneapolis internet pizza heyday, so I always brought leftovers for lunch the next day. My appreciation for Pizza Hut was so well known in my office that my coworkers had a Pizza Hut party for me on my last day with the company. Best send-off EVER.

Here in Sioux Falls, I have yet to find a pizza place to compete with Pizza Hut. Suggestions are more than welcome, but until then, I’ll stick with my internet pizza!


  1. One of my favorite memories as a child was having pizza Fridays, when my dad comes home from work carrying several pizza boxes from our favorite place, so mom could relax for one night instead of slaving in the kitchen to feed a small army. I love my mom’s cooking, but I grew to love pizzas because of that. I think she noticed how crazy I get around pizzas that she actually served homemade pizzas several times. There’s nothing like my favorite local pizza though. (Mom, I love you. Please don’t read this.)

    1. Pizza Fridays sound wonderful! I'm sure my mom would've loved to have pizza Fridays when we were growing up. :) Instead, we had "fend for yourself Sundays" where we all cooked our own Sunday supper... that's how I first learned to cook macaroni and cheese, which is still one of my favorite Sunday evening meals!