#25 Lou Malnati’s

May 28th, 2016

Chicago, IL

We’ve got one more place to talk about in Chicago that we hit on our road trip last year. Our previous stop was at Coalfire, which was one of our favorites of the trip. We saved Lou Malnati’s for last, partly because the original location is slightly outside of town and we could hit it as we started our long drive back East.

The first Lou Malnati’s pizza was opened in Lincolnwood in 1971. Today, there are several locations for Lou Malnati’s, 49 to be exact, and it is probably one of the most well-known deep dish locations in the city, if not in the country. They also randomly have a couple of new locations in Arizona.

We were expecting the restaurant to only serve deep dish, but they actually serve thin crust pizza as well. We aren’t sure why people would try the thin crust, as the deep dish is obviously what they are famous for, but we understand that sometimes you need to switch it up. We went with a personal size cheese pie because we had a long drive ahead of us and more pizza to eat in a couple of hours.

The crust on this pizza wasn’t anything special, although it was still very different from the crusts on the pies at Pequod’s, Gino’s East, and Uno’s. It was probably most similar to Uno’s, because it didn’t have that yellow cornmeal flavor of Gino’s, or the cheese-y crust like Pequod’s. It was a thinner crust than Uno’s, though, and was less bland. We’d say it was probably our second favorite crust.

The crust is layered with  a heavy coating of cheese, mozzarella of course, and then topped with a generous portion of sauce. We really liked the sauce here because it had a great flavor and maybe a touch more salt than the others. Overall, the combination of the sauce and the decent crust made this our second favorite deep dish in Chicago.

If we learned one thing from our time in Chicago, it’s that people have very strong opinions about which deep dish they think it is the best. When we mentioned the deep dish pizzas that we tried, about half of the time someone mentions another pizzeria that wasn’t on the 2015 list. We’re happy to see that most of these other pizzerias have made the subsequent lists, so we’ll be making a trip back to Chicago to try them all out.

 

We also learned on this road trip that one deep dish pizza per day is probably our limit. Even with our massive pizza stomachs. So in a way it was good that all of those other pizza places didn’t make it on to the 2015 list. We wouldn’t have been able to squeeze them all into this trip!

I’ll finish out our road trip posts in my second post this week. Then we’ll dive back in to some of the places we’ve been visiting lately that have made the new 2017 list.

To visit:
Lou Malnati’s

#9 Coalfire Pizza

May 27th, 2016

Chicago, IL

We weren’t expecting a non-deep dish pie from Chicago to make it into the Top 10 on the Daily Meal list, but Coalfire Pizza came in at #9. After a day of tourist-ing around town, we walked to the West Town location, where we grabbed a cozy seat right by the window.

We had a hard time choosing which pizza to try here because they all sounded so good. We went with the lasagna pie with Berkshire sausage, which came with these amazing clumps of ricotta on top. We also split a nice salad to start.

As we started to eat, we looked out the front window, and we saw the owner of the restaurant, Dave Bonomi, waving at us and holding up his phone, with our Instagram on his home screen. This was our second time being recognized, and since we only had about 50 followers at that point, we were really excited!

After he said a quick “hi”, Dave left us to finish our pizza, and then also waited while we had some dessert. When we were finally full, he grabbed us and asked if we wanted a quick tour of the restaurant. OF COURSE WE DID.

We felt so lucky to be able to listen to Dave talk about pizza because he was so passionate about it. His pizzas are slightly different than any style that we’ve had. As the name suggests, he uses a coal oven, so the pizza tastes slightly like a New Haven-style, with a good bottom char, but the crust is fluffier and more similar to a Neapolitan, although bigger. We got to check out the coal oven ourselves, and we also saw where Dave stacks the coal that he uses to fuel it. Not going to lie, but coal looks like a mess.

