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CPK: Cheeseburger Pizza

By • May 25th, 2010 • Category: Burger Blog

The best of a cheeseburger blended with everything that’s great about pizza sounds like a no-brainer awesome-on-awesome hybrid.  But while the idea of a cheeseburger pizza sounds spectacular, I’m usually left feeling like I got neither a true cheeseburger experience nor real pizza taste.  I was forced to reconsider, though, when the family and I ended up at California Pizza Kitchen.

The gourmet chain got its start in 1985 by two Beverly Hills attorneys who wanted to get out of law and into the restaurant biz.  They sets their sights squarely on the round pies Wolfgang Puck was cranking out at Spago, and decided they could bring that hoity-toity treatment to the masses (in part by hiring away Spago’s founding pizza chef). CPK now has over 250 locations in 32 states and 9 foreign countries, and is a staple in your grocer’s frozen-food aisle.  (Fun fact: the first CPK located outside of Cali was opened in 1987 inside Atlanta’s Lenox Square mall, 12 miles from my front door.)

Best known for their Original Barbeque Chicken and Thai Chicken varieties, CPK loves to take unusual ingredients and turn them into pizzas that are just a bit outside the box.  Most times, the results are fabulous, so I was particularly intrigued by the newest of their 34 offerings, the simply-named Cheeseburger Pizza.  Here’s the official menu description:

Ground Angus beef, caramelized sweet onions, Mozzarella and American cheeses, hearth-baked, then topped with Roma tomatoes and chilled shredded lettuce tossed in our secret sauce.  Add applewood smoked bacon.  Add fresh avocado.

I ordered it up (with bacon but no avocado) and waited, hoping this cheeseburger pizza would be a winner.  What was delivered to my table certainly looked like a step in the right direction:

In truth, I wasn’t expecting so much lettuce.  Did someone spill a salad on my ‘za as it emerged from the kitchen??? I removed the tomatoes (chunks I can deal with; big fat slices are just too much) and dove in.

Holy Heads of Lettuce, Batman!!! Good God, it tasted like someone spilled a salad on my pizza, too.  Was there really Angus ground beef under there?  What about the applewood smoked bacon?  I had no idea; all I could taste was a mouthful of cold lettuce swimming in “secret” sauce.  But it was certainly an authentic cheeseburger experience, because I found myself picking off the unnecessary and heavy-handed toppings, just like at a fair number of burger joints.   Minus the bed of lettuce, I was left with a pretty sexy-looking slice:

A thousand times better. The beef was very tasty, the bacon brought a nice smoky kick, the blended cheeses worked well together, and the caramelized onions lent a noticeable sweetness.  Most of the secret sauce stayed with the greenery on my plate, which was fine; I had a hunch I had cracked the CPK code.  I tried to get verification from my waitress.

“If I ask you what the secret sauce is, will you tell me?”

“We’re not supposed to.”

“What if I guess?”

“If you guess, I’ll tell you if you’re right.”

“Ketchup and mustard.”  I suspected ketchstard, that half-and-half concoction that I’ve encountered before on non-cheeseburger cheeseburgers.

“Um… it’s not mustard.  But it’s ketchup and something.”

My next suspects were mayo and Thousand Island dressing.  But I was clearly scaring her with my interrogation, so I dropped it.

All in all, not a bad pizza.  Just be prepared to go under the bun and do a little burger-building maintenance.  And if you discover CPK’s secret sauce, drop us a line.

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