#180: Trademark Pizza Co

It was only 4:30 today when I decided I wanted to knock out a post.  I wasn’t even all that hungry, I was just oddly motivated for some reason.  I first headed to El Charro Taqueria and found that it was not open (they seem to only be open Friday and Saturday in the evening).  Switching gears, I headed up along Vernon to Atlantic and Eureka until I was turning into the Stone Point shopping center, where you’ll also find some of my favorite restaurants in Roseville, Paul Martin’s, Blue Nami and New Thai Kitchen (which is now in a bigger, nicer location in the same center).

The spot that New Thai Kitchen left has already been reoccupied by a brand new business, Trademark Pizza Co.  I spotted this place just last weekend while grabbing some takeout from New Thai.  I popped in for a few seconds to snag a menu and take a look around.  The staff at the time seemed genuinely friendly and thanked me for coming in despite me not ordering anything.  They were off to a good start.  One of the two things I was handed was a little paper flyer (above) which, I was told, is the concept.  The gist: 11″ pizza, unlimited toppings, $8, cooked in 3 minutes.  Aaaaaand I was sold.

I approached the doors at 4:50PM and paused to take the exterior photo while the light was still good.  As I finished I head a voice from inside saying “Come on in!  The pizza is calling you!”  It wasn’t in my head, one of the Trademark employees was actually saying this.  I stepped inside and up to the glass enclosed counter.  I had no idea how this place worked so I asked where I started and what I needed to do.  I was told to start at the far right end against the wall and that one of the workers would build my pizza as we moved down the line.  So basically a lot like a Chipotle or Freebirds (more like Freebirds since the same person worked with me all the way to the end).  Of course at this time of the day on a Tuesday they were pretty slow, as most restaurants would be (like my post from last Tuesday where the Galleria was a total ghost town), so my pizza was started instantly.

My personal pizza-maker had an 11″ pizza skin (We called them “skins” at Round Table, I have no idea whether or not that’s an industry-wide term, probably not) on a wooden paddle ready to be built.  She asked if I would be creating my own or trying one of the Trademark Originals.  I took a moment to look up at the menu on the wall and go over these, but nothing really stood out to me, so I went the create your own route. I was kind of winging it at first, but once I got past the cheese I had a pretty good idea of what I was making.  The have a fairly sizable list of sauces, cheeses and main toppings.  You can check out the whole menu here.  I started with their white sauce which was appropriately called “White Sauce”.  Next up I had 9 cheeses to pick from.  I went with their basic Trademark 3-Cheese Blend.  I didn’t ask what that was, but I would assume it was similar to Round Table’s Mozzarella, Cheddar and Provolone blend (sorry, lots of RTP comparisons in this one).

Now, with a foundation of sauce and cheese, I started to form in my head what I was building.  It was going to be one of my old standbys that I used to make right before opening RTP for lunch.  Grilled chicken, Italian sausage and smoked bacon made up the meats.  One thing I should note that pleased me was that they did not sit there and measure every ingredient.  She scooped handfuls of each item, including the cheese, and spread it over the pizza until it looked just right.  I rounded the corner and looked over the veggies while she finished putting the meats on my pizza.  They have over 20 to choose from in this category.  I went with black olives, white mushrooms, red onions and spinach.  This was a bit more than my traditional chicken, bacon & olives, but I was feeling good about it.  I was even more happy about the fact that, no matter what I was adding, the price was a steady $8.  I just looked up a specialty 10″ small from Round Table for comparison and it’s already nearly twice the price for an inch smaller pizza and less toppings (and a longer wait time).

My pizza was slid into the big oven with giant flames shooting up the sides (they were clearly visible from outside the store, and I’m sure even more so after the sun sets).  The door is glass so you can see your pizza as it cooks.  I slid down to the register to pay.  Here they have a very modern register setup.  There is a touch screen facing you, which you use to complete the transaction.  Before I got started the cashier asked if I would like to join their rewards program (buy 10 get 1 free I think) and took my phone number for that.  Once it was entered into the system, the LCD showed my progress: 1 of 10 purchased.  Kinda neat.  Moving on, she swiped my card and then the rest was up to me on the touch screen.  The first thing I was shown was a screen with optional tip amounts in various percentages.  I’m not really sure how I feel about these when they are presented like this.  I’m probably just getting old and bitter.  I left a small tip.  Finally I signed the screen with my finger.  It was a little awkward due to the screen’s angle, but it worked fine.  While I was doing this, another employee was working on pouring me a Shock Top [$4 – per the receipt, this is considered an import for some reason] from their small selection of taps.  He had a bit of trouble and was getting a lot of foam, but eventually managed to get a nice, full cup.  I thought it was a little odd that it was a plastic cup rather than a standard pint glass.  By the time I got this, and took a moment to take a quick photo of the dining area, my pizza was ready and handed to me.  From the time I walked through the door to this point, only about 8 minutes had passed.  I think that’s pretty impressive.

