Sky Full of Bacon

UPDATE: see this Menu Pages post if you didn’t just come from there.

Confronted with my earlier challenge not to go all New York-snooty on us and mock pizzas as thick as Stephen King novels, Serious Eats went out and picked somebody with Chicago street cred to make their list: my quasi-doppelganger (except for the part about being a decade younger), Mike Nagrant.

My verdict on their verdicts? Right choices, not right categories.

We match up on a number of choices.  This is no surprise, since a lot of places have sorted themselves out as the best in the foodie community and Nagrant doesn’t want to be contrarian for the sake of contrarianism.  At most, you can sense that he was probably going to come to the same answer I did (eg, Scooter’s for best ice cream) but decided to provide a broader answer with more choices.  And there’s nothing wrong with more choices, well chosen.

Where I still have a problem with their list is that, hot dogs, burgers, late night, it just doesn’t accurately represent the real diversity and interest of dining in Chicago to me.  Commenters have already called out the absence of Italian beef, which is like leaving cheese steak out of the Philadelphia one, but Nagrant had to invent (I suspect) a category for non-sushi Asian to get a Thai place in [CORRECTION: it was in the original NY list, and mine too], he has to turn Best Taqueria into Best Mexican to cover it adequately (which is like putting all Italian food under Best Pizza, basically), he has to sneak Indian food in by placing Khan BBQ in under late-night dining (as someone who’s never eaten there past 3 in the afternoon, it sure isn’t that for me) and Eastern European, which is everywhere here, and which Nagrant has written about before, is pretty much absent (there’s a category called “Eastern European Butcher,” which he picks Paulina and Gepperth’s for, both of which are, of course, Germanic and thus western European, if we’re being picky).  Ignoring Eastern European is no small thing because I have an east coast friend who, first thing he wants to do in Chicago is go eat Polish food, precisely because he can’t get it there.  It may not be something we think of as being as distinctive as the Bayless school of fine Mex, but it’s still a real strength of ours.

In short, I think Serious Eats has somewhat missed a chance here by picking the right guy to pick the answers—but not asking the right questions, at least not all of them.

Helen at Menu Pages plans to compare our choices head to head, so I’ll let her do that first, although I’ll say one thing about deep dish pizza— yeah, Burt’s is great (although I find the harried service post-Saveur rather offputting), but this isn’t a deep dish pizza:

That’s a pan pizza, which is what we train New Yorkers on before we reveal to them the full majesty and glory that is…

The Hallelujah chorus made edible in cheese and dough.  Spinach deep dish from Art of Pizza, the best pizza in Chicago.

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