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Chicago: State Street Pizza Company

Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. The Mgmt.

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[Photographs: Daniel Zemans]

State Street Pizza Company

400 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60654 (map); (312) 624-8270‎; statestpizza.com
Getting There: Red Line to Grand
Pizza Style: Thin crust
The Skinny: Conveniently located and reasonably priced but sadly not delicious pizza
Price: Slices with a drink start at $4.50; 14" pies start at $10

There are pizzerias we frequent because they bring the deliciousness and there are places we visit because they are convenient and/or cheap. While the focus here at Slice leans heavily towards the delicious, when trying out new pizzerias, sometimes it just works out the other way. I walked into State Street Pizza Company in downtown Chicago recently with no clue what to expect.

Given its central location and extended hours (breakfast until late night), State Street Pizza Company is undoubtedly convenient. And the prices are definitely on the lower end of the spectrum. As for whether the pizza there is delicious, well, did I mention that it's convenient? I kid. No, I don't. The pizza is not very good, but for people looking for a quick inexpensive lunch or a late night drunken treat, the pizza is better than it needs to be.

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Thanks to a miscommunication, I got to try one more pizza than planned. I ordered the "Hot Girlfriend" but instead started with "The Original 'It's For My Girlfriend.'" It's a vegetarian pie that comes with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and mozzarella along with tomato sauce. The toppings were actually pretty good; the sun-dried tomatoes provided some sweet tang and the spinach was fresh.

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The problem with the toppings was that they were difficult to taste under what might have been the most disproportionately overapplied mozzarella I've ever had on a thin crust pizza. In defense of the mozzarella quantity, it did help to protect the palate from this pie's hyperseasoned tomato sauce. The crust, unfortunately, reminded me of cardboard. One detail that I appreciate about the place beyond the variety of creative toppings is that customers who order whole pies get a choice between a square cut and slices.

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After realizing we'd gotten the wrong pizza, the mistake was quickly fixed and the Hot Girlfriend showed up at our table. This one, topped with pepperoni, jalapeno, goat cheese and mozzarella, was a significant step up from the first pie. It had the same bad crust and sauce and massive quantity of cheese, but thanks to the added flavor from the pepperoni and jalapeno, this pie was much more balanced than the first.

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For those who are dining alone or not willing to wait the 12 minutes it takes to make a whole pie, State Street Pizza Company also offers large 9" slices. I opted for a slice of sausage and found it to be a perfectly satisfying lunch. The hefty chunks of meat were packed with fennel and some other herbs that balanced out the cheese and the oregano-heavy sauce. Like many of the other toppings, the sausage was a very pleasant surprise though ultimately not enough to get me close to excited about State Street Pizza Company.

Someday we will live in a world where all pizzas are delicious, cheap, and conveniently located. Until then, pizzerias will prioritize which they want to emphasize. State Street Pizza Company has location down pat and the prices are certainly reasonable. Sadly, when it comes to deliciousness, there's a long way to go.

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