In Wildwood, New Jersey, It's Mack's vs. Sam's
Location: 3218 Boardwalk (b/n E. Pine and E. Wildwood avenues; map)
Location: 4200 Boardwalk (b/n E. Roberts and E. Baker avenues; map)
The Skinny: Two locations on boardwalk. Part of the Mack's vs. Sam's Wildwood pizza rivalry. Described as "greasy" by many people we talked to, due in part to the use of cheddar in the cheese blend.
Location: 2600 Boardwalk (b/n E. 26th and E. Juniper avenues; map)
The Skinny: On the Wildwood boardwalk. One half of the Mack's vs. Sam's Wildwood pizza rivalry. Sam's is Slice's preference. A delicious, salty slice with just the right crust-sauce-cheese balance. Original building burned down recently but has since been rebuilt.
SHOOBIES AT THE SHORE: PIZZA IN THE WILDWOODS
That's not just a cute sign. It speaks the truth. Girl Slice experienced seagull ferocity firsthand when she left a sandwich unattended for just a few seconds. Seagulls immediately swooped in and claimed part of it. Onlooking carnies were amused.
You can keep the Hamptons and your overpriced summer share. Give me the Wildwoods and a reasonably priced Doo Wop Modern motel instead.
With more than two miles of boardwalk jammed with roller coasters, amusement piers, carnies, shoobies, and sandwich-snatching seagulls, this jem of a resort area on the Jersey Shore has more character than you can shake a driftwood stick at. And the great wooden way there has at least as many pizzerias lining it as any given street in Manhattan. When it comes to pizza in Wildwood, though, the great debate is Sam's vs. Mack's.
I first learned of the rivalry after watching several Wildwood documentary DVDs with Girl Slice. She was going down the shore on a recent weekend to do a little historical research on the town. In each documentary, the rivalry was addressed. According to the docs, you're either a Mack's or a Sam's devotee. I followed the girl down to Wildwood, and we put that notion to the test, taking an informal poll of locals we met while in town. Sam's came out on top by a wide margin. A group of Wildwood cops were Sam's fans, as were the cashiers at a downtown Wildwood sandwich shop, who went so far as to say, "Most of the older people around here say Mack's, but us younger ones like Sam's. Mack's is too greasy."
The greasiness of the Mack's slice was echoed by almost everyone we talked to and is due in large part to the joint's use of cheddar on its pies. That's a Mack's slice above left, compared to a Sam's slice above right.
Let's make some more photographic comparisons:
Pretty pix, eh? But you don't eat with your eyes. After taste-testing was complete, Girl Slice and I sided with the majority of the Wildwoodies we spoke to: We're Sam's fans, hands down. Sam's had the better crust -- light, airy, crisp, and pleasantly salty, compared to Mack's, which was sufficiently crisp but not as light or thin and which lacked the saltiness we found so appealing at Sam's. Add to that the near-perfect cheese-to-sauce ratio at Sam's versus Mack's thick blanket of mozzarella and cheddar (the latter cheese of which we feel has no business on a pie or slice).
Sam's was that rare find for a jaded old pizza eater like me -- a single slice that had me plunking down my money for a second. At the risk of sounding too New York provincial, Sam's held its own against many of our greatest slices and indeed surpassed much of the dreck I've eaten in the five boroughs. Transport the joint to the Big Apple, and I think you'd have a pizzeria that would make many a New Yorker's short list of top slice spots. Good thing, then, that Sam's sits firmly where it does; I need a reliable pie whenever I visit the Wildwoods. Play it again, Sam, indeed.