Category Archives: Pizza Parlor

Kira and Erik (and Stu) Eat Aver’s Pizza

Erik and Kira in the line at the Aver's Pizza lunch buffet.Kira says that I should put the summary up at the top instead of at the end, and she’s probably right, so let’s try that this time.

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.

Aver's signature Cream & Crimson pizza

The Cream & Crimson. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

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.

Aver's Pizza dining room, with Kira and Stu.

The dining room, after the lunch crowd had left.


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“.

Stu at Aver's Pizza

This is Stu. He wouldn’t let me take a picture of him without his hat on.

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. The pizza buffet at Aver'sWhile 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.

Erik's plate. Top: vegan. Bottom (left to right): pepperoni, cheese, cream & crimson, chicken masterpiece

Erik’s plate. Top: vegan. Bottom (left to right): pepperoni, cheese, cream & crimson, chicken masterpiece

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.

Salad bar at Aver's PizzaThe 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.


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Erik Eats a Lot of Sausage

There's a big difference between the big chains and the Independent Pizzerias / Come on in and we'll prove it to you!A big, bold sign sits in the window at Baldy’s Pizzeria.  When we first walked up to the place, I saw the sign and it immediately struck me as odd, though I couldn’t really put a finger on why it should do so. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the sign talked about how the greatness of the “Independent Pizzerias” without mentioning Baldy’s by name. Perhaps the unexpected capitalization of “Independent Pizzerias” sent up a red flag in my head. Maybe its professionally printed appearance just gave off an impression that seemed more appropriate for a national advertising campaign than for a little “Independent Pizzeria.” After going inside the shop, I almost managed to completely forget about the sign until I saw similar sign, hanging behind the register, an advertisement for Grän’de cheese. There's a big difference between the big chains and the Independent Pizzeria and you can Taste that difference right here!  Our pledge to our customers / We will always use the very best ingredients in all our pizzas, including GRÄN'DE CHEESE / The finest Italian cheeses money can buy!I don’t know what sort of accomplishment this cheese company thought the advertising campaign would achieve. Did they expect the customers to change their dining habits based on what kind of cheese the pizzeria uses? Shouldn’t they direct those ads at restaurant owners instead of the customers?

I should say that the rest of the interior of Baldy’s Pizzeria did not send out the same corporate-shill vibes that the cheese signs did. It didn’t seem as though the owners had decorated the room so much as they had simply put things in it. An impressive salt-water aquarium sat on one side of the room, across from a not-so-impressive empty aquarium. They’d put in a low-quality, but completely free, foosball table into one corner. Don’t jerk the handles too hard, or you’ll lift the entire thing off the floor, as Kira did. They also had a large, widescreen television, which distractingly played X-Men 2 at us while we ate. The place seemed like it made its money more off delivery than dine-in service, so the extra entertainment came as an unexpected bonus and did not go unappreciated.

Erik, sucking on his finger in front of the big screen TV at Baldy's PizzeriaI wish I could speak as highly about the pizza.

I like my pizza toppings, and the paltry amounts served on many pizzas regularly disappoints me, but one can go too far in the other direction as well. I could barely see my half of the pizza under all the sausage. Perhaps that much sausage could have worked on a pizza that had more cheese and sauce as well, but they managed to completely throw off the balance with all that meat. At least they hadn’t scammed me out of my money’s worth. The rest of the pizza didn’t impress me much either, though I don’t have anything particularly dramatic to say about it. They serve better pizza at most of the large chains, but I have had worse before, and not just in school cafeterias.

I’ve got no serious complaints about Baldy’s, so if I had a friend who insisted on ordering pizza from the place, I wouldn’t put up a fuss. But given my own choice, I can think of at least a half dozen better places to get pizza.

And no, I can’t remember who won the foosball game.


