It's All About the Sauce at Chicago's Revolution Brewing
Serious Eats Chicago contributor Daniel Zemans checks in with another piece of intel on the Windy City pizza scene. —The Mgmt.
2323 N Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60647 (map); 773-227-2739; revbrew.com
Pizza Style: Thin
The Skinny: Standout brewpub delivers well-conceived non-traditional pizzas
Price: 12" pizzas range from $10-$13
When Josh Deth opened Revolution Brewing in Chicago last February, he gave a much-needed gift to a city that is not exactly a hotbed of microbrewing. The response was immediate and intense, and the place has been packed virtually every day since. Revolution would have done just fine if food choices were limited to nearly exclusively vegetarian fare at Handlebar, Deth's first restaurant, or even if the place relied on the kind of mediocre food that commonly plagues bars. But under the culinary leadership of Chef Jason Petrie, Revolution has a balanced menu that stands on its own.
Of the eleven pizzas available at Revolution, only one, the Margherita, is entirely traditional. In some cases, unusual toppings such as pulled pork and roasted beets distinguish the pizzas. But what really differentiates Chef Petrie's pies is the sauce. Of the six pizzas with tomato sauce, just two have a traditional sauce, one comes with a buffalo tomato sauce, the three more have smoked tomato sauce, which I found the most intriguing.
My only previous experience with smoked tomato sauce was at one sixtyblue (Slice review), where the sauce's smokiness overwhelmed everything else. At Revolution Brewing, I tried the Italian Seitan pizza, a vegan pie with smoked tomato sauce, cremini mushrooms, red onion,s and a seitan version of Italian sausage. It's much more restrained than one sixtyblue's and the result is a lightly tangy tomato flavor that's complemented very nicely with smoke.
The seitan isn't going to trick anyone into thinking that it's pork, but the fennel-studded wheat gluten is very well seasoned and has enough traditional sausage flavor that I, an avowed meat lover, had no complaints. In fact, the whole pizza was well-balanced and very good. The only adjustment I'd make if I got it again would be to add mozzarella, which our server said was an option for nonvegans.
Fittingly for a brewpub, the crust at Revolution has a pleasant yeasty flavor. Texturally, the crust on the Italian Seitan pie was excellent. It was almost crunchy and a little flaky around the edges, while crisp and a bit chewy underneath. On the second pizza, which was much more heavily topped, the bottom crust was not quite substantial enough to hold up. Depending on your perspective, the result can be categorized as either a floppy mess or Neapolitan-inspired.
Chorizo may not be a particularly rare pizza topping any more, but Revolution takes the Mexican theme a bit further. The chorizo pizza is topped with housemade Mexican sausage, Chihuahua cheese, dried mango, red pepper, and a bit of cilantro. And rather than go with a traditional sauce, Chef Petrie reaches out to tomato's first cousin, the tomatillo, and uses a salsa verde.
The result is a pizza that's loaded with flavor but is a bit on the spicy side. The mango bits were small and, because they were cooked with the pizza rather than sprinkled on top after baking, some of the sweet juiciness was missing (or else it was a particularly bland mango). As a result, I found the pie unbalanced, but fans of spicy food shouldn't mind.
Josh Deth wanted to open Revolution Brewing a decade ago. A couple of bumps in the road and alternate professional opportunities delayed the matter, but Deth never lost sight of his goal. And judging from the massive crowds that still pour in every night a full year after Revolution's opening, there's no question he's hit on something special. And while the beer is what draws the crowds, Revolution's creative pizzas do not disappoint a bit.