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Niki's Pizza Is Not Detroit's Best, But It's Not Too Far Behind
734 Beaubien Street, Detroit MI 48226 (map); 313-961-4303; nikispizza.com
Pizza Style: Detroit Style
The Skinny: Not on par with Loui's or Buddy's, but still delicious
Price: Small feta pizza is $8.95
On a two-day six-restaurant pizza binge in Detroit, I had the good fortune of sampling pizzas from arguably the three most famous purveyors of the city's homegrown style: Buddy's, Loui's, and Niki's Pizza. Adam already reviewed Buddy's and Maggie covered Loui's, and I second every positive word they wrote. Niki's, located in the Greektown section of downtown, is much more centrally located than the other two. Unfortunately, it comes in a step behind in quality. Of course, one step behind incredible is still seriously delicious.
Detroit-style pizza, purportedly invented at Buddy's in 1946, is similar to Sicilian but with more cheese, a lot more fat in the crust, and with the sauce on top. When Alan Richman identified his top 25 pizzas in America, he included Niki's at No. 24. His reason: "I discovered feta cheese as a topping." While I'd had feta on pizza plenty of times, I decided to follow in Mr. Richman's footsteps on this one.
The feta added a wonderful creaminess and tanginess to the pizza, even if it wasn't super-sharp cheese. The sauce, prominent on the taste buds thanks to its quantity and position atop the pizza, was a bit thick but bursting with tomato flavor (along with a heavy dose of pepper.) In fact, the strength of the sauce made the tangy feta all the more valuable for balance.
When you're eating Detroit pizza, the best part of the crust is the edge, which gets crisp, nearly fried in texture, while the rest of the crust is pillowy and soft. You can order a pie with four pieces or eight; the smart money is on the smaller pizzas since that means every piece has two edges in contact with the side of the pan, where the heavenly crisp bits happen.
Unfortunately, most of the crust at Niki's was missing the crispiness that would have turned a very good pizza into a great one. A few more minutes in the oven might have helped. But Niki's convenient location (across the street from Greektown Casino and a mere half mile from Ford Field) makes it a must-stop for any visitor to downtown Detroit. If you have a car and some extra time, though, head out to Buddy's or Loui's instead. Or hit all three places within 24 hours and enjoy one of the better pizza adventures of your life.