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Mar 25, 2016

Review - Empire State Pizza in Greeley Colorado

Here's a story for you..

Once upon a time, two guys owned a bar in Northern Colorado. The two fellas get tired of the bar life, decide to close said bar, and open a family friendly business in the same location where the thriving bar once stood.  They go to New York, learn how to make authentic New York Style Pizza, return to Colorado, and open a pizza place.

The culmination of their efforts is 'Empire State Pizza' located in Greeley Colorado.  Empire State is currently the only New York Style pizzeria in Greeley, and in my humble opinion.. ranks right at the top of the list for best pizza in Greeley Colorado.

An honest to goodness open air pizzeria is what you'll notice when you first walk through the doors.  It boasts an unassuming and welcoming atmosphere that succinctly, every pizzeria should strive to offer.  You can stretch out here, roam around, enjoy yourself with friends and family, and not have to worry about offending other patrons if your kids (or friends) are boisterous and or full of energy.

I recently went to a supposed "authentic New York style Pizzeria" in Fort Collins Colorado.  They actually seat your party at a table with nice white table cloths, and wait on you in a restaurant setting.  For the record, very seldom do I want to be served pizza in a restaurant type atmosphere.   Empire State Pizza ticks all the boxes if you feel the same way I do, and enjoy a more laid back pizzeria.  

Lots of electronic entertainment to be had.. 

One thing I got used to seeing / using when visiting New York Style pizzerias back east, was garlic powder.  In fact, I don't think I ever visited one on the east coast, that didn't have a shaker of garlic powder readily available for patrons to sprinkle on their slices.  I've visited lots of pizzerias in Colorado that claim to be authentic New York style joints that simply do not offer it as a condiment.

A good pie doesn't need garlic, but it sure does compliment a slice like no other condiment can.  I was incredibly happy to see that Empire State proudly keeps a shaker right on the counter.

Empire State's pizza was everything I hoped it would be.  The pie had a nice crisp edge crust, while the inner crust was soft and pliable, just as any self respecting New York style pizza should be.  During my first visit to any New York style pizza pizzeria, I always order up a slice of cheese and a slice of pepperoni.  It's a good way to evaluate quality without overtaxing your taste buds.

I was glad to see that a nice high butter fat mozzarella cheese was used, and the pepperoni was of good quality.  The sauce was simple, and had the perfect balance of taste.  It didn't get lost among the other toppings or even worse, overpower them.

As for the cost, Empire State has very reasonable prices. I can attest to the fact that there are places in Greeley that sell similar style pizzas for upwards of $30.00 for a loaded pie.  That's ludicrous to me personally.  I mean.. what the heck are they putting on the dang pies.. Filet Mignon?

Empire State's price points are well under what other local pizzerias charge for their menu items.  For instance.. you can get one dollar slices on Mondays if you buy a drink!  An order of 5 Garlic Knots is $3.95, and basket of 10 cheesy bites is $3.95.  That my friends, is what I call bang for your buck! They also have some killer coupons on their takeout menus, so make sure to pick one up when you visit.  They offer an incredible product for a very fair price. 

A perfectly cooked under crust straight from Empire State's deck oven.

Just for the heck of it, I ordered up some of their garlic knots and was pleasantly surprised.  The knots are so filling, they could practically serve as a meal in themselves for some.  It was all I could do to put these down along with my two slices.

So in closing, Empire State is about everything you would want in a New York Style Pizzeria and more.  Whether you want to stretch out and relax with your family or a big group, or simply walk in for a couple of slices and then be on your way, Empire State is welcoming, friendly, and fun.

If you live in the Greeley area, or happen to be rolling through town and dig New York Style Pizza, do yourself a favor and visit Empire State Pizza.  I'm sure you'll become a huge fan just like I have.

Empire State Pizza
2700 8th Avenue  Greeley Colorado 

Mar 20, 2016

Old Shakey's Colorado locations as they look today

It's happened to most of us.  You drive past one of your old hangouts, restaurants, or stores that has since closed for business, and you are suddenly bombarded with old memories.  Maybe they have to do with good times had with friends or family, or simply an incredible value of services or entertainment experienced.  This my friends, is how I feel every time I drive by former Shakey's Pizza Parlor locations once frequented during my youth. Sadly, there are no longer any Shakey's restaurants located in the state of Colorado.  I do however regularly pass by two of the old locations, and thought I'd share some pictures of what they look like today, as well as a few lingering memories.

The old Shakey's location in Fort Collins Colorado
1500. E Mulberry Street.
The Shakey's location shown above has been a gas station for many years now.  Other than the rectangular shape and size of the structure, there are no other features still present that even faintly resemble a Shakey's Pizza Parlor. 

