Chicago: Pizza & Other Restaurants

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If you’re in Chicago for just one weekend, you’ll have to make the most of your eating opportunities.  At best, you’ll only be able to enjoy perhaps 4 meals, and one of them better be a pizza.

Since Chicago has a style of pizza named after the city, it makes sense to seek out the very best Chicago style deep dish pizza in town.  You might want to start with the place that lays claim to creating the very first deep dish pizza: Uno.

The original Pizzeria Uno still operates out of a basement-like cavern at the corner of Ohio and Wabash.  The booths are small, the tables even smaller, and during the lunch rush you’ll probably have to endure a long wait for a seat.  But it’s worth it.

Pizzeria Uno is located at 29 East Ohio St., just one block east of State Street, and 2 blocks west of the Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue.  If Uno is packed, you can check out Pizzeria Due, just a block north of the original location on Wabash Avenue.

Uno’s pizzas have a thick crust, thick layer of cheese, and anything else you add is piled on thick, too.  Due to its density, a small pizza will fill you up quickly, so don’t overestimate your gastrointestinal abilities.

If you’re in a hurry, calling ahead to Pizzeria Uno can not only assure you a seat, but the cooks can also slide your pie into the oven ahead of time.  If you don’t order ahead, the wait can take up to an hour (they’re thick pizzas, so they cook slowly).

Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder Company

While Pizzeria Uno has successfully exported its Chicago-style pizza throughout franchises across the country, and even the freezer aisle at your grocery store, another Chicago Pizzeria has remained rooted in one place.  The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company occupies an unassuming space in the middle of the city’s fashionable Lincoln Park neighborhood, just a few blocks from the zoo and conservatory.  And while Uno turned the Pizza world upside-down with its deep dish recipe, the Oven Grinder literally turns pizzas themselves upside-down.

Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co. is located at 2121 Clark Street, between Webster and Dickens Avenues.  The nearest “T” stop is at least a mile away, however there are free shuttles that run from the train stops to the zoo.  You could also take the 22 or 36 bus lines, both of which make stops in the Loop area.

Chicago Pizza & Oven Grinder’s most popular and famous item is their pizza pot pie.  It’s a pizza that’s cooked upside-down: the cheese, sauce, and toppings go in a bowl, then the crust is draped over the top.  As it bakes, the crust turns golden and forms a bread bowl.  When the pot pie arrives at your table, the server flips it and removes the glass bowl, leaving a bread bowl full of fixin’s.  It’s a fantastic dish that I’ve tried to recreate at home (with only limited success, sadly).

Other Restaurants Worth Noting:

The Weber Grill – At this steak and barbecue restaurant on State Street, everything is cooked on genuine Weber grills — you know, the round ones with a red cover on top?  A ventilation system allows the restaurant to cook on several jumbo-sized grills using charcoal, just like outdoors.  Many seats look directly into the kitchen, so you can watch as delicious slabs of ribs or steak are prepared.  The food is great, and a $15 entree will definitely fill you up–however, there are plenty of more expensive items also on the menu.

Potbelly Sandwich Shops – You can now find these sandwich shops in several states, but it all began in Chicago, at an antique store that quickly converted into a restaurant, after the owners realized sandwiches were their most popular item.  I enjoyed my first Potbelly sandwich at Midway airport, just before leaving town.  It was so good, I went back for a second one, and ate it for dinner that night, back in Florida.  Now, if I could have only packed a frozen Pizza Pot Pie as well…

Billy Goat Tavern – I didn’t have the chance to eat here, but if you’re a serious Saturday Night Live fan, you’ll probably want to stop in for a CHEEZBORGER  and a COKE, NO PEPSI!.  John Belushi made that line famous, but the Billy Goat Tavern had already earned a place in history.  Back in 1945, the Cubs were poised to win the world series.  OwnerWilliam “Billy Goat” Sianis tried to bring his pet goat into Wrigley Field for good luck, but the goat was turned away, and William cursed the Cubbies, leading to decades without a World Series win.

Note: This trip was first published in 2006.

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