Editor's Note: Whether you're a tourist or an office worker in downtown Chicago, you can get sick of eating at chain restaurants all day. So we've started a series to get you the lowdown on where to find a great and affordable lunch.
I work by Chicken Planet, and I visit for lunch now and then to violently cram poultry down my piehole. Because that's how I eat—with a violent hunger. The whole chicken is seasoned, split, and grilled; plus, it's cheap. But the last time I stopped by, I noticed a menu for a different restaurant called Loop Pizza. I looked carefully at the menu, which is adorned with a mustache, and found that the restaurant is located less than a block away. My curiosity got the better of me, and I wandered in to the tiny pizza stand for lunch last week.
I don't know if the guys behind the counter were having a bad day, but they seemed genuinely annoyed at me when I tried ordering a few slices. Pepperoni? They were out. The pizza of the day (which was an intriguing gyro pizza)? Not available. When I asked for a calzone, they rolled their eyes. Even asking for slices under the heat lamp seemed like a chore for them, which didn't bode well.
Out of all the items I tried, the sausage calzone ($4.00) was the best. They make it on the spot, so it takes a few minutes. They fold sausage, cheese, and sauce, dust the pizza pocket with Parmesan, and pop it into the pizza oven. It's golden on the outside and crisp—almost too crisp, and too thin, as it falls apart quickly. This isn't food you can eat with your hands; you'll need to fork this one. The sausage has a little spicy kick to it, but otherwise, not much flavor, and the tomato sauce is candy sweet, to the point of being distracting.
The sausage slice ($4.00) doesn't fare particularly well. There's hardly any sausage on it, and the bland, undercooked crust just doesn't make for a good foundation. And again, there's that problem with the sweet, sweet, sauce. Look at that cornicone (a.k.a., what most people call the crust): it's almost as white as the cardboard box and nearly as dry.
The spinach slice ($4.00) suffers from all the same problems as the sausage slice, but the spinach thankfully adds a little bit of leafy, iron-like flavor.
For you Slice'rs out there, here's your obligatory upskirt shot. There's not a whole lot of color on the bottom, and this is where almost all the problems lie. No char, just a bit of a golden hue, and it's dry and crumbly without flavor.
The previous pizza businesses in this location haven't had much luck. One of the last versions, Pizza Broker (best name ever) disappeared. I always wanted to walk in there and say, "I'd like 85 shares of pizza, please, and may the dividends be generous," while flipping a gold Sacajawea. Then it was Nicola's Pizza, which wasn't much different from Pizza Broker, and now it's Loop Pizza. Maybe the spot is just suffering from a curse. A pizza curse.
About the author: After a failed attempt at starting a chain of theme restaurants called "Smellen Keller," Dennis Lee traveled the world to discover his true passion. Sadly, midwifery didn't pan out. Now he works in a cubicle, and screws around as much as possible. Follow his shenanigans on Twitter.