Lou Malnati's (CHI)

To celebrate our birthdays, my great pal Matt and I met up in Chicago for a weekend of eating and drinking. Followed by more eating and drinking. And drinking. Then, eating. Ad infinitum. It's just how we roll.

Matt had just gone to Chicago in 2009, when he dined in the Holy House of Grant Achatz, so that was out of the question this time around. Sad for me. But Chicago is so much more than $200+ tasting menus, complete with foam and lavender pillows, so I was not too discouraged.

Let The Chicago Ten commence! I'll be writing about ten places we went to, ranked according to goodness. Let's start at the bottom with #10: Lou Malnati's Pizzeria.

Now, I'm not gonna spend too much time on this post because it was a downright depressing meal. It was our last night in town, and in hindsight, I'm not really sure what possessed us to go here. Maybe we were being punished by the gluttony gods for all we had stuffed down our throats in the previous two days. Yah, that's probably it.

We were looking for a deep-dish pizzeria near Bucktown. When in Chicago, you gotta do deep dish, right? After some rigorous research on the I N T E R N E T, we came up with this place Lou Malnati's. Slice actually recommended that we go to this other place in the area, which I totally rejected since it wasn't deep-dish. Lesson here: when it comes to pizza, you've really just gotta listen to the one and only Adam Kuban (founder of Slice, THE DEFINITIVE pizza blog) and crew, no matter what your preferences are. Period.

There are Lou's scattered all around town, but we went to the one in Lincoln Park. After waiting for a table for about ten minutes, we were escorted to the dining room. Right smack in the middle of the room, was this scene here:

Lou Malnati's (CHI)

A fucking COUCH, chairs and a flatscreen tv, in the middle of a RESTAURANT. Is this not AMAZING?? Have you ever seen such a thing? We were totally enthralled. It was seriously set up like a living room, it was so EFFING WEIRD.

Both of us swore we weren't that hungry. So you know what we did? We ordered two INDIVIDUAL pizzas. fail. Fail. FAIL! But how were we supposed to know what was coming? We got one sausage, and one "Lou", with spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

Lou Malnati's (CHI)

We were told the pizzas would take 45 minutes or something absurd like that. I was starting to understand the importance of the couch and tv setup. So I took my beer...

Lou Malnati's (CHI)

... and watched tv for a little bit.

Awesome, right???

Then the pizzas came out. Exactly like this:

Lou Malnati's (CHI)

Not in those steel pans, but taken out and placed on tiny little fucking white plates. I was horrified-- it literally looked like we ordered from the kids menu. At this moment I realized how important aesthetics are to me. This was just so depressing to look at! They could at least bring them out in the actual pans! What busters!

Lou Malnati's (CHI)

Matt's more of a deep dish pizza lover that I am, and he seemed to like it ok. But I was just traumatized by how pathetic they looked. It's so sad-- but it was our bad for cheaping out and getting the individual size, I guess. I've honestly blocked this experience out of my mind. Needless to say I was in a foul mood for the rest of the night.

Alright though, this doesn't look so bad. The sausage was just a huge flattened piece of sausage, caked over with thick tomato sauce.

Lou Malnati's (CHI)

The Chicago Slice dude calls Lou's "The Home of the Flawless Deep Dish", and it was recommended to me by another friend who grew up in Chicago. So maybe it's not so bad. I mean, we clearly fucked up on the ordering. I've usually got a killer instinct for ordering at restaurants, but once in a blue moon, I'll fuck up, I admit it! This was just one of those times.

But at least now we can say that we've been to a restaurant with a super comfortable leather couch in the middle of it.

958 West Wrightwood Avenue
Chicago, IL
T: 773.832.4030


  • Kayoko

    I’m sorry you ate that vomit pie!

    I’ll buy you a slice at Pizza Suprema next time you visit


    Ricky on

  • I had a deep pan pizza in Chicago once, but it had two layers of base. Kind of like a pie…

    Sakura on

  • To be fair, I was only passing on the recs of Daniel Zemans, “the Chicago Slice dude,” and one of the mad geniuses behind The only deep dish I’ve had personally in Chicago has been Pizzeria Due, long before Slice was a gleam in my eye. Anyway, I trust Dan, and I know he’s recommended Malnati’s in the past. I do believe he orders full-on big-size pizzas that you’d order if you went in a group. I rarely recommend “personal size,” and only if you want to count Neapolitan pizzas as “personal size.” Sorry you had the bad experience here. I think I recommended a different place that Daniel seemed to REALLY rave about but it was too long after you tweeted @slice for your rec. There’s always next time.

    Adam Kuban on

  • Wow, look at all these superstars that have stopped into comment on this lil post. Love how pizza really gets the blog party started.

    Adam: Yes, Neopolitan style should be the only excuse to order a “personal” size pizza.

    Nate: I know you love this place so yes, I’ll try it out again the next time I’m in town. Actually, maybe I’ll order one too— that would be a fun post. I do love the sausage slab concept.

    Jerkey: Dirty secret- I don’t watch much food tv. Nor do I read many food blogs. I’ve stopped reading the NYT food section every Wednesday. My outlets for information is VERY LIMITED. I need to work on it.

    Where does the Food Network say to go for pizza in CHI?

    kayoko on

  • Clearly you don’t watch hours and hours of Food Network and Travel TV.

    Jerkey on

  • Kayoko, super bummer that you had a bad Lou’s experience.

    1. Lou Malnati’s is a deep dish institution.
    2. That couch area looks whack so I can’t vouch for the Lincoln Park location. I grew up going to the Elk Grove location. I’ve probably had 300 sausage pizzas there since I was born and most all of them have been incredible.
    3. The sausage is a slab, it covers the whole pie and it is nearly an inch thick. I’ll admit, its a little weird, but if approached with an open mind, can be delicious. I haven’t seen it like this anywhere but Chicago. We are a sausage town and this is how we do, so you have to roll with it.
    4. You needed a full pie. Individual pizzas shouldn’t even be on the menu. With a full pie you will have the juiciest tomatoes, perfect mozzarella and the best, buttery, crunchy, sweet crust you have ever had.
    5. It always takes 45 min for a pie so I recommend phoning in your order 30 min ahead of time.

    Give it another shot on your next visit. I may have to order a couple right now. They ship in dry ice anywhere in the nation.


  • Found this while Googling to find my review of Lou Malnati’s. Two thoughts. First, never ever ever never ever order a personal size deep dish or stuffed pizza in Chicago. Almost every place (possibly every place) par cooks those things and then finishes the job when the pizzas are ordered. I’ve never been happy with an individual deep dish or stuffed pizza. Second, I have given up entirely on the location you visited. Malnati’s is a remarkably consistent chain for the most part, but the Lakeview location is an outlier.

    Daniel Zemans on

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