Shitty pizza is a staple of the American diet from birth until adulthood. I grew up poor, and the happiest times I spent with my parents were getting Pizza Hut, my shitty pizza of choice to this day. Always pan crust, steeped in an 1/8th inch of olive oil to boil any semblance of Italian cuisine away. My strict father was very particular about his crusts. "Hand-tossed is a queer man's crust and stuffed crust is for Blacks and Jews," he'd say. And I've never seen a man become unglued so fast when presented with Dominos, or God forbid, Little Caesar's.
My point is that your taste buds adapt to what you grow up with. White Castle is the premier example of this. Despite their clever marketing strategies, nobody could possibly enjoy White Castle unless they were force-fed it as a child until adolescence. Similarly, there will never be an end to the debate on who sits on the Shitty Pizza throne (the main contenders of which are Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Dominos, and Little Caesar's) because it depends so much on which filthy cheese and flour product your parents abused you with.* At least with the shitty light beer debate, they all more or less taste like the same carbonated urine which nobody enjoys enough to care about anyway. Debates involving pizza or whether or not White Castle counts as "food" will never be settled.
The Korean idea of pizza ranks up there near the top as far as things foreigners like to pick on. It's no secret that Asians put sweetcorn on pizza, seafood and other odd toppings. I'veThe main reason I feel like the criticisms of Korean pizza are unjust is this: If you don't like corn, octopus, sweet potato, or fermented foreskins on your pizza, get a fucking pepperoni. It's not like they don't have the option. No, you won't find specialty slices like Sicilian, Grandma, Napolitano in Korea, but would you really expect to from a place called Mr. Pizza? I'm offended by Hawaiian style but nobody's forcing me to eat it.
Now, the main Shitty Pizza joints of Korea:
By far the most mundane pizza joint in Korea, the faux-talian third of the Pizza Hut-Taco Bell-KFC fast food triumvirate has planted its roots firmly in Korea. They have special pizza offerings that look like they were made just to make little white girls squirm. They're just targeting their market, and we all know Koreans must have distinctly different taste buds than practically every other nation on the planet, judging by what's popular here. You'll be pleasantly surprised to know that a pepperoni slice from Pizza Hut tastes just like it would from an American Pizza Hut. Korean Pizza Huts don't have chandeliers and second stories like they do in China, but they are still in the top tier price range.
Classifying Mr. Pizza as a shitty pizza joint is a huge stretch given the price point, but since it's such a large chain, I should review it to lay down a baseline. Just as Lotteria is the imitation of McDonald's, Mr. Pizza closely mimics Pizza Hut, but adds its own Korean flair to the experience. The thing that impresses me most about Mr. Pizza is the crust. It's thin, and the cheese is baked right in. Against all odds, the cheese manages to be somewhat flavorful, which gives it a step up over Pizza Hut. The salad bar is mostly just a minefield of noodles, jellies, syrupy fruit, and mayonnaise. Pretty absurd for a salad bar, but the jellies are pretty good.
The pizza pictured above shat on my face. I wanted to get weird on the menu without getting ridiculous, and it turned out great. I don't remember if there was any tomato-based sauce at all, but more importantly, there was no sweet potato bullshit. Fuckin gooks and their sweet potato obsession ruining everything. Also, Americans might recognize that white dipping sauce as a garlic-ranch soybean-oil based product, but it's actually just mayonnaise.
They also have a premium thick crust, but I haven't bothered to try it since I like my pizza crust how I like my rapists: with less girth.
Whoever Mr. Pizza is, he loves his trim. Check out the slogan.
Prepare to pay twice as much at Mr. Pizza than any of the following mentions.
Crust that's thin but not crispy, tomato sauce that exists (or doesn't) at a quantum state, this chain is a safe middle of the road choice. In addition to the little sides like cheesy potatoes or baked chicken bites, they also sell whole roast chickens which are nice to eat and get messy with.
The hardest to find. I've only ever seen one in Hwamyeong. I'd venture to say it's the least successful, but I think they are all owned by Lotte or Samsung. Really no different than Pizza Bingo except for it's one gimmick- there's green tea baked into every crust! You can almost taste it if you close your eyes and use your imagination. This is my CT's favorite pizza place, and I'm a sucker for the gimmick too. If I were to really put effort into this article, I would include every other pizza place that looks shitty enough to not be a franchise, but the truth is they taste just like each other. The only reason meaningful separation is the cost tiers, with an asterisk next to Pizza Maru for having any product differentiation at all.
Ji Junghwan’s Imsil Cheese Pizza-
All this can be yours for the low, low price of 50k.
(sorry for the shitty pictures but this blog just doesn't warrant any more effort than this justification)
The story behind this pizza is quite interesting. From Wikipedia:
"The cheese produced there is called Imsil cheese, following the county name. Imsil cheese is the unusual mission legacy of a Catholic priest from Belgium who took the Korean name of Ji Junghwan. He arrived in the farming village of Imsil, in the mid-1950s, when the economy was still shattered from the Korean war. He started a farmers’ milk cooperative. This cooperative eventually became the Imsil Cheese Factory, which exists today and produces high quality cheese and yogurt for the Korean market."
The boxes do indeed have a picture of a white guy with a moustache on it, which makes me feel a lot safer about eating the pizza. The pizza on the left is one of the baller premium slices with pigs-in-a-blanket crust. My girlfriend claims it tasted a lot better the first time, but when I tried it, it was awful. And it looks so damn good in every picture I've seen. She also claimed that the yellow ring of sweet potato also tastes good. It's gross, like 90% of all sweet potato products, and the prevalence of sweet potato on pizza does nothing but guarantee that Korea will never be respected as a country with sensible taste or culinary art.
But the domestic cheese is stellar (for a chain). I'd say it's around the Sbarro level of quality, which is above the shitty chain tier (Yes, Sbarro's 5 dollar slices of pepperoni pizza are an insult, but they make a more delicious insult than Pizza Hut). The "super supreme" and the meat, onion, and cheese pockets were decent because of this. Topped with a sparse ration of canned olives and cured meats with oil pooling on top, Imsil Cheese pizza offers a decent alternative to self-esteem for the single woman lost in a momentary lapse of self-respect.
This definitely doesn't count as a shitty pizza chain as it's around the same price as Mr. Pizza. Fuck it.
That's all I have to say about Korean pizzas. The other big shitty chain I skipped is Suta 4900. I don't care.
*For the record: It goes Pizza Hut, Domino's (thin crust), Papa Johns, and Little Caesar's. Pizza Hut uses the highest quality ingredients, that's why they're the most expensive. They also come up with great ideas every now and then: Wingstreet wings, The Big New Yorker, Chicago Style, The P'zone, The Sicilian (Alright, fuck the P'zone, but their wings have won awards). Dominos' big claims to fame were Two Times Tuesday and the 555 Deal; not exactly Don Draper but I'll overlook the disgusting hoagies and Cinna Stix. Dominos and Papa Johns closely vie for second place, and Little Caesar's has no delusions about warming up the bottom with its krazy bread. If I may quote my first girlfriend, "Domino's? Please, me and my brother ate so much that my parents could only afford Little Caesar's."