This week's Chicago deep-dish pizza review (a two-for-one special, checking in at both Kylie's Chicago Pizza and Wallingford Pizza House) was a deliberately one-note contest: pie-on-pie, crust-on-crust. Stating right from the start that both God and I preferred the lovely balance of a New York thin-crust over the mess and bready weight of the Chicago pie, I then set out to see how two of Seattle's most popular deep-dish joints stacked up against each other and against the Windy City's best.
But looking at the two pie-shacks through such a narrow lens forced me to disregard two things that were done well at the restaurants--one by Kylie's and one by Wallingford Pizza House. And now that the review is out there, I mean to give both places their due props.First, it was the chicken wings at Kylie's--one of the only other things on the menu that wasn't pizza.
Now I spent years in Buffalo, New York, ancestral homeland of the chicken wing, a place where people will regularly consume chicken wings two or three times in a single day. Like salmon here or green chile in New Mexico, it's tough to find a restaurant in Buffalo that doesn't serve wings, and the simplest way to pick a fight on the streets of the Queen City? Walk up to any two strangers on the street and ask them where the best wings are served.
Kylie's wings are nothing like the wings served in Buffalo. They're not slathered in butter and Frank's RedHot. They're not fried. They're not served in a half-melted plastic basket with a side of lukewarm blue cheese dressing and a pitcher of Genny Cream Ale. But I have been gone from Buffalo for a long time now, and my sectarian loyalty to the Buffalo wings of my misspent youth has paled a bit over the decades. Though not in any way authentic, Kylie's wings were big. For oven-fired wings, they had a nice crispness to them. And they were drenched in a sauce that had just the tiniest spike of heat--which is actually the way I prefer mine: mild as a California winter so that the pure chicken-y goodness and savory fryer fat all come through.
I ordered a pound of these wings on my first visit to Kylie's, meant only to eat a couple as a run-up to my pie, but ended up polishing off the entire order--which, no matter the style, is always the sign that someone in the back knew what they were doing with their chicken parts.
Second, there was the calzone at Wallingford Pizza. To me, this calzone was the absolute proof of my contention that the deep-dish pie here was nothing but an open-faced tomato-and-cheese sandwich because here were the same ingredients, the same crust, the same everything, just folded in half and baked. And while I wasn't crazy for the Wallingford Pizza crust when it was actually used as a pizza crust, I did like it as a calzone shell. Why? Because it was rolled thinner, baked and served un-risen with the meats and cheese stuffed inside and the sauce served on the side.
So while Wallingford may not make a pie that I'm crazy for, I would absolutely go back for another one of the kitchen's calzones. I'm actually thinking if maybe they should just change their name. Wallingford Calzone Hut does have kind of a nice ring to it...