A few months ago, my family decided that—since restaurants are finally open again—we should explore the Mankato area for the best pizza restaurant around. The following blog showcases our results, evaluated on the basis of location, facilities, service, flavor, texture, and price, each of which is ranked from one to five stars based on the votes of my family and myself. We hope that you enjoy reading about our adventure, and that in the end you will know where to go next time you want pizza!
524 S Front Street, Mankato
January 7, 2022
Pagliai’s has a good location for anyone in the Mankato area. We made two stops on our way there, but I would estimate that our driving time on the way home was five to ten minutes. The streets were icy, and so on a normal day, the trip would be quicker. Pagliai’s doesn’t have a parking lot of its own, but there is some parking available along the street, as well as a parking lot half a block away. We parked a few blocks away and didn’t have a problem with the walk, even our family has several small children.
The aisles between the tables was rather narrow, and there was no good place to park the stroller. There was only one bathroom stall for each gender, but that seemed adequate given the small size of the restaurant. One of my siblings had a several minute wait for the bathroom, but this was because it was being cleaned. Despite the inconvenience of the wait, it was nice to know that the bathrooms were being kept clean. The music that was playing was not what I would have chosen, but it was soft enough that I didn’t find it to be bothersome.
The service was adequate. The younger children were given full glasses of ice water, rather than plastic cups or cups that were only partially filled, but other options might have been available if we had requested it. We were also provided with a pitcher to refill our glasses. I appreciated that we were each given a plate and a fork to eat the pizza. The wait for the pizza was about half an hour, which wasn’t ideal, but also wasn’t a huge issue.
Pagliai’s uses mozzarella cheese on its pizza, and I found this to be rather bland. We ordered a pepperoni and a sausage pizza. The tomato sauce on both had nice flavor, but the pepperoni wasn’t very flavorful. The sausage pizza was better; the sausage pieces were flavorful without being too spicy.
It was difficult to transfer the pizza from the tray onto our plates. The pizza had been cut while it was still hot, and so the cheese melted back together. We were provided with a knife, but we still had some trouble serving the pizza, and ended up with a lot of cheese on the table. The crust was thin and snapped easily, which made it difficult to pick up the pieces of pizza, and it was also very crisp, which made it difficult to eat it with a fork. The bottom of the crust was floury, and the texture was more like a crunchy cracker than chewy bread.
Due to the current supply chain problems, and the fact that many restaurants are still recovering from COVID-19 shutdowns, it was hard to analyze the price of the pizzas. We paid $39 for two 14” single topping pizzas, and we will have to compare this price with others as we continue our search for the best pizza in the Mankato area.
1351 Madison Avenue, Mankato
January 14, 2021
1000 Degrees is very conveniently located for anyone in or near downtown Mankato. It wasn’t far from our house—we could have walked if not for the snow—and it only took us a few minutes to get there. It has a parking lot with plenty of space, although at the time it was several inches deep in snow.
My family all agreed that 1000 Degrees felt much more open than Pagliai’s, with higher ceilings and better lighting. However, 1000 Degrees had two TVs (Pagliai’s had none). One of the TVs was playing the Marvel movie Black Widow, which is rated PG-13. The movie was muted (with subtitles), and little blood was shown, but there was enough action that it could have been frightening to younger children. Like Pagliai’s, 1000 Degrees had one bathroom stall for each gender. I found the bathroom to be significantly warmer than the dining area—which may have been because the bathroom was better protected from the cold drafts from outside. The bathroom could have used cleaning, especially along the edges of the floor, but the toilet and sink were clean.
The workers at 1000 Degrees were all friendly and helpful. One employee immediately offered to move two tables together to fit our big family, and he encouraged my younger siblings to help him lift it to move it over. We were not brought water, but I didn’t find it to be an inconvenience to get it for ourselves. The pizza came long before any of us expected it—while some of us were still getting water! According to the worker, it took only 2 ½ minutes. I appreciated the fast service, but agreed with my mom when she said that she had in some ways liked the long wait at Pagliai’s, because it gave us more time to talk.
The flavor of the pizzas was reasonably good. The sauce was not terribly flavorful, but not noticeably bland either. The cheese was more flavorful than at Pagliai’s, although the sausage and pepperoni were less flavorful.
The texture of the pizza crust was much chewier than at Pagliai’s. The bottom of the crust was also floury. We had a much easier time serving the pizza pieces; it’s possible that this was because the pizza was cut into triangular pieces rather than into squares. The cheese was also not as sticky as at Pagliai’s. However, both the pepperoni and the sausage pizza had significantly less meat on them. The edges of the pepperoni were slightly burnt, as well as the edges of the crust. This provided entertainment for my siblings—they enjoyed the enormous blackened bubble of cheese on one of the pieces.
