3/5 stars | Screamer’s Pizzeria | $$ | Vegan | 685 Franklin Ave | 718 623 6000
Although the decor of this establishment screams Vegan Californian Hippie, the service at Screamer’s is awful. It really seems like no employee wants you there. No matter the time of day or size of my order, the cashiers and servers at Screamers never seem at all happy to see me in the last few months that I’ve been a regular, which, as a former restaurant employee, I completely understand and resonate with. This Friday I ordered my largest order yet, in order to try to sample all the options they had available for this review. When the cashier asked me how much I ordered, the server responded quickly with “a shitton of stuff”. Although admittedly, this struck a nerve, she was not incorrect. The following is my order in order of best to worst:
- Screamer’s Pizza
- Cheesy Bread
- Carne Asada Pizza
- Artichoke Pizza
- Leftovers Pizza
- Plain Cheese Pizza
Within ten minutes, I had a hot pizza box in my hand and I was heading home to try all these interesting creations. After a fifteen minute walk, I was home with the pizza still perfectly warm. All the slices seemed like they could be incredible, as per usual, but most were bad. There were two honestly good orders: the Screamer’s Pizza and the cheesy bread.
These still had the same flaws as the rest of the food. They had clearly been heated too many times, leaving the crusts dry and stale. The toppings were poorly distributed and the sauce was mundane. Their go-to cheese (which was the only cheese in the plain cheese slice) is the worst kind of vegan cheese. With every bite, the cheese threatens to stick to the roof of your mouth since its texture is somewhere between that of mayonnaise and Jell-O. The flavour of the ghost of salt and nutritional yeast is not enough to save it. Once again I find myself unable to eat the abundant cheese-only bites of any of the slices, making the cheese slice inedible.
Screamer’s prides itself on its many changing toppings but in reality, most of their concepts are exclusively delicious in theory. This was the case with the Leftovers slice. The toppings of this slice are meant to resemble leftovers from a Thanksgiving meal and include mushroom gravy, sausage, sweet potato, mac and cheese, brussels sprouts and too much cranberry sauce. Although the concept is interesting and even sounded good to many of my American friends, as someone who hadn’t had brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, or mushroom gravy before this slice, I didn’t find it that appealing. Once I finally tried the much-Instagram-promoted pizza, I wasn’t just upset but entirely baffled by the idea that anyone with any self respect would sell this to a customer.
The artichoke pizza and carne asada pizza fell next to each other in terms of how neutral I felt towards them. Although I wouldn’t pay for them ever again, I might welcome a free slice if I’m hungry. They were both good, at best. The artichoke pizza was ruined simply because of the seitan ground beef topping which completely distracted from the delicious artichoke. The carne asada pizza has the potential to be incredible but it simply lacked flavour depth. The meat tasted like real meat but it lacked enough seasoning to make it any good. In both of these slices, the bad cheese stood out and distracted from some of the better ingredients.
The Screamer’s pizza, their signature slice, has garlic oil, vegan cheese, cremini mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, parsley flakes and almond parmesan. Usually, I find signature dishes tricky, especially with ingredients like mushrooms that can put off a lot of clients. This slice, however, was worthy of the spotlight and pulled through. Thanks to the mixed cheeses and strong garlic and parsley flavours, this pizza became an instant go-to in my neighbourhood. The mushrooms were perfectly cooked and somehow still snappy and juicy even when it laid on a fatally dry crust. This pizza as well as the cheesy bread were incredible, the kind of vegan food you don’t even need to be a vegan to opt for. Both beautifully salty and happy to be reheated the next day, the Screamer’s pizza and the cheesy bread made this food adventure worth the mile long trek and many crappy slices — although I will be opting out of ordering these in the future.