Chain Reaction: We Try Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza

Chain Pizza

Reviews of pizza at chain restaurants.


[Photographs: Dennis Lee]

When I first saw the commercial for the Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza ($12), I wasn't sure what to think. The first thing you see is John Schnatter himself (he loves being in his commercials) flipping a magical burger patty on a grill, turning it into a pizza that he proudly serves up on the counter to a very, very excited crowd of patrons. There are fist bumps, identical twins, and lots of people saying "double cheeseburger." It's really something. You should check it out. And as a good consumer and devoted serious eater, my insatiable curiosity about this pizza-burger mashup got the best of me. I set out to give it a test drive.

Some restaurants successfully capitalize on these sorts of mashups, like California Pizza Kitchen's barbecue chicken pizza. I'm always a little worried about hybrids, though, because sometimes they aren't quite as magical as they seem.


The double cheeseburger pizza is a strange beast—the first thing you'll notice is that your usual tomato-based pizza lube is replaced with "burger sauce." Then the pizza is topped with ground beef, Roma tomato bits, and...dill pickles. Lots and lots of dill pickles.

But, you ask, does it work?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ordering the double cheeseburger pizza is kind of a bad idea. The burger sauce, which is a sweet Thousand Island dressing variant without the pickle relish, is very sweet. Last time I checked, sweet pizzas don't seem to be a thing, unless they're dessert pizzas. My roommate came by to check out what I was doing, took a whiff of the pizza, and said, "It smells like a McDonald's burger." As a fan of both McDonald's and Papa John's, I'm sorry to say that the smell was not an accurate representation of flavor.


So. The burger part. When it comes to the toppings, the beef has a strange processed texture to it, though there is enough gristle in it to give you the texture of ground beef now and then. If I had to describe it further, the texture is ground beef with a chewier sausage-like quality to it. There's not much of it, either. The tomatoes bring little bursts of juicy tart freshness, but again, there aren't many of them. But the true flaw is the pickles. There are just so many of them that you can't taste much else, other than the sweet runny sauce.

Out of all the major fast-food pizza chains, Papa John's is easily my favorite (followed closely by Little Caesar's), mostly due to its light, fluffy, and chewy crust with its trademark crackly exterior. And I'll admit it, I think the garlic dipping sauce for your pizza bones is genius, along with the pepperoncini, which I liken to the pickled ginger you get with sushi as a palate cleanser. If I were you, I'd steer clear of this imaginative Frankenstein and just stick with one of their classic pizzas. My guess is you'll be a lot happier.