This is the Shakey's I visited the most during my youth.  It was only about a mile away from my home, and I would often ride my bicycle there to get some lunch and play video games.  Very seldom do I drive by this location without reminiscing about my many visits there throughout the late 70s and early 80s.  
I remember playing classic arcade games like Battlezone, Tempest, Ms. Pac Man, and one of my favorites which was a less popular game at the time called "Cheyenne".  Cheyenne was a stand up console that had a rifle mounted to the play board.  The point of the game is to protect lawman "Buster Badshot" from gangs of outlaws, wild animals, and various other hazards.  The gangs of outlaws included cowboys, Indians, hillbillies, Mexican Bandidos, and from what I remember, some women outlaws as well.  
There were several levels such as saloons, mines, deserts, forests, ghost towns, graveyards and canyons.  I used to get a kick out of the fact that the game allowed you to shoot at random objects, like bottles, lanterns, and even a piano player in the saloon level.  My folks had to literally drag me away from this game when the pizza hit the table (and that's saying something if you know how much I love pizza).
The old Shakey's location in Evans Colorado
2831 11th Ave 

As you can see, apart from the old stained glass windows that were a fixture at the old Shakey's Pizza Parlors, this building still very much resembles an old Shakey's.  I can probably only count on one hand, how many times I dined at this location.  It was usually when we went to this town for concerts, or other events, and were in search of sustenance before our 30 mile trek back home to Fort Collins where we lived. I know of numerous other Shakey's locations that were located in other parts of the state, so maybe I'll do some research as to where they were, and post some pictures soon of what they now look like.


Mar 13, 2016

10 ways to tell if you're obsessed with pizza

Good or bad, this list is 100% based on my views, philosophy, dreams, and life as I know it, in regards to pizza..

10 ways to tell if you're obsessed with pizza
#1.) You have no less than half a dozen pizza coupons at any given time in your wallet, purse, or vehicle.

 #2.) You eat more pizza than anyone you know.. or have ever known.

 #3.) You buy so much pizza for take-out, you've seriously considered buying an insulated pizza keeper like the delivery guys use.

#4.)  Your car often smells like pizza when you leave for work in the morning (and it's not because you're a pizza delivery person)

#5.)  You have some type of social media account, primarily to showcase beautiful works of cheese covered art you've recently consumed.

#6.) When you need to buy an item, you wonder if there's a pizza themed option available.

#7.)  You've dreamed of owning a pizza themed means of transportation like a bicycle, motorcycle, or car (and may or may not have plans in the works to create one)

#8.)  You often perform internet searches for pizza related music and or movies, and have downloaded both.

#9.)  You've wondered what a pizza flavored beer or soda pop might taste like.

#10.) Your child says that they love pizza more than anything in the world, and you realize that your parenting skills are EPIC!


Mar 7, 2016

My forty-something year old Shakey's pizza pans

These are my pizza pans that I have used for over thirty plus years now.  They may not look like much to some, but I can attest that these pans have never done me wrong.

Back in the 80s, my brother had a job at Shakey's Pizza Parlor in Fort Collins Colorado.  One afternoon when he went into work, he was shocked to see people removing restaurant equipment and furniture from the restaurant, and into moving trucks.  His manager explained that the decision was made by corporate to close several Colorado locations, and the Fort Collins store was one of the unfortunate casualties.

While higher end equipment and fixtures were being shipped back to California and dispersed to other stores, items like drinking glasses and pizza pans were simply being thrown away.  As my brother helped empty out the restaurant, he didn't have the heart to throw out a stack of pizza pans he was instructed to toss.  He asked his manager if he could take some home, and was granted permission to do so.  My brother ended up bringing about half a dozen pans home, two of which were given to me when I moved out on my own.

From frozen pizzas to my homemade hand tossed pies, these pans have helped me to make an infinite number of great pizzas over the years.  My Mom and Dad still have two of the pans in their kitchen, but theirs are nowhere near as seasoned as my pans are.  I realize my pans may not be visually appealing to many, but to me they are beautiful.  I'm in essence utilizing a small piece of historic Americana, to prepare pizzas for family and friends, and that's something I will always get a big kick out of.

Visit Shakey's Online


Mar 5, 2016

Pizza by the slice in Greeley Colorado

I love pizzerias that sell pizza by the slice.  Who doesn't get the craving for a slice.. or two.. or three, in the afternoon, after dinner, or for dessert?  It seems like you're hard pressed to find pizza joints in other parts of the country that don't sell pizza by the slice.   The same can't be said however, for many towns in Northern Colorado where I currently reside.

