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LN FOOD: The Perfect Pizza

The Meat & Potato Man goes out in search of the perfect pizza.

I grew up during the space race. I remember the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. I remember the names of Glenn, Chaffey, Armstrong. And I remember the first time my father brought home dinner in an envelope. It was a large white envelope with red printing. It had the drawing of a Mercury capsule and a guy in a spacesuit outside. It was also emblazoned with the words; "Sammy's Pizza".

When Living North Magazine editor Holly Henry suggested that the Meat 'n Potato Man do a series on pizza, I balked. I told Holly, "How could this be fair? Sammy's is the best, bar none, on the planet. (and in outer space)." But with the expected journalistic integrity, and a sense of fair play, the Meat 'n Potato Man scoured the area for the red ribbon in Pizza.

My first stop brought me to a relatively new establishment; Humble Pie in the Kenwood Shopping center. I drove around the area looking for a sign or indication of the joint and finally found Humble Pie located at the back of a gas station. When I entered I was greeted with a very clean and updated facility. I sat myself at a table and glanced at the big screen TV for a while. I waited. Finally I got up and went to the counter and asked the young lady in attendance, "Do you have table service?" She replied, "Yes, but is some off brand..." My startled and quizzical expression elicited a continued response, "Its not Dish or Charter...." I repeated, "Do you have table service, or do I order here at the counter?" Without batting an eye she told me that orders were taken at the service counter. I suspect she believed I had just asked two separate questions. I ordered a small pizza and was told that they only had medium or large. I was getting very confused. Sometimes the Meat 'n Potato Man gets that way. Now was the time for some in-depth investigate reporting. I asked a very pointed question. "Is your medium pizza the smallest pizza that you have?" The answer was in the affirmative so I pressed on. "I don't know what you would call it but I would like a medium pizza with all the meat selections you have." I went back to my table.

Not long after that encounter I was brought my meal. It did look very attractive. This was not a pizza to be eaten with fingers. This pizza had plentiful toppings and cheese. The crust, although thin, could not support all the toppings as it was not crisp, but rather, it was soft. Another trip to the service counter yielded a plastic fork and paper plate.

The pizza was good, the meat and cheese plentiful, but for the Meat 'n Potato Man, the sauce was a little on the "tomatoie" side, without the benefit of proper seasoning. The sauce left a curious, lingering after-taste

Next stop was Lee's Pizza. Lee's is located west of Lake Avenue on Superior Street in Duluth. I hesitate to be more specific 'cause I just can't seem to get the neighborhood name right. It could be west end, it could be Lincoln Park District, I just don't know. Too many entities seem to want to re-invent themselves as if a new name will make a change.

Over the years, Lee's has received many accolades. Rightfully so. Small, and loaded up with meat, I told the chief cook and bottle washer during my lunch-time visit. I waited in the small booth for my lunch. It was a bit uncomfortable, the seat long ago collapsed. This place was definitely one for the take-out or delivery trade. When my pizza arrived I was not at all disappointed. Thin, crisp crust that held up to the mountainous toppings of meat and cheese. All that needs to be said is that Lee's did not disappoint the Meat 'n Potato Man. It's good, you are instructed to give them a try!

My final stop this month was a bit of a drive to Iron River, Wisconsin and The Original Pizza Place. This joint is just south of the main drag a few steps and has a great dining-room and a few outside table. For this experience I was joined by a friend and business associate from the Twin Cities, Paulette, and guess who; yep, what's her name the Future Ex Mrs. Meat 'n Potato Man. When I placed my order for a large pizza with all the meat toppings, our delightful and engaging waitress Alicia informed me that the special this Friday night was a three topping pizza with a pitcher of soda. So be it. Three meats and a pitcher of soda was the order.

The Original Pizza Place (est. 1976) is clean, bright and serve delicious fare. If Alicia is any representation of the quality of service, then the staff is nearly unexcelled. Alicia was able to sling retorts to my banter faster than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. The pizza was served, heaped with toppings and a perfectly cooked thin crust that withstood the finger test. Alicia was very attentive. At one of her several stops to check on our table, when she asked if there was anything else she could do, I asked her to hand wash my car. The only downside to the trip to Iron River was my car remained unwashed. Out the door, three served, and left-overs for a tad over twenty bucks!

So readers, here is my rating of Pizza experience;

The Blue Ribbon goes to Timmy, Babe and the crew at Sammy's, and always will.

The Red Ribbon is a tie between Lee's (order out) and The Original Pizza Place (dine in).

The Yellow Ribbon to Humble Pie (have it sent to your dorm room).

You can contact the Meat 'n Potato Man at