Marquette is built on a bunch of mom-and-pop businesses, and one of the newest eateries in town is just that. Mr. B’s Pizza and Sub Shop on Presque Isle Avenue has replaced the Michigan-based chain pizzeria, Toarmina’s, and is now the sole store in the franchise. Appropriately, their product is what would be expected from a new restaurant.
I had the opportunity to try Mr. B’s, and it appears it is still trying to find an identity as its huge menu varies between standard pizzas and subs, desserts and sides and daily specials like Chicago-style hot dogs and lasagna.
While menu parity is usually a good thing as Mr. B’s tests the market for what works, that identity has yet to be found in its food preparation. Mr. B’s has an open view of the kitchen, similar to Little Caesars, and while waiting for my food, the actual making of it had no rhyme or reason. One foot-long sub had more toppings than a large pizza, every pizza had different amounts of sauce, and instead of timing the orders in the oven, the staff just opened the door and eyeballed it. Being open since September, I would have thought a set of instructions would have been established.
I ordered the meat specialty pizza with a side order of breadsticks. I tried the breadsticks first and was surprised by the good taste. The homemade sticks had a solid flavor to them, with a smooth garlic butter taste. They were thick and dense, like the kind of bread you get from a classy sit-down restaurant instead of the mostly-air breadsticks of Pizza Hut. Five breadsticks came in an order along with a sweet marinara sauce that further enhanced the taste.
Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about the pizza. The smoky taste of the bacon and beef completely eclipsed the taste of the pie. The pepperoni was good, but there wasn’t nearly enough of it, as there might have been 15 pieces on the 16-inch pizza.
The cheese was good, but wasn’t stringy like real cheese; it was more like the cheese that the NMU cafeterias use. The crust didn’t add anything to the taste and its consistency was odd. I’m not exactly sure how to describe it. It didn’t have the slight rise or seared edges like a pan crust, nor did it have the crispiness of a thin crust or the thickness to be a deep dish.
After my third piece, I knew something was missing, but could not figure it out until pulling back the cheese. There was little to no sauce throughout the entire pizza, and I think I lucked out. If the same sweet marinara for my breadsticks was the sauce, then it and the smoky meats would have clashed more than orange juice and toothpaste. Good pizza requires the different flavors of toppings, cheese, crust and sauce to blend together to make one superior taste. Mr. B’s ingredients, however, jockeyed for position on the taste buds and gave the meal a bigger identity crisis than the establishment.
What saved the 3-star rating were the intangibles of appealing to a college-aged crowd. The costs were very competitive with fast food chains for both pizzas and subs, and NMU students get 10 percent off with an NMU ID. Delivery is free with every order, and service was very personal and friendly. Also, as a fan of cold pizza, Mr. B’s got better the next morning, as the smoky flavor subsided overnight and the cheese became tastier.
Mr. B’s has a way to go before they become a highly competitive member of the Marquette dining scene, but is heading in the right direction for such a young business. If you’re willing to try new places, this will be right up your alley, but make sure you give them your feedback, because Mr. B’s needs it.