Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pyeongtaek's Pizzas Supreme

Pizza Mall's "Chicago Deep Dish" pizza. 

Korean pizza (피자) is a great experiment in glocalization. Where else in the world can you find sweet potato mousse stuffed crusts, obligatory sprinkles of canned corn on every variety of pizza including cheese, plus pizzas topped with hearty potato wedges? Love or hate it, the Korean twist on pizza is insanely popular in the country. However, quality varies widely. If you're looking for a decent slice of pizza in Pyeongtaek, here are three places to get pizzas that are at least a crust above the others. 

Pizza Mall - New Core's Pizza Mall is the oddball in Pyeongtaek. And by oddball I mean they are the one that experiments the most with the American way of doing things. They were one of the few places I've seen in the whole country to offer an 18 inch pizza. The crust was soft and chewy. The toppings were fresh, large, numerous, and normal by American standards. What's more, the pizza was only 11,900 won, which is insanely cheap for a pizza that large. Sadly, they don't sell that size of pizza in Pyeongtaek anymore. However, they are the only place around that sells a Chicago style deep dish. It's one of those super cheesy-saucy pies that can turn into a big mess if you're not careful. And while it doesn't beat anything in Chicago, it beats a lot of Pizza Mall's competition. Their normal pizzas are good too, but I go there exclusively for the deep dish. 

Pizza Alvolo's "Super Deluxe Combination Pizza."
To get to Pizza Mall, take the 15, 1-1, 2-2 or any bus that says "뉴고아" (New Core) on the bottom left of the bus windshield. New Core's stop is in front of a Samsung store and across from a Paris Baguette. Walk all the way down the alley across from Samsung. New Core will be on your right. Pizza Mall is in the food court.

Pizza Alvolo - Pizza Alvolo (피자알볼로) has surprisingly good pizza for a native Korean chain. You can find outlandishly Korean pizzas at Pizza Alvolo, the kind of bizarre, expensive topping monsters that are not out of place at Korean Pizza Hut or Dominos. But Alvolo's pizzas are actually really good. Their pizzas have lots of stretchy cheese, a crispy-chewie crust that isn't tough or tasteless, and a sauce that isn't sweet. Plus, they serve an excellent garlic sauce on the side to dip your crust in. The listed prices are the same as most Korean chains, but cheaper than the mega chains mentioned earlier. Plus, when the NetBot and I order they always knock a couple thousand won off the top. It's a relative newcomer to Pyeongtaek, but with good prices and great pizza, Pizza Alvolo quickly became our favorite place to get pizza in the city. 

In other cities Pizza Alvolo has a dining room. Pyeongtaek's Pizza Alvolo, however, only offers delivery and take-out. You can find their menu here, and order at this number: 031-655-8495. The NetBot, Eat Korea's robot taste tester, recommends the "Hot and Spicy Chicken Pizza." If you can't speak Korean, you can take the bus and wait in their lobby. From the New Core bus stop in front of Paris Baguette, take the 3-5, 7-1, or 7-2 bus and get off at the stop after Deokdung Elementary School. You will pass the school on your right.  Walk down the street after you get off the bus.  You'll end up at a large intersection with a Paris Baguette. Pizza Alvolo is in that intersection on your right beside the big seafood restaurant with the fish tanks in front. 

If you are coming from Pyeongtaek Station, take the same busses to Myeongbeop Temple (명법사). Hit the stop button after you pass the grassy park on your right and can see woods on both sides of the street. When you get off the bus, walk down the street to the intersection with Paris Baguette. Pizza Alvolo will be near the opposite corner.

Costco's 18 inch "Combo Pizza."
(Decent photo pending)
Costco - The first two restaurants on this list make great Korean Pizza. However, if you want a genuine taste of home you need to go to Costco. The closest one is not in Pyeongtaek. But, located in Cheonan, it is close enough to sneak onto this list. 

Korean Costco is so American friends of mine say it even smells like America. The pizza in their food court is no exception. Costco's pizza is 18 inches of cheesy, American glory. There is enough sauce so you don't notice the lack of it, but not so much you think, "man this is really saucy." The doughy but firm crust is familiarly American in its elasticity, something Korean style crusts lack. And anyone who grew up in the USA will recognize the uniquely American flavors of Costco's pepperoni, sausage bits, peppers, onions, and olives on their Combo Pizza. Their pizza can even be bought by the slice. 

If you don't have a car or a friend with a car, Cheonan Costco is really hard to get to. For those who like to make a day-long adventure out of riding public transportation, you have two options. Option 1: take the subway to Cheonan Station (천안역). Take exit 1, cross the street in front of the station and turn right. Keep walking up the street until you find the bus stop. It isn't a far walk, maybe a couple minutes. From there most busses will take you to your next destination: Cheonan Bus Terminal (종합터마널) (aka: Shinsegae Department Store). There is a big bus stop in front of the terminal. Take city bus 25 for 28 stops. Costco will be on your right. It's big and hard to miss. Option 2: take the subway to Cheonan-Asan Station. Take Exit 1, and from the large bus stop in front of the station get on city bus 19 for 18 stops. Costco will be on your right a little up the street. 

If you do not enjoy long adventures on public transportation, do not go to Cheonan Costco. But if you really want to go, go to Seodaejeon Costco. A 4,800won train ticket will get you to Seodaejeon Station (서대전역) in about an hour. Costco is right next to the station on the left as you exit. It's so close you can see Costco's parking garage when you get off the train.

There are so many pizza restaurants in Pyeongtaek (and nearish by). If you have a favorite place to order pizza in Pyeongtaek, please let us know where by mentioning it in the comments.

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