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Food Fight: Damgoode Pies is really just dammediocre

Posted by Daniel Walker on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 11:00 AM

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It’s damnear impossible to talk pizza with anyone in Little Rock without hearing mention of Damgoode Pies. The much-celebrated local pizza mini-chain has clearly won the favor of many an Arkansan. What’s more, Damgoode has even earned the praise of The Food Network, being listed as the “must-try” pie for the entire state of Arkansas (how much stock to place in these national lists or the Food Network’s opinions on what constitutes “the best” is clearly a highly subjective matter). But pizza, a food which I, like countless others, sincerely adore, is likely always a hotly disputed matter. What constitutes the highest, most pristine form a pizza can take is an issue being argued all over America. I’m no New Yorker, I’m no Chicagoan, and I’ve not an ounce of Italian in me, but I have my personal preferences, as I’m sure you do to. As far as Damgoode goes, I will say this, it is not the greatest pizza in Arkansas. Is it decent? Sure, but it is also afflicted with the flaws which infest thousands of other pizza joints in America. Allow me to make my case.

First, I should point out that Damgoode’s signature “pink sauce” is admittedly pretty good. I enjoy the slightly creamier aspect it brings to the pie, and the touch of spice in the sauce makes me wish they would consider bottling and selling the addictive pink elixir. Unfortunately, Damgoode’s grapple for greatness ends with this sauce, and there are too many pizza sins hidden underneath the thin layer of tomato to go completely unnoticed.

Most Damgooders will advise you to try the “Stuffy Underdog” at some point in your life. This is no light-hearted commitment. It’s one hefty pie, both in mass and price (the 14-inch will run you close to $30 without tip). The lovely pink sauce, in this case, gets smeared on the upper exterior of the double-crusted pie, entirely separated from cheese, meat, and all other ingredients. But, beyond the sauce, it’s difficult not to take issue with this pie.

The crust is doubly faulty. The upper crust, the layer supporting the sauce never gets properly cooked, instead it often ends up rather gummy and soft. Conversely, the bottom layer comes out tough, chewy, and rather uninspired. The stuffy is most fit for fork and knife, but I found that it required an excessive amount of fork torque to get through the crust completely. Additionally, I found it no more flavorful than any other average pie, assembled by any average pimple-faced teen in Average Town, USA. It’s the same crust you’ll find at thousands of mediocre pizza joints across the country. The egregious amount of cheese shoved into this pie makes it difficult to appreciate much of anything else going on within. I think there was some form of protein (beef, perhaps) and some rare flecks of vegetable matter as various points, but these were drearily overshadowed by the massive amounts of coagulated casein.

The best pizza, a truly inspirational pizza, is about balance. Simple, inherently flavorful crust made from the finest ingredients. Minimally manipulated, freshly crushed tomatoes. A restrained, but properly proportioned amount of handmade cheese. And a limited number of toppings. Great pies laugh in the face of the stuffed-crust, meat-lovers, barbecue-sauced, and ranch-dressing dipped pizzas of the world. Unfortunately, in this case, Damgoode Pies is more likely to be at the butt-end of this joke.

Comments (29)

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I like my pizza simple, too, but I do like Damgoode. (though I prefer the divier Kavanaugh location).

whose pizza do you prefer, Daniel?

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Posted by jenniferb on 11/14/2012 at 1:16 PM

Interesting idea (Food Fight) - maybe put them on one page like Point/Counterpoint so that both sides can be commented on at the same time. (Just a suggestion *shrug*)

I do really like Damgoode, but I never ¤ever¤ go for a Stuffy. The hand-tossed is good on the chance that I'm ordering a bigger pie, but normally I go for the little personal pie (which is only available as thin or stuffy). Also, I ask for mine "well done" or "extra crispy" to ensure that crust is as done as possible. Of course, they never get it as done as I will in a skillet when that bad boy is leftover, but oh well. I'm also a BIG believer in the "customization is encouraged" (printed right there on the menu), so I think it comes down to: Damgoode is what you make it of it.

