Toppers adds another option to William Street 'pizza row'
The addition of Toppers Pizza, which opened in January, has helped turn the Maynard and William corridor into pizza row. Toppers joins Cottage Inn and New York Pizza Depot as well as another recent addition, NeoPapalis.
Toppers is a franchise, with headquarters in Wisconsin. Moe Baydoun, the owner of the Ann Arbor store, is undaunted by the competition. He said he "fell in love with the hip brand" and thought it would be a perfect fit in this college town. What makes Toppers stand out, he says, is that everything is made fresh, with cheese from Wisconsin.
Baydoun said it was a challenge turning a former shoe repair shop into a pizza place, and he gutted the interior in order to transform it. It looks slick and sparkling clean. The area beyond the counter is open, so you can see the employees preparing the food.
There's a tiny eating area with a few high-backed stools and tables, with room for a dozen people, where you wait while your food is being prepared. Three out of the four flat-screen televisions were tuned to ESPN on our visits, but the sound was turned off, since popular tunes were blaring from the speakers.
607 E. William St., Ann Arbor
- 10:30 a.m.-4 a.m. every day.
- Plastic: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover.
- Liquor: No.
- Prices: Inexpensive.
- Wheelchair access: Yes
The focus is on unusual varieties of pizza with a range of exotic ingredients. The combinations are so rich, they would test even the most forgiving stomach. For example, the "hangover helper" consists of Canadian bacon, onions, green peppers, potatoes, and bacon bits, topped with mozzarella and cheddar; while the mac 'n cheese pizza is cheese sauce layered with macaroni noodles, smothered in a mound of mozzarella, with cheddar served on a pizza crust.
No one in my family could be convinced to give these a try, so we first opted for the basic plain cheese pizza, which I thought would be a good test. The pizza was fine if unremarkable, with ample amounts of tomato sauce.
The second time around, we decided to be a bit more adventurous, ordering the meat topper. Ideal for the dedicated carnivore, it consists of pepperoni, both Canadian and American bacon, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. All the toppings were high quality, especially the thick squares of the regular bacon.
I didn't enjoy the California topper. The combination of spinach, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, feta, mozzarella and ranch sauce was overpowering. The ranch sauce, on top of two very rich cheeses, didn't make for an appetizing pizza.
There are three choices of crust: hand-tossed, crispy and the "signature" Tall Boy crust. While the Tall Boy was slightly puffier and airier than the other two, there was no substantial difference among the three.
Baydoun says "nobody has anything equal to our Topperstix," which are made from fresh dough and Wisconsin cheese. Yet I thought they were similar to cheese sticks that you would get from many pizza places. I did like them better when they were paired with the wonderful cucumber sauce, a big improvement over the traditional ranch dressing dip.
In addition to pizzas, Toppers offers a few other items. We sampled its pizza quesadilla, called the "Q'Za," opting for both the chicken and plain cheese versions. The cheese is between two layers of a tortilla crust. I thought this was inventive and a nice twist. It was just as good as the pizza, and the chicken version was a hearty offering.
Toppers offers both Buffalo and boneless wings. We ordered the Buffalo wings cooked in a barbecue sauce. The wings on their own were unappetizing and had a bitter taste, but the sweet and smoky barbeque sauce served on the side substantially improved them.
We sampled one of the eight toasted grinders offered here, the Italian sausage and peppers. I enjoyed the thick, quality, toasted French roll that was the foundation for the gigantic sandwich. The three types of peppers — green, banana and jalapeno — added a nice mixture of spiciness, complementing the mozzarella and pizza sauce.
On our first visit, I was told that the order took as long as it did, 25 minutes, because the wings take longer to cook. That would have been helpful to know in advance of ordering. The second time around, the server promised my food in 10 minutes; it took 20. Since the eating area is small and not an ideal place for lingering, a better choice would be to order ahead.
Staff people were very pleasant on both our visits.
While there isn't anything wrong with the pizza at Toppers, it doesn't offer much that isn't already found in this campus corridor and in the greater Ann Arbor area. Still, with so many students in the vicinity craving this type of fare as sustenance round-the-clock (Toppers is open until 4 a.m. every day), it may nonetheless prove to be a popular option.
Julie Halpert reviews restaurants for AnnArbor.com.