Dave also took us up to the roof of the restaurant, which gave us a great view of downtown Chicago. He told us a bit about the history of the area and the pizza scene in Chicago. He also mentioned a few Chicago classic pizzas that weren’t on our list (although we’ve noticed that a few of these have now made it on to the 2016 list, which means we need to take another trip back to Chicago ASAP).

This was probably our most memorable pizza visit of the whole road trip. Mainly because we got recognized, but also because we got to talk about different styles of pizza and different pizzerias with someone else who knew EVERYONE in the business. We learned so much about pizza and the value of really good ingredients. (Dave gets all of his ingredients locally, where possible, which makes his prices go up, but we agree with him that the taste is totally worth it!)

We loved this pizza so much that when we went back to Chicago last fall, we stopped in again!

In any case, the pizza is awesome here, and the owner is even more awesome. We definitely could see why it ranks higher than all those deep dish pizzas, and how it made it into the Daily Meal’s Top 10.

To visit:

Coalfire Pizza
1321 W Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642

 

#68 Pizzeria Uno

May 27th, 2016

Chicago, IL

If you are from the East Coast and have tried Deep Dish pizza, you probably tried it at Uno’s Pizzeria and Grill. We’ve all seen and eaten at the chain restaurant, I’m sure. I don’t think that I ever tried the Deep Dish there, but I’ve certainly tried their thin crust pizza and also that cookie deep dish dessert.

 You probably also know that the original Uno’s was started in Chicago, in 1943. It claims to have originated the “Deep Dish” pizza, and it also claims to have kept the same recipe for the last 75 years. The founders, once realizing the success of Pizzeria Uno, opened a second pizzeria right on the opposite street corner, Pizzeria Due. Today, they are the only two restaurants in the Uno’s Pizzeria chain that don’t have to adhere to the chain restaurant menu.

That means that you won’t find chicken entrées or burgers at the original Uno’s. You’ll only find pizza, and a small selection of pasta and salads (but really, who would come here for the salad?).

Additionally, while the chain may have options of thin crust pizza or “flatbreads”, at the original Uno’s you can only get deep dish. Most people will go for the “Numero Uno”, the most popular pizza, which has sausage and pepperoni, as well as mushrooms and peppers, but we were feeling like we should go a little bit lighter and just went with some veggie toppings. To be honest, though, I’m not sure that it is really possible to go “light” with a deep dish pizza. (And yes, I went on a 10 mile run the morning before I ate this.)

The crust on this was also very different from the crusts at Pequod’s and Gino’s East. It doesn’t have the crusted cheese on the outside, or the cornmeal taste. Instead, it is like a buttery, thick, piece of toast. It was actually a bit on the bland side, but you don’t notice anything missing when the pizza itself is laden with cheese and tomato sauce. This was probably our second favorite deep dish of the trip, but we can see why the locals avoid coming here. The place is PACKED with tourists.

Also, just for your information, they do serve the deep dish cookie at the original locations. If your stomach can handle it.

And to think – the original founders of Pizzeria Uno wanted to start up a Mexican restaurant instead…

 

To visit:

Pizzeria Uno
29 East Ohio
Chicago IL 60611

#99 Piece

May 26th, 2016

Chicago, IL

We spent our second day in Chicago riding rented bikes around the Lakefront Trail. We had to make sure to have room for our second pizza of the day, and we were pretty full from that deep dish at Gino’s East.

Luckily, our second pizza of the day was at Piece, which serves New Haven style pizzas!

We were so surprised to see a New Haven style pizza outside of Connecticut! Even better, the pizzas at Piece actually look like New Haven pizza. They are the same oblong shape and are served on metal trays. Their “Traditional” pizza comes with thin crust, red sauce, and no mozz, so it is pretty much the COMPLETE opposite of a deep dish. The restaurant itself reminds us a little bit of BAR in New Haven. It has the same open space and the same brewery-type feel. Both places have an excellent selection of beers, some of which are produced in-house.

