Aver’s Pizza is one of our favorite places to order pizza from. The lunch buffet is an excellent deal with (mostly) fresh pizzas and an excellent salad bar.
Not too long ago*, someone asked if we’d skipped Aver’s Pizza, and I responded that it didn’t count because they were only a delivery service. This is, of course, completely false. Their east side location not only has a dining room but a lunch buffet as well. This means that we had to go back and fill in that gap (just when we thought we were almost done with the B’s).
*A little over 8 years ago, to be precise.
Aver’s is a chain, but it’s a local Bloomington chain with only three locations (four, if you include the dining room). We’ve ordered from them on many occasions, and their pizza is always tasty. Aver’s is easily one of the best two delivery-style* pizza joints in town. (The other is PizzaX.) They’ve got all the standard pizza toppings, plus a few of the more unusual ones. Kira and I are particularly fond of spinach, broccoli, zucchini, and artichoke hearts (but not necessarily all at the same time). We have yet to try any of their seafood toppings or the gyro meat.
You can also get a number of specialty sauces as well, including garlic & herb, alfredo, barbecue (which is really just bottled KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce), tzatziki, buffalo, and three different kinds of pesto. Personally, I prefer to stick to the standard marinara, but some of the specialty pizzas go well with the special sauces.
For example, their signature specialty pizza is the Cream & Crimson, which comes with alfredo sauce, garlic, dill, bacon, cheddar, gorgonzola, and red potatoes. It doesn’t actually sound like it would taste very good, but Kira and I both enjoy it. I’m particularly fond of the Veggie Revival, which comes with the garlic & herb sauce, spinach, zucchini, and fresh tomato.
*Mother Bear’s also has great pizza, but even though they do technically deliver, they definitely market themselves more as a restaurant that serves pizza than as a pizza delivery place that happens to have a dining room.
Aver’s Pizza. Saturday, August 9th, 2014. Lunchtime.
Even tough we order pizza from Aver’s quite frequently, Kira and I had never been to the lunch buffet. Well, actually that’s not entirely true. As soon as we walked into the place, I realized that not only had I been there twice before, but that on the second visit, I’d forgotten the first visit too. Hopefully I won’t forget about it again if we decide to go a fourth time.
This isn’t one of those pizza-delivery “dining rooms” that’s really just one table shoved into the corner in front of the pick-up counter. It’s a good sized room, with plenty of seating, and even some interesting art on the walls. (I’m not sure if the art’s really worth $550 for a print, but it was pretty good when compared with the usual local-artist fare you’ll find on the walls at restaurants. The music was an unusual mix of soft rock and acoustic covers of pop songs (including an interesting rendition of “Mrs. Robinson“.
On this particular visit, we brought along our good friend and geocaching buddy Stu, who was excited to help us on our journey, as long as we took care of eating all the “bizarre crap” and allowed him to eat all the “bland, starchy, mid-west fare”. Since he has a nice camera, we decided to let him tag along. Most of the pretty pictures you see here are his work. Stu’s distaste for weird food extends to some of the pizzas on offer at the buffet, and he steadfastly avoided everything except the pepperoni pizza, the breadsticks, and the cinnamon knots. When asked if he wanted to try the Cream & Crimson, he instead went off on a 30 minute digression about cooking real homemade pizza with his dad. He’s an entertaining person to have around.
The big danger of a buffet, especially a pizza buffet, is that the food will sit around and get stale or soggy. The day we visited, this was not a problem, for the most part. The place was busy without being crowded, so most of the pizza stayed pretty fresh. The big exception was the vegan pizza, which featured tomato sauce, spinach, potatoes, artichoke hearts, and tomatoes. No cheese, of course. It probably tasted good when it first went out, but it had clearly been sitting around a while before I got to it, so it was far from fresh. We couldn’t even really identify all of the vegetables anymore. While munching on what I now guess must’ve been a potato slice, Kira guessed that it might’ve been a banana chip. I hadn’t read the ingredient list yet, so it seemed like a reasonable guess to me at the time.
But otherwise, the pizzas on offer were all fresh and tasty, including a cheese pizza, a pepperoni pizza, the house special cream & crimson, and a barbecue chicken pizza called “chicken masterpiece” There was also a buffalo-sauce flavored pizza called the “Buffy!” and a “Veggie Deluxe” with peppers, onions, olives, and tomatoes, but nobody tried those. Neither Kira nor I disliked the barbecue chicken pizza, but it wasn’t anyone’s favorite. (Kira doesn’t like banana peppers so she removed them.) As usual, the Cream & Crimson was delicious, but my personal favorite was the pepperoni. It’s a simple pizza, but easy to screw up. The pepperoni slices came out nice and crisp and while I’m sure that they were plenty fattening, there weren’t any of those grease-puddles that you often get on pepperoni pizzas.
The pizza slices were thin, which is as it should be at a pizza buffet. Some people might come to the buffet in order to be able to eat enormous quantities of food for a cheap price, but I don’t have enough of an appetite for that. For me, a buffet is about variety, and small servings allow me get a lot more variety into my belly than big ones.
The breadsticks were tasty, although there were a few in the bin that looked like they needed a few more minutes in the oven. The cinnamon knots* were sticky and sweet and delicious. They were like cinnamon rolls without the, uh, rolling. The salad bar was surprisingly well stocked, with three different kinds of leafy greens, four different kinds of meat, loads of veggies, and almost a dozen different dressings. When Kira got back from the salad bar, she announced “I had to refrain from putting all the meats on my salad.” The bacon bits appear to actually be crumbled up bacon. I’ll give them points for authenticity there, but someone should tell their chef that if the bacon is going to end up on a salad, it should be cooked until it’s nice and crispy. Chewy bacon is good for breakfast and maybe even for sandwiches, but not so much as a salad topping.
*I don’t know what they’re actually called, but they look like stubby little breadsticks covered in a sticky cinnamon glaze.
There were enough servers to handle the small crowd, and we didn’t have to wait long for refills. Or rather Stu didn’t have to wait long for refills. Kira and I took one look at the enormous sodas they brought us and immediately asked them to cut us off after one drink.
And at $7.99 per person (plus a dollar for the drink), the Aver’s buffet is a pretty good deal.