After a week traveling around China, walking into Mike’s Pizza Kitchen in Chengdu was like being transported into a whole new, yet familiar, world. This place is totally American, from the classic music to the baseball cap donned staff. In fact, this was the place where I’ve seen the most Westerners in China, aside from my own tour group. Now the day I visited Mike’s was an extremely disappointing day for most Americans I know, so much so that many just wanted to curl in a ball and hide, but my disillusionment with our country was not about to keep me from pizza. And this place knows pizza.
When I googled “best pizza in Chengdu,” I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mike’s was all over the search results and is even ranked #1 on Trip Advisor out of ALL its restaurants. This in what’s been called the gastronomic capital of China. After a quick visit to the website where I found an abundance of sarcastic humour, I was sold. The site also said they require reservations, and took them via WeChat (the most popular messaging app in China), so I jumped at the chance to chat with a pizza place. They helped me make a reservation and gave me Chinese directions to give my taxi.
Mike, both owner and chef, was born in Calgary and spent his formative years in Las Vegas, working at a local pizza establishment and learning the tricks of the trade. After moving to Chengdu and recognizing a pizza shaped hole in his life, he started Mike’s Pizza Kitchen as a small, delivery-only, family operation. Since then it’s grown into a full restaurant with over 20 employees, catering to both locals and expats alike.
My hopes for Mike’s were high, and I was not let down. Mike’s pizzas are a cross between old and new world styles, with a soft, hand-tossed crust and an abundance of toppings options. It skews a little more New York style, but the influence of Neapolitan style was also pretty obvious. With each bite of my 9″ pepperoni pie, I wanted more. I had to slow myself down multiple times just to savor it for longer. After about one slice, I immediately regretted my conservative choice to not order a 12″. Because I definitely could have eaten more. I recognize that my palate and state of mind may make me biased towards this pizza, after eating traditional Chinese cuisine for almost 8 straight days. But at the same time, I could not identify a single flaw.
Each element of this pizza impressed me. The cheese was fresh, gooey, and tasty. The sauce had just the right amount of seasoning to not overpower the pizza, but would also have pleased Sara had she been there. The crust was my perfect crust – soft and fluffy enough that I wanted to eat every last bit. There was pepperoni in every bite, and it was good. And thanks to the great exchange rate from USD to RMB, my pizza, two glasses of wine, and homemade ice cream rounded out to a cool $22. I can’t begin to imagine what Mike and team have to do/pay to import these ingredients, but I’m so glad that they do.
Pizza aside, I was overwhelmed by the kindness and service level provided at Mike’s, especially from Mike’s wife Aiqing, from her WeChat assistance to her kind and friendly demeanor in the restaurant. I felt entirely taken care of and valued, which I did not always find when dining alone in Chinese restaurants. (At the end of my trip, I discovered that drinking alone in China is actually considered rude, after I basically had to beg a server to give me a drink menu. Oops.)
I have hemmed and hawed over my final rating, aware that it’s very possible I was biased by my location and lack of American food for so long. But the fact remains, I had not one single complaint about this pizza, except that I simply wanted more. And with that, I dish out my first perfect score – a 5 out of 5 for Mike’s Pizza Kitchen in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China.