Friday, May 12, 2017

Review: Exchequer Restaurant and Pub, Chicago IL

Prior to a recent trip to Chicago, the only memorable deep-dish pizza I'd ever had was the wonderful pie at Louisa's Pizza & Pasta, about 10 miles south of Midway in Crestwood. Read the review HERE and get that pizza if you can!

This spring, I experienced an excellent pie at Pizano's (review HERE) in the Loop, which offers the basic deep dish style: a bowl-style crust, where the bottom and high sides are relatively equal in thickness. 

While I didn't sample a Chicago stuffed pizza with a layer of dough on top of the cheese, at Pequod's (review HERE) I had a disappointing pan style pizza which featured a thicker crust, shorter walls around the edge, and caramelized cheese around the perimeter.
The bar as you enter; we ate in the rear dining room
The thick pies at Exchequer, nominally an Irish pub, don't fit into any of the standard Chicago styles. I suppose the closest relation is the deep dish as served at Pizano's, but the traditional Chicago deep dish pie features a sea of red sauce or crushed tomatoes on top. The pie at Exchequer instead is topped with a thick molten layer of cheese. Let's examine how it stacked up.

With a colleague at lunch time, we ordered a medium deep dish pizza with sausage and spinach, which took about 35 minutes (fast, by deep dish standards) to reach our table. 

The crust had the high side walls and a modest thickness all the way around. The outer cornicione and the underside had a near-perfect golden hue, and it had a buttery flavor with a texture somewhere between crumbly and flaky. 

The most striking feature - visually - was the cheese. The thick layer of cheese on top of this pie smothered everything and was ideally browned on top. Slicing into the pie revealed a bright red and chunky sauce that also contained big pieces of sausage and some very green spinach that seemed barely cooked. 

If it wasn't so hard to imagine, I would have thought that the spinach was added after the pie had baked because the spinach - full leaves - seemed almost fresh enough to be in a salad.
Beautiful color and texture of the crust
While the mozzarella was typically mild, it was nonetheless delicious as a stretchy and stringy belly bomb. The chunky red sauce was vibrant and in generous proportion to help balance the mass of cheese, yet it did not make the crust soft or soggy.
Rich and chunky sauce
The sausage was superb in both flavor and texture, certainly on par with the excellent pie I'd had at Pizano's. The spinach was a terrific final touch to this pie, even as it was almost negligible in weight and mass relative to the sea of sauce and the lava flow of cheese.

This was a decadent pizza-overload experience as we cheerfully ate the entire pie, which likely had enough calories to feed a family of four. Everything about this pie was on the mark and in harmony. 

This was Roger Ebert's favorite deep-dish in Chicago, and because the cheese rides on top as most people experience on conventional pizza, it probably has more appeal to tourists too. 

In the final analysis, I enjoyed this pie and Pizano's about equally. I didn't visit the deep-dish superstars like Lou Malnati's, Pizzeria Uno, and Giordano's, but it's good to know that two very different deep-dish pies are easy to find and enjoy right in the downtown loop.

Exchequer Pub Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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