Friday, February 14, 2014

Pizza Friday - Melting Pot, Front Royal, VA

--> With the sheer amount I'm on the road I've taken to a rule of "No chains" for food.  The only exception is Starbucks or local and regional chains that aren’t available in the DC Metro.  I did not start with this rule, but I noticed that I quickly got bored of places like Ruby Tuesday and…well McDonalds when I was out on the road.
Hildy the Adventure Dog
Quite frankly, there are only so many times you can have a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, and after a stop in a locally owned greasy spoon, or even a dedicated burger joint.  The same runs true with Pizza.  There are very few local shops that are so bad I’d take a Papa Johns or Pizza Hut over them, but it’s good to not get bored of the standards just in case there is nothing else around, because I can tell you with almost certainty that one day you will be somewhere in middle America, and there won’t be anything but a Papa John’s that delivers to your hotel. 

My parents and myself have taken to sharing a dog.  They love dogs, as do I, but with my travel schedule, and their approaching-retirement activity schedule, as a group we can really only have one dog.  Hildy is a sweet little dachshund, and my ever-present travel companion, but she still isn’t always welcome in the hotels I travel to.  So, when I go to a hotel that won’t let the dog stay, she goes for a visit to my parents. 

Because of my parent’s geographic location, we generally pass off my dog in the small town of Front Royal, Virginia, which is effectively the outermost western border of the area largely considered the “DC Metro Area”.  While I understand the charm of living in small-town America, the nearly 100-mile one-way commute  would be enough that I’d probably decide to drive off the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge.

In a surprise twist, during one of our exchanges we discovered a small local Pizza place in Front Royal. The most surprising thing, arguably, is that Melting Pot, the Fondue restaurant, hasn’t filed a cease and desist order against it.

The décor and the atmosphere were fairly standard small-town restaurant.  No unified theme, no two tables matched, some were simply folding chairs and tables, for the most part it looked like the owners went to a yard sale that a closing restaurant was having and picked out a hodge-podge of things that served a very utilitarian and functional purpose. 

I can see the conversation now…
“I need chairs.”
“What Style?”
“It doesn’t matter, just give me 100 of your cheapest ones”

In fact, after three visits, I’m almost certain that’s exactly how the conversation went.

The downside of Melting Pot is arguably that it’s so inconsistent I can’t really give it an accurate review.  Nor can I in any way guarantee that your experience there will in any way mirror my experience there.  The quality of the pizza really seems to depend on exactly who is manning the ovens, who is making the dough in the morning, or who is placing the toppings.  

The first time I went it was nearly as good as some of the better pies I’ve had in and around the New Jersey/New York region.  The second time, having thought I’d struck small-town culinary gold on the first visit, I got what more closely resembled a Tombstone brand frozen pizza, cooked at too low of a temperature.  It was so bad I almost vowed never to return.  The third time was somewhere in the middle.  

Effectively, the restaurant has someone with the know-how to produce a near-perfect pizza.  The big question, however, is whether or not they’ll utilize that individual’s knowledge and make a consistently good product regardless of who is on staff that evening.  

Judging by the décor, I’d say that consistency is not something the owners value.  Because of that I’m not sure I’ll stop in again on my next trip through.

This post was updated on June 15, 2014 to fix minor grammatical and spelling errors.

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