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Kira’s Number 8: Baldy’s Pizza

The window to Baldy's Pizzeria, featuring a traffic lightThe Place: Baldy’s Pizza
This makes 2 pizza joints in a row. Going to this one after Austin Riley’s could only be a let down. To get to this place you go south on Walnut, and keep going. I hadn’t been that far south on Walnut. I didn’t even know there was anything there, and now I know that there really isn’t anything worth going to down there.

The Time:
Friday, May 12th, 2006, Approx. 8:30 pm

The Atmosphere:

I don’t know why it amused me, but Baldy’s is in a little strip mall next to a used car lot and a vacuum repair shop. Inside, it’s pretty much a typical little pizza joint, but the best part is that there was a foosball table! Kira playing foosball at Baldy's PizzeriaActually, the table kinda sucked, it’s warped so that the you can hit the ball with the head of your player, but it was still a good way to kill time until the pizza was done. (Erik kicked my ass, by the way).
There was also a big screen TV playing the second X-Men movie, as it was the week before the 3rd one came out. There was a huge fish tank, and a big fridge with soda and other supplies in it. Even though there was enough seating for 20-30 people, you could tell that it was mostly a delivery/take out place.

The Food:

We ordered a pizza and some bread sticks. They have a special of 6 breadsticks, 2 dipping sauces, and a large 1 topping pizza for some amount of money, so we got that. The breadsticks were pretty good, although it’s pretty hard to mess up breadsticks. Half sausage, half pineapple pizza at Baldy's PizzeriaWe got the tomato sauce and the garlic butter sauce. Both were served cold, which wasn’t too bad, but they both would have been better warmed up.

We ordered the pizza half sausage for Erik and half pineapple for me. Let me just say that they are VERY liberal with the toppings. For my side, it was fine as I think that most places don’t put enough pineapple on a pineapple pizza. But on the sausage side you could barely see the cheese.
It was the crumbled kind of sausage, and that half of the pizza was literally covered in it. Maybe if you really like sausage, you would like this pizza, but it was too much for Erik. The pizza was just ok. The crust was a little too crispy for me, but it’s hard to screw up pizza so bad that I won’t eat it. It was edible, but nothing special. And the leftover pizza was typical leftover pizza.

The Service:
A high school or college-aged girl worked the register, and there were some guys in the back making the pizza. There was nothing memorable about them, except that they seemed busy even though the restaurant was fairly empty. I think they must do a decent delivery business.

Fish at Baldy's PizzeriaThe Price:
I think it was like $13 for pizza and bread sticks. Not too bad. (Price seems to be the same these days. -Erik, May 2014)

The Rest:
Overall it was pretty generic. I’d choose Baldy’s over, say, Domino’s, but not much else.

How often would I go back?
Every 7 months.


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Baldy’s Pizzeria

Baldy's Pizza exteriorA pizza joint with delivery, take out, and dine-in options.

5440 S Old State Road 37 (map)
Bloomington, IN 47401

Monday-Thursday 11am-10:30pm
Friday 11am-11:30pm
Saturday 4pm-11:30pm
Sunday 4pm-10:30pm

(Note: Baldy’s hours are not on their website. These are the hours that Google has listed for them. So take that with a grain of salt. -Erik, May 2014)

Phone number: (812) 824-3555

(Info updated May 2014. -Erik)

Erik’s Rating: Yum – 2, Ooh – 1.5, Ah – 3, Wow – 2 (Huh?)
How often would Kira eat there? Every 7 months (what’s this?)
Reviews: Erik, Kira


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Kira’s Number 7: Austin Riley’s

Update: Austin Riley’s Royal Pizza Works has closed its doors permanently.

The Place: Austin Riley’s Pizza Works

A red phone booth in Austin Riley'sWe had never been here before, and we just sort of expected it to be a typical little pizza joint. We soon found out that it was definitely not typical.

The first difference was that we had some trouble finding it, and the one-way streets didn’t help. I’ll spare you the long boring details, but we passed it by once, and almost passed it by again. The second time around we caught a glimpse of an Austin Riley’s Delivery car, so at least we knew we were heading in the right direction.

