Old Chicago Pizza & Tap Room, a chain restaurant with more than 100 locations, brought its version of deep-dish pizza to far north Fort Worth recently.
We showed up at the restaurant at what we thought was an early hour for a Saturday night, but the wait time was already an hour long. The waiting area is small and bar seating was filled with people eating full meals, so we contemplated leaving and coming back.
Fortunately, we decided to stay, because the wait turned out to be shorter than the forecast hour. But that was just part one of waiting.
After sitting at our booth for 15 minutes without so much as a hello from a server, we finally flagged someone down and asked if we could get water. A minute later, a server showed up with one glass of water — were we to split it between the four of us?
We eventually got libations for all. Old Chicago has a large beer selection — some 25 beers on tap, and approximately 50 more in bottles — but this is no hipster brewpub. Rather, it’s a family-oriented restaurant with a large menu that will be expanding to even more offerings as the restaurant works out the kinks.
Old Chicago offers pizza with two types of crust, a “Chicago-style” thick crust and a thinner (but not thin) ale crust. We tried both. Our medium Chicago 7 deep-dish ($20.79) was served in an iron skillet (authentic) and topped with pepperoni, Italian sausage, red onions, black olives, green peppers, and mushrooms (so far so good), but, oh, was the crust disappointing.
True Chicago-style deep dish crust is more like biscuit dough than bread dough. This pizza dough was thick and filling but without that tender biscuit flavor.
We preferred the Mediterranean farmer ale-crust pizza ($12.49), which is a vegetarian's friend, with spinach, sundried tomatoes, red onion, artichoke hearts and goat cheese, over a pesto sauce.
We couldn’t necessarily taste the ale that is mixed into the dough, but it was certainly a better vehicle for the veggies, sauce and cheese, than the thick crust, which overwhelmed the rest of the construction.
While we were lukewarm on the pizza, we were more pleased with the other items we tried.
There’s a “build-your-own” mac ’n’ cheese section of the menu, with two types of cheese sauce and various mix-ins and toppings. We went for the white cheddar sauce with pesto, roasted peppers and a crispy jalapeño topping ($12.58 — there’s an added charge for some of the additions.)
The pesto and roasted peppers gave a grown-up twist to our spiral pasta, and we particularly liked the crunchy topping. We’d wondered how hot the crispy jalapeños would be. The answer is “not very.” But overall this was a satisfying dish.
We were pleased with the crafted beer burger ($9.79) as well. The burger patty was exceptionally thick — more than a half-inch — and the shape of the burger patty was surprising: It looked like it had been sliced from a tube of beef, with sharp edges and a flat top. But it was cooked to a perfect medium, just like we’d requested.
It was topped with plenty of crispy onion strings and a beer cheese sauce. This time, we could clearly taste the beer, and it complemented the overall sandwich perfectly.
The burger was the clear winner of our meal.