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The Journal Gazette

  • A cheese pan pizza from Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

  • The dill butter on these bread sticks from Pizza King on Bluffton Road are what makes them so unique.

  • The Baked Royal Feast Spaghetti from Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

  • Stromboli from Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

  • Pasta salad from Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

  • THe Original Giant Submarine from Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

  • The Ring-A-Ling pizza phone is a fun way to order your food at the Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

  • The Tiffany-style lamps over every table at the Pizza King on Bluffton Road are a real surprise when you walk into the rather nondescript building.

  • A section of a meatball sub from Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

  • A thin-crust pepperoni pizza from Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

  • Pizza King on Bluffton Road.

Sunday, December 11, 2016 10:15 pm

Memorable flavors and service rule Pizza King

Ryan DuVall | Restaurant critic

It is not a place that will ever make my list of best pizza places, but if you were to ask me which pizza places I eat at the most often, it would be there for sure.

Pizza King is as much of an Indiana staple as it is a staple in Muncie, where the chain got its start. They can be found in some of the state’s smallest burgs, and you would be hard pressed to find a longtime Hoosier that hasn’t tried it.

And given its familiarity, there is a certain level of expectation you have when you dine at one. You know the pepperoni will be as finely diced as the sausage is finely ground, you know that the Royal Feast with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions and green and red peppers is the best choice, and you know the sauce on that pizza will have that extra-sweet flavor that separates it from the norm.

But this trip to Pizza King was unfamiliar for me because I had never been to the Bluffton Road spot before, always opting for the cool Clara’s on West State Boulevard with its sort of old church atmosphere and awesome porch swing booths. But this other Pizza King was a site to behold, too.

Though nondescript from the outside, inside there was an impressive array of Tiffany-style lamps over every table. There were so many colors and styles, I think one was just like the one I have in my dining room, which I inherited from my grandmother. Paired with the red vinyl booths and exposed-wood wall coverings, the place had a comfortable, homey feel that made me feel right at home. And so did the service, which was stellar.

You seat yourself and pick up one of those nifty "Ding-a-ling" red phones to call your order back to the kitchen, but my servers were extremely attentive and welcoming and never missed a beat. As my party sat chatting during one visit, one of them checked to make sure we had gotten our order in all right – I guess just in case we weren’t familiar with the phones.

There were no surprises when it came to the thin-crust pizza. It was just as I expected – crispy on the bottom with a few bubbles on top where the crust expanded – and I enjoyed every bite, just as I have dozens of times before. The pan pizza was not as good. Its crust was just a bit too doughy and really added nothing other than empty carbohydrate calories, and I didn’t need anymore of those, given that I ate more than my share of breadsticks.

Pizza King’s crisp, thin sticks are unlike any other because of the addition of dill to the butter that is brushed over each. It might seem odd, but it just works. Don’t even think about the garlic-cheese bread, which is mundane at best. The breadsticks are a must-have.

The meatball sub was the star from the sandwich side. It was filled with a plethora of meat, a hefty dose of mozzarella cheese and onions, and it was sauced heavily to make it a drippy, delicious mess. The airy, sesame-seed-topped bun was well toasted to give the sandwich some crunch.

That same bread did not work with the stromboli and original submarine. The strom was skimpy in the filling department, and the super-fine ground sausage, when mixed with a heavy dose of sauce, created sort of a paste. The onions and green peppers didn’t have any crunch, there was too much bread for the scant filling, and it fell flat. The sub sounded promising with spiced and baked ham, salami, onions, cheese and sauce. But there was only a single-slice layer of each meat and not enough cheese, so it, too, was basically all bread.

I did like the grilled cheese sub my daughter ordered because its American and provolone cheese was melted between slices of the same Texas toast Pizza King uses for the garlic bread. If I dared try a meat-filled sub again, I will ask for it on this bread.

As much as I love the Royal Feast pizza, I figured the Baked Royal Feast Spaghetti had to be good. Wrong. It did not have enough sauce or cheese for its large serving of pasta. There was plenty of sausage, but I found just one – literally one – mushroom in the entire platter.

But the most disappointing item was one that wasn’t really a poor concoction and could have – and should have – been so much better.

The pasta salad was made with spaghetti and included green olives, salami and fresh tomatoes. It was drenched with Italian dressing, but, with a shake from the Parmesan and red pepper shakers, was just fine. There was no shortage of ingredients, and the tomatoes were surprisingly ripe and flavorful – so much so, I will consider adding tomatoes to my next pizza there.

But it could have used some onions, green, red and banana peppers, or even mushrooms. All of these items are pizza toppings, so they are readily available.

Next time I’ll ask, and I am sure they will add them because, like I said, the service at this place was splendid. Or I will just stick to the basics and get a Royal Feast pizza – thin crust – and a mess of breadsticks.

And I know I will leave happy, just like I have for years.

Restaurant: Pizza King

Address: 4226 Bluffton Road

Phone: 747-1508

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Pizza

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: Beer and wine

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Breadsticks ($3.69), pasta salad ($3.99), Royal Feast pizza ($7.69 for 8-inch; $11.29 for 10; $16.49 for 12; $21.29 for 14; $26.09 for 16), stromboli ($6.19 for 8-inch; $829 for 11-inch), original sub ($5.29 for 8-inch; $7.39 for 11-inch), grilled cheese sub ($5.29 for 8-inch; $7.39 for 11-inch) meatball sub ($6.69 for 8-inch; $8.79 for 11-inch), Baked Royal Feast Spaghetti ($5.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: * (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: * (1 max.)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.