Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I Tried Cici's New Deep Dish Pizzas ...

... and I survived, but just barely. (Also, because you asked for it ... MOTHERFUCKIN' ARBY'S MEAT MOUNTAIN REVIEWED!)

By: Jimbo X

Buffets, just as a general concept, hold a special place in my heart. There's just something so idiosyncratically American about being able to waltz into a restaurant, slap $10 on the counter and subsequently eat a smorgasbord of random foodstuffs until you barf, shit yourself or get thrown out of the building by management super pissed you were able to eat an entire metal bucket of jumbo shrimp all by your lonesome. These places are literally monuments to gluttony, our secular synagogues and mosques dedicated to our one true lord and savior, unabashed, brass balled over-consumption. Go ahead, I'll actually give you permission to read that festering Internet shit hole sometimes called Reddit this one, very special occasion - you NEED to bear witness to these tales of buffet-inspired lunacy as soon as possible.

While all buffet places may thematically be the same, no two all-you-can-eat dens of obesity are identical ... yes, even if they are chain restaurants, like Sweet Tomatoes or Golden Corral. Each one has a local taste (or is it taint?) that makes it unlike any other buffet place in the country. Sure, Billy Bob's Home Cooking Buffet Catfish-A-Rama and Happy Lucky Dragon All-U-Can-Eat Good Time Asian Express are going to have a very unique style, sensibility and atmosphere, but you don't necessarily have to travel to the one-and-done, perennially 60-to-70-on-the-food-score holes in the wall to experience buffets with a distinct personality. Indeed, all you really have to do is to hit up the local Cici's Pizza, and you'll get a firmer grasp of the local sociocultural milieu than ANY travel brochure could ever possibly offer.

For those of you not in the know, Cici's - as the name would imply - is a national all-you-can-eat pizza chain. The gimmick is pretty straightforward. You walk on in, pay $5.99 plus tax, and you can eat carbohydrates until you come *this close* to dying. Of course, they also have a salad bar, but fuck that. It's only good for adding black olives and banana peppers on your double Alfredo sauce noodles and extra pepperoni and tater tot pie - and maybe slathering your garlic bread in thousand island dressing, but that's only if you're already TLC reality program fat.

Now historically, I've always preferred rival pizza buffet place Stevie B.'s, which has more or less the same gimmick but better overall food (their loaded potato pizza HAS to be one of the greatest things mankind has ever created - plus, their salad bar has chickpeas AND they usually have a soft-serve ice cream machine, too.) The problem there is that the overall quality of those chains fluctuate WILDLY from neighborhood to neighborhood. Every single time I try out a new buffet place, the tomato sauce tastes just a little bit different - sometimes its thicker and pulpier, other times its way soupier and more watery - and the crust can run the gamut from chewy and garlicky all the way to salty as fuck and nearly burnt to a crisp. That inconsistency really miffs me, because it makes every trip to the buffet a crap shoot. It's either going to be good Stevie B.'s or bad Stevie B.'s, and there's pretty much no in-between. In that, I think Cici's might gain a structural advantage, because although "good" Stevie B.'s always outdoes their pizza, at least their food has a consistent taste and texture from restaurant to restaurant. No matter where you go, the pineapple and ham pizza is always going to taste more or less the same, and no matter where you go, the brownies topped with confectioner's sugar is always going to taste the same. And as a bonus, the Cici's buffet is usually anywhere from 50 cents to two dollars cheaper than the Stevie B.'s buffet, which I think is an agreeable enough amount to pay for food you really don't expect to be anything better than "just all right." 

Which brings us to Cici's great big marketing campaign for Spring 2017 - the unveiling of their newfangled "Deep Dish Pizza." Now, you may be wondering why I'm putting "Deep Dish Pizza" in quotation marks. Well, you'll find out soon enough, but before we talk about the pizza itself, we've got to talk about this particular Cici's I visited. 

For whatever reason, this one is pretty much the ONLY Cici's within 50 miles of my place (conversely, I know of at least five Stevie B.'s within a 15 mile radius, and that ISN'T me being a snide, hyperbolic cocksucker.) Incidentally, it was one of my go-to-hangouts when I was in college, since it was a.) very, very close by the house I was living in at the time and b.) being broke as shit, their then $4.99 buffet was often the only thing standing between me and death by emaciation.

Since it was a buffet and the owners kinda' expected you to lollygag around and take at least an hour or two to leave, I used the local Cici's as something of a makeshift library, which came with the added benefit of giving me an opportunity to carbo-load like a motherfucker. Hey, I'm not gonna' lie - when money was REALLY tight, I wasn't above sneaking in some tupperware in a backpack and taking home a couple of slices with me. I almost always brought a notebook and a mechanical pencil with me, and used the non-stop cheese, pasta and sauce binge to plan out my week, do some creative writing, knockout homework and generally map out all the stuff I wanted/needed to do. So I guess you could say those trips to Cici's back in the day were just as much about strategizing my own personal life as it was devouring garlic knots and mozzarella bread. I really can't count up the hours I spent at this particular buffet, dreaming about one day being out of college and being my own man and having a career and not being poor anymore. It's going to sound stupid, I know, but that gives it a certain sentimental value that few other locales in my life have.

