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?
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If you live in the Loop, or south of the Loop—hell, even if you live in Andersonville—this place may not seem worth the hike. But for you Far North Siders out there, it’s an oasis in your own backyard. This 60-year-old gem offers three-dozen beers (including La Fin du Monde, Delirium Tremens and Smithwick’s), addictive, cracker-thin “Chicago bar–style” pizza and herb-flecked garlic fries that have quite the loyal local following. Our only hope is that someone fixes the schizo jukebox that’s been playing Hall and Oates every other song.
You can’t see it through the glass-block window, but hidden in this nondescript storefront is a gem of a bar/pizza parlor. A grandiose statue of a Rubenesque woman is the center of the Art Deco room, and her disciples—regulars (most of them a little drunk) from the neighborhood—gather around her to sip Bloody Marys and debate this and that. But we don’t come here for people-watching alone: The kitchen puts out a nice deep-dish, with a crispy crust and a well-spiced (if slightly sweet) sauce. We’d tell you to go for the Gino’s “special,” with its big chunks of sausage and strips of green pepper. But really, with this atmosphere, your night’s going to be special no matter what you get.
Contrary to most of the country’s opinion, Chicago does not exist on deep-dish alone. The other kind of pizza unique to the city is sometimes called “bar pizza,” a pie with cracker-thin crust topped with bubbled, almost crispy, cheese that’s square-cut rather than pie-cut. Since 1940, this liquor store/bar/restaurant has been serving this style, and it’s quite a tasty version. Sausage is the preferred topping among the just-off-work construction dudes sucking down beers at the bar, and we agree that the fennel-seed–flecked Italian sausage is great, especially with diced onions. You’ll be disappointed by the rest of the menu—deep-fried stuff and iceberg lettuce galore—so stick with the signature pizza.
Serving pizza to the Southwest Side since 1949, Vito and Nick’s is the king of thin-crust pizza done Chicago-style. With Old Style on tap and the Bears on TV, surly waitresses shuffle bubbling-hot pies to a full room of revelers. The crispy but pliant crust, tangy sauce and top-quality sausage separate this pizza from other Chicago thin crusts. Sure, the place has other things on the menu, like spaghetti, but it’s the pizza that keeps customers loyal through the generations. The wait times for pie can run a little long on weekends, so order your drinks by the pitcher, and enjoy a true Chicago scene.