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Posted by graciecat on 11/14/2012 at 1:30 PM

Not a fan of Damgoode for some of the reasons you mention. But since we are trying to keep it simple: I'm just not crazy about the taste. But I am a huge fan of Pizza Cafe if that explains my tastes (or lack there of in some opinions).

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Posted by cecil on 11/14/2012 at 2:22 PM

For my tastes (and this is probably a frequently heard answer), Zaza is making the best pie. Given, I have not eaten at every popular place in Central Arkansas, but I've had a good few. Personally, I feel they do the best job letting the flavors of the crust, cheese, and sauce (the real crux of any pizza) speak for themselves, and each gets its own voice, so to speak. Not all their pies are created equal, but they are my preference. The greatest pizzas in the country are, in my humble opinion, Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix), Cane Rosso (Dallas), Paulee Gee's (NYC)

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Posted by Daniel Walker on 11/14/2012 at 2:43 PM

Zaza - yes, for totally different reasons than Damgoode.

Pizza Cafe - no. Just, no.

2 outta the 3 "greatest pizzas in the country" (IYHO) are consistently and loudly touted as such. Cane Rosso doesn't ring a bell off the top (for moi), but anyone who reads about food on a national level is sure to have at least heard of the other two. Not sure what that means for poor ole Arkansas pizza (again, IYHO), but none of it will probably ever live up to those standards.

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Posted by graciecat on 11/14/2012 at 2:59 PM

Best pizza I've ever eaten is from Regina's Pizzeria in Boston. They also serve the best calzone.

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Posted by (Kevin) The Mighty Rib on 11/14/2012 at 3:52 PM

So I won't argue the Stuffy Underdog, but I love the Greek Pizza from Damgoode and would put it up against most other pizzas in the city as far as taste goes.

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Posted by D burn on 11/14/2012 at 4:03 PM

One major point is being missed, and that is the stuffy is basically a similar version to Chicago style, which is more in line with a casserole, in that you eat it with a fork. Now, I love Chicago style more than any other, and usually the key is to keep toppings at a minimum (spinach and shrooms). Comparing Chicago style pizza (ie stuffy) to any other more normal pizza is just ridiculous. My point is to try the other styles before you take one side of an argument about an entire place, at least go someplace together and record yourselves arguing over a 1$ PBR.

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Posted by What'sthat? on 11/14/2012 at 8:52 PM

I've had the other styles. I first sampled them before I had even heard the rave reviews for the Stuffy, but I was even less impressed with the regular hand tossed. I only used the stuffy as an example, as this seemed to be what was most popular.

...and I could never say this stuff to Michael's face, he's one scary dude in person.

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Posted by Daniel Walker on 11/14/2012 at 10:23 PM

US Pizza in Newport has the best pizza in Arkansas.

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Posted by RYD on 11/14/2012 at 10:28 PM

You are a very funny man, Mr. Walker. Have you been practicing that "sleep with one eye open" technique I told you about?

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Posted by Michael Roberts on 11/15/2012 at 6:56 AM

ZaZa, yes. can't argue with that.

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Posted by jenniferb on 11/15/2012 at 9:03 AM

Damgoode large cheese hand tossed with pink sauce is the greatest pizza in Arkansas straight up, why in the world would you even take all that time to be born, go to school, graduate college, live all those years, then move to this state, and write this "mediocrity" business to besmirch the good name of our beloved institution? I mean, Zaza? Really? If you want a cracker with some fancy euro cheese and homeopathic rosemary or whatever on it that is fine, it is what it is, and it is good at it. Have a salad, hang out in the heights. But this is murica where we eat real murican pizza and goddammit Damgoode does it proper. I went to eat there once and when they opened the oven to get a pizza a real living bald eagle flew out. Damgoode is so American every one of their delivery drivers has a Ford f150 Raptor, a .357 magnum, and staggering credit card debt. You cannot flex on Damgoode. Like Budweiser is the king of beers, Damgoode the king of pizza, unless there is a place called Pizza King and if there is, then that is the king, and Damgoode is a 4 star pizza general or pizza president or something.