And this was the first time I've been inside the place in at least three years ... maybe closer to four, now that I think about it. Of course, the building looked more or less the same - it had the same seriously-eat-and-get-the-fuck-outta-here-yellow walls, the same pastel plastic dishes (a nice bonus, since most of the Stevie B.'s around me have long-since switched to these shitty little metal pans to save money) and I'm pretty sure they haven't changed the arcade at all. There were more TV monitors than I remembered and the logo had been really gay-i-fied, but beyond that? It was just they way my half-starved, struggling junior ass remembered it - right down to the tandem of a huge, Khalil Mack-looking black dude and the most school-shootery white kid you've ever seen tag-teaming the noodle refill tray. 

Unless your eyesight was really, really bad, you prolly didn't miss the giant placards outside heralding the arrival of the new "Deep Dish Pizzas." Advertisements for the shit was pretty much everywhere, inside and outside the restaurant. There were static cling decals on the window. Giant cardboard cutout displays next to the cash register. You even had a couple of those little two-sided paper pyramid thingies on every table. And, of course, don't expect to amble through the rest of the lunch line without first getting a big eyeful of "Deep Dish Pizza" propaganda. 

Oh, that's right - they literally put stickers all over the sneeze guard to let you know "hey, did you know we have 'Deep Dish Pizzas' now? No, seriously, look ... THEY ARE RIGHT FUCKING HERE, NOW TRY SEVERAL OF THEM."

To begin, I apologize for the shitty quality, but I had to use my phone since the aforementioned Khalil Mack stunt double armed with a pizza cutter was giving me the stink eye whenever it looked like I was yanking my regular camera out near the buffet line. So, for those of you that need the caption, from left to right we're working with GARLIC PARMESAN, JALAPENO CHEDDAR and, uh, DEEP DISH PIZZA. Yeah, that's right, they couldn't even come up with a proper gimmick for the last one. What's important for you to know is that the first two have special spices baked inside the crust, while the eponymous "DEEP DISH PIZZA" has, well, more toppings than the other two, I guess? 

Now, before we hop into the proper review, let it first be stated that I didn't expect top of the line, Aurelio's IS Pizza-caliber stuff here. Hell, I wasn't even expecting stuff on par with Little Caesar's Deep! Deep! Dish pizza, which is actually really damn good considering the price point. To be honest, I expected the food to be kinda' bad, but I had NO idea what I was about to hop into. Very, very rarely do you see me hand out a negative food review, but trust me - Cici's Pizza deserves ALL the piss and vinegar I'm about to give 'em on these fuckin' things.

Alright, to begin, we're going to start with the Garlic Parmesan ones. From the get-go, you can see for yourself the intrinsic problem with Cici's take on deep dish pie (which, as I have stated numerous times before, is prolly my favorite food of all-time.) Essentially, this stuff isn't Deep Dish Pizza at all - it's just the regular Cici's pizza, only cut into squares with slightly more breading than usual. Sorry, kids, but that does NOT a deep dish pizza make. At the absolute bare minimum, for something to qualify as "deep dish" the crust has to be at least six inches deep, sopping in butter, and covered with no less than THREE jugs of marinara, with approximately four whole blocks of mozzarella melted on top of it. Like I said, that's the LEAST you can do to even meet the criteria for ho-hum "deep dish," so this shit right here is just pathetic with a capital "P." Calling this a "deep dish" pie is like you and your two best friends hitting the road tomorrow night and presenting yourself as the original founding members of The Sugarhill Gang

Let's count up the big infrastructural mistakes made here, why don't we? One, there's too much bread. Second, there is nowhere near enough sauce. Third, the lack of cheese is not only disappointing, it's kind of disturbing. Fourthly, look at those edges - motherfuckers are nearly burnt slap up. Fifth, those sliced tomatoes are the worst fucking things in the whole world. Sixth, why so few meatballs, guys? Seventh, how ghetto is the seasoning on this thing? They just sprinkled some oregano and literally poured some garlic powder on it and said "yep, good enough." And eightly, you can't see it, but the inside of the crust has a pitiful sprinkling of basil and even more garlic powder. Not only does this thing suck out loud at being an alleged "deep dish pizza," it really shouldn't even call itself a REGULAR Garlic Parmesan pizza. And you know the really, really awful thing? This is actually the best of three pizzas Cici's is trying to shove down our gullets. 