I decided to do a little research on exactly how many pizzerias in Greeley Colorado sell pizza by the slice, as I find myself putting around the city quite often.  Here is a current list (as of March 5th) of the places you can stop in to get a slice in Greeley Colorado (All three of them)

ROMA Restaurant
728 16th Street Greeley

 Pizza by the slice sold only for lunch 11-2 Monday-Friday,
and nightly one hour prior to closing  Cheese $3.00 ($0.25 per topping)
Weekday Lunch Special: 2 Slices and Soda $4.99
Monday - Friday, 11 am - 2 pm (as of 3-02-16)

Right Coast Pizza Jersey Style Pizza
811 8th Street Greeley
 Lunch Special: Two slices and a drink for $6.99
Lunch Special ends at 4:00 p.m.
 Pizza by the slice $2.59
($0.25 per topping $0.50 for premium toppings)


Empire State Pizza
2700 8th Avenue Greeley / Garden City Colorado

The great thing about Empire State, is that they serve slices all day long just like an authentic New York style pizzeria.  Empire State also has the BEST New York style pizza you'll find anywhere near Greeley Colorado.  Plain cheese slices are $2.95 and Specialty slices are $3.50 with selection varying daily.

Monday Special (current as of 3-5-2015)
$1.00 slices on Mondays when you buy a drink
(1 drink for every 2 slices)

I really do love Empire State Pizza, and a full review of their pizza is forthcoming.  Stay tuned!

Mar 2, 2016

The Shakey's Pizza of yesteryear

As a young boy living in California during the 70's, my absolute favorite pizza parlor to visit was Shakey's.  I have such great memories of dining there as a kid, and I truly miss the atmosphere and food we used to enjoy at their many establishments. Upon walking into Shakey's, you were instantly greeted with live rag time music played by banjo players and a pianist pounding out tunes on an upright piano.  The employees wore striped shirts, arm bands, and skimmer hats, and were all very lively. There was a very welcoming, vaudevillian feel to the restaurant, and whether you were young or old, it was nearly impossible not to have your spirits immediately lifted.

 Back then we had a big family that was very social. Shakey's was one of the only places we could visit that easily accommodated families as big as ours, with upwards of 20 people.  They used to have these long wooden tables with benches that could seat the multitude of cousins, aunts, and uncles we brought with us.  I remember as the pitchers of soda and root beer hit the table, my stern old man would suddenly become more relaxed and jovial. The kids would quickly settle into the loud and festive surroundings, progressively get louder, and could do so literally unnoticed. I do remember my younger cousin getting a smack once however.  She got so caught up in the festivities and merry making that the rest of us kids were enjoying, she stood up on her chair, and screamed as loud as she could just for the heck of it.  She got a little smack to the mouth, but that didn't even phase her.  She just sat back down and started laughing at the silly things my other cousins and I were doing.

An item synonymous with the old Shakey's franchise, is the Shakey's skimmer hat.  It was an endearing souvenir that I still love to this day.  They were basically faux straw hats with a red band around them displaying the Shakey's logo.  As the evenings progressed, my old man would inevitably get a hold of a skimmer hat and wear it for the rest of the evening, often acting like a southern gentlemen, or Desi Arnaz.
 My old man in 1975 hamming it up in a Shakey's Skimmer hat 
after an evening out at Shakey's with the family.

My 1970's vintage Shakey's Skimmer hat
And there was no shortage of stuff for the kiddo's to do while our moms and dads socialized.  There was a glass window that you could look through to watch the employees making pizza's.  I recall the employees handing out kazoo's on occasion to the kids (and folks who were kids at heart) further adding to our fun.  Between the banjo and piano players music sets, episodes of the Little Rascal's, Laurel and Hardy, and The Three Stooges would play on a big screen which would quickly quiet us kids down.

In the 70's, many Shakey's had pinball rooms which evolved into arcades later in the 80's.  The Shakey's we frequented near Pomona had a coin operated horse ride that worked off of tokens.  The tokens were always free for the asking from any Shakey's employee, and I swear my cousins and I practically wore that poor horse out. I was always excited to see what kinds of cool promo items Shakey's had, that I could try and convince my Mom and Dad to buy for me.  I remember promotions offering such items as baseball cards, miniature plastic football helmets, cameras, etc.  I didn't realize it back then, but most of the items usually came free with a large pizza purchase.

Rediscovering Shakey's
I knew Shakey's restaurants in this day and age couldn't possibly be a shadow of their former self, but out of curiosity and for old times sake, I gave them a try during a trip to California in 2009.  The banjo and piano players are obviously no longer present, and no old timey movies or shorts were being played either.  Instead, there were plenty of big screen TV's broadcasting all manner of sports programming.  There was a little arcade room that the kids and some Dad's were really enjoying.  The new restaurants are family friendly with a bright open air atmosphere that feels upbeat and full of energy. The pizza has changed for sure, and is absolutely nothing like it used to be.  It was good however, and I enjoyed their fried chicken and 'Mojo Potatoes' immensely.

So in the end, I had a pleasant experience, but didn't experience the magic I remember from years past.  I'm okay with that however, as I have plenty of great Shakey's memories that will last a lifetime.  How about you?  Do you have memories of Shakey's from years gone by, or are you still making memories to this day?  If so, I'd love to hear about them!

Visit Shakey's Online