Questionably famous — undeniably spicy.

I realize that many people solve the problem of not knowing whether a restaurant is open on Monday by calling ahead, but for some (stupid?) reason, I never let my fingers do the walking.  As we found restaurant after restaurant on Woodside Ave. shuttered last evening, we felt a certain sympathy with the giant raccoon (my girlfriend insists it was a possum) we saw raiding the garbage, though not enough to keep us from hurrying past the hole in the fence into which it slipped.  We were starving, frigid, and in no mood to tangle with giant rodents.  (Side note – the biggest rats I’ve ever seen exist between 3rd and 4th Aves. in Brooklyn, on both Pacific and Bergen Sts.  You’ve been warned.)

Fortunately, we ended up having a good meal at the Elmhurst branch of Singas, on Broadway near the Elmhurst Ave. G/R/V stop.  After having heard good things, we had scoped it out on our last Elmhurst jaunt, noting their talent for self-aggrandizement (“if it’s not Singas, it’s not famous”).  Yesterday, after too much fruitless wandering, questionable claims of fame were less important than a hot meal, and we arrived hoping only to raise our blood sugar levels.  Good that we did, too – Singas’ pizza is good, though somewhat different than you might be expecting.

A simple storefront in a strip-mall (hard to believe that they exist in NYC, right?), the Elmhurst Singas has the ambiance of a Pizza Hut and the smell of a Round Table or Pizza Inn.  Thankfully, their product is much better – they turn out 10” personal pies that are amazingly low on grease and high on flavor, with a crust both crunchy and chewy.  They’re not traditional in any sense of the word, though – this pizza would make the Neapolitan pizzauoli stroke out.

Take, for instance, the newly-added “Bar-B-Q” chicken pizza ($6.35) – in many instances, this can be a pizzeria’s downfall.  My preference is for pizzerias to use regular chicken and a barbecue sauce, rather than barbecued chicken in sauce on a standard pie.  In this case, thankfully, the chewy mozzarella is paired with a cubed chicken cutlet and a barbecue sauce that, while very sweet, works well between crust and cheese.  Not up to the highest standard of the art, but pleasurably passable.

Our other pizza of the evening was a doozy.  Following a recommendation for the hot pepper pizza ($5.45), we received a normal-looking pie, except for the truckload of wheel-shaped slices of dark green pepper, loaded with seeds, distributed on top.  As it turns out, these are the same kind of jalapeños that my favorite purveyors of banh mi use – while the sandwich assemblers usually go easier than I’d like, Singas’ pizza had my whole gullet on fire after merely half of the pie.

Seriously, this might have been the hottest one-spice meal I’ve eaten since beginning this column.  I can’t describe to you how astonishingly hot it was, except to relate the tale of my girlfriend, who bravely ate a piece and immediately ripped the top off of her prefab Greek salad ($5.75), trying (somewhat successfully) to cool down with the help of leafy greens.  I wouldn’t recommend the salad, with or without the packet of dressing, for any other reason, but she was certainly glad she got it.  Soda, water, and other pizza won’t cut the spice out nearly as quickly.

I’m getting hungry just writing this, though – I can easily see the hot pepper pizza becoming a regular craving.   Something about that sensation of total spice K.O. is appealing, and while the reasoning is unclear, the feeling is primal indeed.  I’d also like to try the garlic, potato, and hamburger pies – perhaps there’s some pie that will more efficiently offset the peppers.  At any rate, I’m definitely going to bring my friends and challenge them to eat an entire pie.  At $5.45, it’s a bet that I can easily afford.

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