Pizza Castle – Gage Park, Chicago

Since 1973

Is there any name for a pizza place more fun than Pizza Castle? What a wonderful name for a wonderful little place.

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Pizza Castle is located the Gage Park neighborhood on 55th Street between Spaulding and Sawyer avenues. Despite its location in a small strip mall, the surrounding streets are lined primarily with brick bungalows and sturdy two-flats. Gage Park is found south of the Stevenson Expressway and borders the neighborhoods of Brighton Park and Archer Heights to the north, Back of the Yards and West Englewood to the east, West Elsdon to the west, and Chicago Lawn to the south. While other pizza options really aren’t too far away, they are all still a bit of a hike if you don’t have a car (Geneo’s is somewhat nearby, though east of Kedzie). So, with it’s location and years of dependability, Pizza Castle reigns as the pizza king for the heart of Gage Park.

Pizza Castle - Gage Park from Google Maps

Source: Google Maps

It’s really a shame that we didn’t get more photos of this place, especially of the inside, which highlight the important place the family-oriented pizza joint occupies in a city neighborhood. On the outside, Pizza Castle makes the best use possible of a strip mall storefront. The windows in the front have a number lights, flags, and signs alerting passersby to delights available inside. A lot of the text on the signage appears to painted in what appears to my eyes as an older, less common typeface, giving the exterior of Pizza Castle a classic look.

The inside is the real treat, though. Colorful, bright, and inviting, it was the perfect antidote the rainy night we encountered outside. Behind the counter is a big oven, with several workers in Pizza Castle t-shirts making dough and tending to baking pies. It was clearly a busy night when we arrived. A delivery driver or two waited for orders, but were soon out the door. A small side counter with stools to stay and enjoy a slice is available, too. It is much cozier inside than the outside suggests.

In addition to the typical logos of Chicago’s beloved sports teams, the walls are covered in fantastic framed collages of Pizza Castle’s customers and neighbors. With seemingly thousands of happy, smiling, and (presumably) local faces, I couldn’t help but feel like the Pizza Hound had made the right choice for our pizza run. Check out the official Pizza Castle Facebook page to see the wonderful collages.

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The menu features all the standard toppings, as well as the classic Chicago Italian beef. Double dough is available for a thicker crust. As usual, Ernie and I stuck with the typical Chicago-style thin crust, but instead of the usual pepperoni and sausage, I wanted a little more variety. So, we got Pizza Castle’s version of the standard Chicago special (sausage, green peppers, onions, and mushrooms) called the King Arthur!

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The king and the dragon delivered the goods!

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And of course the Pizza Hound needed his own piece (crust and sauce only)!

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You deserve it, buddy!

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Pizza Castle makes their own sausage, which was delicious and a highlight of the King Arthur. Since we weren’t sure when we’d make it back to Pizza Castle, we naturally got two pizzas. The menu highlights the popular choices of sausage, spinach, and just cheese, but we opted for pepperoni. While the thin crust was good, the stuffed pizza really stood out. Delicious crust and cheese, and really one of our favorite pizzas we’ve had on our adventures.

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Pizza Castle has gotten some well-deserved attention in the Chicago area in the last couple of years, and according to their Facebook page they were just filmed and interviewed by Andrew Zimmern of the Travel Channel! Wow! No bizarre food here; just great pizza. Not bad for a local South Side pizza joint!

Deals on wings are to be had at Pizza Castle, t00. Not to mention pasta, shrimp, perch, and the standard fried stuff. Don’t forget your free RC Cola with every large and extra large pizza!

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No doubt about it, the Pizza Hound loves Pizza Castle.

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Pizza Castle is located at 3256 W. 55th St., Chicago, IL 60632

(773) 776-1075

Pizza Castle on Facebook

Danny’s Pizza Place – Garfield Ridge, Chicago

Since c.1970s

Danny’s Pizza on Chicago’s Southwest Side was another stop in which the Hound stayed home. Of course he had to point us where to go, but we also made some stops of our own along the way.

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My great friend Matt was in town from St. Louis for the night. I wasn’t much feeling like hitting the bars and restaurants in the Logan Square and West Town areas, and instead wanted to get away for a bit. Matt’s has been a great traveling partner of mine for years, and we always seek different places to experience, so he had no problem taking a drive around the city for the evening.

Being March, it was a fairly cold day, as winter Chicago isn’t really over until June 1. First, we headed down to the Southeast Side via Lake Shore Drive and South Shore Drive. We drove through the huge vacant site of US Steel in South Chicago and, as the Chicago Skyway loomed above, we passed the houses and former industrial sites of the East Side and South Deering  We grabbed a burger at Phil’s Kastle on 95th Street at Avenue M, a great little joint with booths and a sandwich counter around the corner from the fabulous Skyway Dog House and about a block away from the sadly now-closed Mexican Inn.

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Still hungry, we headed west on 95th and had a small feast of smoked whitefish and trout at Calumet Fisheries. The sun was going down, and despite the fact that we already had a few things to eat, we inched our way northwest across the city looking for pizza.

Of course, we drove by the old stockyard gates on our way to short stop for a tasty craft beer a Maria’s Community Bar in Bridgeport. Is there any better bar in the entire world than Maria’s? There very well may be, but I’m not sure I know of it. After that, we grabbed a Coca-Cola to-go at a nearby corner store, and kept the trip across the South Side moving. We then found the dependable Chicago Pizza Highway, also known as Archer Avenue, and sought out…well…pizza.

We had a lot of choices, as it’s pretty easy to find a pizza along this thoroughfare as it moves diagonally through Bridgeport, McKinley Park, Brighton Park, Archer Heights, and Garfield Ridge out toward Midway. Danny’s stood out, though, if only for THAT SIGN! Classic and perfect.