So now I’m sitting at my table with this good sized little pizza in front of me.  Toppings are in good amounts.  Aside from one or two areas right near the crust I don’t really see any thin or bare spots.  The crust is very crisp while still being somewhat soft throughout.  I needed both hands to support a slice, and more importantly to not lose a bunch of the toppings which were fairly loose on top.  Every last topping on this was great.  The cheese was exactly what I wanted, a little stringy but not crazy.  The sausage, bacon and chicken were all very tasty.  The onions were crisp and the olives were rich and delicious.  I might ask for more spinach next time, but that’s a never ending rabbit-hole.  I could add pounds of spinach and still want more.  You should see the Mongolian BBQ bowls I make these days.

I was really, really impressed with Trademark Pizza.  I didn’t really know what to expect from it when I showed up.  It’s clearly the best value in pizza you can get anywhere in the area.  Their speed is unmatched (except by me in my RTP heyday – hooooooo!).  They are ridiculously friendly, though in a very genuine way.  The pizza is good.  Really.  Good.  It’s inexpensive.  The quality of ingredients is high.  I don’t know what else I can say.  It’s like the creators of this business actually considered all the things I would like in a pizza place and implemented each one correctly.  I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s my favorite pizza in Roseville, nay, best pizza ever?  Maybe.  That’s a tough call, but I can’t think of what I would put ahead of it.  It’s great, that’s what I’m getting at, anyway.

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#179: Original Pete’s Pizza, Pasta & Grill

Today, after helping with a move, my parents and I were hungry for lunch.  I suggested Original Pete’s and we met there at about 12:30PM.  For a very long time I had thought that Original Pete’s was a national chain for some reason.  Turns out they are almost entirely in the Sacramento area and have just a dozen locations.  According to their website there are two different Original Pete’s.  The kind we have here in Roseville at Junction and Foothills is Original Pete’s Pizza, Pasta & Grill.  The other, more numerous version is Original Pete’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.  From what I can tell the latter seems to have a slightly larger menu and some more of Original Pete’s brand beers.  One of these is located right over on Douglas just inside Granite Bay in the Quarry Ponds Town Center.

I feel like I’ve been to one before, maybe even this one in Roseville, but it was forever ago and I don’t remember anything about it.  Once inside you can see the entire place from the entryway.  There is a small to medium-sized dining room that takes about 2/3rds of the visible space.  The rest is mostly kitchen which is open and sectioned off by the bar with seating down the length of it.  We were greeted within 10 seconds or so of walking in and taken to a table in the front/middle of the dining room.  A couple of tall (fake?) plants serve to somewhat divide up the tables in the middle and provide a tiny bit of sightline privacy depending on where you are.  For lunch today the place was maybe 30% or so filled.  We had a couple minutes to skim over the menu before our server came by to introduce herself and take our drink orders.  I didn’t get that far into the menu but I had looked over several blackboards hanging over the bar seating which had specials, desserts and beers.  I saw they had a fairly typical beer selection along with a few of their own, a honey blonde, an IPA and a brown ale.  I went with the brown and chose the larger of the two sizes available (pint [$4.75] vs 23oz [$6.25]).  My dad got the same and my mom had an iced tea.

