I checked into the newly opened Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom this week, and felt something vaguely familiar. No, it wasn’t the fact that it was in the briefly the location of Mockingbird Taproom, the beer version of the many restaurants opened and failed in the DFW area by Restaurant America. Although the decor did not change even a little bit, there is where the similarities end. I do recall having been to an Old Chicago in Colorado many years ago, and that is also where the company started.
My beer memory placed me in Colorado Springs in an old building, designed shotgun-style, with an active bar in the front, and a largish restaurant in the back. They had the largest beer collection, on tap or otherwise, I had seen to that date. I remember the beer being priced very well, so well me and my crew went often. And I recall the pizza was really good.
This is the same Old Chicago that recently made its debut in the Dallas area, and you will likely see more of these popping up around Texas with the addition of Houston and Austin, then even more in locations such as Plano. This is a good thing, as the chain enjoys a good beer, and doesn’t feel the need to gouge the prices. On our visit a Peticolas Velvet Hammer cost us 4.80, when it is pretty much sold for over 6.00 all over town. In some places as much as 8.00. The manager we spoke with has been developing excellent relationships with area breweries, and plans on bringing aboard an exciting line up for his patrons to enjoy. They also have a passport club which keeps track of the variety of beer you enjoy, and offers up swag (like steins and such) for the larger variety of beer you choose.
Then we have the food. Much of it is really good kicked up bar food, including their signature deep dish pizza. Chicago ex-pats might not cozy up to the thought of a deep dish coming from Colorado, but it is actually very good. The crust is airy, light and buttery, with the ingredients piled thick and cheesy. The amount of cheese this place must go through would make a whole herd of cows shudder. I would pass on the thin crust, although it is also very light. I prefer to dance with the one that brought me, and that is definitely the thick crust.
Another unusual choice is the Oh My Spaghetti Pie. Looking at the menu I wanted a well rounded peek at what they are offering, so I ordered both thick and thin pizzas, a selection of appetizers, and a few odd items that I thought might be different. The spaghetti pie was different, and in a good way. This is a thick wedge of an even lager pasta-filled pie soaked in a creamy sauce, with a side of whatever type of additional sauce you might enjoy. And some meat and veggie choices. We went with the meatballs which were enormous rounded meat loafs. They were good, but the pie holds well on its own, and not necessary. My dining companion asked, no begged, to take the left over home.
Although I really enjoyed the Chicago-style thick crust pizza, my heart sank for the Italian nachos. I knew we had a lot more selections coming, but I kept after that pile of whisper thin chips, actually made of fried wonton, smothered in cheeses and meat, served with a side of a spicy sauce. It is worth the trip to Old Chicago alone.
Remember, they aren’t cracking any culinary codes here, it is just kicked up bar fare. The menu is also a shorter version of what you might find in Colorado, but they will beef up the selections in the coming months. I imagine my Chicago purists calling Old Chicago out on what they are serving, but it is an amiable version of the pie. And one I will soon go back for another taste to enjoy with the great selection of brews.
Look for Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom in Mockingbird Station.