Sunday, July 19, 2009

John's Incredible Pizza Co. - Buena Park

John's Incredible Pizza Company, to quote Austin Powers, usually "ain't my bag baby." By inference and transitive property, neither is Chuck E. Cheese, nor its adult version, Dave & Buster's.

But John's Incredible Pizza Co. is more than that (or less, depending on your angle), since it is also an all-you-can-eat, stuff-everything-into-your-gaping-maw-to-get-your-nine-dollars-worth buffet. Had I not been starving, I would have had a more blistering critique of it. Unfortunately for you haters, it was the exact right moment in time for me to form a semi-positive opinion of the place.

Before I get into the food, I need to talk about a few other details.

The property reclaims 60,000 square feet of what used to be the entire lower level of the old Buena Park Mall, which under its new name of Buena Park Downtown is still suffering through the same sour-economy doldrums before they made the upgrade. The expansive digs fits what I imagine must be a Dodger Stadium's worth of customers -- the same customers the mall developers are hoping would boost the prospects of the rest of the complex.

Through John's doors, I saw hundreds of people entering, but only a scant few exiting. It was like a clown car in reverse. Or a buffet black hole that seemed to violate the first law of thermodynamics.

To get in there yourself, you must pass through a maze of metal bars, weaving around dizzying S's until you reach the cheese...I mean, the cashier. I've seen similar enclosures in cattle pens, prisons, and yeah, Disneyland.

While waiting in the queue I remembered the few comments made on a post I wrote announcing its opening (which was a week ago). Most noted the class of clientele. "They're hillbillies," one poster warned. Expecting to see a denim overall and a corncob pipe convention, I kept a lookout. But what I found were people. Yep, people. Just people. Like me. Like you. Like your next door neighbor.

But since I was intent on finding a hillbilly in the crowd, I actually did locate one. I couldn't help it. He was a few paces ahead of me in line, and I could do nothing else but look when I saw him: a living, breathing doppelganger of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel from the Simpsons with a trucker's cap and a goofy grin revealing a surplus of gum and a few missing teeth.

Though immediately after I made the association, I felt bad. Who am I to judge? What do I look like to these people? I shudder to know what they'd think of me.

Once we cleared the queue, it was off to pick one of five themed rooms to sit in. Cletus went into the sports-themed room. We beelined into one dubbed "Toon Time Theater" since we had a five-year old in tow. In this room, projectors looped Warner Bros. toons onto a canvas screen. Cartoon posters from every studio hung on the walls and made it a non-denominational place of toon worship.

Okay get on with it, you say. How's the food already?

Well, it ain't Mozza or Pizzeria Ortica. Surprised? If so, I need to also inform you that straight-to-video movies don't win Oscars.

The crust is like the kind one would expect from any number of chain pizza stores -- spongy, over-leavened, absent of crackle and more inclined to become a breadstick than a proper pie.

To put it simply, the pizzas are designed to be loved by their target audience: kids of a certain age who would rather eat paste than brussel sprouts. Case in point: there's a peanut butter pizza, which, true to its name, had a thick, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth layer of it substituting for marinara. To me, it was vile; a crazy Nickelodeon experiment gone wrong. But to some 8-year-old, it might as well be Thomas Keller.

A spicy pasta fagioli contained enough beans to make for a fragrant rest-of-the-night -- a decent soup to be sure, but for the sake of my passengers, I didn't get seconds. I ran into Cletus again at the baked potato bar, where he was struggling to unstick whipped butter off the ice cream scoop and onto his potato. I had the same problem with it, as it turns out. Me and Cletus, we're the same. Though the baked potato was just a baked potato.

Pesto garlic pizza was a sort of revelation -- it had a pronounced herby flavor as advertised. And though I first recoiled at the thought of the nacho pizza, it worked! I took another slice to confirm that I liked it, and I did.

Perhaps the only thing that trumped those two last slices of pie were the donuts produced by a machine/conveyor belt that spat out batter at one end, slightly-crispy golden-brown loops at the other. I took a few, piped some soft-serve on top, a spoonful of rainbow sprinkles, and went back to eat it in the cartoon room. I was not completely unaware of the irony.

Then after all that, we went into the game area, where kids weaned from baby formula to fast food would become addicted to gambling by way of carnival games, noise, and flashy lights. Las Vegas, I present to you your future customers in training.

John's Incredible Pizza Co.
(714) 236-0000
8601 On the Mall
Buena Park, CA 90620-3233

THIS WEEK ON OC WEEKLY:
The Past Memories - Garden Grove

15 Comments:

At 6:11 AM, Blogger Lucky said...

A masterpiece of a review...thank you. I very much enjoyed your writing style, with the proper mix of humor and some delicious sarcastic truth thrown in there. Now, I will go and stand in line with Cletus, with my 2 year old in tow.

 
At 6:03 PM, Anonymous JB said...

Not only is John's 60,000 square feet, but so is this Monster Munching post, which is uncharacteristically lengthy. Ah, the Super-Size mentality is now even affecting the best food blog in America.

Elmo, the Mayor of Buena Park must be thinking..."Monster Munching finally comes here, and he reviews...John's Incredible Pizza?!!"
LOL

And hey, admit it...
(1) you took the 5-year old to Knotts Berry Farm, and parked in the mall for free
[something, yes, I would do too]
and
(2) the Nacho Pizza was the real source of the post-dinner olfactory experience.

 
At 1:08 AM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

Nacho pizza and freshly fried donuts? That is something very unusual. This place in general is very unusual to me. Such a large space for games and food! I have never been to a place with so many different themes. Certainly beats Chuck E Cheese in that category! A young kid would love being here...so much to see and do.

