Chew On It
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By Andrew Kochirka staff blogger
Food has been an integral part of Andrew's life from a young age; from cooking with his mother and grandmother to creating recipes in his own kitchen. Now he scours the area's non-chain restaurant scene to find the best of the best of local food from chicken wings to French cuisine.   Read more about this blog.
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Papa Joe’s Pepperoni Cafe

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I am excited to start my local vegetarian/vegan food tour.  My first stop was to Papa Joe’s Pepperoni Cafe at 3826 West Ridge Rd. I have been here before during a previous sandwich tour, but their food is worth another visit. Last night after work, Amanda and I headed there for dinner. I knew that they offer many vegetarian/vegan pizza and sandwich options so we had an idea of what we wanted before we got there. We placed our order at the counter and then sat down to wait for our food.

papa-joes_enchanted-eggplantAfter a few minutes, our food was on its way to the table. Amanda wanted to try the Enchanted Eggplant sandwich. Their wheat sandwich bread was piled with crispy eggplant slices, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, white sauce, fresh tomato and alfalfa sprouts, all topped with their roasted red pepper mayo. I have had this sandwich before and it normally is one of my favorites. The taste was there, but the texture was off. The eggplant wasn’t crispy at all and lettuce was substituted for the normal sprouts. The first half of the sandwich was okay, but by the time we got to the second half, everything was the same level of mushy. It wasn’t nearly as good as it normally is.

papa-joes_mediterranianI wanted to try a variety of their pizzas, so I ordered three smalls. I started with the Pizza Mediterranean. Their regular fresh dough crust was topped with a white sauce, chopped spinach, sliced tomatoes, black olives, onion, crumbled feta. and a light layer of mozzarella. The feta and spinach combination was my favorite part of this. The cheese was creamy and created a beautiful texture paired with the vegetables. I have been trying to learn to enjoy fresh tomatoes on things and the slight acidic bite they provided really rounded out the flavors. It was delicious.

papa-joes_ranchero-veganoNext was the Ranchero Vegano pizza. The fresh dough was topped with their ranchero sauce (similar to sofrito) that is made of pureed tomatoes, onions, peppers, and other spices. The menu calls it “the vegan treat with heat”, but it would be even better with more spice. The sauce layer is covered by black beans, corn, pineapple, tomato, green peppers and onion. The sweetness from the pineapple is a great match with the savory flavor from the sauce. Although it isn’t necessary, I would love to try this with a good vegan cheese on top just to bind everything together.

papa-joes_vegan-demiseFinally was my favorite of the three pizzas, the Vegan Demise. The same fresh dough was topped with a generous layer of their scratch-made hummus, lightly curried sweet potato, tomato slices, onion, and extra garlic and oil. The hummus adds some bulk to this pizza without the heaviness of cheese. For those of you who may be turned off by the curry, the sweet potatoes help balance out the curry taste for an awesome balance of flavors. The added garlic doesn’t do much for your breath, but it adds great dimension to the pizza. This is a must-try in my opinion.

Thank you to everyone at Papa Joe’s. Your pizzas are always delicious. The phone number for ordering is 814-835-3360. The hours are Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 3 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 8 p.m.

Keep sending me your recommendations for local favorite vegetarian foods to or to the Beard Vs. Food Facebook.  Remember to come back and vote as well.

Until next time,

Andrew – Beard vs. Food

Papa Joe's Pepperoni Cafe on Urbanspoon

Read more of Andrew's thoughts about Vegetarian
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