As it turns out, the restaurant was started by a native New Haven-er (New Haven-ite?) back in 1999. They learned how to make pies from someone who worked at Sally’s. This place is legit.

The one difference between Piece and a real New Haven pie is how it is cooked. Piece uses a rotating gas oven instead of the coal ovens found around New Haven. This was done partly for environmental reasons, but also because the owner originally worked making bagels, and he had some high quality gas ovens already available. So, you don’t get the really awesome char at Piece that you do at the New Haven greats.

The pizza is good though, and so is the beer. We got a pie with banana peppers (as recommended) and spinach (no cheese). The banana peppers are unique – we’ve never seen them on a New Haven pie before. We liked the addition. The crust is a little more firm than the crust at Pepe’s or Sally’s, so it holds the toppings nicely. We polished off a medium size pie between the two of us easily.

They have mashed potatoes listed as a premium topping, but I wonder how many people order that here? Only someone who has tried it in New Haven, probably. I think they should advertise that more. Same with the clams. I can’t imagine their clam pie living up to the clam at Pepe’s, but they should add this to their main menu if they really wanted to be authentic.

The place was pretty empty when we showed up for dinner, but we had to make it an early night because we were heading to a comedy show. We can see this place being a giant pizza party on the weekend, with the extensive bar and the open atmosphere. We’re just so glad to see New Haven pizza spreading around the country!

To visit:

Piece Brewery and Pizzeria
1927 W. North Ave
Chicago, IL 60622

#17 Gino’s East

May 26th, 2016

Chicago, IL

After a morning run to burn off some of that pizza from Pequod’s, we made our way downtown for our second pizza stop in Chicago, at Gino’s East. We were excited to try our second deep dish! We’d heard that the lines can get quite long here too, because it is one of the more tourist-y deep dish pizzerias, so we made sure to show up right before the doors opened. The restaurant itself is really unique because the bars, seats, and walls are all covered in graffiti from customers. It was really cool to look at, especially during the long wait for the pizza to come out (which took about an hour). We are really not used to having to wait so long for our pizza. We can see why so many people took to drawing on the walls.

Gino’s East was opened back in 1966, and they have been serving their signature deep dish pizzas the same way ever since.  The secret crust recipe is topped with mozzarella, toppings (we went with spinach and tomato), and then a tangy sauce, and is slowly baked in cast-iron pans. The sauce goes on top so that the cheese doesn’t burn! We didn’t think that the sauce OR the crust was as good as Pequod’s, but I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people in Chicago that disagree with us.

I mentioned the crust at Pequods in my last post, and I’m going to mention the crust of the deep dish here as well because I think that it is interesting to compare all of the different styles. This crust recipe was developed by the same woman who developed the crust at the original Pizzeria Uno (post to come!). The crust at Gino’s East is thick, and yellow-colored (probably food coloring…). Some people speculate that it is made of cornmeal, but that wouldn’t really make a crust that holds up to so many toppings.  More likely, it is a combination of cornmeal and corn oil. It actually tastes kind of like a thick biscuit instead of a dough.

If you want to know anything else about the recipe for the crust or the sauce, you are out of luck.The restaurant owners are notoriously secretive about what ingredients are used.

 

Instead, you’ll have to check out one of their locations around the US (in Texas, Arizona, and Wisconsin, as well as several locations around Chicago). OR you could get their pizza delivered to you! And while you are ordering yourself one, please send us one too.

 

To visit:
Gino’s East
162 E Superior St
Chicago, IL 60611

#15 Pequod’s

May 25th, 2016

Chicago, IL

The next stop on our Pizza Road Trip was Chicago. Since there were so many pizza places on the Daily Meal list that were in Chicago, we planned to stay in town for several days. We had a cute Airbnb in West Town, some friends to see, and lots to do and see in between eating ALL THE PIZZA. It was our first time in Chicago and we didn’t want to waste a minute!

