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Pizza Ranch Buffet Review


Pizza Ranch Buffet ReviewI wonder if they thought of the name “Chicken Ranch” but had to discard it due to an unsavory association with a Nevada business of the same name? The only reason I am wondering about this is while the pizza is good at Pizza Ranch, the fried chicken is the star of the show. In fact, their “sub slogan” is “the best chicken in the country.”

Now I’ve had fried chicken in every corner of the USA, including in small town, backwater soul food kitchens in the deep south, seemingly at the heart of fried chicken country. I’ve had fried chicken made by a 100 year old woman who’s been cooking chicken in the same single cast iron skillet for her four table restaurant for decades. If Pizza Ranch doesn’t make the best fried chicken in the country, I don’t know who does. It’s certainly the best I’ve ever had.

Pizza Ranch started in small town Iowa and has grown to nearly 200 locations in a dozen states. It is a set price buffet restaurant, with pizza, fried chicken, mashed potatoes/gravy, potato wedges, vegetables, a salad and dessert bar.

I visited the outpost in Wisconsin Dells, and service, food, presentation and cleanliness were all over the top. The experience far exceeded my expectations.

The price seems to vary somewhat from restaurant to restaurant, but it is generally in the range of $7-$10, less for kids, sometimes there are two fer coupons, and some locations include a beverage, some charge extra. One nice note on the hospitality scale, when you pay (on your way in), they ask you what your favorite pizza toppings are, and they rush to make it, deliver the first hot slices to you, and place the pie on the buffet….which, incidentally, presents 12-16 pizzas at a time and is constantly refreshed. So different than some pizza buffets I have been to, like Cici’s, Shakey’s or Round Table.

The pizza is clearly levels above Pizza Hut, Dominos, Little Caesars, Papa Johns and the like. In many ways, it reminds me of the way Godfather’s prepares theit pies, a little thicker crust, a sauce that leans towards sweet and ample cheese, nicely melted.

But as you might have guessed, I buried myself in fried chicken. Hot, crispy, nice breading, very juicy birds, and amply sized. They are certainly not buying diminutive chickens like Popeye’s and KFC.

Pizza Ranch is worth a stop, especially for families. I’d go again. Here are their locations, menus. and a further description of the buffet.

They also deliver, and have a drive through.

No alcohol, BTW.

Pizza Ranch Buffet Review

Fried Chicken and a Slice


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Godfather’s – A Pizza You CAN Refuse!


Started in 1973 in Omaha, Godfather’s tried to go elbow to elbow with Pizza Hut, and at the time, Shakey’s. 

The chain was spun off to Pillsbury when they thought they wanted to be in the restaurant business, at the time they also held Burger King, and a pie chain which I have long since forgotten the name of. Pillsbury got out of the restaurant business, and the chain was the object of an MBO.

This year seems to be all about me going into places I haven’t been to for 20-30 years, and Godfather’s would fall into that category. There was one in my home town, but lots of people had kind of a hard on about it for two reasons, it was the first national competitor to try and make a dent in hometown favorite Sammy’s, and also because the franchisee chose a location near and dear to young Duluthians – it was the site of THE local high school hang-out drive in. All of us from that generation miss the “Inn” every day.

What I remember of Godfather’s from that vintage, was lots of cubed meat toppings, and an obnoxious jingle and icon that riffed on the Godfather movie with “A pizza you can’t refuse.” Apparently they are still using that tag line, but believe me, this is one pizza you CAN refuse, thus my post’s headline.

I happen to be driving by an outlet today, and it was lunchtime, so I figured I try it. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know they were still around, they are that low profile these days. I came to find out during my visit they have a dozen locations in the Portland, OR metro, and while i SHOULD be aware of that, I don’t ever recall seeing a single bit of marketing in print, radio, or tv. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been surprised when I did see it. Duh.)

Godfather’s offers a pizza and salad buffet, like many pizzerias do, theirs is 6.99 here for all you can eat and drink, except adding a salad adds a buck to the price. I didn’t add the salad, and I didn’t look at that portion of the buffet, and I should have. Might have add ingredients that would have made the pizza more interesting.

OK, it’s not awful. It’s just nothing special. It’s as good, or bad, as Pizza Hut, Domino’s, or Round Table (I tried their buffet a couple months ago, posted here).

There were portions of 3-4 pizzas on the buffet (some left over from earlier pies placed out, no doubt). There was also “mojo potatos” (deep fried wedges) who dreamed up “mojo potatoes” anyway, and why didn’t they trademark the name? Also available, the ubiquitous bread sticks (long slices of pizza crust), and a dessert concoction of the same ilk.

