Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, pizza?
World Pizza Kitchen capitalizes on Pasadena’s cheeseburger heritage
By Erica Wayne 01/15/2014
Jan. 12-17 is Cheeseburger Week, a time when Pasadena honors local native Lionel Sternberger, reputed to be the first restaurateur to have topped a meat patty with a slab of cheese at his father’s West Colorado Boulevard eatery, The Rite Spot, in 1924. Since its inception two years ago, Cheeseburger Week has caught on and seems to be heading for permanent placement on Pasadena’s winter calendar.
This year, the Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event includes a Cheeseburger Challenge. You can log into pasadenarestaurantweek.com by Monday to vote for your favorite burgers. Categories include all around favorite burger restaurant, lunch counter burger, sit-down/white table cloth burger, beer and burger, sliders and ethnic burgers. The Web site even offers directions for Cheeseburger Crawls (advising designated drivers for the beer and burger route).
Oddly enough, Pasadena Weekly’s Best of Pasadena 2013 winner for New Restaurant, Rounds (which specializes in burgers), isn’t on the list of the 40 or so formal participants. But Twohey’s, our all-round Best Restaurant winner, is. So is The Counter, whose burgers top my personal list of recent tastings. I’m surprised, however, to see T. Boyle’s missing from the beer and burger candidates.
My favorite category by far is the “alternative” burgers, which includes entries of Portobello and brie (a.k.a. An American Bistro); ahi (Umami and La Grande Orange); lamb (Haven Gastropub); bison (Vertical Wine Bistro); falafel; shawarma and kobedeh (M Local Mediterranean Café); veggie (The Market on Holly); cheeseburger salad (Slater’s 50/50); and burger in a pancake (CREPEstudio).
But I’ve got a write-in suggestion. One of the non-contestants is a new little storefront on East Colorado Boulevard called World Pizza Kitchen. Its walls are painted in several shades of lime, lemon, fuchsia and pale orange and decorated with whimsical stickers of birds, animals and flowers. And said pizza restaurant boasts, as the top item on the first page of its eight-page menu, “The Cheeseburger Pizza” ($15.99), complete with full-color photo.
I don’t think the proprietors of World Pizza Kitchen (who used to run Fredo’s a bit further west) can lay claim to having invented this wonder on their own. Like the celebrated disputes about the origin and naming rights for Vienna’s Sacher Torte, there may eventually be a fight between the tiny independent and a much bigger fish for ownership.
Pizza Hut has been serving its own cheeseburger pizza in the Middle East since 2011 and in the United Kingdom starting last year. As one reviewer (Laura Northrup, The Consumerist) stated: It’s “The unholy spawn of a pizza and a platter of cheeseburger sliders … with little mozzarella-topped burgers embedded in the crust. The whole thing looks like a grease-filled sunflower.” Other comments penned by critics: insane, menace, Frankenstein, gut-busting and (my favorite) “Pizza Hut is trying to kill us.”
Well, be that as it may, if it comes to patent infringement, World Pizza Kitchen can claim (and I will so attest) that the cheese on top of its pizzaburger is definitely American, though there’s good bit of mozzarella beneath the meat. We downed a couple of pieces, folding over the pointed center of each one (which contained shredded lettuce, a tomato slice and some thousand islandesque dressing) onto the burger tucked into its outer scalloped edge.
While this pie’s definitely a contender for Cheeseburger Week’s most unique (if not exactly best) alternative burger, it won’t be what we order on our return visits, unless, of course, California legalizes recreational marijuana. In that case, both Pizza Hut and World Pizza Kitchen will likely make out like bandits with this “haute” cuisine highlight. The contoured edges and symmetrical toppings are mesmerizing, it’s unctuous and filling — in other words, perfect for “high” dining with friends.
Meanwhile, however, World Pizza Kitchen has a long list of other pies, a full page of sandwiches, a variety of calzone and a number of pasta dishes. The toppings for a “Build My Masterpiece” pizza include almost anything anybody could want. (I spotted eggplant, artichoke hearts and anchovies and noted pepperoni, fresh mushrooms and green peppers for my mate.) Taking advantage of the two for one deal, a duo of 14-inch pizzas with three toppings each would set you back about $27.
Even better, it turns out the owners are Indonesian. Nestled among the list of pre-designed international pizzas (also two for one), are two Southeast Asian pies: chicken panang (rendang) and Asiana (laksa) chicken curry. Each has toppings of marinated chicken breast and fresh vegetables bathed in exotic coconut-scented sauces atop melted mozzarella and a thin, yeasty crust.
Additionally, just below World Pizza Kitchen’s polish sausage sandwich section are four Indonesian dishes: bakso tennis (meatball soup — $7.50); mie ayam jamur (chicken mushroom noodles — $6.99), bebek goring surabaya (fried duck — $7.50) and ayam kremes (crispy marinated and fried chicken — definitely not to be confused with KFC — $7.50).
Most customers were chowing down on conventional Italian pizzas, pastas and subs. But we sampled the fabulous panang pie with its bright red pepper confetti and fragrant emerald basil leaves, and the delicious noodles: a huge bowlful of “long life” egg noodles in broth with a mélange of chicken chunks and oyster and black mushrooms with hard boiled egg, spinach, a scattering of fried shallots and green onion with two fried won-ton as garnish. The dish was served with kecap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce) and two chili sambals.
If you’re still checking out restaurants for Cheeseburger Week as you read this, you may want to give World Pizza Kitchen’s cheeseburger pie a whirl before you vote.
In the words of the late great John Belushi, just order “cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger” (there are eight of them per pie). And, of course, World Pizza Kitchen has Pepsi!
World Pizza Kitchen
1771 E. Colorado Blvd,