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Posted by Everydayfoodeater on 11/15/2012 at 9:34 AM

Pizza is great. The service SUUUUUGGGHHHHHHCCCCCKKKKKKKS... Especially in Hillcrest. Went one time (carry-out) and the looked at me for 10 minutes before even saying hello.

Oh and it's really tough to justify basically having to finance a stuffy crust. It's good, but it's not 30 dollars good folks.

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Posted by arkmusician on 11/15/2012 at 11:04 AM

I'm really hoping we get to hear more from Everydayfoodeater. That may be the single greatest comment of all time. FOr the record, I like bald eagle on my pizza...it's the next big thing, all the hipsters are eating it.

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Posted by Daniel Walker on 11/15/2012 at 12:16 PM

There is a King Pizza. It is located in Fayetteville.

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Posted by restaurantlady on 11/15/2012 at 3:17 PM

Never had a Damgoode. Give me a Loaded Barrell everytime. A son who attends a lot of conventions, met a fellow who used to live in Little Rock, who said, "You're so lucky. The only thing I miss about the place is Shotgun Dan's." And it is not just the topping, their thin crust is really edible.

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Posted by Verla Sweere on 11/15/2012 at 3:32 PM

This article needs to be removed. Damgoode has so much innovation in their menu creations. There is little room for criticism. It does come down to opinion and yours might be respected if this article wasn't so poorly executed. The next time you want to make fun of a local focus of pride for Arkansas, use more wit and less whine.

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Posted by kosmooo on 11/15/2012 at 3:34 PM

I think it's kinda weird that somebody would argue about which pizza is best when there are clearly so many different kinds, and they're each good in a different way. I love Damgoode, I love Vino's, I love Gusano's--maybe I'm just a guy that likes a big-assed pizza.

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Posted by Archaeopteryx on 11/15/2012 at 3:42 PM

Did you read the other, pro-Damgoode post? The point of the exercise was to provide two opposing viewpoints on a local restaurant. Damgoode has A LOT of room for criticism. Even in my positive article, I couldn't help pointing out their inferior service.

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Posted by Michael Roberts on 11/15/2012 at 3:43 PM

Where's Bruno's when you really need them?

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Posted by Phyllis Britton on 11/15/2012 at 5:04 PM

I've lived in New York City for almost 5 years now, and I've dined at all the greatest pizza joints here, and Damgoode Pies is still my favorite pizza in the entire world.

It should be noted, however, that I am a crazy person whose tastes are questionable at best.

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Posted by colter on 11/15/2012 at 7:35 PM

Since moving to LR from Tallahassee eight months ago, I have yet to find a good pizza establishment in this town. Just sayin'...

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Posted by Christopher Diaz on 11/15/2012 at 8:10 PM

@kosmooo Let me just be clear, if you've in some way taken this post as a diss against Arkansas or Arkansans in general, you are severely mistaken, and I apologize if you saw it that way. I will admit, I was not born here, I have lived here only a relatively short time. But I chose to move here because I wanted to be here. Every day I am here, I'm happier I chose to come here. That much, no matter what I choose to say about the food and restaurants in central Arkansas, I hope will be clear. I love Arkansas. It has an incredible amount to offer.

I know pizza in particular is highly subjective, and can be enjoyed in many forms, but the fact remains, I've just never been that impressed with Damgoode.

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Posted by Daniel Walker on 11/15/2012 at 8:38 PM

Pizza King is in Longview,Texas by the hospital with the liquor store in the parking lot. They make a mighty good pie.

I must say The Greek from Damgoode is an oustanding pie. They really knocked it out the park the last time my wife and I ate there. Getting in and out of there without getting run over is pretty fun too.

Bad pizza is like bad sex. It's still pretty awesome!

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Posted by AllenK on 11/15/2012 at 10:28 PM
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