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94. Chuck E. Cheese

Classification: Specialty

Location: Yourtown USA

OK, lotta caveats to get through on this one, but they need to be declared. None of what follows is based off a recent visit, so things might have changed in recent decades, but I doubt it. This is really the essence of a specialty pizza, (it almost merits a “novelty” designation) because the main attraction has nothing to do with the product by itself. Did you know that the marquee outside does NOT include the word “pizza?” Or that on their website’s homepage the only place the word appears is as part of a coupon special? In other words, you really need to drill down a bit to uncover their menu. But if we're being honest— they’re pretty much in business as the national distributor of Experiential Overload for All Ages.

Being a somewhat reluctant patron with modest expectations, I found that the food didn’t warrant much enthusiasm, but it was hardly cringe-worthy. Amid the animatronics and torture-level acoustics, my primary recollection is witnessing about thirty pizza slices at our table, each with a single bite taken before being hastily abandoned by the 8-and-under demographic, those especially enamored with the gathering of elusive prize tickets, which if hunted and collected skillfully enough could net its holder a formaldehyde-stuffed unicorn or tiny penny-candy leftovers from the Cuban Missile Crisis era. So between my efforts at child-wrangling and grabbing a few bites of suddenly plentiful pizza, I left feeling OK about the whole “specialty experience.” But it’s literally impossible to look solely on the cuisine and make any meaningful assessment, because that’s just not a big part of the equation here. If you’re looking to enjoy some food and laughs with a couple buddies, this isn’t the place, and you’d be viewed with extreme suspicion if you drop in as a solo diner. And under no circumstances is this date-night pizza, except when you’re looking to quickly end a relationship. But for a place catering to those simply trying to score a few SuperDad bonus points while grabbing a couple of slices—I didn't hate it. (3 of 10 stars)

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