Reviewing restaurants can be very glamorous.
Date: Where are we eating tonight?
Me: Yes, Domino’s. Domino’s in Benton.
Date: Domino’s Pizza?
Me: It’s not just any Domino’s Pizza. It’s a Domino’s Pizza theater.”
I read our very own Eric E. Harrison’s description of the first central Arkansas pizza theater concept in his Transitions column and was intrigued: “It offers in-store dining in approximately 1,600 square feet, with a lobby with built-in tablets for placing orders, free Wi-Fi,an open-area viewing of the food preparation process and the ability to track carry-out orders on a flat-screen TV.”
So off we went on Interstate 30 on a rainy Friday night to witness “pizza theater.” We found it in the Hickory Square Shopping Center in front of an actual theater - the Cinemark Tinseltown.
It was as close to theater as we would experience.
Me: “We’re here! Uh, notice anything special?”
Date: “Yep, it’s a Domino’s.”
SCENE ONE: NO RESERVATIONS
Yep, it was a Domino’s. A Domino’s with three bolted booth tables, a counter with bolted tablets, a viewing window that said, “Please do not feed the employees” and a cash register area.
We figured we were supposed to use the greasy-fingerprint-smudged screens to order pizza in high-tech fashion. We could, a friendly and helpful employee said, but it would be faster to just order old-school at the register.
So after peeking at the menu of regular, artisan, “American legend” and feast pizzas, baked sandwiches, pasta, chicken, bread sides and desserts, we told a different employee our order: an appetizer of Bacon & Jalapeno Stuffed Cheesy Bread ($5.99 for 8 pieces; dipping sauces an extra 60 cents) and an ExtravaganZZa Feast pizza ($9 for small up to $16 for extra large), with two soft drinks ($1.79 for a 20-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola products; no draft).
So helpful and friendly was that first employee - presumably a manager or owner - that he told our order-taker to throw in an order of two Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes (usually $4.99) on the house.
We gave the order-taker Date’s name (she misspelled it, but no matter) and then watched for it on the Track It! flat screen that offered status updates (like “Quality Check,” “In the Oven” and “Ready”) and estimated arrival times.
Everything was ready - and packaged in carryout boxes - at the same time. But everything didn’t fit on the table, so another pleasant staff member brought us a wood enfolding tray table to accommodate the pizza. It was like eating takeout pizza at home … except without real plates and real silverware. And with nicer people.
But at home we don’t have the entertainment of watching drivers spring from their Smart Cars, race into the joint and holler their delivery times. That’s kind of theater, right?
SCENE TWO: EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN
The food was, well, Domino’s. Fresh, hot Domino’s.
Cut into eight cheesy slices, the smoky and spicy Bacon & Jalapeno Stuffed Cheesy Bread (which seemed to feature soft Canadian and not crisp American bacon) left us rather stuffed. And confused: Why do we always order quasi-pizza as a starter and then get too full for the real pizza?
SCENE THREE: MYSTIC PIZZA
As for the pizza, the hearty, hand-tossed ExtravaganZZa Feast was topped with an extravagant amount of pepperoni, ham, Italian sausage, beef, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, black olives and cheese. Since it already came in its own carryout box, we didn’t have to ask for one.
SCENE FOUR: CHOCOLAT
Still, we found room to sample the rich Chocolate Lava Crunch Cakes, slightly crisp and dusted with confectioners’ sugar on the outside, soft, warm and “molten” on the inside.
As we left with our box, the staff inside wished us a good evening, as did a few staff members who had been relieved for the evening and were still chatting outside.
This theater outing had a happy ending.
Domino’s Pizza “theater” is located in Hickory Square Shopping Center, 17310 Interstate 30, Benton, (501) 408-4688, dominos.com.
Weekend, Pages 29 on 01/23/2014
Print Headline: Domino’s gets all theatrical