Along the Lake St. corridor that connects Addison, IL with Elmhurst, IL are a number of restaurants that I've passed time and time again. I've stopped into a few to give them a shot and one that I just tried recently was John's Pizzeria (see map).
John's Pizzeria has been serving thin crust and Chicago style pizzas, as well as Italian specialties since 1966. And the decor looks like it hasn't been updated since then. There's faux wood paneling on the walls as well large booths with Naugahyde and fabric covering on the seats. It's definitely a family place with a large buffet in the main dining room that is open for both lunch and dinner through the week.
I had to spend a Friday night in Chicago recently and I was staying at the Springhill Suites in Elmhurst. I didn't really want to go too far for dinner that evening as I had to be up early the next morning. I was driving down Lake St. and sort of noticed the sign for John's Pizzeria. I thought, "Why not? It's another one of those places I've driven by a number of times. May as well see what it's all about."
Now, I've found that a lot of "hole in the wall" pizza places aren't too bad. In fact, many of them are very good. If a restaurant has been in business for over 40 years in the Chicago area, they must be doing something right. I was sort of hoping John's would be one of those.
Right next to John's is the Hide Out Lounge. I figured that it was connected to John's - both physically and business-wise. Well, it is - and it isn't. I walked into the place and it was filled with a number of people, mainly blue collar workers enjoying a few beers on a Friday night. I asked the bartender if I could get food in the bar and she said, "Nope. You gotta go into the dining room if you want to get food."
So, I turned around and looked at a door that looked like it connected the bar and the restaurant. Only it was blocked off. I had to go out of the Hide Out and over to the front door of John's Pizzeria to get into the dining room. I thought it was sort of weird.
As I was waiting to get seated, I noticed a couple three articles on the wall the featured John's Pizzeria. One of the articles talked about John's famous Italian Beef pizza. It's a thin crust pizza topped with mozzarella, thinly-sliced Italian beef, sweet peppers and Giardinaira, and instead of tomato sauce, they ladle the Italian beef "gravy" - the juice the beef is cooked in. Although it sounded intriguing, it didn't sound like anything I wanted to try that evening.
I was seated at one of the big booths along the wall and given a menu and I immediately ordered a cold beer. From the looks of the place - which was about 3/4's full - most of the people were going for the buffet or pizza. It was $9.95 per person for the buffet and $6.95 for kids. There were a lot of families in John's that evening. Actually, that's a pretty good deal for a buffet. Then again, I didn't see what was on the buffet.
The young waitress brought me my beer and took my order. I ended up ordering my standard sausage, pepperoni and mushroom thin crust pizza. I wanted a small, but they start at "medium", or 12" for the size. The waitress was pleasant enough, but you could tell she was pretty harried with all the tables she had to cover that evening. In fact, she sort of forgot about checking on me to see if I wanted another beer (it was a long week and I was drinking fast).
After about 20 minutes, my piping hot pizza came out to my table. The waitress picked up the empty bottle of beer and said, "Would you like another one?"
When she brought the beer back, she asked, "Is there anything else that I can get you?"
I said, "Yes, in 10 minutes, check back with me because it's been a long week and I'm drinking beer really fast. And I love beer with pizza."
She smiled and said, "Will do..."
Now, the thin crust pizza at John's Pizzeria was - well - average. Maybe a titch above average. The crust was light and the toppings were fresh. The sausage was good with the big chunks of sausage that I like. But they seemed to skimp on the amount of toppings. I don't know if it was the sauce or what, but it just didn't have that "reach out and grab you" taste that I've found at other similar pizza joints around Chicago. It was good, don't get me wrong. But I've had pizzas on Chicago's south side that make me want to crawl back to.
The waitress was a little more attentive to me after our little talk and she was right on top of things while I was eating my pizza. I was able to finish five of the eight slices of the pizza and I had her box up the rest. I had it for an early breakfast in my room at the hotel the next morning.
With a healthy tip for the waitress, the bill came to a shade under $31 bucks. John's Pizzeria was OK, but it was a little too bright, and a little too loud and chaotic in there with all the families having dinner. I think I would have enjoyed it more had I been able to eat in the Hide Out Lounge, which, by the way, was nothing special in there, either. All in all, John's Pizzeria was good, compared to most pizza places outside of Chicago; but only average compared to others in the Chicagoland region.