Domino's New Oven-Baked Dips Are Melty Mediocrity

These trays of gooey cheese are more like fondue than a proper dip.

If we know anything here—at the offices The Takeout, in the greater Midwest, and deep inside our hearts—it's that dip is a special culinary category worthy of our attention and appetites. A good dip will stick with you for years, and not just in the area of your ribs; my fondest memories are a patchwork of overflowing floral bakeware and sturdy tortilla chips. My cousin's 2013 housewarming party featured a hot cream cheese jalapeno dip that we still talk about every time we're together. My friend complimented my onion dip two weeks ago and the rush of it will carry me through New Year's. My mom learned a new trick to elevate her feta dip and we keep turning it into dinner. What I'm saying is, dip matters. So when Domino's announced it was adding Oven-Baked Dips to the menu, I had every reason to be excited.

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To review, here's how a Domino's press release described the new Oven-Baked Dips:

Cheesy Marinara Dip – Layers of flavorful marinara sauce oven baked with creamy, melted cheeses. Served with a choice of Parmesan or Garlic Bread Twists. 

Five  Cheese Dip – A combination of cheddar, Asiago, Parmesan, American and pizza cheeses oven baked to perfection. Served with Parmesan or Garlic Bread Twists.

Baked Apple Dip – Sweet, gooey oven-baked apples with a hint of cinnamon. Served with Domino's handmade Cinnamon Bread Twists. 

The dips arrived in circular foil pans with cardboard lids—a great reminder that these were not microwaved. The dip was noticeably shallow inside each pan, however, with a depth of 1-1.5". Seems like it wouldn't be enough to feed a crowd, until you realize just how filling a belly full of salt and oil can be.

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So, are Domino’s Oven-Baked Dips any good?

I didn't order any accompanying pizza to go with these dips, and thank god for that. I can't imagine pairing them with anything, let alone a pizza, which would be entirely redundant. With the Cheesy Marinara Dip, Domino's has taken the toppings for a medium cheese pizza and dumped them into a pan, with the bread twists replacing crust as a complementary carb. Seems like a fine idea—deconstructed pizza!—but the slick melted cheese and thin, drippy marinara don't hold up to a dipping apparatus, sliding right off the twists in a frustrating way. The best method I found was to spoon the dips on top of the twists, let them cool and congeal for a few minutes, then gingerly lift the bread to take a bite.

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The Five Cheese Dip, meanwhile, is essentially a Cheddar Dip. Cheddar is by far the dominant flavor, drowning out the Parmesan and Asiago and clashing sourly with the American and pizza cheese. Cheddar is a beautiful substance, but it's not really an ensemble player. And without anything to mitigate the pile of melted cheese within the dip, the garlic bread twist didn't bring up a beautiful cheese pull—it emerged only with a coating of oil. The word "dip" implies a melange of elements baked to gooey perfection. This is more of a separated fondue.

The Baked Apple Dip is pretty flatly sweet, nothing too special in terms of flavor. But it is by far the best Oven-Baked Dip for several reasons: Firstly, the sturdy goo in which the apple chunks are suspended is well-designed for actual dipping and dunking. The Cinnamon Bread Twists are generously crusted with a brown sugar cinnamon coating that complements the apple pie filling. And while the Five Cheese and Cheesy Marinara Dips feel redundant to pizza, the Baked Apple Dip is an add-on item that makes sense for any order—I could see this being a hit at a kid's pizza party.

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With their pricing structure, the Oven-Baked Dips tell on themselves a little. At my local Domino's, an order of any bread twists by themselves costs $6.99. The dip and twists together are $8.99. The dip, therefore, is being valued at about the same price as a few extra cups of marinara sauce. That sounds about right to me.

I'm not mad about these Oven-Baked Dips—they just feel like a lost opportunity. Ultimately, I'm forced to conclude that this latest release is less of a menu innovation and more of a savvy way to get rid of leftover cheese, sauce, and dough on the assembly line. As a means of reducing food waste, I applaud it. But as anything else (like, say, a meal to put in my body), I will pass.

And if any fast food chain out there wants to take a crack at something a little more substantive, like Chili Cheese Dip, I'm happy to work pro bono as your dip consultant. I boast decades of Midwestern experience.

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