Serious Eats: Chicago
Deep Fried Chicago: Boiler Room
This being Chicago and all, it's surprising how many neighborhoods boast decent to passing New York-ish slice places. Among the highlights are Jimmy's Pizza Café in Lincoln Square, Gigio's in Uptown, Cafe Luigi in Lincoln Park, and Boiler Room in Logan Square. I don't know if its the proximity or its puzzling Blue Line themed decor, but I'm a fan of Boiler Room. The cornmeal-heavy crusted pizza by the slice or pie is relatively inexpensive, old movies are always playing above the bar, and did I mention that they have Jameson on tap? However, as much as I like the pizza, their fried game leaves a little to be desired.
Let's start with the highlights, though. The Dirty Bird ($6.00) takes buffalo chicken to its logical conclusion: instead of serving wussy wing segments, they buffalo whole dark chicken parts. After one bite of the buffalo leg, I'm wondering why these aren't a thing: despite a relative lack of crispiness and a lighter-than-desired saucing, the chicken was moist and flavorful enough to smooth out any rough edges. The wings were less successful. After trying to gnaw around all the angles, I can see why segmenting makes practical sense. The bleu cheese dipping sauce deserves special mention—it's thinner than most gloopy restaurant versions with discernible bleu chunks and flavor.
Count me in support of the Seasoned Fries ($4.00), though I suspect my allegiance comes by way of association. If you've ever had a depression dog, you know that by the time you unwrap everything, the fries have been slightly steam-softened into a big, comforting pile of spuds. I love that. Best enjoyed by the wad, the Old Bay seasoning gives these fries a surprising kick, though if you prefer actual crispiness over reminiscence of a former crispiness, you may want to move on. The included side of garlic aioli was subtle to a fault, and tasted more of mayo than anything else.
Though great in theory, something about the Fried Mozzarella Balls ($5.00) was just off. I blame execution. Fresh mozz is swapped for the more common dried variety, though here fresh is not better. Each bite ended not with the familiar tug of melty cheese, but rather a hot, watery explosion that obscured the already lackluster breading.
Besides the pizza, the best thing at Boiler Room is the Jamo soft serve. Made with a healthy amount of Jameson Irish whiskey, the surprisingly boozy treat is put to very good use in the Drunkin' Donuts ($5.00). Consider this dish the loose and assertive American cousin to Bill Kim's reserved and continental variation on the same theme. Light and chewy with the thinnest of crackly crusts, the doughnuts are happily obscured by a generous dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon, while the creamy booze-forward Jamo soft serve rights all wrongs. Next time I have to deliver big news—good or bad—I'm doing it over a cone of this. And if it's preceded by a slice of pepperoni, I'll count myself all the more lucky to call Boiler Room my neighborhood slice joint.