To help you out, it is on the southeast corner of 17th St and College, adjacent to Delilah’s pet shop. It is quite poorly lit from the outside, and has trees in front of it. But all of this was definitely worth it for the experience and pizza that we got.

The Time:
Friday, May 12th, 2006, Approx. 8:30 PM

Austin Riley's delivery car with license plate "YEAHBBY"The Atmosphere:
As soon as we parked, we saw the second major difference. This was a British place. There was a Union Jack-painted Mini Clubman on display in the parking lot with the Austin Riley’s logo all over it and a license plate that said “YEAHBBY”. Inside there was a British style red phone booth, and sport jerseys on display (and for sale) for both rugby and football (not the American kind). We sat at one of the 3 or 4 tables, and tried to tune out the TV, which was showing some sort of British version of Scare Tactics.

The Food:
The menu has all of the classical pizza choices, but they also have some interesting ones. You can choose between 5 different sauces: traditional red, spicy red, alfredo, BBQ, sweet-spicy BBQ, or basil pesto sauce. You can also choose a hand-tossed or thin crust. There are a variety of specials, some with items I would never want to put on a pizza (sauerkraut, baked beans, coconut, bleu cheese).

But eventually we opted for the hand-tossed Pembury Pizza (grilled chicken, mushroom, garlic on alfredo sauce), substituting the mushrooms with roma tomatoes on one half for Erik and spinach on the other half for me.

I have to say that this was one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long time. The alfredo sauce was subtle, but nice. The chicken would have been a little dry in other circumstances, but it worked with the rest of the toppings, and there was enough whole cloves of garlic to make both of us happy. I don’t often eat or enjoy the crust on pizzas, but this one was great–nice and crispy but chewy at the same time.

And you can’t judge pizza without eating it cold for leftovers the next morning. It definitely passed the leftovers test with flying colors.

The Service:
A grumpy looking middle-aged gentleman was behind the counter. He seemed like the owner, so I asked him who Austin Riley was. He said that he was some distant uncle of his. Despite the fact that he acted like he didn’t want to be there, he was very accommodating. I asked for a cup for water, but instead of giving me tap, he handed me a bottle of Aquafina free of charge. And even though we could tell that this was more of a delivery and take-out place, when our pizza was ready, the guy brought it our table, along with paper plates and forks. Apparently they were out of knives (normally we don’t eat pizza with a fork and knife, but it was extremely hot and it’s usually easier to eat pizza with utensils when it’s that hot, at least at first), so when we asked the guy for one, he looked around and then brought us a small pizza cutter.

The Price: 
The pizza has a menu price of $11.95 and we ate half of it there, and the other half we took home as yummy leftovers.

The Rest:
Why is there an English pizza place? I have no idea. But it was definitely delicious. I look forward to going back to try some different styles. Next time maybe I’ll get salmon and basil with fontina cheese, on a thin crust with the basil pesto sauce…mmm yum!

How often would I go back?
Once a week. (what’s this?)


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Erik’s Eats Austin Riley

Erik stares at an Austin Riley's pizzaUpdate: Austin Riley’s Royal Pizza Works has closed its doors permanently.

We started this project for a variety of reasons. Reason one: to reduce arguments about where to go for dinner. As witnessed by the Applebee’s/Anyetsang’s debacle, this has so far met with only partial success. Reason two: to express our continual shock and occasional dismay at not living in a big city anymore. Of course this probably wouldn’t interest anyone who hasn’t spent their entire life inside the boundaries of major metropolitan areas. Even  think that joke has started to wear thin. Reason three: as put by the folks at The Movie Binge, “as bloggers, we have an obligation to ridiculous things and share them with the world.”

