Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
I've walked by Toppers Pizza a few times during my research for Lunch in the Loop. It's just a few doors down from Devil Dawgs, which is the fantastic hot dog and burger joint that I wrote about last week. I broke my own general rule that I'd stick to Chicago-only (ish) places, since I noticed Toppers Pizza has a zany menu. By zany, I mean taco pizzas, mac and cheese pizzas, tator tot pizzas, and bacon chocolate breadsticks. I mean, let's be real. I tried all the breakfast items, and I mean all the breakfast items at Taco Bell. I'll try anything at least a few times!
Toppers Pizza is a chain with locations mainly centered around the Midwest, mostly in college towns where pizzas with unique toppings would likely stand out against bigger chains like Papa John's or Domino's. In fact, Toppers was started by someone who once worked for Domino's.
I like to start my fast food pizza dinners with a few buffalo wings. The hot buffalo wings ($8.49 for 10 pieces) definitely have some spicy kick. The problem is mine came out cold—colder than room temperature. I thought at first that maybe I'd taken too long to eat them, but my pizzas were still piping hot.
Let's start with the good. Toppers standard hand-tossed pizza crust is some of the best fast-food pizza crust I've had in ages. It's crisp on the outside, and the pizza bone (the cornicione) is crisp and fluffy on the inside. I could just eat the plain crusts with a bit of marinara and be genuinely happy.
My favorite pizza out of the bunch is the Loaded Tot-zza Myza ($6.99). Myza is the restaurant's name for a 9" personal pizza, by the way. It's topped with ranch, mozzarella cheese, tater tots, bacon, green onions, and nacho cheese. Yes, it sounds like a Frankenmonsterpizza, but sometimes things work out. My main gripe is that the tater tots end up tasting extremely stale, adding a mealy texture to each bite. The flavors, however, actually work out, in a drunk food kind of way. And boy, do I like drinking. Just ask my liver!
I've always been on the fence about taco pizzas, or pizzas in general that try to taste like a totally different dish. My mind hasn't changed after this experience either. The Taco Topper Myza ($6.99) is loaded with taco sauce, taco meat, mozzarella cheddar, tortilla chips, lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, green onions, with sour cream on the side. If that sounds like a lot that's because it is. Lifting a single piece results in the end flopping down, sprinkling confetti-colored tortilla strips all over. It is a noisy pizza, but it does recreate the home taco-kit experience on a pizza crust.
The Old School Sausage and Pepperoni Myza ($6.99) was the one I was looking forward to the most, since it looks like a straightforward pizza. It has pepperoni, sausage, and roasted tomatoes, which are all excellent pizza toppings.
Unfortunately, when I lifted the slice up, my eyes were met with the most grease I've ever seen on any fast food item ever. The bottom of the pizza box was soaked. It's a shame, too—the bites I took were good, until the overwhelming amount of oil put a fast end to everything. I just couldn't hack it.
The item on the menu that had me morbidly fascinated was the Chocolate Baconstix ($6.99 for single order). These sticks are pizza dough cut into strips, covered with mozzarella, bacon, and a lot of chocolate sauce, with a lot more chocolate sauce on the side for dipping. Coming hot off the heels of Baconfest, I was secretly excited, but what really ruins these things is the presence of the mozzarella cheese. It's just too strange of a foundation for chocolate sauce and bacon. There's a reason we don't see mozzarella and chocolate on the same dish, ever.
Since I haven't tried every single item on the menu, it's hard for me to give a total conclusion about Toppers Pizza. There's such mixed results on these pies that I can't say much either way. But I can say this: Devil Dawgs is just two doors down.