Truly Cheap Eats: Battle of the $1 Port Authority Pizza

Back in late April I sent out a tweet about a new cheap eats player in the 'hood: 2 Bros. Pizza had opened an outpost selling $1 slices on the southeast corner of 40th and Ninth...only a block away from the well established 99¢ Fresh Pizza on the northwest corner of 41st and Ninth. Did this mean war?

I promised a taste test, and last night Lara and I (post screening of a very New Yorky movie) took the Slice vs. Slice challenge.

First up, 99¢ Fresh Pizza. This little corner place serving up up slices, coffee, and dunots [sic--see photo below] through a window has been around for a few years. I regularly shop next door at the Big Apple Market and Stiles Farmers Market, so I've often dodged the lengthy line, but never eaten the pizza.

We each ordered a plain slice (which actually cost an even $1), and I took my usual advantage of the garlic, Parmesan, oregano, and chili flakes on the counter. My initial reaction was that the slice wasn't all that bad, really, especially for a dollar. Lara's first reaction was that it tasted like one of the frozen pizzas she'd eaten as a kid in North Jersey.

These places obviously save money by going light on the ingredients. There was only a thin layer of sauce and not much cheese, but that was actually fine in my book, since many traditional pizzeria slices have a puddle of grease and cheese that slides off the thick slick of sauce. The dough was thin, though a little sweet for my taste, and the sauce was fairly simple, which was fine. Overall, an acceptable cheap slice.

Next up, 2 Bros. I ordered another regular slice (again, $1 even), and Lara went for the Sicilian ($1.50). They were out of some of the sprinkle toppings, so I was only able to add oregano, garlic, and chili this time. The size of the slice was comparable, if only slightly larger, and the dough was crunchier, slightly more substantial, and less sweet than 99¢. But the sauce was, well, weird. We couldn't put our finger on it...it kind of tasted too sweet, a little like tomato paste, and perhaps even a little metallic. The Sicilian wasn't truly Sicilian, either...just a square that was thin in the middle and thick on the sides.

The advantage to 2 Bros., though, is the larger space filled with simple tables and chairs. But while you can sit, you'll have to deal with the unfortunate selection of music blasting from behind the counter. We couldn't decide if it was really worth the trade-off.

The most positive point for both joints is that they each have lots of turnover, so the slices were fresh and hot (no reheating necessary). Neither slice was gloppy or greasy, and while I was way too full after completing the challenge, I didn't have the usual "giant lump of oily cheese in the stomach" feeling afterward. Frankly, I'd rather eat either one of these $1 slices than the $2.50+ options elsewhere. Even though the ingredients are obviously cheap, the simplicity makes the slices better than they should be.

The winner? 99¢ Fresh Pizza. The flavors are simple, balanced, and easy. While 2 Bros. crust is a little better, the sauce was just too much of a mystery... Maybe it was the music...

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