About a year ago, I reviewed a number of the Chicago area pizza places I've eaten in over the years. One of the three I named as my favorite was the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company on N. Clark St. in the Lincoln Park area (see map).
I've eaten there a couple times, getting one of their "upside down" pizza pot pies one time and getting one of their sausage grinder sandwiches the other. Cindy and her sister went there earlier this summer. They just loved it. On our first night of our Christmas weekend in Chicago, we decided to go up to Chicago Pizza and have dinner.
The Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company has a pretty interesting history. The building, itself, is situated right across the street from where the St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred in 1929. Local lore has it that the building Chicago Pizza is housed in was used as a lookout post for gangsters plotting the killing of rival gangsters across the street.
In 1972, a local Chicago lawyer, Albert Beaver, bought the building after it had gone through a devastating fire the year before. He sunk $150,000 into the building and opened up the restaurant that would feature unique deep dish pizzas - Pizza Pot Pies.
Beaver had come up with an idea that took some of the concepts of the Chicago deep dish style of pizza and put a unusual spin on it. Taking the ingredients of the pizza and putting them in a common bread pot, then putting the dough over top of the bowl, the pizza is then baked for about 30 minutes. When it's served at the table, the waiter turns the pizza pot upside down and the bread dough top becomes the bottom crust of the pizza. The bowl is removed and the toppings fit inside the dough. It's pretty interesting, to say the least.
We got to the restaurant around 8:30 and there was about a 40 minute wait. The bar area is pretty cramped, but we were able to find a little ledge opposite of the bar and had a couple beers while waiting.
The bartenders and waiters are mostly of Greek heritage. In fact, some of the items on the menu feature Greek foods such as a Greek Salad and Mediterranean bread.
But the draw is the pizza. When we finally got a seat around 9:15, we immediately ordered two half-pounders - their Pizza Pot Pies with sausage, peppers, plum tomatoes, cheese and your choice of mushrooms or not. I went with the mushrooms, Cindy didn't.
Our waiter brought the pizza pots out and ceremoniously turned them upside down on our plates. The ingredients spilled out into the Sicilian bread dough crust. It had been over six years since I'd had one of their pizzas, but it was just as good as I remember. But the thing that made the taste of it so good is the dough. It's light, buttery and garlic-y. It was just great.
By the way - Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company does not accept credit cards or checks. Our bill with a beer, a soft drink, the salad and two half-pound pot pies was $35. Our waiter was a good guy and I gave him an $8 dollar tip (I have a tendency to over tip for good service). We were both full, but not uncomfortable when we left.
Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Company is a unique experience - not only for their food, but with the atmosphere, as well. Good food, good service, interesting place. It's tough to beat.