One of the first posts I had on this blog had to do with a number of Chicago area pizza places I'd visited over the years. (Click here to see that entry.) Pequod's wasn't on that list, nor was it even on my radar. I'd never heard of it until Larry e-mailed me awhile back.
I've felt for quite some time that the best pizza in Chicago is Burt's Place (see map), which just happens to be two short blocks to the west of Pequod's Morton Grove location. It turns out there's a link between Pequod's and Burt's.
Pequod's Pizza is named after the whaling ship in Herman Melville's epic fiction novel Moby-Dick. There's a lot of fishing memorabilia and knick-knacks hanging around the Morton Grove location. Actually, the Pequod's Pizza in Morton Grove reminds me of a little Northwoods cabin. It's not much to look at. It's truly a hole in the wall in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
Pequod's was established in 1970 at the present day Morton Grove location (they also have a location in Lincoln Park - see map). But its history goes back a bit further than that.
In the early 1960's, Burt Katz was making pizzas at a little place called the Inferno in Evanston. While most of the new and novel "deep pan" pizzas in Chicago offered side crusts that went all the way up to the top of the pan, Burt decided to try a pan pizza that offered a caramelized cheese outer crust. It was an instant hit. The cheese looked burnt, and it was. But the taste was unbelievable.
Katz and a couple other partners opened Gulliver's Pizza in the late 60's at it's present location in Chicago (see map). It, too, had the caramelized cheese crust and reportedly still does to this day.
But, Burt was ready to go out on his own and he opened up Pequod's Pizza in Morton Grove. As I said, it's a small hole in the wall joint that offered up Burt's famous caramelized cheese crust pizza. Burt ran Pequod's for 16 years before selling it in 1986 to Keith Jackson. Burt laid low for a couple three years and ended up opening Burt's Place just two blocks away offering the same style of pizza. Burt, who is fast approaching 70, continues to run Burt's to this day, along with his wife, Sharon. Jackson continues to run Pequod's to this day.
The big difference between Pequod's and Burt's is that while Pequod's takes credit cards, Burt's does not. (I found out the hard way the first time I went to Burt's, taking out four other guys for lunch and having to pay about $50 bucks in cash for lunch.)
But the pizza is very similar. Thick and plentiful toppings on a light, fluffy crust baked in a pan.
I got into Peqoud's around 6:30 on a weeknight and grabbed a two-seater table near the back. The place seats about 48 people - it's not very big. The menu offers appetizers, salads, sandwiches and pasta in addition to both their thin crust and pan-style pizza. My waitress took my order - a small (10") pan-style with sausage, pepperoni and mushrooms. I ordered up a beer while I was waiting, as well.
After about 35 minutes, another waitress brought my pizza out. It was cut into four quarter pieces. But, oh, man! It was just swimming in toppings. They literally covered the pizza with a double layer of pepperoni. And the sausage was the large chunk style that I love so much. From the first bite, I was hooked.
But the caramelized cheese crust was just unbelievable. I normally don't eat the outer crust on a deep dish pizza, but Pequod's was completely different from other Chicago deep dish pizzas. Yes, the cheese is burnt, but it has that great smoky taste to it. It's a perfect compliment to the pizza toppings.
And Pequod's pizza is messy. The toppings are so plentiful. Oh, man! My stomach is doing jumping jacks just writing about the place.
I was able to eat half of the pizza and they wrapped up the rest of it. I took it back to my hotel and had a late night snack of part of one of the remaining pieces. I had the rest for breakfast a couple days later.
And I thought the bill was very reasonable - a small pizza with three beers came to just over $27 bucks. With a $5.00 tip, the final bill was about $32 bucks.
Now, I haven't been to Burt's for a couple years and I'll have to go back to see if his pizza is better than Pequod's, the place he started 37 years ago. I know some people prefer Burt's just because Burt is the father of the caramelized cheese crust pizza. But Pequod's suddenly jumped onto my short list of what I feel are the best pizzas in Chicago.
(Update February 2012 - I've been back to Pequod's many times since my initial visit. While I do like Burt's and Burt does get a lot of accolades for his pizza, I seem to like Pequod's a little better. On a recent trip there, I found out that they are going to move to a new location that they are building not far from their existing location. The new building, which is slated to open this summer, will significantly increase their seating capacity. Plus it will be much more visible as it will be right across from the Metra train station in Morton Grove.)