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Archive for the ‘Deep Dish’ Category

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 @ 08:01 AM

Well another year has come and gone and Pop Culture Cuisine is officially a two years old!  This year our lives have changed dramatically in many ways, including the addition of a new family member.  We also may not have traveled as far as in the past, but Adam and I still love finding new ways to seek out culinary hot spots wherever our travels take us.  We have compiled a list of some of our favorite and not so favorite spots to share with you with links so you can read our reviews for yourself.  We STILL love food and hope to continue to share lots of great finds with you all along the way.

Signature Dish:


1. Al’s Beef’s “Italian Beef Sandwich” – Chicago, IL

2. Kim & Scott’s Café Twist’s “Twist Your Own” – Chicago, IL

3. The Varsity’s “Chili Dog” – Atlanta, GA




1. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL




1. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

2. Slow’s Bar-BQ – Detroit, MI

3. Lynn’s Paradise Café – Louisville, KY



1. Tufano’s Vernon Park TapJoe and his staff – Chicago, IL

2. KouzzinaJohn – Orlando, FL

3. Emeril’sSpencer – Orlando, FL




1. The Varsity – Atlanta, GA

2. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

3. South Side Soda Shop – Goshen, IN


Overall Top 5:


1. Al’s Beef – Chicago, IL

2. Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL (A VERY close 2nd place)

3. The Walnut Room – Chicago, IL

4. Kouzzina – Orlando, FL

5. Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Top 5 Biggest Letdowns…Not worth the Hype:


1. The Whale’s Rib – Deerfield Beach, FL

2. Brennan’s – New Orleans, LA

3. Camp Washington – Cincinnati, OH

4. Graeter’s – Cincinnati, OH

5. The Loveless Café – Nashville, TN

Best of the Rest…Honorable Mention:


Most Fun Kim & Scott’s Café Twist – Chicago, IL


Most Memorable Kouzzina – Orlando, FL


Most Worth the Wait Hot Doug’s – Chicago, IL


Most Outrageous Dish Bub’s Burgers – Carmel, IN


Best Excursion Epcot International Food and Wine Festival – Orlando. FL


Best Sandwich (Burgers Included) The Depot American Diner – Chicago, IL


Best Sweet Treat Emeril’s – Orlando, FL

Thursday, May 19, 2011 @ 12:05 PM

lou-malnatis-chicago-il-540x361This post is a week late, primarily because the hubby and I were enjoying a much needed break on the "All-Inclusive" beaches of Puerta Vallarta last week (and don’t worry….I’ll be sure to make it up with an extra post soon).  It was great to get away and enjoy some 90 degree temps, only to be caught off guard by the 40 degrees when we stepped off the plane back in Chicago.  Luckily, with some beautiful sunshine today, it looks as though spring might finally be here.

But before you get too comfortable with me talking about the lovely change of season, I am actually going to drag you back into the cold of December for our 3rd installment of discussions about "Chicago Style" pizza.  You may remember my first and second posts featuring the famed Giordano’s and Gino’s East, but now we move on to one that is just as equally famous and well known throughout the city, with a history and name that is considered one of the oldest when it comes to Chicago pizza.

Lou Malnati’s just recently celebrated its 40th year in the Chicago pizza making business and they are continuing to go strong.  Started in Lincolnwood, IL in 1971, Lou and his wife Jean took their passion and know-how of Chicago deep dish learned from years of working at the famed Pizzeria Uno and started their own joint.  This family owned and operated company has become so well loved and received they now have 32 locations in and around the Chicago-land area, serving up their handmade from scratch pizza creations.  They are such a Chicago staple, there is a long running argument about who serves up a better pie…, them or Uno’s, which is still to come on our list and was the originator of "Chicago Style," although Lou himself was the first pizza chef, causing such a rivalry over the years even Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” came for a visit…


Although a tough battle, with its heart and story, it is no wonder Lou’s reigned victorious in this battle…, they truly are a pizza legend in Chicago. 

For as famous as they are, I admit it was a long time before I even set foot inside one of their restaurants.  This wasn’t because I was unwilling to try a bite, rather I was just unaware of their fame.  I knew of the biggies…, Uno, Gino’s East, and Giordano’s, but this is largely due to their tourist popularity and given that they are all located in the heart of downtown.  Before I ever lived in the city, I only ever ventured to those spots. However, when I became a local, I found out the real deal.  Lou Malnati’s, while also very famous in its own right, seems to be a more popular spot amongst locals because of its family neighborhood atmosphere and less touristy reputation.  While I will admit that I LOVE the others I mentioned, it is often a drawback that they are always packed to the gills.

Adam and I visited Lou’s quite a few times while we lived in the city, but it wasn’t until we moved away and I started this blog that we knew a future trip where we documented the full experience was in order; and it just so happened that back in December we were in the city for my birthday getaway and when we were deciding what restaurants we wanted to try and hit up, we knew Lou’s was a must…, I mean what is better than some good ol’ warm and cheesy deep dish? Especially when it is so friggin’ windy and frigid outside! 