Next up, we've got the default "deep dish," and it's somehow shittier than its already shitty cousin the Garlic Parmesan pizza. It's more or less the exact same thing as the first one, only with the diced tomatoes out and a couple of piss-ant slices of pepperoni and Canadian bacon in. 

Pretty much everything bad you can say about our first pizza, you can say about this one, too. It has the same crappy seasonings, only this time WITHOUT anything baked inside the bread. Furthermore, this thing had virtually NO SAUCE on it whatsoever, which is just about the worst thing you can do with a deep dish pizza besides stick your dick in it. Even worse, the whole damn thing just tasted abnormally salty, like they dumped a little bit too much Morton's into the dough mix. Regardless, this is NO deep dish pizza, and even as regular old pizza cut up into mismatched rectangles (just take a look at that scrawny little motherfucker in the middle!), it is woefully, WOEFULLY substandard stuff. But, again, as bad as it may be, I saved the absolute worst for last.

Alright, this jalapeno shit right here was a bigger disaster than 9/11, and that's probably a wild overstatement, but whatever. There's literally one or two jalapenos per slice, so it's like eating a big, cheddary cyclops with a mild Mexican accent. The cheese itself is burned so badly the pizza might as well be cosplaying as Freddy Krueger. And there is absolutely NO SAUCE TO BE FOUND WHATSOEVER. This shit wouldn't cut it as a Lunchables meal, let alone an authentic deep dish pizza. But no, we haven't gotten to the absolute WORST thing about this sorry piece of shit just yet. 

My good, the salt. There is so much of the stuff inside the crust that it's pretty much like eating a piece of cornbread with a slice of American cheese melted atop it. The speckles of jalapenos inside the crust are really the only redeeming thing about this god awful excuse for pizza, and really, the only thing saving it from being nothing more than an edible doorstop. 

Just take a look at that. How long do you think that thing's been sitting underneath one of the chain's shitty-ass heat lamps? An hour? Two? Well, I cans safely say this is the stalest pizza I've ever paid money for. If I didn't know any better, I would've assumed it was the very first batch they made that morning, and since nobody touched the shit, they just keep it sitting out there for the next four hours. Now, ya'll know me, and ya'll know I can eat some REALLY suspicious shit. But this? This took things to an entirely different level. I never, EVER leave food behind, but I could only stomach one of those jalapeno cheddar abominations. It really did taste like something you would buy at Big Lots, and it may very well be the WORST pizza I've ever eaten in my life. The really sad thing? If Cici's actually gave a fuck and threw in some blue-cheddar sauce and some chipotle chicken chunks, it could've been some really good eatin'. But noooooo, they reckoned if you just melted some colby atop a giant piece of bread and dropped ONE jalapeno on it, people would accept it. Well Cici's, let me tell you something: I've eaten some remarkably substandard novelty foods over the years, but this stuff was just TOO terrible even for ME. This is the fast food equivalent of being the whore too nasty even the dude who kinda likes being peed on won't tap it. Ya'll motherfuckers ought to be ashamed - damn, DAMN ashamed - for serving this crap to real people. A-S-H-A-M-E-D.

Dat shit was so nasty, I immediately went back to Stevie B.'s and ordered a pineapple, potato and bacon pizza just to get the taste of failure out my mouth.

Well, historically, I guess Cici's abysmal "Deep Dish Pizzas" are significant. I mean, it is the shittiest thing I've ever put in my mouth, and that includes a turd I once ate when I was three. Like I was saying earlier, I really had to trash a fast food place for the quality of their foods, but sweet Jesus, this stuff literally stunned me with its inherent awfulness. Pretty much any Mama Celeste pizza will outdo this one, and although it's been awhile, I'd probably pick Mr. P's cardboard tasting junk over these three buffet abortions. I'm not too keen on class action lawsuits, but Cici's had to have broken some kinda federal law by marketing this shit as "deep dish" pizza. Eating this stuff is like walking into a car dealership, buying a Honda Fit and then having the dealer take a big fat shit on your shoes and start running. In either scenario, they've got your money, and all you've got is doo-doo.

C'mon, Cici's, we all know you can do better than this. After all, it'd be pretty hard not to. Alas, as long as you keep conning innocent, supportive patrons with your fake deep dish nonsense, I hereby advise ALL Cici's customers to protest their fraudulent behavior by taking a water cup and filling that shit with everything EXCEPT water. Mix and match the Hawaiian Punch with the Diet Dr. Pepper like it MEANS something to you, guldarnit; 'cause until these heartless, cash-grabbing buffet places learn we ain't taking their bullshit no more, they're just going to keep deep dishing us with NOTHING but disappointment.


