Split the difference
Papa G’s opened with what seemed to be an odd business model. Depending on your perspective, it’s either a pizza joint that serves breakfast, or a brunch spot that serves pizza. Either way, they offer a sizeable selection of pizzas, chicken wings, deep-fried appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, prepared salads, a salad bar and a full breakfast menu. The part I found odd is their hours. They close at 3 p.m. on weekdays, but I was told the hours will be extended to 7 p.m. in the near future.
On our lunchtime visit, we ordered mac and cheese bites ($3.99 for 12) and hot wings ($9.99 for 10). The wings were of average size and very crispy—unsurprising as they were just a tad overcooked and a little dry. A few minutes less in the fryer, and they’d be perfect. But having learned from my own home fryer experiences, I gave this a pass. The Buffalo sauce was spot-on, and we scarfed ’em down nonetheless.
Our other appetizer answered the question, “How do you improve an American classic full of fat and carbs?” Answer—with more fat and carbs! The bites were small, batter-fried cakes of macaroni and cheese reminiscent of that classic, boxed “dinner” a lot of American kids grew up with. I know these perfectly uniform triangles had to have come from a factory, but—damn it—they were really good. We enjoyed them despite ourselves.
Next up, a shared pair of mini pizzas ($7.59 each). The crust on both was quite good, very crispy and not too bready. Unfortunately, the red sauce on our margherita pie was on the sweet side without much in the way of herbs, garlic or seasoning—more an average marinara than a zesty pizza sauce. The toppings were adequate but lacked the aromatic punch of fresh tomato and basil I look for in a margherita. The chicken garlic pie had tons of chicken and veg, but—again—the sauce didn’t wow me. If garlic was present I couldn’t swear to it, but my wife said she really liked this pie. Both included a copious amount of mozzarella, so perhaps the best choice is a cheese pizza that showcases the crust.
And now for something completely different. Though they have eggy burritos, omelets, Benedicts, hash and waffles, my wife ordered the signature Papa G’s breakfast ($9.35). Three eggs were cooked perfectly over medium, joined by nicely browned home fries, a fluffy biscuit smothered in sausage gravy, and ham steak on the side. While it was full of sausage, the gravy was a bit bland and required a shake (or three) of salt and pepper. The “steak” was actually a slice of pressed-and-formed quasi-ham that had the look and texture of bologna. With great eggs, good taters and a gravy that just needed a touch of seasoning, I’d recommend ordering either bacon or sausage with this plate.
Burgers, sandwiches, and salads round out the menu, so I split the difference and ordered a beef melt sandwich with a trip through the salad bar ($9.75). This turned out to be the most successful thing ordered, second only to those deviously delicious, deep-fried mac and cheese bites. The grilled sourdough remained crispy throughout—stuffed with fresh tomato, grilled roast beef, onion and green pepper, then topped with melted American cheese and thousand island dressing. It was absolutely fabulous.
The salad bar was about average, with plenty of veg and protein to choose from and a nice selection of dressings, including honey mustard, thousand island, bleu cheese, French, low-calorie Italian, raspberry vinaigrette and three levels of ranch that were something of a revelation: standard, mild and hot. As a fan of spicy food, I’m now a convert to hot ranch dressing and plan to make it at home. Long live spicy ranch.