In Which We Eat the Pizzabon from Cinnabon
C'mon, admit it. Your first reaction to the news that Cinnabon was testing a pizza-like thingy was one of shock and horror and revolted disgust and utter despair at the hopelessly sad state of humanity... but deep down, you were curious. It's easy to tsk-tsk-tsk away at first glance and lump it in with the Luther Burger and the KFC Double Down as just another Thing That Should Not Be. But since it already exists... don't you kind of want to know how it tastes? Lucky for you, I live just 15 minutes away from the only food court in the world where you can currently get a Pizzabon.
Comedian Jim Gaffigan likens the famously-oversized standard-issue Cinnabon to a bean-bag chair. The Pizzabon is considerably smaller, about two and a half inches in diameter, or the size of the chain's "Minibon." That alone lessened the fright factor for me. Even if it's bad, I thought, three ounces of bad won't ruin my whole day. Given the snack-size portion, though, the $2.99 price tag seemed high.
Visually speaking, I was pleasantly surprised. I thought my Pizzabon looked way better than the PR shot. It's hard to tell what that even is in the topmost pic; is it a solid disc of dough with pizza stuff on top? Is it a mini-boule with pizza sauce and fixings ready to gush out at first bite? There's really nothing Cinnabonesque about that photo prop. What I had before me was clearly a cinnamon-bunlike spiral of dough with a sprinkling of cheese in various stages of meltitude, and a slice of pepperoni cut into bits. This was feeling less like some new fast-food monstrosity and more like a subtle twist on a bagel bite.
Like most of you, I was worried that a Cinnabon-made pizza snack would somehow join traditional pizza toppings and flavors (yay!) with the chain's famously ooey-gooey-drippingly-sweet rolls (hell, yes!) to produce a pizza infused with cinnamon-sugar goo (ewwww). Thankfully, saner heads prevailed at the Cinnabon test kitchen. Break that roll apart and you'll find whole slices of pepperoni, more cheese, and maybe a smattering of tomato-based sauce... all rolled up jellyroll-style in the same basic dough as the cinnamon treats.
While I certainly didn't expect to find any char or leopard spotting, I was surprised at how much cheese and grease was soaking the bottoms of these buns. Cooked Pizzabons wait under the sneeze guard in a tray that holds a dozen at a time. As they sit, that cheese is melting... that pepperoni is oozing grease... and it's got nowhere to go but straight down the sides of the dough until it all pools around the bottom.
This made the Pizzabon pretty greasy, but overall, it actually wasn't terrible. It's very doughy‐exponentially doughier than even your deepest deep-dish pie. It reminded me of those homemade pizza treats that Mom cobbled together with a tube of refrigerated dough and a jar of sauce when you had a sleepover. All of the ingredients were there, but with a disproportionate amount of dough. It's a pizza-flavored wad of dough. Soft, tasty, familiar, dense dough... just a whole lot of it.
Dough, and sauce, and cheese, and pepperoni: it satisfies the basic requirements for pizza. (I can hear the pizza nerds rising up as one to rip me a new one in the comments section...) I think the uproar comes because it's Cinnabon—a food court chain (strike one) that's known for something other than pizza (strike two). For me, the real problem with the Pizzabon is, for all of the company rhetoric about wanting "to innovate to satisfy the demands of old customers and to create some new ones," and wanting customers "to find everything they want in one place," I never DIDN'T go to Cinnabon because they didn't offer a savory snack version that tasted like a pizza. I'd never get a Pizzabon AND a Cinnabon together (just typing that made me bloated and sleepy)... and I certainly wouldn't do the walk of shame up to a Cinnabon without getting the syrupy-sweet version (because I'm a weak, weak man)... so I'm not sure when or why I would seek out a Pizzabon again.
Still curious? Only Cumberland Mall on Atlanta's northwest side serves the Pizzabon for now. And this Saturday, (August 18, 2012), they're free from 11am to 2pm.
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers for AHT and pizzas for Slice, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.