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We parked in the lot on back, then headed through the wood-paneled delivery area–likely unchanged since the Danny’s opened–to reach the restaurant’s dining room. It was quiet for a Saturday night, with just a handful of regulars at the bar and a couple seated at one of the red and white checkered tablecloth covered tables. The local news played on the TV. We sat at the bar and ordered two Miller Lites.

A few minutes after ordering, our big pizza arrived. It was extremely hot, with a nice, somewhat thick layer of mozzarella. The amount of sauce was light, but the good crust. It was a great pizza, one that was surely best when enjoyed fresh out of the oven, and it was a perfect ending point for our tour of the city.

Unfortunately, it appears that Danny’s has closed since we visited a little over a year and half ago. This is sad, as it certainly contributed to the neighborhood as part of Pizza Row. I think I read something about it being taken over by another pizza place in the area, Villa Rosa, but we’re not sure this is the case.

Sadly, another classic pizza place has disappeared. Ernie must have known we needed to try it before it was gone for good.

Danny’s Pizza Place was located at 6021 S. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL 60638

Danny’s Pizza Place on Facebook

Danny’s Pizza Place on Yelp

 

Obbie’s Pizza – Garfield Ridge, Chicago

Since 1977

There is great pizza all over Chicago and the rest of the metro area, but a special region for classic Chicago-style thin crust pizza exists on the city’s Southwest Side and stretches into the suburbs. This region, located particularly along Archer Avenue extending west and south past Midway Airport, boast numerous long-time small businesses that specialize in family style thin crust cut in squares.

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It’s a bit of long trip from Logan Square to the neighborhood of Garfield Ridge, which is located north of the airport. This community, I believe, was documented (though under a pseudonym) in the book Working-Class Heroes by sociologist Maria Kefalas, and there is no shortage of places to get hot dogs, Italian beef, and great pizza in the area. Streets are lined with nice, modest single-family homes, and for many years the area has been the home of many police officers, firefighters, and other workers on the city payroll.

Obbie’s Pizza is one of those great places that serves a classic “slice” of Chicago. A take-out and delivery joint where the employees where matching t-shirts and you can see the dough rolled, Obbie’s likely looks much the same as it did when it opened in 1977. The pizza is standard–a good thing–Chicago-style thin crust. Another Chicago favorite, stuffed pizza, is available, too.

Obbie's menu 2

And like a number of pizza places in the corners of Chicago, Obbie’s also sells fried–or in this case, broasted–chicken. However, if we happen to be out by Obbie’s and craving chicken, we more than like would grab a delicious box from the wonderful, and nearby, Mini Hut.

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Obbie’s is good Chicago-style thin crust pizza, perfect for a Friday night watching the Blackhawks at home with the family.

Obbie’s Pizza is located at 6654 W. Archer Ave., Chicago, IL 60638

(773) 586-2828

Obbie’s Pizza on Facebook

Geneo’s Pizza – Chicago Lawn, Chicago

“You Ring – We Bring”

The Pizza Hound and I really miss Chicago-style thin crust pizza. Though there are definitely similar pizzas across the country, and particularly in the Midwest and Great Lakes region, it really isn’t everywhere in the country. It’s everywhere in Chicago, though, and all kinds of places make a great pie. Sometimes nothing sounds better than a basic cheesy thin pizza cut in squares from an old pizzeria.

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Geneo’s (or is it Pizza By Geneo’s?) definitely fits the bill. It is standard Chicago-style thin crust pizza. No flash, but definitely good. Ernie and I swung by Geneo’s on a Sunday afternoon, rather than our typical Friday or Saturday night hunt. Geneo’s is located on 59th street on the south side, between Sacramento and Richmond Streets. It’s take-out and delivery only, and the inside is fairly unimpressive (however, a fancy interior is not at all a requirement for a great pizza), with a counter to order, a menu on the wall, and a seat to wait.

The take-out menu notes that all pizzas have a cheese base (in this case, pointing out that they use real cheese), which to me is one of the intriguing quirks of Chicago pizza menus. Not the cheese itself, but this and other menus’ upfront discussions of cheese. As one would expect, many restaurants don’t mention the cheese at all on their menus, but some will  go the slightly different route than Geneo’s and explicitly outline “cheese and sausage” or “cheese and mushrooms” for whatever price. And some will have a very long list of these simple combinations, each usually with exactly the same price no matter what topping is listed. Why does each one need to be listed in that way? The person taking the order will even say, “So, that’s a extra large with cheese, pepperoni, and sausage.” Uncommon preferences aside, don’t pizzas almost always have cheese? Why does it need to be mentioned? A fun little idiosyncrasy.

Now to the pizza itself. We kept it standard, with all pepperoni and half sausage, and we liked Geneo’s. It’s Chicago-style thin crust typical of the South Side, cut in squares, just like we wanted. Overall, it did not blow us away, but you certainly couldn’t do wrong by ordering it if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Geneo’s has apparently been around for a few decades, which is great. It also has a beautiful neon sign, of which I sadly have no photos. But I did get a photo of the Hound eagerly awaiting his prize!

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Also, I love these pizza menu designs. Who creates these? I feel like I have seen this same pizza man on another menu, but I may be wrong, because it’s on the Geneo’s sign, too. Either way, they are a great, fun element of pizza pop culture.

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Geneo’s Pizza is located at 2945 W. 59th Street in Chicago.

(773) 925-1631

Is this really the Geneo’s website? Check out the bizarrely vague video!

Geneo’s Pizza on Yelp