What is the attraction to “all you can eat” pizza? When I was younger and could eat large quantities of pizza without physical penalty, it was all about getting maximum pizza for minimum money. Now, it is probably more about things like sampling a wide variety, making ordering easier, or getting hot pizza quickly. Whatever their individual reasons may have been, the guys from the office joined me for the Thursday all-you-can-eat lunch at Twin Trees III in North Syracuse.
I could spend a lot of time and space writing about the history of Twin Trees, but instead I’ll direct you to a story here, and to my review of another Twin Trees location here. As I sit here thinking about it, I’m surprised that I have never been to TT III before, given my penchant for pizza and frequent travels through North Syracuse during 22 years living in this area. All of the gang from the office HAVE been to TT III before. My first impression was that the restaurant was bigger than I expected, with multiple dining rooms, clean and simple decor, and a separate entrance for evening pizza pickup. Lighting was rather dim, so I kept the flash turned off and did my best to adjust in Photoshop.
As I mentioned earlier, we chose Thursday for the lunchtime visit because of the weekly all-you-can-eat pizza special for $9.95, including a salad bar and chicken wings. Drinks are extra, of course. I thought I would save us from high traffic in the restaurant and directed the group to get there “early,” about 12:15pm. We didn’t have any trouble finding a table, but note the condition of the pizza buffet table at the time. Undeterred, I headed for the salad bar. After all, one of the rules of all-you-can-eat is that if you have a salad first, a certain amount of the pizza calories is cancelled out!
For a while, every time a pizza was brought out, people from various tables scurried to the buffet table to pick up a slice, and it was gone within a minute. Plates were also in short supply at times. However, as the clock moved toward 12:45 or so, many people left and the pizza supply caught up with the demand. Pizzas were all 16″, sliced in triangle style (rather than the cross-cut style typical of Twin Trees), probably because it makes buffet serving easier. The selection of toppings varied from cheese, to pepperoni, chicken bacon ranch, supreme, and other typical variations. It wasn’t always easy to tell which pizza had which toppings, because of the dim lighting and cheese on top of the toppings in most cases.
Many readers of this blog have experience with Twin Trees pizza, so much of what I’m going to say may be old hat. As far as I know, all of the Twin Trees locations prepare and bake pizza on a flat pan, resulting in the familiar slight “fried dough” effect. Average crust thickenss was about 1/4″, increasing to 1/2″ at the edge. It was evenly browned, didn’t droop much when held by the edge, and had a generally fine bubble structure inside. I’d say it was an above average crust. The sauce was also above average, applied in good proportion, with slight saltiness, and a very strong tangy and acidic character. The spice load was medium, with lots of spice flakes visible.
The cheese was a little oily, but not enough to puddle. It was also a little bit burned in spots, which I think does not add to the flavor or enjoyment of pizza. Toppings were about average, and according to members of the gang they were a little more sparse than what you get when you order a pizza at other times. They speculated that quality may have been compromised slightly in order to produce the quantity needed for the buffet. If it is proper to compare TT III with other TT locations, I generally agree – I’ve had more plentiful toppings at other TT locations.
Overall, it was a very pleasant lunch. Table service was reasonably quick and efficient, with used plates removed frequently. Eating with real silverware and plates is a nice change from typical pizza shops. Getting a taste of several different toppings combinations is a plus, as long as you don’t mind getting up repeatedly. Whenever the Pizza Geek is out with a group, he asks others at the table for their rating: one said 3.5, because it had a slight “mass-produced” character due to the volume required; another said 3.5 for the same reasons; another was more generous, rating it 4.25 to 4.5. Personally, I enjoyed it and can recommend it, and I waffled between 3.5 and 4 for a long time. I also looked back at the review of the rather similar TT Too, which was 3.5. Trying not to overanalyze it any further, I’m going with my gut and will give it a Pizza Geek rating of 3.5 out of 5 slices.
Summary – Pros: crispy crust, tangy sauce. Cons: unremarkable toppings, burned cheese.
What do YOU think? Have you tried the all-you-can-eat buffet at Twin Trees? Click the comment link below and tell us about it!