But perhaps the best argument for why we should continue all this nonsense comes from Austin Riley’s Royal Pizza Works. I would never have suggested that we eat at this place. Upon seeing the restaurant’s entry in the phone book, I immediately presumed that it would amount to just another local pizza delivery joint that had a few tables in the front. I don’t get too picky about delivery pizza, and when I get my choice, I stick to the big chains because I already know if I like their food. It would have taken a very insistent recommendation from someone to convince me to try Austin Riley’s, and even then, I would have put the experience off indefinitely.

A pizza from Austin Riley'sAnd I would have missed out on some really good pizza. I haven’t yet gotten to the point where I can compare every pizza parlor in the city, but so far, the pizza at the Royal Pizza Works sits at the top of the list for Bloomington. I think I can safely say that I’d put it in my all-time top-ten list. You can tell the quality of the pizza just by looking at it.  My mouth waters even now, just looking at the pictures we took. (For once, we actually remembered to take the pictures before eating.) Chicken doesn’t always work well on pizza, but the alfredo sauce (only one of many offered at Riley’s) and the tomatoes helped to make for one tasty pizza. Kira‘s half had spinach, which also worked out very well. I find myself tempted to just skip the next restaurant on the list so that I can go back for more.

Erik stands next to the Austin Riley's delivery carI now have renewed vigor to follow our rules to the letter, making sure we leave no stone unturned in our attempts to eat the city. If I’d had just a smidgen less patience, we might not have even found the place. On our first drive-by of the location, we failed to find the restaurant, and after Google Maps had failed us on our previous trip to Arby’s, I almost suggested that we give up and skip all the places that seemed more like delivery services than actual restaurants. But after a few U-turns, we managed to locate the little shop; no small thanks to the Union Jack on the roof of a Mini Clubman in the parking lot. (The Clubman will not impress anyone with its size. I had Kira take a picture of me standing next to it for size reference. Keep in mind that I only stand 5’6″, so the fact that this car looks small next to me bears some significance.)

The wall at Austin Riley's, covered with football jerseysThe Royal Pizza Works takes its theme quite seriously when it comes to decor. Whoever decorated the place has covered it with football (as in the game where you kick the ball with your feet, and not the one where you carry the ball in your hands) and rugby paraphernalia. The television plays British programming. (Apparently the U.S. does not have a monopoly on shitty television shows.) They even found room to put a British-style phone booth in the dining room. Although the license plate on the delivery vehicle says “YEAHBBY,” the man behind the counter (who I presume owns the place) insists that the name of the restaurant comes from his uncle’s name. I didn’t press him about any possible connection with Mike Myers. They may have gone a little overboard with the visuals, but the food doesn’t seem to have any particularly British theme. They deliver, they didn’t give us a knife and fork with our pizza, and no boiled dishes appeared on the menu.

I’ve got no complaints about the service either. They seemed to have run out of a lot of things (plastic knives, etc.), and the man behind the counter looked like he’d rather go home early, but he always offered plenty of help. He went back into the kitchen and found the tiniest pizza slicer he could to make up for the lack of plasticware. When Kira ordered a water, he gave her free bottled water rather than pour her a cup out of the tap. I felt a little strange talking to him, as though he wasn’t used to dealing with sit-down customers, but he never seemed rude or impatient, only tired.

But all this has nothing to do with the primary purpose of a pizza parlor: pizza. And as I’ve said before, the pizza tasted really good. I’ll definitely come back for more.

Ratings: Yum – 4.5, Ooh – 3.5, Ah – 3, Wow – 2.5 (Huh?)


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Austin Riley’s Royal Pizza Works

Exterior Austin Riley'sUpdate: Austin Riley’s Royal Pizza Works has closed its doors permanently. (June, 2006)

A Brittish pizza joint with delivery, take out, and dine-in options

1310 N College Ave (map)
Bloomington, IN 47404

Erik’s Ratings:
Yum – 4.5, Ooh – 3.5, Ah – 3, Wow – 2.5 (Huh?)

How often would Kira eat there?
Once a week. (what’s this?)



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