Detroit band Protomartyr review Brooklyn’s hyped Detroit-style pizzeria Emmy Squared
Protomartyr, who just got back from European tour, have just released “Born to Be Wine,” which is their contribution to the Adult Swim Singles Club. The track is one of the band’s most distinctive yet, featuring some extra help from fellow Detroiters Zak Bratto and Jake Kmieci on percussion, John Olson and Wade Kergan on saxophone, and Trevor Naud on dulcimer. Singer Joe Casey says the title comes from “mishearing a Frenchman talking about his favorite rock and roll songs, while the lyrical sentiment takes in louche, elder rockers confined to man caves and a list of fearsome things that were ruminated on during a particularly dire phone interview.” You can stream it below.
The band are currently playing some West Coast dates, and have more scheduled for the fall, including a collaborative set with post-punk legends The Pop Group for Rough Trade’s 40th Anniversary. All dates are listed below.
A band who are both critics and staunch defenders of their home town, I wondered what they thought of gentrified Brooklyn getting a Detroit-style pizza place — the much–hyped and somewhat pricey Emmy Squared. When Protomartyr were in NYC last month for 4 Knots I asked them if they might be up for trying Emmy out and they accepted, especially after reading an inflammatory article on Emmy Squared in the New York Post where the “Post Editorial Board” trolled “‘No, Detroit pizza isn’t topped with bullets,’ blubber its fans to Big Apple traditionalists. Hmm: Let’s hope the dough’s not made with Flint River water.” They came ready to defend their hometown’s pizza honor.
The whole band have strong opinions on the subject of Detroit Pizza especially bassist Scott Davidson and guitarist Greg Ahee. We sampled four different variations, including a white pie (unheard of in Detroit), and a few Moscow Mules, while talking about what Detroit Pizza is, what makes it great, and where to get the good stuff. As for Emmy Squared, The Detroit Herald gave the place its seal of approval, but what will this band-of-the-people and Detroit Pizza purists think? The answer lies in what is the least vegan article ever to appear on this site, below:
Are you guys going to get in trouble at home for eating at a fancy-pants Detroit-style pizza place in gentrified Williamsburg?
Greg Ahee: No because we’re going to talk shit about it.
Scott Davidson: This is not our first experience with Detroit-style pizza not in Detroit. The guys in Spray Paint are big fans of this place in Austin called Via 313 that’s a Detroit-style place down there. So when they came to Detroit they were like “tell me all the best places.” And they took us there when we were in Austin — it was actually pretty good. The guys who run it were from Detroit and worked at pizza places in Detroit before moving to Austin. It’s really taking off down there.
Scott, I am told you are the pizza expert within Protomartyr.
Scott: I am the fattest guy in the band…
Greg: That is NOT why.
Joe: Speak for yourself, Scott.
Greg: Just on the walk here, Scott was talking for 20 minutes about Detroit pizza.
Scott: But yes, I’m a big fan of Detroit pizza.
So what, to you, makes a great Detroit pizza?
Scott: The basic definition is a square pizza that’s cooked in a pan, thick sides, so the bottom and the edges are really crispy.
Alex: It’s not thick like a Chicago.
Joe: Chicago style is nasty.
Greg: It’s lasagna.
Why is Detroit style so good and Chicago style so bad?
Joe: Chicago, it’s not pizza, it’s like eating a meat pie. Detroit style, when done right, it’s very buttery…but you can eat more than one slice.
Alex: We were in Chicago and went to Pequod’s, which was all right, but once slice and I tapped out, which I have never done in my entire life.
Greg: Detroit style doesn’t feel like an abomination.
Scott: With the crispy crust, that’s the best part and everyone wants the corner slices, which is why so many places do the four slice pizzas, so it’s all corners. If I want a large, i’ll just get two smalls.
Joe: What place had the commercial with the “Corner Crook”? I think that was Little Ceasar’s, for their Detroit style.
Greg: Little Ceasar’s is shit.
Scott: Theirs had bacon wrapped around the crust, but they got rid of that, and now they stuff the crust with cheese. I’m not sure how that even works.
So how prevalent is Detroit Style pizza in Detroit? When you say “let’s go get pizza” does that just mean this square style?
Scott: No it doesn’t alway mean it, but most pizza places in Detroit have the square pizza option.
Alex Leonard: That’s why most people don’t realize it’s a thing, because most places you have options.
Joe Casey: There’s a chain called Jets, it’s everywhere, and they do a square pizza.
Alex: All the chains do.
Greg: I grew up thinking that this was how all pizza places were, everywhere in the country, with the option of square pan pizza. We eat pizza on tour all the time and I never really thought about it, that Detroit style was “a thing.”
Joe: There’s thing in New York called “grandma style” right?
Yeah, also “Sicilian” with a square pan and thicker crust. But it’s much bigger and there are lots of middle slices that have no edge crust.
Joe: They tell stories that Detroit style happened because of the automotive industry, that it was originally made, like, using car parts or something.
Scott: I don’t know how much it really adds to it but places make a big deal about using the same pans for forever.
Alex: I’m shocked a “fancy” Detroit style pizza place like this doesn’t exist in Detroit.
Greg: Same. I’m glad it doesn’t though because New York type “new American” places are everywhere. Every place in Detroit now is smaller portions for more money and it drives me nuts. I’m not sure how well a place like this would go over because all the real places are more sorta working class.
Scott: Loui’s looks like it hasn’t changed in forever. You can get bottles of Chianti with a straw in it and if you get one you can then like autograph it, write stuff on it, and they’ll hang it on the walls. Last time I was there I was sitting next to one on the wall that said “Morrissey rules!”
So what’s the best?
Greg: I would pick Loui’s.
Scott: I also say Loui’s, or this other place called Cloverleaf. But probably Lou’s.
