It has happened to us all. You head to a place you love, eagerly anticipating a great meal only to find out there is more than an hour wait and you and your family just can't wait it out.
When this happened to me recently in the Huntington area, I instead went to a place I didn't know much about and probably never would have tried had it not been for what turned out to be a happy accident.
Z-Place Pizza in Huntington probably should have been on my radar given it has been in business since 1969. It is not a flashy place and it's probably not going to make any best-in-state lists found on social media. It is just a solid place doing simple food the right way with folks who genuinely appreciate your business.
And that is something anyone can appreciate.
The signature Z-Pizza was simply a great classic thin-crust pie. The crust crunched like a cracker it was so crisp, and it had a nice flavor. The sauce was simple and didn't really stand out but the plethora of toppings – sausage, pepperoni, sausage, onion, green olives and green peppers – did. The tasty sausage crumbles, that were almost as big as meatballs, were the best part.
The chicken wings I had with that pizza were also marked by their crispness. They were broasted, which created that crunch, and the meat inside was super juicy and very tender. A wing cannot be fried better than these. I had mine naked with a side of tangy red barbecue sauce and a zippy Caribbean sauce. Both were nice, but I ate most of mine as is because I love properly broasted chicken.
Those wings convinced me to try the broasted pork chops on another visit, but they were not anywhere close to being as satisfying.
My two 6-ounce boneless chops were crispy like the wings but were extremely salty. They were also glistening from the layer of oil on their exterior and I thought I might have mistakenly gotten the Cajun version because they were dotted with dark spots. Well, they were not Cajun, those spots were burnt breading remnants from a broaster overdue for an oil change.
That bad oil had the opposite effect on my broasted potatoes. They were drenched with oil and soggy without a bit of crispness. I didn't bother taking more than one bite.
Z-Place also offers loaded baked potatoes and my Mexican spud almost made me forget about the oily broasted ones. It was topped with ground beef and sausage, red sauce, cheddar cheese, black olives, lettuce, tomatoes and crispy tortilla strips. The cheese melted over it like mozzarella on a pizza crust, the potato was perfectly cooked and cut open so there were plenty of big pieces of the fluffy vegetable to stand up to the bevy of toppings.
The sausage was an odd addition on a Mexican potato and I might just go with ground beef next time, but there will be a next time because this potato made me want to try even more varieties.
When it came to the subs, the chicken Parmesan called to me because I knew the chicken breast would be broasted. It was very dark on top and my server told me upfront they would replace it if I wanted, but I love burnt cheese and there was plenty around the edges of it, so I happily accepted it.
The chicken was fine but it was not broasted like I hoped. This bird was coated in a gritty breading and had no chance of being crisp given it was covered in sauce and cheese. The bread was fine even though it was well-toasted. It was a decent sandwich thanks to the plethora of mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, but I would try a different sub next time unless I can have this one with broasted bird.
The coleslaw that came with the sandwich was more than respectable. Its slaw was crisp and it had a creamy base with a sweet, pickly flavor with just a hint of vinegar bite.
Though the chicken Alfredo pizza was an OK choice, the Alfredo sauce was exposed as anything but OK on the only pasta offering I tried.
The linguine Alfredo was slathered with a sort of dirty-white sauce that not only looked awful, it tasted awful. It was salty and simply gross. You can mask a subpar sauce under chicken and mozzarella, but you can't hide it on pasta. There are much better jarred Alfredo sauces out there than this one for Z-Place to use.
But who am I kidding, I am not going back to this Huntington staple to order pasta. I will be going back, and I will be having more of that thin-crust pizza.
Unless, of course, one of those other places I like isn't so busy.
Address: 538 Warren St., Huntington
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 10:30 p.m. Friday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Smoking status: Non-smoking
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Wings ($6.75 for 6; $12.75 for 12), bread sticks ($3.25), garlic bread ($3.25), pork chops ($9.50), sub ($5.75 for 6-inch; $9.75 for 12 inch), Z-Pizza ($6.50 for 7-inch; $11.50 for 10 inch; $17.25 for 14 inch; $19.75 for 16 inch), linguine ($8.50)
Rating breakdown: Food: ★ 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: ★ (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.
Out of a possible five
• The garlic-cheese bread and bread sticks at Z-Place were good choices. They weren't outstanding by any means; just solid snacks. The garlic bread was best as it was served in an aluminum foil nest which created crispy flecks of burnt mozzarella that oozed from the top of it.
• Though you order at a counter up front near the entrance, the service does not stop at that window. I was checked on several times to make sure my food was OK and to see if there was anything I needed.
• There wasn't much in terms of atmosphere, but there are enough touches here and there - the strands of lights along the ceiling, for example - to make this old place less stale than other places that have been around as long as it has. I also loved the old original sign out front and the addition of video games in the dining room, which reminded me of some of the pizza places I visited as a kid when coin-op video games were a thing and kids didn't play games on cell phones.