Daniel Zemans, our man in Chicago, checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. Daniel also blogs about Chicagoland pizza with his friends on the Chicago Pizza Club blog. --The Mgmt.
Just off of Lincoln Park on the near north side of Chicago, deep underground (well, 10 feet anyhow), sits Bricks, one of the more unique pizzeria locations I have encountered. The awning for Bricks proclaims it to be home of the best pizza on earth. I think that's an overstatement, but it is one of my favorite places to go for thin-crust pizza, both for the ambiance and the pies.
To get into Bricks, you have to walk downstairs below street level, where most of the light comes from a neon sign announcing the restaurant's name. That is also how one would get to a night club called Katacomb, a name that also accurately describes the feel of Bricks. While I doubt people were ever buried there (as they wereand still are in nearby Lincoln Park), the dimly lit, brick-walled cavern certainly feels like something scandalous may have occurred there at some point. The internal wall that separates the bar area from the main dining room adds to the dungeounesque feel of the place.
But there is nothing remotely scandalous about the pizza. Founded in 1997 by Bill Brandt, a California expat, Bricks serves up unique thin pies. The crust, while very thin, is not as thin as the more traditional tavern pizzas found at places like Vito and Nick's or Pat's. However, it is, like any good Chicago thin pizza, crisp. And when you combine crisp with a little extra heft, you get a slight crunch, which is the right was to describe the crust at Bricks.
On top of the thin, crisp-crunchy crust at Bricks sits a layer of good sauce that is neither too sweet not too tangy. On some of their pizzas, the next layer is cheese followed by toppings, while on others the order is different. I got two outstanding pies on this trip to Bricks.
Up first was the Popeye, which had a layer of fresh spinach below the mozzarella, and fresh tomatoes and feta cheese above it. The sweetness from the fresh tomatoes and the salt from the feta worked perfectly with the fresh spinach, sturdy crust and well-seasoned sauce. The abundant garlic and fresh basil rounded out a fantastic pizza.
The second pie was the Ditka, which has meat. In fact, it's billed as having "all the meat." Now, we like meat here in the Midwest, so when a pizza is advertised as having an excessive amount of meat, our expectations may be a little different than a pizza chef from California. There's plenty of meat on the Ditka, probably enough to shock the conscience of a typical Californian, but there are definitely pizzas in Chicago with more meat. As for the types of meat, the menu didn't say, but there was definitely pepperoni, ham and sausage. The pepperoni was spicier than most and the Italian sausage was high quality and had a little kick to it. Unfortunately, I did not notice any of the delicious homemade meatball on the Ditka, but the other meats (and sprinkling of fresh basil to make it healthy) were certainly enough to make one outstanding pie.
Bricks is only open for dinner and is less than a 10-minute cab ride from downtown. If you go without a reservation, you may have to wait a bit, which is made easy if you take a seat at the bar that is stocked with a shockingly good variety of beer for a pizzeria.
1909 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60614 (map)