TNT Diner

Grab a slice: Five Tacoma restaurants with lunchtime pizza by the slice

I thought I was going to strike out on this pizza project.

Restaurant watchers fling this question my way from time to time: “Why don’t Tacoma pizza joints offer pizza by the slice?”

The answer might surprise you as much as it did me: They do. But only at lunch and in limited quantities. That means if you don’t get there early, you’re walking out with nothing.

I stuck with narrow parameters to make this assignment manageable. I kept my search to pizza restaurants in Tacoma proper: Downtown Tacoma, St. Helens, Sixth Avenue and the Edison neighborhoods, all centrally located business zones with nearby workers to feed.

I scratched off buffets and cook-while-you-wait offers because that required too much time. I was searching for quick-service restaurants with ready-to-go pizza by the slice, which diners have all over East Coast urban areas. My goal? Get out in less than five minutes with a hot slice and spend no more than $5. See how these five Tacoma pizza joints did on my quest for a fast, cheap pizza lunch — East Coast style.

ABELLA PIZZERIA

1946 Pacific Ave., Tacoma; 253-779-0769 or abellapizzeria.com.

Slice details: $2.74 a slice, offered 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Pie choices: Sausage or Abella Special, a combination with sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms and black olives.

Timing: The pies in the countertop warming box looked fresh. This pizzeria does admirable work in quickly feeding its customers — which isn’t surprising considering its neighbor is the University of Washington Tacoma. I was out in less than three minutes.

The slice: Ding! We have a winner! Pizza here was built on a yeasty crust with sturdy, chewy resistance and bubbled edges. The slice was permeated with a double dose of garlic. The sauce was as thick as a paste with deep tomato flavor. Toppings evenly covered the surface and cheese blanketed the slice without being sludgy.

AH BADABING PIZZERIA

5240 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma; 253-582-2170 or facebook.com/ AhBadabingPizzeria.

Slice details: $5 a slice, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Pie choices: Pepperoni or cheese, with a free soda.

Timing: I was out in about four minutes, not including time in line. This pizzeria’s claim to fame is that it serves New York-style pizza, but what that means is a matter of debate on this coast.

Bonus: The slice measured 11 inches along the crust, and 14 inches from crust to tip. This was the biggest slice I’ve ever been handed and it was so large, it came in a regular-size pizza box.

The slice: No good. The pizza had been sitting so long, the crust turned crackery and the cheese was a sad state of barely lukewarm. The thin sauce was just the right kind of acidic. It took two hands to lift the slice from the box. What it lacked in execution, it made up for in size. However, I’d rather pay the same for a smaller slice with better construction.

THE HUB

203 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma; 253-683-4606 or thehubrestaurants.com.

Slice details: $5-$6 for a slice, served at weekday lunchtimes only.

Pie choices: Cheese, Buffalo Chicken, pepperoni or Molto Carne, with pepperoni, sausage and peperoncini.

Timing: It took about six minutes to get out the door. I appreciated the manager who warned that one of the pizzas had been sitting too long. He offered twice to make new pies, so he gets bonus points for customer service.

The slice: Slices were warm, not hot, from too long under warming lights, just as warned. Each slice was about a quarter of a Hub pizza. The pliable crust made it easy to fold the slice and jam it into my mouth — East Coast style. The sauce here was my favorite of this tour — a nice blend of herbs in a chunky red sauce with a touch of peppery lip sting. Toppings were generous without overburdening the crust.

IT’S GREEK TO ME

1702 Sixth Ave., Tacoma; 253-272-1375.

Slice details: $3 a slice, served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Pie choices: Cheese, Hawaiian and Roma, with pepperoni, sausage, black olive and mushroom.

Timing: If the counter workers hadn’t ignored me for almost a full minute, I would have been out in under four minutes.

The slice: The smallest slice of all pies sampled here, I call this kind of pizza “zero clearance” because the toppings and sauce extended to the edge of the crust, which carried almost a pastry texture and a heavy yeasty scent. This is the slice for those who don’t want a lot of sauce mucking up the flavor, I could barely detect the thinly applied red sauce.

PUGET SOUND PIZZA

317 S. Seventh St., Tacoma; 253-383-4777, psptacoma.com.

Slice details: $3 a slice, served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Pie choices: Cheese, plus whatever two toppings you want.

Timing: Ouch, this took 10 minutes, but that was my rookie mistake for saying yes when the pizza maker asked if I wanted two free toppings, which required baking time. This pizzeria usually has pizza ready to go out the door, so don’t agree to toppings if you want out quickly.

The slice: Hot, hot, hot because it was fresh from the oven. A problem right away. The pepperoni and sausage expressed so much grease while cooking, it caused the hot cheese to slide off into a little pile of nasty pizza doom. The crust was sturdy, although burned on one slice, and the red sauce tasted complex.

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