For those in the know, Pequod’s Pizza is the best pizza in Chicago. For those who don’t know, I’m in the know. I grew up in Chicago and have eaten my way through slices thick and thin, deep and wood-fired, and there’s only one I’d turn to if I had to remedy a bad day or plan a last meal.
It’s dramatic because it’s that serious.
Why is Pequod’s Pizza so good, though? Buckle in for my love letter to your new favorite Chicago pizza spot.
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Why is Pequod’s Pizza so good?
Pequod’s Pizza is so good because it’s better than any other pizza out there. Is that not specific enough for you? From the very tip to that caramelized crust, it’s an experience in patience and perseverance and tests your relationship with dairy.
What is Pequod’s Pizza known for?
Pequod’s Pizza is known for its caramelized crust. From there, locals laud the eatery’s cheese pull, ambiance, and presentation, but it’s that crust that makes it a standout among Chicago’s best pizza joints.
Is Pequod’s considered deep-dish pizza?
Pequod’s is considered deep-dish pizza if you go by the owners. They call themselves the premier deep-dish pizzeria in Chicago. You’re more likely to hear locals describe it as pan-style. That’s what I’d call it.
The pizza at Pequod’s doesn’t resemble the typical deep-dish pizza or what’s considered Chicago-style pizza by people outside of Chicago. That’s what you’d get at Lou Malnati’s and more of what New Yorkers disparage as a casserole.
Note: That doesn’t mean I won’t indulge in deep-dish pizza. It’s something you need to plan for, as in skipping all meals that day until the casserole has arrived at your table.
If we’re talking about Pequod’s Pizza, though, I’m ready anytime.
A Brief History of Pequod’s
Pequod’s comes with a pedigree.
Its original location, still in operation today, was opened in 1971 by Chicago pizza royalty Burt Katz in Morton Grove. That’s a suburb just north of Chicago.
Katz brought his signature caramelized crust to Pequod’s by way of Gullivers Pizza & Pub, his second solo pizza shop that is still in existence today in Rogers Park. His first, The Inferno, has been closed for a long time.
Katz slung pizza in Chicago at Pequod’s until 1986, when he sold the place to new ownership.
Those new owners opened a second Pequod’s location in Lincoln Park on Clybourn Avenue in 1992. It has since won numerous accolades, appeared on countless “Best of” lists, and, most importantly to me at least, has stolen my heart.
Note: Katz ended up opening a new shop in Morton Grove, Burt’s Place, despite reports when he left the original Pequod’s that he was retiring from the pizza game.
Burt’s Place had a cult following of its own, with the same caramelized crust delighting all who patronized the shop until it closed in 2015. That following includes Anthony Bourdain, by the way, for that added air of legitimacy.
Katz passed away in 2016, the year after his pizza shop closed, but his contributions to caramelized crusts continued to live on. Since then, Burt’s Place has reopened, with possible plans to open a city of Chicago location in the future.
If you’re out in the suburbs on your visit for whatever reason, Burt’s is also delicious, although I haven’t been back since it reopened without Katz.
This isn’t a knock on Burt’s in any way, other than it takes Chicagoans a lot of effort to travel out of the city and into the suburbs when there’s so much good pizza around.
Pequod’s Pizza: It’s Just That Serious
There are a few topics you should avoid if you’re trying to leave a conversation without any controversy. There’s politics, unless you’re on the same team…and even then there are so many levels within one party that it’s best altogether avoided.
There’s religion, especially if you’re involved with something kinda culty that I’ve listened to true crime podcasts about.
Then there’s pizza.
My husband would also add that there’s also whether one should be able to add ketchup to their hot dogs without an international incident. If you ask a native Chicagoan about it, this one is also very problematic, but that’s for another day.
I’m also not going to profess to be some pizza snob or purist who only eats it coal-fired or following 43 flips through the air by jolly pizza elves. What I’m talking about is where I go when I need some really delicious pizza when I’m in Chicago.
It’s a controversial topic in those parts, too, but the only answer for me when I’m looking for Chicago’s best pizza is Pequod’s.
Why is Pequod’s Pizza so great, though?
The reason why Pequod’s Pizza is so great goes beyond nostalgia, although that admittedly plays a part. This place helped me learn things about my capacity for large slices of pizza. I learned that fried mushrooms are always better in theory. It taught me that good things come to those who wait.
Pequod’s takes reservations now, so you may not even have to wait as long as I used to when I was just a wee thing. As I got older, I also discovered that you could set up shop next door at the Chicago location’s Whale Tale, a dive bar associated with Pequod’s.
You too can be popping shots of Malort while you wait if you fail to make a reservation, but you’ll need all your faculties about you when you’re eating your pizza. Trust me.
Fun fact: If you’re a Moby Dick fan, you’ll recognize the name as that of the whaling ship that appears in that whale of a tale. You may also appreciate the thong-wearing whale that shows up on the pizza shop’s merchandise.
If you call ahead with your order, you may not even have to wait as long to dig into your pie. Otherwise, you’re waiting about 45 minutes or so before they bring out that pan of yum.
No matter how long you’ve been waiting, the pizza at Pequod’s is still best enjoyed with a knife and fork due to the weight of the cheesy goodness filling the pan. This is dense stuff, and that’s OK.
You don’t need to be able to fold your slice to say that you’ve eaten pizza. I promise.
Besides, you’ll forget about all of your problems with knife-and-fork pizza when you take a bite of your first slice. That first bite at Pequod’s is always so indulgent and causes all conversation at the table to cease.
