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Pizza Wars IV: Empire Slice House vs. Notorious P.I.E.

4:56 AM EDT on July 15, 2021

Besides the obvious fact that both of these popular pizza places co-opt the best aspects of hip-hop and their crusty stylings for their own Caucasian goals, these joints have a healthy, if not rabid fanbase, as I have learned recently: Oklahoma City folks hate Norman pizza, and Norman folks hate Oklahoma City pizza, often to comical extremes.

I admit that, for many years, I have fallen on the Oklahoma City side, walking to Empire almost every Friday afternoon for a slice of pepperoni, a tradition that continues to this day.

But, lately, since housesitting in Norman this month, I’ve heard the sauce-covered cries of a thousand townies, letting me know how great P.I.E. is and how physically, mentally and spiritually wrong I am for my Empire fandom. So, after a year in retreat, I decided to take these two titans of tang to task in the pizza wars, finally deciding which premium pizza pie place is truly the best.

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Empire Slice House (1804 NW 16th St.)

As I said earlier, being only a few blocks from my hovel, Empire is one of the few pizza joints around to keep me somewhat humble, with usually a slice of pepperoni once a week, often shared with my canine pal Sean on their makeshift patio near the decrepit remains of Maples Barbeque. Oh, the twisted memories!

At $4.00 a slice, in addition to my usual order of pepperoni, this time I also partook in a cut of one of their specialty pies, the Teflon Don featuring Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, and, of course, pepperoni, as well as bell peppers, red onion, and black olives: it’s one of the few pizzas on their menu that I haven’t tried before.

Like usual, both slices were to my liking, with a wholly spicy sauce that added so much more than the usual cheap pizza I claim to like. While the standout was definitely the pepperoni—Empire does basic pretty darn good—the Don was an ultimately zesty treat, the mixture of three meats definitely something to my greedy liking. Once again, I have to say, this is one of the times where it seems like they can do no wrong…

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Notorious P.I.E. Pizza Joint (305 E. Main St.)

Having heard the barbs from Oklahoma City people that claim to know pizza so well, I came into P.I.E for lunch one Friday, with a seriously open mind and an even more open stomach. Much like Empire, the walls—while not as irritatingly covered—were draped with rebellious images of celebrities in a mugshot form. As I took a seat in one of their rows of barstools, I looked over the menu, almost floored by how expansive it was.

True to form, however, I ordered a slice of pepperoni ($2.50) and, as a break from what I’m used to, a large cut of the Fried Cheese Pie ($4.50), a hulk of a hunk featuring red sauce and a five-cheese blend, with so much of it fried I didn’t know where it began and where it ended—I felt like I was going to have the most hospitable heart attack ever as I slowly down it.

Immediately, I noticed the ultimate sweetness of the red sauce—less tangy and with more of sugary kick than I was used to. Maybe that sauce is the main difference between the two towns as well, the hardscrabble hipsters of Oklahoma City vs. the oh sweet nothings of Norman. It wasn’t bad, mind you, just a bit shocking. The fried cheese on the other pie, by the way, was positively perfect and I liked every sliver of it...

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This was the hardest of the pizza wars so far, and I’d like to call it a draw…I should call it a draw. But, much like the volatile sauces they use to top their pies, I’m more of a spice guy, even more than a sweet dude, at least when it comes to my pizza. While your mileage may vary, I’m going to have to give this one to Empire Slice House, but not by much. At all.

Other Pizza Wars:

War of Gas Station Pizza: Capital City vs. Godfather’s

War of the Rural Okie Pizza Chains: Hunt Brothers vs. Simple Simon’s

Pizza Wars 3: Pizza Shuttle vs. Sandro’s Pizza

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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