Every city has their rivalry, in the Jewish world it usually takes place in the form of food. Pizza is probably one of the most hotly debated topics when it comes to kosher food, mostly because of it is accessible to all and that makes the fight even bigger. You donít find many people debating whether Prime Grill or Abigailís is better simply because they are patronized by wealthier people who donít debate such nonsense. But pizza is the equalizer, Brooklynites claim their pizza to be superior to all Ė but if you asked anyone from Brooklyn they could debate to high hell the qualities of Mendelsohns over Pizza Time or whatever.
Baltimore on the other hand has only two pizza stores, well actually three but if you ask any Baltimorean they will tell you that Carmelís is terrible Ė and since this is the case I actually ate there last time I was in Baltimore and I have to agree, the pizza tasted like a soggy Tov castaway slice that fell into a puddle of water. For out intents and purposes there are only two pizza stores in Baltimore Mama Leahs and Tov, and Baltimoreans which are always trying to prove that they are just as good as New Yorkers (maybe because they are all from New York) tend to go head to head in the pizza debate.
Both pizza stores have their high points and low points and I as an outsider intend to say my share and then let everyone else go a little crazy, after all they call them Baltimorons for a reason.
If you want a quick snack and donít want to wait for them to make your food, Tov is where itís at. Unfortunately this can only mean one thing, your food is being warmed up and not made freshly. Itís a tradeoff I am willing to take, sometimes, you can always count on Tov to be quicker then Mama Leahs and for them to have slices ready. This may be because the sheer size of the place causes the employees to constantly be making food for this behemoth of a store that never seems to be filled up, except for Saturday nights.
Tov pizza is very oily and it has a weird color. The pizza here is yellow, no idea why, but it has this very yellow look to it, it may be due to the amount of oil that seems to accumulate on every slice. For New Yorkers Tov Pizza just doesnít cut it, the slices are too small and the taste is unlike any I have had, save for Carmelís. Tov Pizza has the uncanny ability to taste good after it sat in your car for 3 hours in the middle of the summer, I wonder what sort of preservatives they use?
The parking situation is weird and the gas station next door is always filled with weirdoes and people who will probably rob you car, but we are in Baltimore after all. I should give mention to the fact that the girls who work at Tov are usually very cute so if your in it for that 30 second chance you have while exchanging pizza store pleasantries involving taking your money and getting change from the pizza girl with the possibility of getting her number, Tov may be better, since Mama Leahs only has one girl and Tovís has up to 3 working behind the counter.
When I go to Mama Leahs I get the lunch special or the deep dish, the regular pizza doesnít do it for me, donít get me wrong I think they have great pizza Ė but its just too damned expensive. You would think that a pizza store obviously catering to Yeshiva guys would be a little cheaper, but its not. The lunch special is $11 for a soda, personal pizza and fries. The fries have skin on some of them which I like, but I have a feeling they are from the package as well. I am told that Mama Leahs makes their own pizza sauce, is this true? I would say that the taste at Mama Leahs is for more mature audiences then that of Tov, it is more refined, more luxurious and better tasting and looking.
They say we eat with our eyes, if so I was a little disturbed last Saturday night when this table of wannabe Brooklyn couples (trying to be hockers and hot chanies) but couldnít pull it off ordered a large pizza, I wanted to take a picture of the inch deep pool of oil in the middle of the pizza, but the greedy hockers took a piece and breached the dam before I could. In general Mama Leahs pizza looks way better then Tovís yellow crust pizza, but this was a little much.
The deep dish is great, but the vegetable content at Mama Leahs is pathetic, do not order veggies your heart will break when you realize you spend $1.50 on 4 mushrooms, Tov deserves props for good vegetable amounts and making you feel it was money well spent.
The girl behind the counter at Mama Leahs is super cute, but I am told sheís dating the smiley pudgy guy behind the counter, makes sense, I always wondered if people were playing footsie amongst other things under the counter while serving customers. I am quite surprised that in Baltimore at a pizza store catering to the yeshiva they would allow guys in knit yarmulke and girls in jeans.
In my opinion, donít hate me for it, Mama Leahs kicks Tovís butt in many ways. Mama Leahs is cleaner, better lit, better tasting, fresher and less oily then Tovís. If you donít want to wait an eternity for your food however Tov is the place to go, Tov scores in terms of girls behind the counter, room to sit and ability to last long periods of time without being refrigerated.
A recent video I did in Mama Leahs:
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