In the wind
Located in a landmark downtown building, Taste of Chicago aims to bring authentic flavors from the Windy City to our own breezy neck of the woods.
Knowing that Chicago-style deep dish pizza takes at least an hour to bake, I asked our server to get that started while we perused the rest of the menu. Unfortunately, although we put the rest of our order in about 15 minutes later, the entire thing was delivered after about 70 minutes.
The “tavern style” pizzas ($15, 12-inch, plain cheese) we ordered were good, with thin, crispy crust bordering on crackery in a good way. The pies were layered with sauce, then toppings, then cheese, and sliced in a square-wise “party cut.” Wanting to sample authentic flavor combinations, I chose the South Sider with sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon and egg ($20), the West Sider with sausage, peperoncini and whole garlic cloves ($18.50), and The Beef, sporting a sizeable portion of Italian beef and hot, housemade giardiniera ($19). There was at least one other “traditional” combination I wanted to taste—the North Sider, with anchovy, green pepper, olive and tomato-—but I was told they hadn’t been able to source the anchovy. Bummer.
All three pies held their own, and I enjoyed them pretty equally. The South Sider’s finishing touch—a single raw egg cracked in the center—was the only real surprise. I presumed it must be akin to the egg served with steak tartare, so I broke the yolk and dipped a slice. It didn’t really add much to the experience, but to each their own. The West Sider’s garlic stood out, as did The Beef’s giardiniera. Man, that was a spicy pie.
One member of our group ordered a gyro ($8). While the meat was definitely not straight from a spit, it was tasty and tender, served on a soft pita with a good amount of tzatziki sauce, red onion, tomato, feta and romaine.
A bone-in pork chop sandwich ($7) was a unique offering. Yes, I said bone-in. I don’t know if someone in Chicago was being lazy, or perhaps someone lost a bet, but this dental hazard is apparently a beloved tradition of Chi-town folk. The chop was lightly breaded and served on a toasted bun with grilled onion, sport peppers (pickled serrano) and mustard. It’s good, but consume with caution.
I’ve always enjoyed French dip sandwiches, so the Italian beef ($9) sounded great. Taste of Chicago’s version features thin-sliced roast beef simmered in beef broth then stuffed into Turano rolls imported from Chicagoland and topped with hot giardiniera. I added sport peppers for 50 cents extra. For an authentic experience, order the sandwich “wet.” They’ll dip the whole thing in gravy, and you’ll end up with a somewhat soggy, completely delicious experience. It’s probably not for everyone, but I’m convinced—wet is the way to go.
And the deep dish pie? Ladies and gentlemen, this baby ($28.50, 12-inch) was the real deal—crust, sauce, crazy amounts of cheese. It’s was as if lasagna and a pizza had a love child. I stuck with the “traditional” option, with sausage and mushroom. The sauce is on top, the other stuff is in with the cheese. A pie server was needed to plate these enormous wedges of wonder. There’s a reason why you’re supposed to eat this with a knife and fork. I love, love, love thin crust pizza, but this pie was something else.