Joe: Buddy’s is the originator, but they branched out too much.
Scott: Buddy’s was also the first place I saw that offered gluten free crust and vegan cheese.
Greg: Well fuck that.
Joe: There’s a handy tip for BrooklynVegan readers. I also say Loui’s.
Greg: Wow so no debate, Loui’s all around! Derek from Turn to Crime really likes Z’s Villa, which has a beach volleyball court, with sand, in the back yard. He likes weird shit like that. Did you know my uncle used to own a Buscemi’s? I’d get slices for free. I know, kind of a big deal.
Scott: You wanna give him a shout-out for this interview?
Greg: I would but it went out of business. (Laughs). That location is now a Happy’s Pizza.
Joe: Happy’s Pizza is a funny story ’cause the owner of that, Happy Asker, he was, uh…not the “Malice in the Palace”…
Alex: Uh, oh here we go…
Joe: He’s in prison now for tax fraud, but he got in a fight at the Palace with Karl Malone back in 2004. Malone poked him in the face. This chain, Happy’s, they blew all this money getting The Four Tops to sing their theme song…
Greg: Karl Malone’s lawyer found out he was in the Palace illegally, he’d scalped a ticket, and they won.
Joe: To sum up, he got in a fight with Karl Malone and now he’s in jail for tax fraud. As it usually goes.
Greg: It’s not Detroit Pizza without a controversy.
Joe: Detroit and Michigan is also home to all your shitty basic pizza. Little Ceasar’s, Domino’s, Hungry Howies, they all started here. And the Pizza Barons, they all own sports teams. The Little Ceaser’s guy owns the Tigers and the Red Wings. The Tigers used to be owned by the Domino’s guy.
Greg: How big are these pizzas?
They’re like 12 by 8″ or so, six squares.
Greg Ahee: In Detroit it’s usually four or eight slices
Alex: Strike one!
Scott: Also I’ve never seen a white Detroit style pizza before.
Alex: Buddy’s has a weird one with chicken and bbq sauce but I’ve never seen a white pie.
Greg: This “Emmy Pie” sounds interesting…it’s got ranch?
You get a side of marinara to dip it in.
Alex: I dunno that sounds like bread sticks, not pizza.
(After debate, we decide on four pizzas: the Classic, Margherita, Roni Supreme, and white Angel Pie. They arrive.)
OK so what do you think?
Greg: The crust is pretty good, it’s the thing they really got right. Still not enough cheese or sauce. The crust, though, is spot-on.
Alex: It doesn’t quite taste bad enough for you.
Greg: Yeah, I don’t think I’m going to feel super guilty after eating this. Real Detroit pizza, you feel guilty or gross or both.
Scott: I’m a big dude, but at Loui’s or wherever if I eat two slices…that’s it. Sometimes I’ll go for half of a third, and it’s a big mistake. Very heavy.
Scott: Actual Detroit style, the crust is a little deeper.
Scott: They use the small thick pepperoni that curls up, so they got that right. They call it “old world” pepperoni.
Greg: This one, the margherita, is really good. There’s nothing like this in Detroit — applying fancier ingredients to the Detroit style.
Scott: It’s got the most cheese and sauce too. For sure, you can never get a Moscow Mule at a pizza place in Detroit, but I’m all for that.
OK, let’s get individual verdicts.
Joe: Presentation is good. Detroit-style pizza would never be this fancy but it’s…pretty good.
Greg: Passable: Needs to be way bigger in general. More sauce, more cheese. Thicker. I’m not going to throw up and I’ll let it stay in my stomach, which is more than I can say about most pizza. So that’s high praise. The fanciest one was the best, mainly because it had the right amount of sauce. The white one wasn’t for me.
Scott: Decent. Good trot, good effort. The got the crust pretty good but not enough cheese, not enough sauce, and a little too much NY bullshit in it. The pepperoni was right, and I liked the chiles they used. But needs to be bigger. That said, not too bad.
Alex: Beside the random fancy ingredient here and there that you would never see in Detroit, it kinda tasted like your corner average pizza place that we’d go to. Some of this tastes like something I’d get at Jets. To me it didn’t taste like the crust quality was better or the cheese they were using was better. There was less of it but it didn’t taste, um, exclusive or anything.
PROTOMARTYR – 2016 TOUR DATES
Tue. Aug. 9 – Boise, ID @ Neurolux
Thu. Aug. 11 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
Fri. Aug. – 12 Omaha, NE @ Slowdown
Sat. Aug. 13 – St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
Sun. Aug. 14 – Milwaukee, WI @ Mad Planet
Fri. Sep. 23 – Detroit, MI @ El Club #
Sat. Oct. 22 – London, UK @ Barbican * (Rough Trade 40)
Sun. Oct. 23 – Hull, UK @ The New Adelphi Club ^
Mon. Oct. 24 – York, UK @ The Crescent ^
Tue. Oct. 25 – Brighton, UK @ Concorde 2 +
Wed. Oct. 26 – Bristol, UK @ Fiddlers +
Thu. Oct. 27 – Nottingham, UK @ Rescue Rooms +
Wed. Nov. 2 – Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle $
Thu. Nov. 3 – Columbia, MO @ Cafe Berlin $
Sun. Nov. 6 – Austin, TX @ Sound on Sound
Tue. Nov. 8 – Las Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse Saloon $
Wed. Nov. 9 – San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar $
Thu. Nov. 10 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy $
Fri. Nov. 11 – San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s $
Sat. Nov. 12 – Reno, NV @ Holland Project $
Tue. Nov. 15 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
Wed. Nov. 16 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
* w/the Pop Group
+ w/Eagulls and TRAAMS
$ w/the Gotobeds
# w/Oh Boland