Guilty Pleasures

Papa John's Weird Pizza Department Unveils Fritos Chili Pizza

The Guilty Pleasure: Frito pie on a pizza. Where to Get It: The Papa John's delivery guy. Price: $12 for a 14-incher. What it Really Costs: How much is a bottle of Tums?

I'm quite intrigued by Papa John's R&D department. Every now and again, they release an oddball specialty pizza in an attempt to capture the dining dollars of stereotypical red-blooded 18- to 35-year-old American males.

Some of these, such as a Buffalo chicken pizza, are rather decent, at least for mass-market delivery pizza. Others have been more dubious. The double cheeseburger pizza they released earlier this year is one I'd imagine they would rather forget.

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The people at Papa John's recently unveiled their newest nontraditional pizza, one topped with the ingredients for Frito pie.

In case you aren't familiar with Frito pie (a staple snack at Texas high school football games and for tourists visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico), if you're from the Midwest you might know it better as a walking taco. Still doesn't ring a bell? It's simple to throw together: Open up a small bag of Fritos (or put some Fritos in a bowl), then top with chili, shredded yellow cheese, and diced onions. Et voilà, Frito pie.

To make their new creation, Papa John's took some liberties with both pizza and Frito pie. Chili completely replaces the tomato sauce. Along with the requisite onions, the pizza is topped with diced tomatoes, and then after baking is liberally sprinkled with Fritos corn chips.

Every now and again, a weird pizza combination ends up being more than the sum of its parts; BBQ chicken pizza is an excellent example. In the case of Frito pie and pizza, it almost works, but doesn't quite add up.

There are a couple of dissonant points. One of the main things is that chili and corn are a much more natural pairing than chili and wheat. The crust ends up being a third wheel, making me wish I had a Frito pie and a slice of pizza rather than a slice of Frito Pie pizza.

The other down side is the chili itself. As one would expect from a value-priced mass-market offering, it's cafeteria grade at best. If I had to bet money, I'd say they're sourcing it from Hormel. All the extra oil from the chili and the Fritos on a cheesy pizza means it's a case of heartburn just waiting to happen.

While it does have its downsides, there was still a certain fun element to the pizza that made it more enjoyable than that dubious cheeseburger pizza they foisted on Americans earlier this year. If I ordered a Fritos chili pizza as part of a larger "watching football with the guys" order, I imagine it will likely disappear in a heartbeat.

And, of course, the thing just screams stoner food.

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JK Grence
Contact: JK Grence