These were delivered pretty quickly, maybe in a couple minutes.  Our beers were served in big frosty mugs.  Browns aren’t typically my first choice, but it was about the darkest thing I saw.  It was nice, cold and refreshing and flavorful.  We looked over the menu for a bit while sipping on our drinks.  Someone told me recently that pizza was the thing to get here, so I was looking over the options.  We all eventually decided to split a medium (12″, 8 slices [$18.99]).  I was drawn to the white sauce options which included the Italian Garlic (creamy ranch garlic sauce, linguica, Italian sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and green onions. Topped with feta and parmesan.) and the Creamy Garlic & Chicken (creamy ranch garlic sauce, tender chicken breast, mushrooms, chilled diced tomatoes, red onions, green onions, and fresh Italian herbs).  Both of these sounded good to me.  My mom wanted a Hawaiian and we decided on a half and half with my dad and I settling on the Italian Garlic.  I did the ordering when the server returned and told her our pizza choice, then realized as I was just about done that they had a Hawaiian on their pizza list that was more than your typical Canadian bacon and pineapple (the Hawaiian Luau [an exciting combo of tropical delights make this pizza one of our most popular. Canadian bacon, pepperoni, mushrooms and luscious Hawaiian pineapple]).  I stopped briefly to confirm with my mom if she wanted a standard Hawaiian or this one and our server helped list off the additional items.  Standard won.  I also threw an order of the garlic cheese fries (crisp golden fries, smothered in garlic, and shredded parmesan) [$4.99] on as a starter.

The rest of the menu has a lot to choose from.  Each section of salads, sandwiches and pastas have a nice variety of tasty sounding options.  It wasn’t long before we had the garlic cheese fries in front of us was a few little plates.  It was a decent-sized basket with dark, golden colored fries glistening with garlic oil and topped with shredded parmesan and chopped, aromatic garlic.  The fries were very crisp, which is great for something like this where they can quickly become soggy.  They were very hot and the garlic was delicious.  We all loved these.  I think they are some of the better garlic fries I’ve had in recent memory.  My mom said they were like potato chips in that they are hard to stop eating once you’ve had one.  For $5 I think these are a great value.  It was a perfect size to split between three people.

Our pizza followed the fries by about 5 minutes, which was good timing as we were pretty much done with them by then, leaving just a bit in the basket to pick at towards the end.  The pizza was their original thick crust (they have a thin available, though we didn’t really consider it when looking at the menu) with a nice oven-browned crust and plenty of toppings.  The slices were fairly heavy and, although the crust was crisp on the bottom, needed some support with a second hand to lift up without loosing a bunch of the toppings, which were somewhat loose on top.  There was an abundance of thick, stringy cheese that had to be corralled back onto the slice after pulling it away from the pan.  The pan itself was kind of an interesting design that I have never seen before with bumps that kept the pie slightly elevated.  I’m guessing this helps keep any excess grease from soaking into the otherwise dry and floury underside.

The Italian Garlic side was quite good.  All the meats were flavorful, particularly the linguisa and sausage.  The mushrooms were sliced somewhat thick and the sauce was creamy and delicious.  The garlic wasn’t as strong as what we just had on the fries so I didn’t really notice it as much.  The chilled tomatoes were a nice contrast to everything else in both temperature and texture.  I was pretty happy with this side.  The Hawaiian fell a bit short of my expectations.  I do really like Hawaiian pizza from time to time, though I think I prefer it on a thinner crust since the flavors are blander than something like the Italian garlic.  The red sauce was on the spicier side of the pizza sauce spectrum with not a lot of sweetness to it.  There wasn’t a ton of it on this side, and we all prefer it this way, so that was good.  Overall though, the Hawaiian was a little boring in comparison to the other half.

I was generally pleased with this visit.  The beer was good, the fries were awesome and the Italian garlic side of our pizza was fairly solid.  I found the thicker crust to be decent.  It was nice and soft inside and had a good crisp exterior but, other than that, wasn’t anything too special.  We didn’t require much in the way of service beyond ordering and receiving our food.  Our server was quick, friendly and efficient in that aspect, so I had no complaints there.  Original Pete’s is a good all around spot with a little something for everyone.

 

#178: Buckhorn Grill

This evening I crossed off one of the two remaining Galleria Mall eateries from my list, Buckhorn Grill.  I did a little research on this one before heading out to make sure it wasn’t the type of place that has one in every shopping center on the face of the planet that I’ve somehow missed.  Turns out they only have a dozen locations.  They are mostly in Northern California, but a couple out in New York as well.  During my time poking around on their website I skimmed over the menu.  They seem to specialize in tri-tip and have many sandwiches with it.  They also have a few chicken-based items and even salmon (which I find surprising for a food court stall).

