Once the dust settled after the opening, the restaurant went viral again — this time for an appetizer.
But the dish at the center of all the attention isn't complicated. It doesn't show off any fine culinary talent. It's simple. Yet it captured the hearts and iPhone lenses of Instagram influencers and TikTok stars galore.
The dish consists of pepperoni. And ranch. That's the entire thing.
This super simple plate begs the question, why would customers pay $11 for a silver platter of pepperoni and ranch? Because it's silly? For nostalgia maybe?
The dish grabbed the attention of Eater correspondent Jaya Saxena, who called it "muffin top dining," as in, the art of eating only the best part of something. Why eat the whole pizza when the pepperoni cups are the best part?
For Phoenix locals, taking a trip to the Big Apple to try the viral dish could be a tall order. But recently, one local restaurant has brought the concept to the Valley.
Pepperoni as the star
The latest location of Sam Fox's chicken and pizza spot, Doughbird, opened on Seventh Street in October. The menu is similar to that of the restaurant's other locations, but a new item is among the appetizer options. Crispy Pepperoni Chips, served with ranch, are available for $9 an order.
These are smaller than the large cups served at Bad Roman, which come roughly 10 to a platter. At Doughbird, the plate is piled with a small mountain of mini pepperoni. They are charred and crisp around the edges yet soft in the middle, just as they would be if you had plucked them from atop a slice of pizza.
According to Fox Restaurant Concepts' Director of Culinary Operations Taylor Domet, the dish is "really pretty straightforward." Uh-huh.
"We get a cup and char style of pepperoni, so it’s a little bit more firm, so when it renders down it gets that lightly charred yet crispy texture to it. We caramelize those up in a saute pan and render all of that natural pepperoni fat out of there. Then we toss them in a bowl with some paper towels to absorb that excess grease, and really they turn into, essentially, chips," Domet says.
The chips are then finished with a sprinkle of dried Mediterranean oregano and freshly shaved parmesan cheese.
When it arrives at the table, the quirky dish inspires a mix of emotions. There's somewhat of a letdown as you realize that yep, it really is just a plate of pepperoni and ranch. But also, heck, what did we expect? It's fun, silly and does have a hint of nostalgia as the flavor is undeniably reminiscent of pizza parties we went to as kids.
Is less really more?
According to Domet, the idea for Doughbird's new dish came from Sam Fox himself.
"He was walking by myself and one of our other corporate chefs in the office one day, and he said, 'Hey, I’ve been seeing a lot of these crispy pepperonis on menus. We should look at that,'" Domet recalls.
So Domet and his team hit the drawing board. They came up with many more complicated dishes that had different seasonings or were roasted, fried or baked.
"But it was almost like the more simple it was, the better we thought it was," Domet says. "Sometimes we work on something for months and months, and maybe it never makes the menu. And sometimes we just have a little fun with a silly idea, and it becomes a big hit."
The highlight of the Doughbird version, believe it or not, is the ranch. It is not a pourable version of the classic condiment but rather a thick sauce that must be spooned or scooped onto your food. It's both tangy and creamy and begs to be dipped and dunked.
So the dish is fun, sort of. But also, seriously, it's just pepperoni. You could buy a bag of minis and stick them in your air fryer for the same effect.
Alas, they're currently Doughbird on Seventh Street's best-selling appetizer. Expect to see them at the Arcadia and Tucson locations soon. For better or for worse, plates of pepperoni are coming to a table near you.