Rice County dining: pizza edition

By Will Dutton and Cathryn Cavazos Sterling, KS – March 19, 2018, 5:37 P.M.

Cathryn Cavazos, junior, and Will Dutton, freshman, students at Sterling College, are on a mission this semester to sample the best foods in Rice County. They will try and rate pastries, pizzas and drinks. Their hope is to make food sampling a tradition with a purpose of spotlighting new or growing restaurants in the area.

Cathryn began her adventure with a trip to the new coffee and tap house in Lyons called Brew 56, which is owned by Sterling College’s music director, Mark Clark. Cathryn inspired me to check out the foods from the places she visited. We decided I would try various pizzas from Gambino’s, Food Mart, Casey’s and Brew 56.

To insure there would be no advantages by ordering a normal pepperoni or cheese pizza from each location. I used a five-star rating system in five different categories. The five categories were crust, sauce, cheese, toppings and environment/cost.

Gambino’s

I began my pizza-tasting adventure with a quick trip to downtown Sterling were Gambino’s is located.

Disclaimer: Although I grew up in Sterling, I still made sure to judge Gambino’s fairly. It was a lunch buffet and a wide selection was presented.

My average overall score for Gambino’s was 86 percent.

If you are a fan of thick flavor, and toppings being nicely integrated into the cheese, then this is the place for you. The soft texture of the crust was easily edible, and didn’t distract me from the delicious and spicy pepperonis. My main critique for Gambino’s was the sauce. I tried cheese and pepperoni pizza and I didn’t have a consistent amount of sauce. The pepperoni pizza felt a little too saucy, while the sauce on the cheese pizza was not enough for my preference.

Casey's

The atmosphere and cost with Gambino’s was terrific. I enjoyed the calm, relaxing background noise of the music. The cost for the buffet, having been $7.50 for an all-you-can-eat salad and buffet was affordable and worth it for one person. Gambino’s is a place to go if you want friendly service, good conversations, a different type of pizza (sort of spicy), and a good change-up from store-bought pizza.

Brew 56

My collective score, gave Brew 56 a 94.5 percent approval rate, the highest of any where else.

I ordered half of a small cheese pizza for $4.00. What blew me away the most, was the amount of delicacy involved in the brick-oven-style pizza. Everything about it seemed to be the right amount of sauce and toppings. I wasn’t even bothered by gooey cheese and the crust was so soft it was almost eating that good Communion bread on a Sunday morning. To add to the already exceptional pizza, the environment was peaceful. They played soft modern music that established a good mood throughout the shop. You won’t be disappointed if you find yourself sauntering over to Lyons to eat a pizza at Brew 56. I would highly recommend it.

Casey’s

Many of the Sterling College students find themselves at Casey’s splitting a pizza with their friends. Let me start off by saying that I surprised myself with my review of this pizza. Normally when I eat at Casey’s, which is about two times a week, I enjoy their pizza. I was in a hurry and didn’t really taste the pizza as much but inhaled it. When I had the chance to really sit down and analyze it, I was disappointed. The individual slices I bought were saucy, the crust was bland, the cheese layer was greasy, and the pepperonis were falling off. The crust was by far the worst part, because I felt like I was eating cardboard, and it took a long time to chew. This ended with a poor rating for this pizza, and an unsatisfied Will Dutton.

My total score ended up being 81 percent, in large part due to the cheese layer being similar to Fazoli’s pizza (which I love), and the topping being a burst of yummy flavor. If you missed dinner at Caf, and in need of an affordable pizza option, Casey’s is where to go.

Food Mart

I finished the pizza parade with a trip to the only 24-hour place in town, Food Mart. My score at Food Mart was 82 percent, but I left very full and happy to have made the drive there. Food Mart’s trademark pizza is a hunk or ¼ of a full pizza. The crust was a lot bigger than other crust and was crisp and golden. It was comparable to Digiorno’s. The sauce was again the perfect amount. It has a unique flavor and didn’t distract from the toppings. The downside to Food Mart is the environment. For both Casey’s and Food Mart the environment was lifeless without customers. There also wasn’t a ton of seating. It was particularly cramped at Food Mart, while Casey’s had bit more space.

Don’t even get me started on the price though, $3.19 for a hunk of pizza is a little excessive to me. Because of that, the final score for Food Mart was a little less representative of the pizza and more of the lack of a great eating atmosphere and affordable cost. If you are tired of the generic pizza taste and are willing to pay for a big hunk of pizza, you would be satisfied at Food Mart.

Will Trying Pizza

The final standings of the four places I visited goes in order from highest to lowest score. I gave Brew 56, Champion of Pizza in Rice County. Second best was Gambino’s. And in a close fight in the battle of the gas stations Food Mart’s flavor outweighed the bland pizza from Casey’s. This has been a fun experience for both Cathryn and myself. We hope to do this again in the future, and that you will think about our advice and feedback from our Rice County food tour for the next time you’re at one of the exciting food spots.