Flo & SantosIs this a pizza joint? Or a Polish restaurant? Actually, it’s mostly a sports bar, with more screenage per square foot than most bars of this size. For game-watching eats, you get a choice of thin-crust, South Side–style, square-cut thin-crust pies. They come with a crackly crust and toothsome, spicy pepperoni, and in general they fare better than the Polish dishes. Though, who knows? Even a mediocre potato pancake will taste good if the Bears are winning. 1310 S Wabash Ave (312-566-9817). El: Green, Orange, Red to Roosevelt. Bus: 1, 4, 29, 62. Lunch, dinner. Average pizza: $12.
Hub 51R.J. and Jerrod Melman, sons of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises impresario Rich Melman, are behind this midscale River North catchall that offers a menu that ranges from open-face BLTs to halibut tacos. The crowd is as varied as the eats—tourists, ladies who lunch and local working stiffs rub elbows—and everyone seems content with the large portions and boisterous scene. Braised pork tacos with housemade tortillas are a surprise hit, and plump maki do the trick if sushi cravings hit. 51 W Hubbard St (312-828-0051). El: Red to Grand. Bus: 22, 29, 36, 65, 156. Brunch (Sat, Sun), lunch (Mon–Fri), dinner. Average main course: $20.
PieceTwo things keep this place from going the route of sports-bar-beer-bong culture: excellent house brews and expertly executed pizzas. The crispy pies hold a lot of weight, so after you choose your pizza style—red, white or New Haven–style “plain” (red sauce, no mozzarella)—start piling on the toppings. (If you’re really going New Haven–style, try one with clams and bacon.) Wash it down with a pitcher of the crisp Golden Arm, and you’ll never disparagingly say pizza and beer joint again. 1927 W North Ave (773-772-4422). El: Blue to Damen. Bus: 50, 56, 72. Lunch, dinner. Average pizza: $18.
Roots Handmade PizzaThe shtick at Roots is that it hawks pizza in the style of the Quad Cities—that is, pizza with malt in the crust that’s cut with scissors. Turns out the Quad Cities style can cross county lines and be successful (even if that malt tastes less malty and more sweet). Very fine housemade cheese sticks, crunchy salads and a comprehensive list of Midwestern beers make for a spot that is surprisingly quality (especially when you consider the fratty atmosphere). 1924 W Chicago Ave (773-645-4949). Bus: 9, 50, 66. Lunch, dinner. Average pizza: $15.