Pequod’s Pizza: a staple of Chicago’s historic deep-dish pizza. Known by many throughout the city, wanted by just as many, it is a deep-dish pizza place like no other.
Chicago has long been home to the famous stuffed, or deep-dish, pizza boasting establishments such as Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East. But for many North Siders of Chicago, residents of the Lincoln Park community and DePaul students, Pequod’s reigns supreme.
“I’ve tried Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s, but Pequod’s is just better,” said Max Harkavay, DePaul junior.
Burt Katz opened the original Pequod’s in 1971 in Morton Grove, where it still remains at 8520 Fernald Ave. What made the pizza special was its signature caramelized crust, achieved by lining the pizza pan with cheese and cooking the pizza at the perfect temperature until black and charred, but not burnt.
Today, Chicagoans still enjoy the signature crust, but Pequod’s signature pizza has evolved much since 1971. Keith Jackson, owner of Gunzo’s Sports Center and a pharmacist, bought Pequod’s for a “few hundred thousand dollars” from Katz in 1986.
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” said Jackson. “I realized I spent a lot of money to purchase an entity I wasn’t all that familiar with.”
Things have since worked out well for Jackson, who grew up on Chicago’s West Side, and now at the age of 60 has houses in Evanston and River Forest, where his office is also located. With white hair, a white beard and striking blue eyes, Jackson is full of passion and energy for his business and his life, and was eager to share his life experiences.
“I’ve had a lot of DePaul students here as they work their way through college,” said Jackson. “We get a lot of business from them – the school’s been an anchor for us. I always tell the students to continue their education, to pursue your passion and live your passion.”
Jackson graduated from college intending to be a pharmacist, but as he pointed out, you never know where life can take you.
“Follow your dreams and, most importantly, don’t be afraid to pursue what you want to do, regardless of what it is,” said Jackson.
The deep-dish, or pan-style, pizza that Pequod’s is known for is an improvement from the recipe he inherited from Burt Katz in 1986, according to Jackson. They have changed the entire recipe – adding better quality cheese and the freshest and best ingredients they can find, coming from a variety of sources including private butchers to local shops. The pizza has been tweaked throughout the years, as Jackson tries to make the perfect pizza in the perfect restaurant. He acknowledged that perfection is impossible, but is something to strive for every single day.
Pequod’s in Lincoln Park, located at 2207 N. Clybourn Ave. , was opened in 1991, and has long been considered as a “mom’s and pop’s” kind of establishment. After a fire in 2006 however, they remodeled the restaurant and since then business has boomed. No longer a local pizza joint just for couples, Pequod’s proudly hosts customers from all backgrounds and regions, including children and families.
The restaurant is notably a Blackhawks bar, and Jackson loves hockey. It is dimly lit, with a full bar, flat screens on the walls and a second floor offering more seating.
Recent Middlebury graduate Erin Prak described Pequod’s as “a great balance of heartiness and satisfaction that’s not too heavy, making it a great meal to share during a fun night out with friends.” Harkavay simply said it’s “the best pizza he’s ever had in his life.” Recent DePaul graduate Zach Roberts called the pizza the “bee’s knees.”
The compliments are easy to come by, and Jackson admits that he loves interacting with his customers, who he describes as “incredibly loyal.” He is surprised sometimes by the vast amount of praise and compliments he receives from everyone he interacts with. People are grateful to eat his pizza, and he is grateful to be doing such high volume business.
Jackson tries hard to put himself in the position of the customer on a consistent basis, something he preaches to his employees. The restaurant in Lincoln Park does incredible business, often with long waits for tables and large amounts of carry out and delivery orders every single night.
“We are, at the end of the day, an entertainment business – we are here to entertain and we can always be better,” said Jackson.
Besides the pizza, Jackson is very fond of the sandwiches they serve, most notably the Italian beef, made with a garlic bun and made best with melted cheese.
UIC senior Nicanor Mandin shares the sentiment. Not only does Mandin enjoy the personal pizza special Pequod’s runs every weekday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for $4.95, but he also has a true love for the Italian beef.
“Not only does the beef explode with flavor, it is combined with the perfect ratio of beef tenderness to bread crispness,” said Mandin.
Pequod’s boasts their pizza with the unique caramelized crust at their two locations, but when asked if there were thoughts on expanding the chain, Jackson was hesitant.
“There are always plans of expanding, but we have to make sure we can continue and maintain what we have now,” said Jackson.
If Pequod’s ever does expand, Jackson ideally would want to open a location on the Southwest Side/South Loop area.