Chicago deep-dish pizza is a polarizing topic. You will not convince most New Yorkers that this is truly pizza. Comedian and “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart once ranted that “deep-dish pizza is not only not better than New York pizza, it’s not pizza. It’s a…casserole!”

I wouldn’t go that far. I once preferred deep dish pizza over thinner crust pies because I grew up on badly frozen pies that were always on cardboard-like crusts. But I realized how good thinner pizza was when RAS and I visited Italy. So now, I enjoy both. They only must be irresistible and worth waiting for.

A slice of Pequod's deep-dish, with pepperoni, basil and spinach

When NLS moved to Chicago for college, I had the city’s famous deep-dish pizza at its two biggest establishments, Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s. Hopefully, this will not start a major controversy, but I preferred the latter because the toppings were slightly better, and the crust held up to the weight of the pie. That’s not to say Lou Malnati’s is bad – I would have it in a heartbeat. There are others like Pizzeria Uno, too, and I've written about others.

But one place that supposedly towers above them all – at least with food experts and critics. Pequod’s. Yelp just honored the pizzeria as the best in the country. Other media outlets like USA Today, Bon Appetit and Time Out have listed it in their top 10 lists. The critically acclaimed show “The Bear” featured it in an episode about a high-end fine-dining restaurant. So, after two years of attempting to come here, the girls and I finally made it to see for ourselves.

The downstairs main dining room at Pequod's Pizza, Chicago

The establishment

Unlike Giordano’s (which has locations not just in the city but all over the country) and Lou Malnati’s, Pequod’s only has two in Chicagoland. We went to the original in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, only five minutes by car from the DePaul University campus. Surprisingly, my younger daughter hasn’t been there yet, but she told me she doesn’t care for deep-dish.

Open since 1970, the original Pequod’s looks like it’s been around even longer. It’s in a two-story brick building with a blue and white awning that might have existed since the beginning. The worn neon sign above it most likely has.

Inside, there are two levels of dining and bars. With increased business, the owners added the upstairs area, which has a backroom. This is where we sat for our dinner. The entire place feels like an old neighborhood bar, with postered brick walls and very little of the pretentiousness and attitude so common in other restaurants.

The food

Of course, anyone would come to Pequod’s because of the food, specifically the pizza. Its pie differs from other deep-dish places: its crust is slightly buttery but also caramelized. Some cynics would say it looks burnt, but this contributes to the overall taste of the pizza and gives it a nice crunchy texture. 

Another thing that makes Pequod’s distinctive is the customized toppings. You won’t find the combination, meat lovers or veggie varieties here. Instead, you can choose from twenty different meat and vegetable toppings, ranging from $1.55 to $1.95 each. Some are distinctively Chicago options, like giardiniera (Italian relish) and Italian beef. But this allows you to get a pie exactly how you want it. You can also get a thin-crust pizza if deep-dish isn’t your preference.

JRS, NLS and I ordered a small deep-dish with pepperoni, fresh basil and spinach, a Caesar salad and mozzarella sticks with marinara. I also chose a lager from the local Goose Island brewery. I must say that while I can’t say with certainty that it's the best pizza ever, it was in my top five. The caramelized crust gives the pizza a depth of flavor and doesn’t make it as doughy as other places tend to do. It makes it buttery and slightly chewy. The toppings perfectly combine with milky cheese, slightly tangy and herby sauce, and meaty pepperoni.

The verdict? Pequod’s is worth the trip to Chicago’s Northside, especially if you love this pizza. Just be sure to get a reservation beforehand, no matter what time of day you go.