We were a little surprised when we saw that all of the Chicago pizzas on the Daily Meal list weren’t deep dish! After hearing how filling a deep dish pizza could be, we strategically planned so that we only were eating one deep dish per day. On our first night in town, we decided to try our first deep dish while also meeting up with a friend from high school for dinner.

We chose our first deep dish to be at Pequod’s.  Knowing that we were in for a big meal, I talked Eric into walking to the restaurant from our Airbnb, which was only about 2.5 miles or so. Well, about 15 minutes into our walk it started downpouring.  We were going to be late for dinner if we stopped, so we just kept walking with our one, useless, umbrella.

We were soaked by the time we got to Pequod’s, but at least we weren’t late! We had about a 45 minute wait to dry off before we were even seated, but we did get to stand indoors. Eventually, the three of us got a booth and we ordered a deep dish pie with spinach and onions. It was clear why there was such a long wait to be seated – deep dish pizzas take FOREVER to cook. We were probably waiting another 45 minutes for this pizza to come out of the oven.

I’ll get more into some details of the differences between deep dish pizza styles in the next posts, but I have to mention the crust on this pizza. This is what really makes Pequod’s deep dish stand out from some of the others. You can see in the picture above that the crust looks almost burnt. It doesn’t taste burnt, though, it tastes delicious. That crisp comes from extra cheese that is placed between the back of the pizza and the well-seasoned cast iron pans, which “caramelizes”. The bottom crust is dense and thick, and it makes for a wonderful base to the heavy amount of sauce. We were a little hesitant about the onions being cut so thick, but they actually complemented the sauce really well.

You have to eat this pizza with a knife and fork, as much as it pained us to do so. We had no problem finishing the whole pizza between the three of us, though. Whoever said that you would be full for hours after eating just one slice was definitely lying. Or they just hadn’t met people like us, with bottomless pizza stomachs.

I’m not sure if it was because we had to wait so long for it, or because we were so wet and tired, but we knew when we left Pequod’s that the other pizzas in Chicago had a lot to live up to. I think the wait is part of the experience here. It ended up being our favorite of all of the deep dish pies that we tried.

To visit:

Pequod’s
2207 N. Clybourn Ave
Chicago, IL 60614

Chicago, take 2

October 8th, 2016

Chicago, IL

We were back in Chicago this past weekend for the marathon. It’s been a pre-marathon tradition for us to eat pizza the night before a race (carbo-loading at its best). We could have tried to get to one of the new pizza places on the 2016 list in Chicago, but we ended up back at Coalfire Pizza.

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This was our favorite Chicago pizza when we were here earlier this year (post is coming, I promise!). And honestly, I didn’t think that I could stomach a deep dish before a race. Last time we were in town we got to meet Dave, who owns and runs the two locations of Coalfire in Chicago, and we were looking forward to seeing him again.

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Last time we stopped by West Town, which is the original location. This weekend, we went up to the newer Lakeview location. It is close by the baseball stadium, so it was PACKED since the game was starting at 7 pm. We had seven people and so we were glad to get there early and have a table ready for us!

The previous time we were at Coalfire we only got to try one pizza, so this time we were excited to try FOUR pizzas. We went with a lasagna pie and the vodka meatball, the margherita, and the vegan veggie pie (but with cheese), which was recommended to us by our waitress.

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All of the pizzas were delicious, just as we remembered. We love the style of pizza here; everything tastes so fresh. I think our group favorites were the lasagna and the vodka meatball. And we also loved the fall sangria cocktail special. If I hadn’t been racing the next morning, I would have had a few more of them.
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We definitely will be regulars here when we come back to Chicago. It was great to see Dave again, and his pizza fueled my marathon PR! We also liked the second location. It’s a bit further out of town, but located right near the stadium and it is bigger than the West Town location.

We will be back to Chicago at some point this year – to hit the new pizza places on the list (although, we will probably need to come back to Coalfire too)!

 

To visit:

Coalfire Pizza
3707 North Southport Avenue
Chicago, IL 60613