We paid $32 for 2 single topping 14” pizzas, which was seven dollars less expensive than Pagliai’s. However, we ended up ordering a third pizza because several members of the family were still hungry. It’s hard to tell whether the pizzas at 1000 Degrees were truly less filling. They did not seem to be as filling, but other variables—such as how hungry we were when we came in—come into play here.
239 Belgrade Avenue, North Mankato
January 21, 2022
For some reason, each time we’ve visited a pizza place so far, we’ve experienced winter weather that would make Antarctica feel ashamed! This week, not only was it snowing heavily, but it was about 15°F, plus windchill. The trip to Dino’s took longer than it normally would because of the snow, and the unplowed streets meant that there was no way our twelve passenger van was fitting into the limited street-side parking. Instead we found a parking lot a block or so down from Dino’s. The walk in the cold and the wind was not ideal, but neither was it terrible. In better weather, the location of Dino’s would not have been a problem.
One thing we all noticed at Dino’s was that it was much warmer than the other restaurants—in part, perhaps, due to the location of our table. Given the snow and wind outside, it was wonderful to take off our coats and enjoy the warmth. Dino’s also had a tablecloth and cloth napkins—and spread over the table to protect the cloth was a giant sheet of paper, complete with a container of crayons. Needless to say, we kept ourselves well entertained while we were waiting for the food. The lighting at Dino’s was dimmer than 1000 Degrees and equal to or slightly brighter than Pagliai’s. The soft light provided a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. There were two bathrooms, one stall for each gender. One of the bathrooms was out of order, but we were able to use the other one. There was a wait of a minute or two, but nothing very inconvenient.
The workers were very friendly and came promptly to take our order. We were brought water, and the cups for the younger kids had straws. The water was later refilled without us having to ask for it. Our dishes were also cleared away as we finished with them. I appreciated this, because when there are eight plates and eight cups on a table, it gets very crowded very fast.
The pizza at Dino’s was more flavorful than the other places we’ve visited so far. I thought that the tomato sauce in particular had good flavor. The sausage and pepperoni were also flavorful. The taste of the cheese was not as noticeable, but if it had had more flavor, it would have been too strong overall.
The pizza seemed to serve more easily than at the other restaurants, although we did end up with a few strings of cheese trailing across the table—and ruining our artwork with grease spots. We ordered larger pizzas at Dino’s, and so the pizza pieces tended to flop when we picked them up, but the texture of the crust was good.
At Dino’s, we ordered two 18” pizzas, rather than 14”. The 18” pizzas were $18 each, plus $2.50 for each topping (we ordered a single topping on each). The 14” pizzas were $16 each, plus $1 for each topping—a little more expensive than 1000 Degrees, but less expensive than Pagliai’s.
Jake’s Stadium Pizza—★★☆☆☆
330 Stadium Road, Mankato
January 29, 2022
Jake’s Stadium Pizza was farther from our house than 1000 Degrees, probably about the same distance as Pagliai’s. The drive seemed a little longer, but wasn’t an issue. Jake’s had its own parking lot, which had plenty of room when we arrived. Of course it was once again cold out, and so we were grateful to find a spot near the entrance.
Jake’s seemed more crowded than the other places, especially compared to 1000 Degrees, but there was adequate space for all the patrons. There was no convenient place for the infant carseat we brought in, but it worked out fine. As far as bathrooms go, there were three stalls in the ladies’ room (and I’m assuming in the men’s as well). The bathroom was cleaner than a lot of public bathrooms. In the dining area, there were several prominently located TVs, which distracted us from our meal and conversation.
We were given cups for water, but had to get water, silverware, and plates for ourselves. Also, we had to go and get the pizza when it was done. The wait time for the pizza was reasonable. However, there was some confusion over the price of the pizzas, resulting in an argument between two employees. Once that was figured out, we were incorrectly charged for children’s cups that should have been free. The cashier gave us a refund, but the confusion was still frustrating.
The flavor of the pizzas wasn’t terrible, but it left much to be desired. The pepperoni pieces really had no taste. While we’ve been trying to order a sausage and pepperoni pizza at each restaurant to compare those specifically, my mom forgot and ordered cheese pizza here, so I don’t know what the sausage would have tasted like. The flavor of the sauce was fine.
The texture of the crust was more rubbery than anything else. The cheese and pepperoni were fine. We did have an easier time serving the pizza here, but that was largely because it was cut into smaller pieces. Even so, it was hard to pick up the pizza to eat it because the crust kept flopping.
As mentioned before, we mistakenly did not order the same kind of pizza as at the previous restaurants. Due to the confusion over the price, I am not sure what the price would have been if we had, but as far as I can tell from the website, the price for one 14” pepperoni and one 14” sausage pizza would have been $32.90. This is similar to the prices at 1000 Degrees and Dino’s.
