Yes, it's rare we review franchise restaurants. We opt instead to feature local and one-of-a-kind outfits, the places that defend what makes culinary America great diversity. Believe me, I'm not the type of person who eats what I could eat at home when traveling afar. ("Oh look honey, they've got a T.G.I. Friday's, too!")
In fairness, I know some of the food at chain places tastes good. Why else would they have spread like a virus on a playground? But it definitely takes something special or unusual to sway me from my independent-biz fealty.
Enter the new pickup and delivery pizza joint, Garlic Jim's, just off Powers Boulevard. Metastasizing from the Northwest, this franchise boasts fast gourmet, and it nabbed my attention with a gluten-free pizza option.
How sensitive, I thought. And not necessarily a bad idea from a business perspective, considering the number of people either with celiac disease or an aversion to wheat products for other reasons. My girlfriend falls into the latter category, and in the past few years, we've tried a number of alternative bread products, some indistinguishable from regular items, others gummy and gross.
So we decided to put Garlic Jim's offerings to the test on a Friday night, picking up three medium pizzas ($58.77 total): one on its rice-flour-based gluten-free crust, another on its garlic-infused thin crust, and the third on its hand-thrown thick crust, made with Parmesan cheese and buttermilk.
Rather than build our own pies with standard toppings or gourmet options like tortilla strips, cashews and coconut (all $1.25 to $1.75, depending on pizza size), we opted for a few of Garlic Jim's menu creations.
The Gourmet Hawaiian, ordered on the thick crust, brought pineapple, Canadian bacon and toasty slivers of almond and coconut together with sweet and satisfying results. The volume of toppings justly outweighed that of the mozzarella cheese, making for a non-greasy pizza. (The same proved true on all our pies.)
We naturally paired the garlic thin crust with Jim's Gourmet Garlic pizza, featuring a delicious basil pesto sauce, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, roasted garlic and feta cheese. Satisfying nods all around met this pie fair evidence that GJ's isn't bastardizing the good word "gourmet." This pie matched the franchise name via a pleasant, mild garlic flavor typical of the roasted bulbs.
Lastly, we went for the Nutty Chipotle as the gluten-free pie. On it, halved cashews, tomatoes, pepperoni rounds, red onion and slightly spicy Italian sausage met a zesty (Jim's word) chipotle pesto over mozzarella. The flavor profile was interesting and vaguely reminiscent because of the earthy chipotle influence of a barbecue sauce-enhanced pizza I once tried. Surprisingly, the cashews felt like a natural topping rather than the odd nut out.
As for the crust, even our non-gluten-free friends enjoyed it. Under the toppings, it was as soft as the other crusts, but grew significantly more dense and tough toward the edge going to Zwieback-teething-cracker-hard on the last bite. Maybe a turn-off to some, but I enjoyed dipping it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar to soften it. I'd happily order it again.
Garlic Jim's presents a strong argument for pulling even the testiest of us independent-minded snobs from our bubbles. My guess is they've already won over the gluten intolerants.