Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, stuffed inside a savory calzone
I’d never heard of D.P. Dough when it first opened in Charleston this past April.
So when others started losing their mind over this revelation, I did a little digging to learn this chain is famous for giant stuffed calzones, wings, cheesy bacon tater tots and more – and it’s especially popular in college towns because it stays open “crazy late” until 3 or 4 a.m.
I’ll let you do that math to solve for how giant calzones, college students and late-night hours make D.P. Dough a success in those markets.
But Charleston is not really a college town, I don’t eat a lot of super-filling carbs these days and I’m certainly not out trying to slay a calzone craving in the wee hours, so I’d been dragging my feet on checking the place out.
Then I got an offer I simply could not refuse.
The restaurant reached out to let me know they’re now serving a new “Thanksgiving Zone” for a limited time through the first weekend in December. Not only is this special calzone stuffed with roasted turkey, dressing, gravy and cheese, but it also comes with a side of cranberry sauce for dipping.
“We were wondering if you’d like to stop by and give it a try,” they asked. So Thanksgiving leftovers baked inside a calzone, eh?
Great or gross, this could go either way, so I had to taste it myself.
I stopped by for a late lunch Saturday, placed my order at the counter, then waited a promised 12 minutes that seemed like an eternity with the smell of baking dough, bubbling cheese and seasonings aplenty wafting throughout the place.
When my handheld Thanksgiving dinner arrived, it didn’t have the same wow-factor as some of D.P. Dough’s other calzones stuffed with different meats, cheeses and colorful vegetables. I mean turkey, dressing and gravy are all brown, as was the baked crust surrounding them.
But what this baby lacks in curb appeal it makes up for in flavor.
I dug right in and was surprised that I could taste all the different ingredients independently. Not a jumbled mash of flavors, this palate-pleasing pocket presents a medley of juicy turkey, herby dressing and rich, creamy gravy that will remind you of everything you love about Thanksgiving dinner – just with added cheese, which is never a bad idea. The crust itself was non-descript and the cranberry sauce served alongside was a little weak and watery, but everything else was pretty delish.
It was certainly good enough to plan a return visit to try other creations like the Chicken ParmaZone, End Zone (steak, green peppers, onions, mozzarella), Danger Zone (hamburger, cheddar, onions, taco seasoning, hot sauce) and Falling Rock Zone (bacon, tater tots, cheddar, mozzarella, side of sour cream).
There’s also the Maui Wowi Zone (pineapple, ham, mozzarella), Passing Zone (breaded chicken, bacon, tomatoes, ranch, mozzarella), Pesto Zone (pesto, mozzarella, tomatoes), Spinner Zone (spinach, mozzarella, ricotta, garlic) and the popular Combat Zone with pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella and spices.
If you don’t get your fill of turkey tomorrow, I highly recommend a trip to D.P. Dough before the Thanksgiving Zone flies away next weekend.
IF YOU GO: D.P. Dough at 166 Summers St. in downtown Charleston is open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday-Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. For more information, call 304-553-0515, visit www.dpdough.com or check out the restaurant’s Facebook page.
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As expected, the challenge I threw down last week to find the region’s best Monte Cristo got lots of folks all aflutter rushing to recommend their favorite nominations.
Turns out this batter-dipped, pan-fried, sugar-dusted, ham-and-cheese sandwich dunked in jam is much beloved, along with the former Bennigan’s restaurant that made it famous here.
A few of the places I mentioned last week – Bar 101, Nosh, Happy Days and Dream Day Café – received kudos from readers as well, but there were a few new nominations.
“Love reading your column each week and I wanted to mention that Backwoods Bar and Grill off the Haines Branch exit near Sissonville has a Monte Cristo on their menu each day,” wrote reader Mike Godwin. “The sandwich isn't really my cup of tea, but our daughter thinks it is one of the best she's had in the area. Thought you might want to give it a try.”
Down in the Huntington area, Bill Gardner said Griffith & Feil in Kenova has a good one, and he added that Le Bistro across from Pullman Square serves a French Toast Monte Cristo. Jason Beter, owner of The Corner Hoagies & Hops in Huntington, threw his Monte Cristo into the mix – and based on the awesome burgers he serves at Oscar’s Breakfast, Burgers & Brews in Barboursville, I bet it’s killer.
Although there’s not one located super close, Cheddar’s received a whole lot of love for their Monte Cristo, which you can try in Beckley, Bridgeport or across the river from Huntington in Ohio.
And while she didn’t have a restaurant to nominate, former Gazette-Mail food writer Judy Grigoraci did one better. She sent in the recipe she once created to re-create that famous Monte Cristo from Bennigan’s itself!
“Because they guarded their recipe, I made the sandwich myself here years ago in my home kitchen lab,” she told me. “Deconstructing their sandwich as a guide, I came up with what is below and was a good replica of what Bennigan’s produced.”
I can’t wait to make this one myself.
Monte Cristo Sandwich
3 slices Pepperidge Farm white sandwich bread
mayonnaise or favorite sandwich spread
1 slice Swiss cheese
1 slice Muenster cheese
2/3 cup water
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
2/3 cup flour
1 ¾ tsp. baking powder
Oil for frying
jam, preserves or jelly
Spread mayo on two slices of bread and top one slice with ham and Swiss. Place a plain slice of bread on the Swiss cheese, then stack it with turkey and Muenster. Top the Muenster with the second slice of bread with mayo.
Trim the crusts, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.
To make the batter, whisk the water, egg, salt and pepper together in a bowl. Add flour and baking powder, mixing until smooth.
Heat about 3 inches of oil in a deep-fryer, saucepan or skillet. Dip the sandwich in batter to cover all surfaces and fry until golden on both sides, turning once. Drain on a rack set in a sheet pan.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with desired flavor of jam for dipping.
Makes 1 sandwich, but the batter is enough to cover 4 sandwiches.
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Steven Keith is a food writer and restaurant critic known as “The Food Guy” who writes a weekly column for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and has appeared in several state, regional and national culinary publications. Follow him online at www.wvfoodguy.com or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. He can be reached at 304-380-6096 or at email@example.com.