There were about a half dozen diners in the joint, it was high noon, this was a free-standing unit in a strip mall out lot in suburbia. It was decorated with sports crap (why are there so many sports-themed bars and restaurants?). I want there to be “news and information” restaurants, where you go in and the big screens are blaring Rachel Maddow, or reality shows like Ax Men!

Anyway, I quipped to one of my fellow buffeteers (Is that a word? It is now!) that the restaurant must have gotten a deal on pineapple that day, because there were seemingly diced chunks of canned pineapple on nearly every pie. Note to anyone: there are certain pizza toppings that just don’t GO with pineapple, i.e most of them.

Godfather’s offers three types of crusts, according to their menu (below), “Original Thick and Chewy”, “Golden- Buttery Pan Style”, and “Thin – Light and Crispy.” If all three were represented on the buffet, I couldn’t tell the difference. At least the first two were, and they were virtually indistinguishable.

The Godfather’s napkin says something like “You’ll need this, cause we pile on the toppings,” but such was not the case with the buffet pies, and I get why they do that, even if I don’t agree with it.

My biggest gripe about the pizza I had (mostly very strange combinations like sausage, pineapple, and mushroom), was that the topping ingredients are very apparently food service products. They use those little sausage crumbles, which since they are pre-cooked (in my opinion) tend to harden under heat lamps. Pepperoni was cupped and charred, a sure sign of high fat, low cost salami.

And so it goes. But hey, they did have video poker, so that’s probably paying the rent anyway.

The place was clean. But the pizza is about as good as any gas station or c-store heat and eat. They get $20.99 for a jumbo two topping, and you’d be better off to spend the same $20 on four ‘ready to go at anytime” Little Caesar’s Pies.

I’m just saying. But if you want to go to this location, map and pix of slices below.

Here endeth the lesson.

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Godfather's Pizza on Urbanspoon


Portland, OR – Round Table, the Last Honest Pizza?


(Note to my wife:  this is an IMAGINARY review, I didn’t really go there).   I’m not really sure what “the last honest pizza” means, but it is the current advertising tag line for Round Table Pizza.   Before today, I hadn’t been in a Round Table for 30 years, the last one being in the San Fernando Valley.   They haven’t changed much, I guess that’s good for an old codger who doesn’t like change.  (Except for a dollar).

Looking at their television commercials, it is implied (or I inferred) that RT uses “better” ingredients (and more of them) than competing pizzerias.

On their own website, they tout the difference(s) as being “We roll our dough from scratch, add our fresh blend of three cheeses, and lavishly top our pizzas with only premium meats and garden fresh vegetables.”

At many (most? all?) stores, Round Table offers a noon buffet, at a price point of about $6.99, for all the pizza, salad, and some kind of bread balls one can eat.  I’m not sure whoever thought that people that go to pizza buffets want salad, but it does seem to be de rigueur among the chains that offer buffets.  For me, they might come in handy if I was inclined to pile diced ham, bacon bits, olives or more cheese on my slice.  Or perhaps chunky blue cheese dipping sauce?    The lettuce, beets, baby corns, carrots, and all that other crap can exit stage left, for all I care.

I really have nothing to  complain about at this price point for this product.  I can easily stow away a quantity in excess of a large pizza, which, under ordinary circumstances, would cost 2 or 3 times as much as the buffet.   I would have liked them to label the pizzas, the first tranche out when I was there all pretty much looked the same, and were noticeably piled high with vegetables, the least expensive topping.    I like the crust, even tho it is thicker than I would usually care for, the rim and bottom were nice and crisp (conveyer ovens).

The red sauce was indistinguishable from any other, as was the cheese.  The cheese didn’t seem to be “ample” as the commercialz imply (or I infer – LOL), but perhaps RT and I have different definitions of “ample?”

The pepperoni was good, not greasy, no cupping or charring, nice flavor, and it had some heat to it, which is unusual for a product offered to the great unwashed.    The sausage appeared to be standard pre-cooked food service nuggets, too small, and not enough flavor.

Canadian bacon was paper thin and flavorless.    Vegetables were ample and crisp, if your taste runs to non meatatarian type pizzas. (Yes, I made that word up).

The place was clean, and the help cheerful.  Suspiciously cordial, in fact.  (What are they hiding?)

Pic is of my first serving, four different slices, in front of napkin holder advertising “Family Night Buffet.”

According to  Wikipedia,  Round Table was started in 1959 in the Bay Area, and has since expanded to over 500 outlets in the Western US, as well as a smattering of parlors overseas.    This footnote appears in the Wiki entry, and I will leave you to intepret its meaning:  “Until June 2008, Round Table Pizza operated stores in Idaho.”

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