Shakey’s Pizza is a true classic. When I was a kid it was the only place to go–I honestly can’t remember eating pizza anywhere else. Shakey’s was an old-timey pizza parlor (originally known as “Ye Old Public House“) where I remember watching dough being hand-tossed right as we entered through the door embedded with multi-colored stain glass circles. The staff was dressed like old-fashioned barbershop quartet members with red and white striped shirts and “straw” hats made of Styrofoam. Every Shakey’s I patronized also became a video game arcade as future classics like Pac-Man, Defender, Galaga and Donkey Kong became popular. The first time I ever dropped a quarter into one of the aforementioned machines, I was at Shakey’s. I even had most of my childhood birthday parties at one Shakey’s or another, but we mostly went to the one in Palm Desert, California which is actually still there.
It all started back on April 30, 1954, by Sherwood “Shakey” Johnson and Ed Plummer. Sadly, the nickname “Shakey” came from an illness Johnson contracted during World War II. The very first location was actually a converted grocery store and initially only beer could be served until the pizza ovens were completed the following week. The old-timey outfits I remember came from Johnson’s love of Dixieland music which he actually played to entertain customers in that first store.
At its peak, well after both Johnson and Plummer sold their respective interests, there were approximately 500 Shakey’s restaurants across the Unites States and several beyond its borders including franchises in Canada, Japan (I was shocked to see Shakey’s when I was in Japan and had to eat there!) and the Philippines. In 2011 there were reportedly only 58 Shakey’s restaurants in the US, 51 of which are located in California. Shakey’s has however started a push to open new restaurants.
I have some great memories of this place and I truly love the taste of the pizza. In fact, when I go to California I do my best to find a Shakey’s so I can relive my childhood. Sadly, they no longer have classic video games (the new stuff isn’t up my alley), but as I remember the pizza tastes pretty much the same.
The crust is thin and has bits of corn meal stuck to the bottom and the mild cheese is always hot and stringy! What really sets Shakey’s pizza apart, however, is the pepperoni. It’s spicy and sweet all at the same time–its distinct smell and flavor take me back. My favortie pie? Pepperoni, sausage and onion–it’s the best! That is what you see in the images here which I shot during my last excursion to San Diego, California for a wedding shoot (I had to get the plain pepperoni side to appease my girlfriend).
Shakey’s actually has a large variety of food for a pizza place. One item worth note is the Mojo potatoes. I guess you would consider them batter-dipped, or chicken fried potato slices–regardless, they are incredible and go great with pizza as you might imagine.
Another specialty of my favorite pizza place, that is much more than a single item, is the Bunch-Of-Lunch. This is a huge lunch buffet with salad, pizza, pasta, fried chicken, Mojo potatoes and more! It’s truly is a bunch of lunch for not so much money.
I am glad to see Shakey’s is once again expanding–I certainly would love to see one in Scottsdale, Arizona! Are you listening Shakey’s? One thing I would suggest, however, is BRING BACK THE CLASSICS! I would love to the old Shakey’s logo back in use. The new one is good, but the classic sign is, well, classic. The new, more modern decor is good for today, but it becomes dated, quickly. If all Shakey’s Pizza Parlors were decorated with that old-timey style we all know and love, Shakey’s would stand apart from all other pizza chains and it wouldn’t need to be updated every few years. One last thing, bring back the classic video games. Zaxxon, Joust, Q-Bert, Centipede… You could be the place to go for classic video gaming. Think about it, kids like me have way more quarters now, and we can buy beer.
Bottom line, check out a local Shakey’s–as you can see from my rant above, there are lots of reasons. And if you have the means, open a franchise! If you open one anywhere near me, I will help keep you in business!
Check out these great old commercials!