It’s gooey and heavy on the cheese. You know those cheese strands you get sometimes on a slice of really cheesy pizza? These are more like bands of cheese.
My lactose-intolerant friend says it’s worth it.
You’re working your way down that slice, and things are going well. It isn’t over once you get to the crust, though.
I’ve already mentioned that the crust was Katz’s specialty. He gifted the caramelized, crispy perfection for you to enjoy at the end of your slice as part of the Pequod’s Pizza recipe.
You have to leave room for it, or force room for it if you’re a delicate flower.
You know those crunchy bits of cheese left behind on a sheet pan after you’re done cooking whatever you’re cooking? It’s like that, but buttery.
Pequod’s has always been as good as I remember it being the last time I came through town. I’ve never had a less-than-delicious bite there. When that waiter comes to serve you that first slice, biceps flexing from its density, you’ll not only be ready to eat, but glad to be alive.
The only disappointing moment is realizing another pants button has been sacrificed to the Pequod’s gods, but it’s all worth it in the end.
Every time I visit Chicago, I have to go to Pequod’s with my friend Nona, a sister in arms when it comes to eating large quantities of pizza.
I eat other pizzas while in town, as it’s pizza, and it’s quite versatile. (When pizza’s on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime.)
Nothing makes my mouth water like Pequod’s, though. It’s happening right now, and it probably hasn’t been that long since I’ve had it. It’s a problem, I guess.
It’s rare that I change up my order, too.
What are the best toppings or combinations to order at Pequod’s?
The best toppings or combinations to order at Pequod’s are the classics. That’s pepperoni and mushroom for me. I’m typically a veg pizza person, enjoying my Margherita with fresh basil and all that good stuff.
When I’m in Chicago, though, I go old school.
Fun fact: While we’re getting to know one another’s pizza preferences, pineapple on pizza is an abomination.
There’s certainly variety there when it comes to topping, though. Chicagoans love sausage on their pies, so that’s another classic choice. You can definitely go full vegetarian, too. I’ve seen it done with great results.
Can I get a deep-dish pizza at Pequod’s with thin crust instead?
You can get thin crust at Pequod’s in Chicago instead of deep dish. Some may think I buried the lead on that, but most don’t come here for the thin-crust stuff. It’s fine. I’ve had it. It’s easier to order if you’re here with the kids. It’s just not what I picture when I think of Pequod’s Pizza.
Pequod’s Pizza Tips & FAQs
Is Pequod’s deep-dish pizza worth the hype?
Pequod’s deep-dish pizza is absolutely worth the hype, even if you believe that it’s not true deep dish.
What are the wait times like at Pequod’s during peak hours?
The wait times at Pequod’s can be upwards of an hour during peak hours, but both locations now take reservations online. This is a welcome change that happened during the pandemic, and I hope the change is here to stay.
Is there a long wait time at Pequod’s, and is it worth it?
There is a fairly long wait time at Pequod’s once you’re seated, too, but it’s still worth it. It takes time to bake something so full of all of the best of everything, after all. You can always call ahead with your order if you have a usual order to wait less once you’re at your table.
Otherwise, expect to wait 40-45 minutes for your pan-style pie to come out. You may be tempted to have a little pre-snack, but you should exercise caution here. The apps on the Pequod’s Pizza menu are standard fried fare. Do what you will, but make sure you leave room for the main event.
Another hot tip is to visit during lunchtime. I’ve had the place almost to myself during lunch-hour pizza times, and yes, it feels very special.
Does Pequod’s offer delivery or takeout services?
Pequod’s does offer both delivery or takeout services for Chicago delivery or their suburban delivery zone, but you may not have the same experience. I’ve had it for delivery once, and while it was delicious, some of that magic was lost in that box.
You can also get Pequod’s shipped to you. We had it a few times while living in San Diego as a special occasion Pequod’s Pizza delivery, and could never get it quite as crispy as they do in-house.
What is the best way to reheat Pequod’s Pizza leftovers?
The best way to reheat Pequod’s Pizza leftovers is in the oven. Some pizza enthusiasts love the skillet for reheating pizza, but that’s best for thin-crust slices.
Pequod’s suggests reheating your pizza in a preheated oven at 275 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Use a foil-lined baking sheet covered with cooking spray for less mess.
Is Pequod’s a good place for large groups or parties?
Pequod’s is a good place for large groups or parties. Just make the appropriate reservations. With groups of up to 50, you can book a private room for up to three hours. I’ve considered it.
What are the prices like at Pequod’s?
The prices are affordable at Pequod’s. Expect to pay $20-25 for a medium pan-style pizza. If you’re here at lunch, you can order a personal pizza for around $8. Those are still tasty, but you lose some of that magic in a smaller size.
Which Chicago Pizza is best in the world?
Pequod’s Pizza in Chicago is the best in the world. Ready to go? Hours vary by Pequod’s locations, so do check ahead of your visit so you’re not left disappointed. Generally, though, you can head over after 11am.
Yes, Pequod’s still works at brunch. I promise you. If you want to thank me in any way for introducing you to this treasure, I take payment in Pequod’s gift certificates.
Ready for Pequod’s Pan Pizza?
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It’s a great tool for when you’re more flexible, too, as it allows you to compare travel based on length of travel, departure date, etc.
Deals to Chicago are easier to come by in the off-season, as the weather isn’t ideal. If all you’re doing is eating your way through, why not? Another strategy is following the major airlines to catch good deals that may come up for your city.
Adventurous folks should subscribe to Going, formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights. You’ll get all kinds of deals in your inbox throughout the year, especially to big hubs like Chicago.
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