Because YOU demanded it, I review Arby's MEAT MOUNTAIN!

promised myself I wouldn't try this damn thing, but because I got at least three or four emails from people asking me "hey, old Jimbo, good buddy, when are you going to review that there Meat Mountain from Arby's?" I suppose I had no choice but to heed the cattle call of fast food satire Internet populism. You wanted my thoughts on Meat Mountain, then by golly, you're going to GET my thoughts on Meat Mountain.

The premise of Meat Mountain is pretty much the ultimate carnivorous dope-smoker munchies nosh. Under two greasy ass buns, Arby's decided to chuck in ALL of the following ingredients: angus beef, cheddar cheese, chicken tenders, corned beef, pepper bacon, roast beef, roast turkey, smoked brisket, smoked ham AND Swiss cheese. So basically, they just emptied out an entire fucking barnyard and said "here you go, fat people, enjoy."

Yes, this thing is a hulking beast, no doubt. At $10 a softball-sized sammich, you're definitely getting enough food to fill you up for an entire day, maybe even two of 'em depending on your body's natural resistance to sodium. Mine was so massive they had to wrap it up in wax paper, and the main chef looked legitimately terrified while assembling the burger. Take it from a guy who, in the past, has actually ENJOYED giant ass hamburgers with hot dog weenies and a handful of potato chips on them and Pizza Hut pies with pigs-in-a-blanket fried into the crust - this is the most astounding example of fast food absurdity/our culture's normalization of obesity I've ever seen. 

Just gawping at this thing you can tell whether or not you would enjoy it as a novelty one-and-done meal or vomit after three bites (and trust me, actually wrapping your mouth around this behemoth require some effort, if not the ability to temporarily unhinge your jawbone.) Not all of the divergent meats converge that well together (the tastes and textures of semi-spicy bacon and watery, soggy slivers of ham are, perhaps unsurprisingly, gustatorily combative) BUT as long as you have a penchant for your usual Arby's fix-ins, you prolly won't be too grossed out by the orgy of dead animals. Well, that is, until I reminded you what you're eating IS an orgy of dead animals, essentially. 

Unless you have the oral muscles of a championship competitive eater or a porn star specializing in fellatio, there's no way you can eat this thing like a "normal" sandwich. Basically, I had to play lunchtime Jenga with Meat Mountain, carefully chipping out "rows" of meats so I could sink my teeth into the burger. I had to knock out about three layers of meat before I could eat the sandwich, missionary style. Your natural penchant for jamming sandwiches/penis down your throat hole will determine whether you'll need to pull out more layers of meat or less layers of meat. And if you are an attractive female between the ages of 18-34 who can eat this thing whole right out the wrapper (and you don't weigh in excess of 300 pounds), please, do send me your photo and contact information. Y'know, for social science purposes and shit. 

The big problem with the sandwich isn't the fact that it contains more than 1,000 calories, though. The real Achilles' heel of this fucker - as both a fast food delicacy and health risk - is just how much salt is packed into it. As in, we're talking more than 3,000 milligrams of sodium, which is easily twice the recommended daily allowance of said NaCl. Considering this thing has more salt in it than the Pacific Ocean, naturally, it's going to dry your throat out very fast. Which means you're almost certainly going to need a little bit of lubricant to help you scarf this sucker down ... 

... and since we're combining all the Arby's meat ingredients into a singularity, why not mix all of the proprietary Arby's sauces into a goulash of goop, too? What you're seeing here is a the confluence of the eponymous Arby's Sauce, horse radish sauce, three pepper sauce, honey mustard sauce and ketchup into one special dipping bucket. Naturally, I call the fusion product "Meat Mountain Sauce," and - much to my surprise - it didn't taste anywhere near as horrific as I'd imagined (indeed, it tasted like a fairly sugary barbecue sauce.) Then again, the evil eye from the cashier woman as I pumped all this shit into one paper thimble MORE than made up for that, I reckon.

So, all in all, Meat Mountain is a pretty impressive little spectacle food that you should probably try at least once if you a.) really, really enjoy quirky consumer experiences or b.) are so fat, eating 1,000 calories in a single meal is actually a decrease from your usual lunch time diet. I can't say it's truly exquisite eating, but it was much better than I thought it was going to be; thus, if you have a healthy admiration of ephemeral, out-there marketing stunts or an unhealthy admiration of mutant fast food offerings that the F.D.A. was clearly bribed in order to advertise, I say what do you have to lose except $10 and maybe a few months of your life expectancy when you're a senior citizen?

Oh, and in case you are wondering, there are already customers out there finding ways to make this thing EVEN fatter as a stand-alone product. And it looks to me there's ample room to get some onion rings on that sumbitch, and possibly some curly fries, too. Hell, we might as well throw some venison on there and get the sandwich apocalypse over and done with, shouldn't we? I wouldn't be shocked one bit if this isn't the last we see of Meat Mountain; indeed, considering how absurdly fat the American mind is getting these days, it may indeed be but just the base we're looking at right here ...


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