Chicago: Hipster Pizza Heaven at The Boiler Room
Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. —The Mgmt.
The Boiler Room
2210 N California, Chicago IL 60647 (map); (773) 276-5625; boilerroomlogansquare.com
Getting There: Blue line to California
Pizza Style: thin-crust
The Skinny: Very good pizzas with a side of hipster cool make The Boiler Room a welcome addition to Logan Square
Price: 18" pizzas range from $17-$26; slices start at $3.
Notes: Cash only; use restaurant's ATM and present receipt at bar for a free shot of Jameson
This summer, the team behind Simone's in Pilsen opened The Boiler Room just steps away from the California stop on the Blue Line. The decor features a host of recovered parts including seat belts and doors from the El; this spot is definitely hipster-cool, crowded with scrawny twenty-somethings in vintage clothes. The bar serves up a nice beer selection along with as a variety of interesting cocktails. But I was at the Boiler Room for one reason only: to check out chef Cody Butler's pizzas.
The Boiler Room lets customers build their own pizzas or choose from eleven preset combinations ranging from basic sausage to The Cuban, topped with ham, braised pork, and bacon, homemade pickles and hot mustard. I went with the eponymous pizza, The Boiler Room, which comes with PBR meatballs and homemade giardiniera. Pies cook quickly atop spinning stone platforms in the 600-degree oven and I was soon presented with a beast of a pie that measured 18 inches. The cheese is commercial mozzarella and the sauce is nothing special, but it works well enough and doesn't have any glaring flaws.
The giardiniera did not inspire confidence at first glance, thanks to the large chunks of onion that were included with the more traditional cauliflower, carrots, celery, and jalapeno. But it tuned out that the pickling process had sufficiently tempered the onion leaving a fresh and very crunchy mixture that included a nice but not overpowering burst of tangy heat. The PBR meatballs, on the other hand, were not good; they were dry and a bit bland.
At the recommendation of Logan Square resident Nick Kindelsperger, who joined me for dinner and wore a nifty t-shirt for the occasion, we requested that the crust be served well done. We got a crust that was not well done and was fairly floppy, but it still had a nice chew to it and, more importantly, the taste was very good. The crust, which comes with a heavy dusting of corn meal, has a slight flakiness and rich flavor.
In addition to whole pies, The Boiler Room offers a handful of slice selections: cheese, sausage, pepperoni, a fresh mozzarella pizza, as well as the pie we tried. The crust on the pepperoni slice was cooked longer than my whole pizza was, and the extra crunch and structural integrity made the slice quite a bit more enjoyable.
I can't say I was blown away by the pizza at The Boiler Room, but it is a very solid pie that I'd be happy to eat regularly if it were closer to my house. The place was nearly full (a couple decibels louder than I like) by 7:00 on Friday when I went, and it's routinely packed late at night. For people who are just interested in the pizza but want to avoid the scene, carry-out is available, but delivery is not.