So we headed on over the Lincoln Park location and lucky for us we did not have to wait long. One nice thing about many of the deep dish spots is that you can put your order in before you even have a table.  With each pizza taking about 45 minutes to bake and hunger often setting in the minute you step inside the doors, this is a wonderful feature to cut down on some of the waiting time.  So, we grabbed a couple of beers and proceeded to order the “Malnati Chicago Classic…,” a deep dish pie with their famous sausage.


Look how delicious, cheesy and buttery that pie looks! It is everything we wanted it to be.


As with most "Chicago Style" pizza, I can usually make it through about one slice and I am done.  However, Lou Malnati’s pizza isn’t as bready as many of the other places and doesn’t leave you feeling quite as stuffed…, a fact I enjoy.  Also, their sausage is pretty darn unique in that it is a whole circular piece of sausage, so you are guaranteed to get a piece with every bite, which really does add to the flavor (This is actually a technique invented by Gino’s East…).  And let’s just say their buttery crust is certainly yummy and always enjoyed at the end; and while I still am a die-hard Giordano’s fan, which I am aware is not really considered in the same realm as the other deep dish spots because it is technically "stuffed pizza," Lou’s comes in a very close second for me…definitely ahead of Gino’s.  I just think Lou Malnati’s has managed to do it right when it comes to their crust, cheese, toppings, and sauce….a real winning combination!

SIGNATURE DISH: As the title of this post indicates…, "CHICAGO-STYLE" DEEP-DISH PIZZA!!!

TASTE: I am often not one to turn down pizza; and even not so good pizza is often perfectly fine in my book, so it is hard for me to compare my loves for "Chicago Style" deep dish.  I truly do love it in almost every way, shape, and form, and Lou Malnati’s is right up there with some of the best.  As I said above, while I do enjoy Giordano’s better, Lou’s is for sure 2nd in my book.  I am not sure Adam would rank them in this manner, but I really don’t like Gino’s all that much, so therefore this is how I will choose to proceed! Winking smile

AMBIANCE: Where Lou’s differs from other deep dish joints especially, is it definitely has more of a neighborhood feel.  While on any given night it certainly will draw a crowd, it is a crowd of regulars instead of an almost 2 hour waits worth of tourists.  Decorated very simply and classically with Chicago paraphernalia, it just has the feel of a great local pizza joint.

SERVICE: Every time we have ever visited Lou’s, we have been treated well and served as quickly as possible.  One perk I love is that they allow you to pre-order while you wait, thus cutting down on the overall waiting time. This visit they even had thin crust pizza munchies for us while we waited, which always elevates the experience in my book! 

PRICE: While Chicago-style is relatively more expensive than say…. Pizza Hut, I find Lou’s prices to be extremely reasonable.  At $10 – 20 from a small to large pizza, that is comparable to the prices at most of the local family owned places by us.  And although they are famous, it would seem they have not tried to jack up their prices just for that reason, another plus in my book.

So while I very rarely discriminate when it comes to pizza (as I mentioned), Chicago Deep Dish certainly holds rank when it comes to what I crave the most, and Lou Malanti’s is for sure right up there with what I consider to be some of the best!  And while I have not tried them all, I certainly have tried the majority and Lou’s ranks right near the top of the ‘Little Piggy’ list with a 4.


Sunday, November 7, 2010 @ 06:11 PM

028This week is just one of those weeks where life is hectic…I feel totally exhausted and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get done what I had set out to do; and perhaps because I’m run so ragged, this is a week where I seem to be craving a lot of those gooey cheesy comfort foods I usually try to stay somewhat clear of.  Well, one dish that I always crave at times when I’m run down is pizza.  Pizza is my go-to guilty pleasure, and lucky for us we live in a city that has some great local pizza.  However, this isn’t the first time I’ve lived somewhere where pizza is readily available. In fact, I’m sure you are all well aware that we lived in Chicago, and that we have a love for "Chicago Style" deep dish pizza.  I even wrote about one of our favorite places in Chicago Style…Part 1, Giordano’s, and explained in that post that more post would be coming to compare some of the Windy City’s more famous pizza spots.  So on that note, our next feature is one of Chicago’s favorites, and is so famous that it is typically featured on a variety of travel and food shows showcasing Chicago. 

Gino’s East started back in 1966 when 2 taxi drivers and their friend got sick and tired of the rush hour traffic, so they decided to open up a pizza shop off Michigan Ave and Superior St.  It became an instant hit amongst city regulars and tourists alike who enjoyed laid back yet boisterous attitude of the place.  It has become so popular that they now have 14 locations, including one in Wisconsin and two in Indiana.  As I mentioned, it is also popular amongst food critics and travelers who want a true taste of famous Chicago deep dish.  We have seen Gino’s East in a variety of articles and television shows like Travel Channel’s "Pizza Wars" and most currently on their "Man vs. Food" series…



Having experienced Chicago all of my life, Gino’s East "Chicago Style" deep dish is something I am very familiar with.  Let’s just say that I’ve had it more than a few times. Also, Gino’s has an item on their menu that I’ve become enamored with and used to get as much as possible when we lived there (and now there is one in South Bend…uh-oh! :)). Now I know this post is supposed to be dedicated to their famous deep dish, but it would not be a full review for me if I didn’t touch on this dish…one of my most favorite things ever…Spinach Sticks! 

