(CNS Foodie): With the slogan “A Caymanian tradition since 1970”, Borden’s Pizza has been serving Cayman for 46 years – minus a few years hurricane hiatus. The quaint eatery re-opened a couple of years ago to much anticipation. I recall people raving about how great the pizza was, how nostalgic it made them feel and how excited they were to have it back.
When it comes to food, “tradition” usually implies a family recipe or unique culinary offering. I was looking forward to finally trying for myself what this Caymanian twist on pizza fare would be like.
The new location, nestled neatly into the corner of Governor’s Square, is reminiscent of an old school pizzeria, with a large counter, checkerboard theme, a few eat-in tables and even some video games in the corner.
We called ahead to place our order and the young woman seemed friendly and helpful, but when we arrived she seemed bored, on the phone with another customer taking another order, and offered no gesture or acknowledgment. When she got off the phone a few minutes later, there was no smile, no apology for the wait, just a mild acknowledgement we now had her attention.
She informed us our order wasn’t ready, even though we were on time for our pick-up, so we waited about another ten minutes for our food to come out of the eerily quiet kitchen. In fact, the entire place was exceptionally quiet, even though there were a few other people waiting for their orders as well. While we waited, I decided to go check out the video games but they were not actually plugged in, to my dismay. Pac Man lives to eat another day.
When Ms Bored finally brought out our order — a Hawaiian pizza, Philly cheese steak sandwich, chicken wings and a house salad — my companion and I couldn’t wait to dig in. I was most excited about the pizza and excitedly opened the box. The crust is arguably the most important part of a pizza and the first thing I noticed was the pre-fab, frozen pizza crust. No hand-tossed, Caymanian-twist dough here.
The sauce was quite sweet and the cheese was ok but it wasn’t oozing and bubbly the way I’d expect a hot and fresh pizza to be. It was warm and melted, almost as if it had been sitting for a while after leaving the oven — which is funny considering how long we waited for our order to come out.
It tasted OK, but after about 5 minutes the crust started to harden and eventually we abandoned the pizza.
The Philly cheese-steak sandwich was a mess, and not in a good way! The whole wheat hoagie bun was quite thick and dense, while the unseasoned steak meat was reminiscent of Subway Philly steak meat. The miniscule amount of cheese was processed mozzarella (not shredded block cheese) and the bun to filling ratio was 4:1. This was not the Philly cheese steak sandwich we expected for almost $10.
The wings were dipped in batter and deep fried, and while hot and crispy as we expected, the “sweet chili” sauce was easily identified as a ketchup and hot sauce combo. Ick!
Even the fries were an epic fail. What should have been hot, fresh and crispy fries, instead were clearly old fries that had been refried. You can get away with this technique on certain cuts of thick fries lightly cooked a short time ago, but not thin frozen ones which had already been over-cooked. The result was dry, dense fries you could barely chew.
The “hushpuppies” were OK but they were really just fried balls of non-descript dough.
The $8 house salad was pretty fresh and comprised iceberg lettuce mixed with romaine, topped with some tomato, cucumber, raw onion and corn chip “croutons” (?).
Overall, my first Borden’s experience was about as bad as it could be. I decided to give a few other items a try over the next few weeks just to make sure my experience wasn’t a one-off, and every single item I tried was thoroughly disappointing.
The cooked ham and processed “yellow cheese” sandwich was just awful, the “roasted veggie” sandwich was sautéed canned mushrooms, with onions and peppers, unseasoned and once again completely lost in a large dense bun.
I also tried a veggie pizza and later a jerk chicken pizza, both made with lackluster ingredients and edible for the first 5-10 minutes before turning to cardboard.
The only things I thought was pretty yummy were the onion rings: real life sweet onion, dipped in a thick batter, fried golden and seasoned! They were quite delicious. It’s unfortunate, the rest of the menu didn’t have as much attention to fresh, simplistic detail.
Overall, my experience of Borden’s Pizza was grossly deficient. Not only was the food highly processed, over priced, poorly prepared and simply not delicious but there was nothing “traditional” about it.
A large pizza is around $20. I honestly would enjoy an $8 frozen pizza from the grocery store more.
Nothing we tried seemed to actually have been “cooked” but rather that the food was prepared and assembled. Do they have a chef? Do they need a chef? I guess this explains the quiet kitchen.
On top of the sub par food, the service was not welcoming and the ambiance in the restaurant was almost creepy — perhaps get some music playing or something.
It’s likely that 40 years ago, heck, even 20 years ago, there probably wasn’t much choice when it came to pizza. In fact, I’m fairly certain Borden’s was the only pizza place in Cayman back then, and if you’d never had pizza before, I’m sure any crispy crust with sauce, meat and cheese was a sure fire hit.
But today in Cayman, with exposure to so many different types of food and service, the standard is simply higher. And there comes a point where you have to ask yourself “is this delicious?”, because you can only ride on the tradition train for so long.
Eventually, customers will come to admit that just because they ate this food and loved it 20, 30 or 40 years ago doesn’t mean it’s still good (or ever was). Some traditions are just meant to be broken.
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