Mac n Cheese, Philly Cheesesteak, Tomato Pesto, Steak Nacho, Guacamole Burrito, Spicy Chicken Burrito, BBQ Chicken Cheddar Bacon Ranch, Tortellini Pesto, BBQ steak and French Fry, Bacon Cheeseburger, Sausage Penne Alfredo, Chicken Parmesan, Tomato Avocado Asiago, Spinach Feta Mushroom. These are just a few examples of the spectrum of flavors and choices you’ll have upon walking in the door of Ian’s Pizza. Whether you’re craving a simple but delicious New York style cheese pizza or some interesting conglomeration of flavors and textures, this place can deliver, literally and figuratively. Do you ever get the munchies? I’m not just making a stoner reference here, I’m talking about those days, or hours where you have a hankering for something that will not only comfort you, but also inspire you to eat rapidly, shoveling gigantic bites into your ever-widening mouth so you could chew laboriously, closing your eyes and mumbling what sounds like “so good” through food speckled teeth. Whether you’re elevated by a substance, person, life or living clean, stone cold sober, you’ll love Ian’s and crave it once you've had it. It’ll call to you. It calls to me. In particular when I’ve had a weird week, when chaos churns in my gut and a whirlwind of snow barrels into my face, when I can’t get enough good people and my bullshit threshold for the other is in danger; that’s when I want pizza, and Ian’s satisfies no matter the need, no matter the reason, through seasons hot and cold, when life is hectic or mild, Ian’s brings me right back to square one.
Here’s the only issue you may face making it to Ian’s. It’s located just south of Wrigley Field on Clark Street, smack dab in the middle of a long line of bars, clubs, restaurants and shops. It’s easy to find, whether it be on the CTA, on foot, or by cab, but if you’re looking to satiate a late night weekend craving, get ready to make a mindful, alert walk passed some rowdy ass people, some of whom may be parked in one of the coveted Ian’s bench seats or taking up a spot in their sometimes long line. During Cubs season, it’s an experience, just as riding the EL or bus is at any given moment, the combination and diverse sampling of people, sober and otherwise, provide the entertainment while you try to decipher what each pizza flavor is. It’s worth any hassle you may perceive or experience, and is some of the best, most unique pizza even the great city of Chicago has to offer.
Ian’s staff is young and friendly, laid back but efficient pizza slingers, with permanent burnt callouses on their hands and bags under their eyes from many early morning closes. Their knowledge of the pizza is on point, many having their own input and hand in making the special of the week. Their selections vary based on the season, so the Guacamole Burrito, which is a must try if you’re here, is mainly a summer option. They provide interesting concoctions during the holiday months and have a spectrum of choices to appease any desire. Each speciality slice costs $3.75, and they’re good sized slices. I usually get two or more, but that’s me, never not hungry. Their basic thin crust cheese pizza is great if that’s what you need or want, and the large is just $16. Given the number of ingredients, some of them fall into the gourmet variety, your pie’s cost will go up from there. They deliver, even if you just order slices. Alone with a movie or a packed apartment full of weirdos, Ian’s is always an accessory to a good experience, at home or in their house.
Some of you may be reticent to try the more unusual slices. To that I just breathe a long, slightly judgmental sigh.................Try the Mac ’n’ Cheese. It has a creme fraiche base, girthier macaroni noodles and a perfect blend of cheeses for a truly unbelievable slice. That’s usually your first go round, the easiest way in, and then you start getting into the freaky stuff. It’s similar to exploring sushi for the first time, everyone goes for the California roll, simple, a little boring in my opinion but a good start. I just had the mac slice last week and I loved it as much or more than my first time. They cleverly pull from favorites all around the world, experimenting on a weekly basis with great pies like Apple Pie, Chicken & Dumpling, Pad Thai, Mediterranean (which has a hummus base and a slew of med veggies), Shepard’s Pie, Green Curry, Gyro, and a long list of other ethnically inspired creations. Whether it’s one of their signature, everyday slices, or a seasonal special of the week, the quality of the ingredients and the execution of the idea is shockingly impeccable. I’m always so pleasantly surprised at the texture and flavor of the crust, regardless of what the talented and creative staff challenge it with, it remains crispy and delicious. I love collecting uneaten crusts and gorging on bread. A real beatnik. Don’t judge me.
I’ve been eating Ian’s on a weekly basis for a year and a half and finally decided to share in their goodness. They began out of Wisconsin, branched into three locations there and we’re fortunate in having their presence here in Chicago. It’s a great way to trick your kids, or your friends or yourself, into trying something you’ve never tried before because remember, it’s on top of bread and covered in cheese. And just the right amount. Their menu includes slices and flavors to satiate even the pickiest eater (shout out to my vegan friends, if there are any of you left). They’ve got great baked goods from Bleeding Heart if you want to seal the munchie deal, and a cooler full of great beverages if you choose to pass up their free water. Ian’s is a comforting experience, in house or to go, 365 days a year. Hope you can taste the magic.
Live in Chicago. Visit Chicago. Forget corporate chains. Eat Ian’s. Enjoy.