So what are spinach sticks you might ask? Well simply they are like mozzarella sticks, yet creamier and stuffed with spinach, yum!  I love them so much that there may have been a point in my life when I was eating them a few nights a week and then was wondering and asking Adam why I had gained weight.  Just know that although very tasty and full of typically healthy spinach, these are not a light item by any means.  So why I ever thought they were I don’t know, but on special occasions they are ok now.  Adam was even sweet enough to bring back two orders for me on a plane one time…that’s how much I like them!  All this means that although I love deep dish pizza, it is not unusual for me to go to Gino’s just for those and skip the pizza all together.

Still, we just knew we needed to pay another visit because we had never taken any photos for PCC.  So we decided we would go there for lunch for during one of the weekends we were back in Chicago this past summer; and having been out the night before in true Chicago fashion, pizza and "sticks" were just what the foodie doc ordered.






 036 When you get inside a Gino’s, you will be overwhelmed I am sure. One thing they are known for is writing on the wall…literally! Gino’s encourages its patrons to scribble notes on the walls and seats. It is so fun to see all the various notes and signatures throughout the restaurant and it really gives it a vibrant atmosphere.  It also gives you a lot to look at while you are waiting for your order, which like all deep dish typically takes about 45 minutes to cook…so be prepared (or wary if it doesn’t).  We already knew what we were going to be ordering, so we placed it right away when we sat down.  I ordered a house salad and my beloved spinach sticks, while Adam got a sausage and pepperoni deep dish pizza.  I’ve had their pizza many times and knew I would likely have a piece too…for the review of course. 😉 So 45 relatively short minutes later, these lovelies arrived…

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Those spinach sticks are good every time!  Adam enjoyed the pizza, but as he usually comments when we have eaten there, he is not a huge fan of their sauce.  One unique factor that Gino’s East does have is their crust, which is a cornmeal mixture that not only has a different consistency than the other deep dish locations, but also a very distinct flavor. Also, they are the inventor of the famed "Chicago-Style" sausage wheel…and entire round disk of sausage that ensures a piece in every bite…brilliant!  I really do enjoy their crust, but outside of that, their pizza just isn’t my favorite. I like it, but I definitely like others better. Although they are the sausage innovators, I just don’t think theirs is as good as other places, nor is their pizza quite as cheesy. Also, like Adam says….the sauce doesn’t help bring it all together. 

Still, Gino’s is such a fun atmosphere and definitely worth a visit if you are in the Chi-town area.  Also, will continue to go specifically for those lovely spinach sticks! 🙂


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TASTE: Although their pizza is definitely famous and because it’s…well….pizza, it’s pretty good. Still, it falls a bit short in the race for Best Deep Dish in Chicago.  Their crust stands out for sure and is extremely tasty, but the rest of the pie just doesn’t quite hit it.  Their sauce is a bit too chunky and runny if you ask me.  It doesn’t adhere well to the other ingredients and runs off the pie a great deal.  However, albeit all of that, it is still tasty and definitely worth a visit if you have never tried it, I mean you must determine your favorite for yourself. Perfect example is that this is my father in law’s favorite; and, on a side note, make sure you try the spinach sticks…they are frickin’ amazin’!

AMBIANCE: This is where Gino’s excels above the rest!  The white quote and signature ridden walls are all the decor this place needs.  It perfectly complements their black and white checkered tablecloths and old timey booths, and it really feels like you’re in a real old-school pizza parlor.  This place is always buzzing and full of tourists and Chicagoans alike, which adds to the buzz and appeal.

PRICE: Like all "Chicago-Style," this is where they kind of get you. Deep dish pizzas are typically a tad more expensive than your standard pie. On average they are $20 for at least a small, which can be a tad pricey.  However, the other side of that coin is that typically one slice or maybe two is all anyone will eat. It’s a BIG meal. Still, if you are ordering more than one pie or anything else, the bill can add up quickly.  Please don’t let this deter you from going, just know that this won’t be a $10 pizza sort of visit.

SERVICE: Although they are typically very crowded and busy, their service is typically great and this time was no different.  Our waitress was very up-beat and kept the diet cokes steadily coming. She helped get our order in quickly, and even brought me a brand new order of spinach sticks when my first set was cold.  Overall, she was super friendly and we had a great experience!

So….although Gino’s East does not rank as our number one choice when it comes to Chicago deep dish, we still felt you all needed to hear our review and hopefully someday judge for yourself.  It doesn’t rank as our number one spot, but we still enjoy it and its deep Chicago roots.  For our second feature in the deep dish pizza running, I give Gino’s East 3 ‘Little Piggies.’

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