In Green Bay one recent evening, I decided to give a place called Cranky Pat's a try for their pizza. Cranky Pat's is the former Frank and Pat's Pizza Palace in Green Bay with a long-ago connection to Frank's Pizza Palace in Appleton, WI. I liked the pizza at Frank's (click here to see my entry on Frank's Pizza Palace), so I anticipated a pizza at Cranky Pat's that was equal to the one I had at Frank's a few years ago.
The genesis of the original Frank and Pat's Pizza Palace started out with a young guy from Chicago by the name of Frank Pierri. Around 1954, Frank had come up to the Fox Valley area for a wedding of a friend and fell in love with the region. He discovered that there were no pizza places in Appleton, so he opened one there with the help of a friend from Chicago, Pat Earle. After awhile, the two got into a tiff and split up with Frank Pierri keeping the one in Appleton and Pat Earle opening a place in nearby Menasha. Pat also had places in Marinette, WI and Oshkosh, before opening a location in Green Bay.
In 1993, along with his son's Michael and David, the Earle family opened a location in Neenah, WI and named it Cranky Pat's. They've since opened a new Oshkosh pizzeria about 10 years ago and opened a second Green Bay location in 2013. Dave Earle runs the Neenah location, and his sister-in-law Mary Sue ran the Green Bay locations until she turned them over to her daughter, Sarah Veldkamp, and her husband, Paul, not long ago. Pat Earle's grandson's, Jason and Aaron Baer, run the Oshkosh location.
Green Bay is one of those cities where most of the streets run Northwest to Southeast and Northeast to Southwest. Every time I go there, I think I'm going east and I look at the compass on my dashboard and it says I'm going south. So, I wasn't overly certain how to get to Cranky Pat's from my hotel. Thankfully, my GPS took me right to Cranky Pat's at the corner of Bellevue and Cass Streets, sort of south and east of Green Bay's downtown. (see map)
I came upon Cranky Pat's, but it still had a sign on the side of the building that said "Frank and Pat's Pizza". There's a parking lot across the street and I went in to find the place about half full. The sign said to seat myself, so I found a table along the wall on the east side of the restaurant.
The dining room is spacious and well lit. They have tables large enough to seat 8 people with many 6 and 4 seaters throughout the place. It's definitely family friendly at Cranky Pat's. There were at least two birthday parties going on during the time I was in there.
The original Faulds oven from the late 50's is still churning out pizza over 50 years after it was first used. The Ferris Wheel-type revolving shelf oven has room for 24 pizzas at once. I was told that while this is the original oven, many of the parts have had to be replaced over the years. I understand that Faulds ovens are no longer made and that you have to take parts from other old Faulds ovens if something goes bad. The Faulds oven at Cranky Pat's is the same one that's used at Frank's Pizza Palace in Appleton.
The pizza prep area is right up front with patrons able to see the pizzas being made out in the open. The thin crust pizzas are rolled and hand tossed before they're put on pizza boards for transfer into the Faulds oven.
One of the female servers came over with a menu. She told me she wouldn't be my server, but wanted to know if I wanted anything to drink. I ordered up a beer and took a look through the menu.
Pizza is the main item on the menu and they're not cheap - similar to Frank's over in Appleton. A large (16") Pat's Special that features double sausage and double pepperoni along with your choice of two more toppings comes to just under $27 bucks. A small "build-your-own" with three toppings comes to just over $19 bucks. The one thing that I remember from Frank's is that they don't skimp on the toppings there. I was hoping it would be the same thing with Pat's Pizza.
In addition to the typical pizza place appetizers - garlic bread, pizza sticks, etc. - they also have a salad bar with soup at Pat's. The menu features Italian-style sandwiches, pasta - including lasagna - and baked pasta entrees.
When my server came back to take my order, I went with my usual sausage, mushroom and pepperoni. It didn't take all that long for the pizza to get out to me. It was definitely a thin-crusted and very large small pizza, but I could tell from a first glance that it was a little overcooked for my tastes. The bottom of the first piece of the party cut/tavern cut pizza was slightly burnt. I know people who like their pizza that way, but I don't like the charred taste on a pizza.
But the other thing that was tough to notice was that they certainly didn't skimp on the toppings. In fact, I may have to say that there were TOO MANY mushrooms on my pizza. I know I'm being a little critical, but nearly each piece of pizza that I had was covered in mushrooms. So much so that I couldn't make out the taste of the sausage or pepperoni very well. But the mushrooms were fresh and very flavorful.
Making my way around the perimeter of the pizza, as I got toward the center pieces I found the burnt taste was primarily on the edges. As I got into the center "honey pot" square slices, the crisp crust had yielded to a softer, more chewy crust - probably from the combination of the toppings and the tangy sweet sauce settling in. I couldn't finish the pizza in one sitting - it was a big pizza for a small (two people could have easily eaten it). I think I left about 10 or 11 square pieces, declaring that I was done when my server came to check on me. I did, however, get the extra pieces to go and I had three or four more pieces the following morning by warming them up in the microwave in my room. They warmed up very well and pizza for breakfast is always a treat.
Could I tell which was better between Frank's or Pat's? Probably not. They're both so similar that I don't think you could really tell the difference between the two. Both places use the same Fauld's pizza oven, they use an abundance of fresh toppings, and the crust is thin - just the way I like it. The bill with a couple beers and a tip for the waitress came to about $30 bucks. Not cheap for a pizza place, but they made up for it with an enormous amount of toppings on the pizza. One other thing - Pat's Pizzeria has free wi-fi, something that I appreciate when I'm scouring the web for news and updates while I'm waiting for my pizza. I love finding old pizza joints like this on the road and the pizza at Pat's was one of the better ones that I've come across in my travels.