Friday, April 1, 2011

Meet You At Arni's!

http://www.meetyouatarnis.com/

I'm going to be completely honest here.  I'm biased. Arni's is and always will be my favorite pizza.  It's pizza and the company have been near and dear to my heart since I was a child.  My elementary school best friend's mother started working there when we were maybe six or seven years old.  I got my first job there when I turned sixteen years old and worked there all the way through high school.  Every time my family has a reunion in Lafayette, we all eat together at Arni's. If I go to Lafayette to visit my parents, I still want to eat there.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arni's_Restaurant
Arni's even has it's own wikipedia article!

Arni, the man who started Arni's originally started Arni's as a Pizza King franchise.  After a couple years of that, he decided that he wanted to be his own business, and so, he changed the company's name to just Arni's, and started changing some of the recipes as his own.  The original Arni's is in Lafayette's mini mall called Market Square.
The recipes from Arni's pizza and other things, like salad dressings, are amazing! 
This is the look of the menu.  The old menu that they had for years and years was a large one page menu that told you everything they had, but it didn't have anything extra, like pictures of descriptions.  The new menu has a few more pictures and a lot more descriptions.

They do have a full bar and can make just about anything for you to drink.  The friends that went with us were requesting random drinks, and the bar tender made them.  For soft drinks, they sell Coke products. Not my absolute favorite, but they carry Mr. Pibb, which I like.

The garlic bread is awesome!  It's prepared with garlic butter at the Arni's commissary and frozen.  Then, there are little grills that, when the server puts in the salad orders, she's supposed to go ahead and cook the bread.  Our server failed to do this.  Our bread came out about ten minutes after our salad, which is about when the pizza came out too.  And no, the picture isn't flipped, the liner was actually backwards in the basket.  Not that I'm supposed to be that picky. I don't even give that much attention to detail, but you can see it in the picture, so, I mentioned it.  
This is a Junior Salad.  Junior does not mean small. We usually get one and share it. We just get our own salad dressings.  He gets ranch and I get french.  Arni's makes their own dressings and has for years.  I think I heard my friend say, "What is the house salad dressing?" and the server said, "Most of them are."  The only ones that aren't are the "light" kinds.  Now, I don't know if they got bigger bowls, or if they are putting less in the salads now, but for some reason, the salad looked smaller.  I used to make these salads, and I swear, I made them bigger.  It also seemed like all of the ingredients were to the side of the bowl.  He and I split the salad and had it all gone in a matter of minutes.  I love the french dressing made by Arni's! I always dip the garlic bread in the dressing. They also have a Senior Salad, which has the same ingredients, but is usually twice the size.  The ingredients are: iceberg lettuce, radishes, cheese, ham, green onions, and croutons. I know there's a stigma about iceberg lettuce being unhealthy, and let's face it, with the amount of cheese, croutons, and dressing on this dressing, this isn't really the healthiest salad in general.  But oh, does it taste awesome!
Then, there's the pizza.  This is the Deluxe pizza. This is the kind of pizza I usually get when I go to Arni's. I know, you're probably saying, "But Pechin, this isn't your usual bacon, tomato, and mushroom!"  Well, the Deluxe toppings are so good, I don't have to stick to my usual. In fact, I don't think I've ever had an Arni's pizza with tomatoes on top or bacon.  The Deluxe toppings are: sausage, pepperoni, onions, mushrooms, and green peppers.  The sausage is a nicely seasoned sausage, but it's flavor is not overwhelming.  The pepperoni is ground into little square pieces and not the round pepperoni that you see normally on pizza.  The green peppers are cut into small square pieces.  The onions, which are normal white vidalia onion, are cut into inch size pieces.  The mushrooms are normal button mushrooms, which have a good light flavor.  The cheese is just a generic white cheese, probably mozzarella, that melts nicely and has a good cheesy flavor.  The tomato paste is just that, tomato paste.  There are no extra seasonings in it.  It has a nice sweet tomato flavor.  The crust, which you can barely see because it is covered by toppings, is a very light crust. It's just there to hold the toppings.  I finished every bite of this pizza before we left.  Sadly, that meant, there was nothing left to eat the next day!
There are some atmosphere things to mention.  The original Arni's at Market Square in Lafayette, IN has three rooms.  It has a main dining room, which is decorated with pictures of things around Lafayette.  It has the Loading Dock, which is the bar area and you much be 21 to enter.  The Loading Dock has the front end of a semi with a scale in front of it right inside the door.  If you take your kid to sit on the scale, the bar tender will honk the truck's horn and probably scare the crap out of your kid!  (Which is always funny for some odd reason!)  Then, there's the Toys in the Attic.  This room is decorated with toys from over the years.  There's a train that circles on section.  There's all sorts of toy memorabilia around the room.  This room is fun for every kid to see toy history, and adult to look around and remember which toys they played with as a child.   If I were looking for a pizza place to take my kids or family to in Lafayette, this is the place to be!
There are also many locations that are just pizza counters, no servers.  These locations are made to satisfy the customer that likes take out.  You can eat inside, but you'll be eating off of paper plates and drinking out of Styrofoam cups.
That brings me to the Indianapolis area Arni's.  When the location was up on Michigan Road, the theme or the main dining room was Cycling and Bikes.  Again, this was a fun place to take your kids and family to look around and see the history.  There was also a bar with life size cardboard cut out caricatures of old movie stars.  This room was also fun to look around.  Now, for some reason, they had to shut that location down, and the moved to 96th St. and Gray Rd.  This location is just trendy, all the way down the the tall bar stools at the tables in the bar that I don't fit on.  (I'm only 4'10" people!)  It makes me extremely sad to see that Arni's has gone "trendy!"  I thought the point was that Arni's was the anti-trendy!  You went for the atmosphere and the food!  I'm not always big on trendy.  If that's what I want, I go to Applebees or T.G.I. Fridays.  
In remembering Arni the man, he was a business genius! He also treated all of his employees with respect.  For your birthday, you always got a "Birthday Bonus" that went up by how many years you worked for the company.  Arni was Jewish, so, he didn't have a "Christmas Party," but every March he had a "Winter Party" and fed everybody and gave out prizes.  There was always a costume contest, which I won dressed as a cow, which had a huge prize.  We also played Bingo for hours with huge cash prizes and trips.  Arni and I had a constant conversation going about why he wouldn't open an Arni's in Bloomington.  He didn't like IU.  He was an avid Purdue fan and supported the Boilermakers.  I then came to find out, he graduated from IU!  
At his funeral, there was a HUGE line to wait in to see the family.  Arni Cohen died at the age of 69.  He wasn't very old.  He had started turning over a lot of the responsibilities for the restaurants over to his sons. Arni's did not start doing much franchising until after he died.  Arni didn't really want the company to become franchises, he wanted them to all still be family owned.  His sons wanted to turn the business into a franchise.  Arni Cohen loved his company so much! I'm sure he would be proud of what it has become in the last eight years.
I give Arni's in Indy 3 pizza pies out of 4 due to some server issues and the trendiness.
I give Arni's pizza and food 4 pizza pies out of 4! My first 4 pie rating!  The food is always amazing!