I walked into an eerily quiet Galleria just after 5:30PM.  Tuesday evening is apparently the time to come here.  There were entire long runs of mall walkways you could look down and see maybe one person.  Upstairs the food court was busier, but not by much.  I walked right up to the Buckhorn Grill counter where one of two visible workers greeted me and told me she would help me as soon as I was ready.  I was looking up at the big, bright white menu.  Online, I had been drawn to one of the salads.  I’ve found myself generally unimpressed by every tri-tip sandwich I’ve ever had and didn’t feel like adding another to the list.  On top of that, one salad looked and sounded particularly delicious, The Cabo Chop (chopped romaine with honey-lime dressing, in a crispy tortilla with avocado, black beans, corn, jicama, radishes, tomatoes and blue cheese crumbles) [$7.99].  I hadn’t planned on trying any of their tri-tip and it seemed wrong, but I got over it quickly and settled on the salad.  As I was ordering I was asked if I wanted to add any tri-tip, chicken or –third_option_that_I_can’t_recall–.  I was caught off guard by that, having not seen this option on the menu online.  I quickly looked up and also didn’t see it on the menu above me, but went ahead and said “Yeah sure, tri-tip.”  It all worked out!  This adder was $3, bringing the salad to $10.99.  She then asked if medium rare was ok, and I said yes. That also surprised me.  The fact that it was brought up makes me wonder if you can ask for it cooked differently.  I didn’t see beverages on the menu and was obviously not sure what they had because she stepped aside to show me the fountain sodas behind her and then pointed out the bottled drinks available off to the right which included some beers, which again surprised me coming from the food court.  I just got a Dr Pepper [1.99 w/free refills], paid and headed to find a seat nearby with the pager that was given to me.

Sitting in a spot where I could see Buckhorn, I watched as more workers started to appear from the back.  There were at lest five or six and half of them were working on cleaning the place from top to bottom.  Apparently a slow Tuesday is the time to get that sort of work done.  Five minutes after sitting down, my pager started blinking and buzzing.  I went up to the counter to retrieve my tray.  On it was a MASSIVE salad sitting in a wide, two inch deep crispy shell.  To the side was a huge cup of the honey-lime dressing (she had asked me if I wanted it on the side while I was ordering).  I grabbed a fork and some napkins and went back to my seat to figure out if I had made a terrible mistake.  This was literally twice the size I was expecting.  The presentation was great and, unlike most products in the food world, actually looked like the photo on the website.  In fact, dare I say, it even looked better than the photo on the website.  How often does that happen?  (my favorite example of this phenomenon: a Double Western Bacon Cheeseburger I had at Carl’s Jr a couple years ago).

So anyway, the thing looked fantastic.  Each topping was in it’s place and on display (except for a pocket of corn which I found a little deeper down along with most of the Romain).  The one problem I had with this was that due to how much there was in this crispy, edible bowl, it was difficult to mix up without flinging a few black beans a seat to my left or tossing a cherry tomato overboard.  The tomatoes were there in force, by the way.  I counted nine.  There may have even been ten.  So anyway, yes, we get it Sean, the salad is big.  Lets move on.  I drizzled some dressing overtop, mixed the ingredients together as best I could and dug in.  Everything in this was fresh and flavorful.  The Romain was very crisp, the tomatoes juicy, the blue cheese nice and strong and the radishes….radishy (I don’t eat many radishes; I don’t really know how to describe them, they had a good crunch though).  The tri-tip seemed to be cooked medium rare as stated.  It was nice and pink for the most part, darker near the edge pieces.  These chopped up bits of beef were cool, not warm as I was expecting.  I’m not sure if that’s normal or not, but it didn’t really bother me and seemed to work well in a salad.  They were all tender and moist.  Not a ton of flavor though, which has always been one of my problems with tri-tip.  The dressing was creamy and sweet with a little bit of lime to it.  It was quite tasty and they give you about twice as much as you need.

I can’t believe I almost finished this beast of a salad.  I probably made it about 90% through the bulk and picked at the crispy bowl a bit at the end, which was now soggy in some spots and had a buttery flavor to it.  Buckhorn Grill took me completely by surprise.  I did not expect anything near the quality, size or presentation from this place in the food court.  Well played Buckhorn Grill.  Well played.

Website: http://www.buckhorngrill.com