As far as pizza styles go, Chicago-style tavern pie is undoubtedly the most blue-collar of the bunch. Devoured everywhere from dive bars to family restaurants, the main signs of tavern ’za are square slices and a crispy, cracker-thin crust. Sausage is the most common topping for this style, which should come as no surprise. After all, what could be more Chicago?
1 Pat’s Pizza
Pat’s warm dining room is full of dark wood, spacious booths and smiling customers. And there’s a reason everyone’s happy: The thin-crust pizza here is undeniably delicious. At once crispy, delicate and flaky, the paper-thin crust holds fragrant, bright-red sauce; smoky, housemade sausage; and gooey, grease-free mozzarella that’s baked to that perfect shade between white and gold. 2679 N Lincoln Ave, 773-248-0168. Average pizza: $18.
2 Vito & Nick’s
Despite teetering on the southern edge of town, Vito & Nick’s has been luring generations of devotees down to the Ashburn neighborhood since 1945 with its cornmeal-dusted, slightly-thicker-than-cracker-thin-crust pizzas. We’re told the well-spiced sausage—which is so delicious it could be eaten as an appetizer by itself—is handmade by a family friend of the owner, Rose George. With pizza this good, we can even overlook the shag carpeting that covers the walls. 8433 S Pulaski Rd, 773-735-2050. Average pizza: $13.
The crackery crust at this 60-year-old Far North Side neighborhood bar can be likened most accurately to matzo: The dough is rolled out superthin and baked until it’s slightly brittle. We weren’t crazy about the overly salty mozz, but the delightfully sweet and spicy tomato sauce—and a couple of beers—balanced it out nicely. 7452 N Western Ave, 773-465-0087. Average pizza: $15.
4 Marie’s Pizza & Liquors
To enter this Mayfair neighborhood pizzeria, which is decked out ’70s-style in red vinyl and frosted-glass chandeliers, you must first cross the threshold of the attached liquor store. It seems odd, but then the gloriously greasy pie you order arrives and you realize this stuff’s the perfect liquor picker-upper. But even when you’re not soused, the oregano-flecked sauce, crisp crust and oil-oozing, golden-brown provolone cheese make this an unrefined, but great, pizza. 4129 W Lawrence Ave, 773-725-1853. Average pizza: $12.
Just as the walls at this aging pizzeria are plastered with classic-rock albums and other relics of yesteryear, the crispy, thin-crust pies here are covered with melty mozz; studded with hearty hunks of sausage; and framed by a smoky, slightly burned rim. The only thing holding back the ’za is the thin, underspiced sauce. 2104 N Western Ave, 773-384-1755. Average pizza: $16.