1551 Tullamore Street, Mankato
February 05, 2022
Pizza Ranch is very close to our house, a few blocks farther away than 1000 Degrees. Finally some pleasant weather has come our way, and I’m happy to say that there was no polar vortex and no blizzard this weekend—the sky was clear and we could see the stars when we came out. The parking lot was filling up, but we found a spot without any trouble. The Snoopy doghouse near the front door delighted our toddler, who tried to climb inside it.
The table were placed close together, and it was a challenge to navigate all nine of us—with eight coats and one baby carseat—in and out. There’s no direct exit from the dining area; rather, you have to weave back through the buffet to get to the door. For a smaller family, though, that wouldn’t be a problem. The ladies’ bathroom had three stalls and was very clean for a public restroom.
The woman who took our order at the front desk was not very pleasant, and ordering was difficult because of some confusion over the size of the pizzas that she was either unwilling or unable to clear up. We got our own water, but the plates, silverware, and pizza was brought to us. When the server came with the forks, we were in the middle of praying, and he waited at a distance until we had finished rather than interrupt us.
The flavor of the pizzas was delicious overall, though I found the sausage slightly too spicy. The sauce was rich and flavorful, as was the pepperoni. The cheese had a milder flavor, which balanced well with the meat and sauce. I thought that the crust had more of a yeast flavor than many other pizzas. One thing to note that doesn’t fully fit into any of the categories is that we believe the pizzas contained sulfite, a kind of salt used as a preservative. One of my siblings has a sulfite allergy, and experienced canker sores later in the evening, likely due to eating sulfite in the pizza.
Everyone enjoyed the texture of the pizza. The crust was chewy and breadlike, rather than floury or crunchy. It was thick enough, but not so thick as to overpower the toppings. The cheese was still soft and melty when the pizzas arrived, but we had no issues with long strings of cheese hanging from the tray to our plates. At least one member of my family disliked the crisp edges of the pepperoni pieces, but I didn’t mind it. The only complaint I have as far as texture goes is that what appeared to be dill seeds were visible in the sausage. I dislike ground meat that has seeds or seasonings of a different texture, but that’s largely a personal preference.
The pizzas were $15.99 each for a single topping large pizza (plain cheese was considered single topping). As mentioned earlier, we’re uncertain exactly what size the pizzas were.
505 South Front Street, Mankato
February 18, 2022
Polito’s wasn’t far from our house, but we had quite the time finding a parking spot. The restaurant had no parking lot of its own, and believe me, it is next to impossible to parallel park a twelve-passenger van on any downtown street at six pm on a Friday night. We finally found a parking garage across the street and walked the half block to Palito’s. Thankfully, there was no blizzard this week.
Polito’s had a table with eight chairs ready and waiting for us. The tables were spaced a little farther apart than at some of the other restaurants we’ve visited, leaving more room for the baby carseat. The bathrooms had one stall each for men and women. The women’s room could have used some cleaning, especially the floor, but it was decent. There was no TV and quiet background music, including the theme from Star Wars, which delighted my siblings.
We got our own water, but the pizzas were brought to us. The staff didn’t give us much attention as far as bringing more water or clearing away the dishes goes, but neither was that necessary.
It was generally agreed upon by my family that both the pepperoni and the sausage were spicier at Polito’s than anywhere else we had visited, but neither was too spicy. The sauce was very flavorful, and everyone enjoyed it.
The texture of the crust was much better than at many of the other places we’ve been. The pieces here were larger and therefore floppier, but that was not due to any sogginess in the crust. The crust was neither floury nor oily, and was pleasantly chewy. One thing we also noticed was that the crust was thicker in proportion to the toppings, which made it more breadlike. However, I disliked the texture of the cheese, which was sticky and difficult to cut or chew. As the pizza cooled, the texture of the cheese improved.
A fourteen-inch single topping pizza was $13.00, less expensive than anywhere else we’ve been so far. From some scribbled math formulas on a paper napkin, we deduced that when the prices of the 14” and 20” pizzas are compared, one receives more than twice as many square inches of pizza—for about three dollars more. This seems to hold true at other pizza places as well. So, if you trust our mathematical skills, never buy two 14” pizzas—buy one 20” pizza instead. Your children and your pocketbook will thank you.
So, which restaurant did turn out to be the best? As you can see, 1000 Degrees, Dino’s, Pizza Ranch, and Polito’s all ended up with four stars. Most of my siblings say Dino’s is their favorite—they loved that they got to color on the tables while waiting for their food. But with the same number of stars for each restaurant, it’s hard to say for sure which one is best. It looks like you’ll have to try a few of them, and decide for yourself!