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66. Pizza Hut

Classification: Franchise

Location: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

I took a quick mental inventory about all the different Pizza Huts that I've visited, and it's a diverse spectrum in both geography and quality. And though I could have chosen to review each of them separately, it made more sense to combine them since the similarities are greater than their differences. Using the always reliable top-of-the-head recall, I've enjoyed the Hut in at least six states. Then why Glenwood Springs? Let's come back to that in a minute.

First, I need to address the stark contrast of Pizza Hut yesteryear and the Pizza Hut of today. In decades past, it was a reliable, trustworthy lunch/dinner option, which is probably why I've dined there so often when traveling.

YESTERYEAR: Dining room with red-checkered tablecloths where Mike and Carol Brady took the kids.

TODAY: Mostly take-out joints in strip malls with 2-3 Geo Prizms parked out front ready to make deliveries.

YESTERYEAR: Hyper-cool red roofs with brick exterior and modern 70s-era flourished typeface.

TODAY: Uncool faux-handwritten, test-marketed branding silk-screened onto replaceable plastic substrates.

YESTERYEAR: Standard formulaic pizza, baked freshly, and charmingly lacking in imagination.

TODAY: A perpetual laboratory of innovation; creator of Stuffed Crust, P'zones and Dippin' Strips--and wings!

YESTERYEAR: Drinking cups made of sturdy red plastic, still speckled with wetness from recent washing.

TODAY: Drinking cups made of sturdy red plastic, still speckled with wetness from recent washing.

YESTERYEAR: 18,000 restaurants scattered across North America.

TODAY: Less than 7,000 dine-in establishments, some featuring live music and full bar service.

So Pizza Hut has changed, and in some ways for the better. The first time I had stuffed crust pizza was in Belle Plaine, Iowa during the 1996 World Series (Braves vs. Indians) and it was a revelation. The Hut I frequented most often was 30 miles from my home, yet I dined there 2-3 times a week for a couple of years (I'll be devoting a separate entry on that one later.) So, why Glenwood Springs, Colorado? Despite being pretty remote, I patronized it twice, with both junkets as part of summer car trips—where eating patterns can be easily disrupted. The visits were separated by about five years, and with completely different companions, but the joy and normalcy of hot food with savory spices was intoxicating on both occasions. And it was only Pizza Hut, for cryin' out loud, but it remains unforgettable.

The closest Hut is 15 miles from my house, and there's a decent chance I'll never drop in. Like YooHoo and Circus Peanuts, it's a delicacy most enjoyed during youth. But in its heyday, it was most definitely enjoyed, and enjoyed often. (6 of 10 stars)

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I recently returned to the Hut myself. There was something about that pan pizza formula. Almost like slightly dipping it’s toe into the Chicago style world just a bit. That greasy crust and lots of cheese. A bit wet under the bottom of the pizza but not quite soggy. It was almost a little bit sweet. Eating in was cool. They’d come around holding pizzas and you could just have them add another slice to your plate. My recent delivery order wasn’t all of that, but it was satisfying enough.

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