Wednesday, June 18, 2008

LJ's Pizza - Official Review

I've been meaning to review this Mesa, AZ pizza landmark for some time, but I just hadn't gotten around to it.

LJ's Pizza Restaurant
1038 E. Main St.
Mesa, AZ 85203

LJ's Pizza has been around since 1973, which for a suburb of Phoenix is a hell of a long time. Of course, 25 years is a long time for any pizza place, but restaurants in Mesa have a knack for folding up and disappearing in record time.

You should know right off the bat that the charm of this pizza joint is half the reason for going. They've still got the original 1973 wood panelling up. They used to have a harmonica trio perform every Friday night (I gather the harmonica trio is no more). Oh, and they have a wicked pizza buffet, which is the real reason for going. It used to be that there wasn't a waitress under 60 in the place, but it seems they've recruited some younger talent. The old waitresses were more fun, between you and me.

The night we were there, a young lady with a guitar was performing while we ate. She played the kind of music one would expect from a young woman with a guitar. It was pretty good, for music that wasn't metal.

The pizza is surprisingly good. Keep in mind that this place is famous for their buffet. The crust, sauce, are toppings all pretty tasty. For a buffet. I wouldn't really recommend ordering your own pizza, because it's really intended for a buffet. It's not authentic to anything except LJ's. That's OK, however. They've found a style that works.

I used to go to LJ's on a regular basis for lunch, but then my company moved (and shortly after that I got a job that didn't suck in a different part of town), so I hadn't been there for a while. On this visit, I sampled my old favorites such as pepperoni and jalapeno, as well as pepperoni and barbecue sauce.

I also finally worked up the guts to try the sauerkraut pizza. I know you won't believe me, but it's pretty good. Not so good that I'd order a whole one, but good enough to eat a second slice. It works for the same reason canned pineapples and pickled jalapenos are good on pizza. So if you get the chance, and you aren't some kind of milquetoast wussy, I recommend you try it.

They also have a salad bar, if you want to waste precious pizza space on leaves. It looked OK, but I didn't bother with it.

Now, the extra special part of eating at LJ's is the soft-serve ice cream cones they bring out once you're done. They aren't fancy, but how can red-blooded American decline ice cream after a pizza feast?

LJ's gets 4 Crying Luckies. The pizza itself isn't extraordinary, but the entire experience should not be missed. I've never had a bad time at LJ's.