But call the place a pizza place? I think they should rename it. Something more fun....I suggest John's Incredible Fantasyland. :)

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger dean said...

If memory serves there is also a farmers market on Saturday mornings also on corner of the mall parking lot. Don't know if it's any good or not haven't checked it out yet.

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Lucky,

Thanks! That's one of the best compliments I've ever gotten on this blog. I wanted to make sure that people knew what this place is like and make their own judgment. And the only way I know to do that is through sarcasm! HAHA!

JB,

Funny you should mention the length, because I originally was shooting for two, maybe three paragraphs. When I finished I looked back and realized "Damn, I had no idea I had this much to say about the place."

Here was a veritable diarrhea of words, which makes this now my second joke on a bodily function. That makes three in total for this post, if you count yours!

And have I not done anything else in Buena Park besides this? Damn! Sorry Snoopy!

EatTravelEat,

It's crazy up in there...well, not really. It's everything it advertises itself to be. A part of me wished there were more rides, another part was glad there wasn't. The last thing I need after I eat a fattening, rich meal like that is to be jostled around like a milk shake. It's fun for kids though!

dean,

Well I'll be! A farmers' market in the middle of tourist fast-food central. That's pretty cool!

 
At 2:56 PM, Blogger christoofat said...

Now why do I keep thinking to myself
Elmo Wonka and the Pizza Factory..?

Mommie...make it STOP.

 
At 5:18 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

JB,

Wait a sec. Did you just say that this was "the best food blog in America"?

OK, now THAT is the best compliment I ever received. I don't know how I missed that tidbit the first time around and I don't know what you were smoking when you made it, but I thank you anyway!!! HA!

christoofat,

Johnny Depp or Gene Wilder? HEHE!

 
At 10:03 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

The peanut butter pizza makes me think of one of my favorite sandwich. Peanut butter, jelly and cheese. Or even just peanut butter and cheese. It might sound gross to you, but trust me, it's good! Don't know how good it would be on nasty buffet pizza crust, though.

It also reminds me of the NCIS episode where we learn that McGee's sister's favorite pizza is cheeseless with peanut butter, pickles and Tabasco. (Ick!)

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Juliet,

I know what would make the peanut butter pizza more palatable to me: durian jelly!

HAHA!

Seriously, I'm Indonesian (which lavishes a spicy peanut butter sauce on their satays -- the Thai's stole that from us) so I really expected to love the "spicy peanut butter" pizza, but alas, it wasn't spicy enough and it was still in peanut butter form. Thin it out with some coconut milk, season it with galangal, kaffir lime, lemongrass, then we got something!!!

I'll try your peanut butter, jelly and cheese sandwich any day!

 
At 12:28 AM, Blogger Pepsi Monster said...

Whoa Elmo,

Another blog post about a place in my backyard and you didn't hit me up again? C'mon dude, you got to give me a ring. LOL

Damn, can't go in without a kid in tow, but I might go there just for the pizza. Ha!

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Pepsi,

As much as the place trains toddlers to become Vegas gamblers, the biggest gamble of all was getting in line, not knowing how bad the food was going to be...and I was expecting it to be bad.

If I had brought other discriminating food blogger like yourself, that would add an additional wager on top of it all: my reputation as one of your own would be on the line! I will be forever known as the dude who rallied the food bloggers to a Chuck E. Cheese meal!

Yes, I was preparing myself to take one for the team!!

 
At 12:05 AM, Anonymous Jules said...

me and my hubby took our son there last saturday and we're not going back! =(

the food wasn't that bad, but the plates, glasses and utensils we got were filthy! i lost my appetite when i saw this brown sticky stuff under my plate. my hubby said it was chocolate but it looked nasty. then i asked my husband to get me a glass of root beer, when he came back, we noticed there was left over ice cream in the bottom of the glass. yukk!

 
At 1:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just filed a complaint, but I forgot the amount that I spent for the buffet that we didn't use and didn't get our money back. I spent $28.47 for the buffet for 2 adults and 1 child plus the price of the arcade was $15.24 plus sales tax of $1.57. The date of service was 12/13/09 at John's Incredible Pizza Co. in 8601 On The Mall, Buena Park, Ca 90620. Phone no. is 714-236-0000. I spoke with both managers at about 1 p.m. today, but both refused to give me my money back for the buffet that my family didn't use. Their answer to me was they couldn't possibly monitor all the customers that come in who use the buffet, so they couldn't get me my money back. Chuck E. Cheese also has an all you can eat salad bar, and they found a way to monitor who are paying for the salad bar. Why can't John's Incredible Pizza Co. couldn't do that. Why do they require all customers to purchase a buffet even if they don't want to. We already paid to use the arcade. John's Incredible Pizza Company's Pricing for the Buffet and Entrance is deceitful.

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DO NOT HAVE A PARTY HERE! Ridiculous rules and they will charge you for guests that werent able to make it after all. Oh and you will be kicked out of their establishment after you have been there for 2 hours!

 
At 12:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i work at the johns inc. pizza in montclair. the food isnt even bad like most of you make it seem. i read a few comments bout the prices and the party reservations. first off, it is an all you can eat buffet and any buffet is 9 or 10 dollars anywhere. there is also a sign on the door nd on the price list saying "ENTRANCE TO JOHNS requires the purchase of a buffet". so learn to read people. and secondly about the party comment. the rooms do have a two hour limit. but noone kicks you out sweetie. they jus ask that you move to the other 5 rooms available to the public or the game area. just thought i'd share this info. I LOVE MY JOHNS INC. PIZZA<33

 

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