CHIGuide

The Best Tavern-Style Pizza In Chicago

Our favorite spots for tavern-style pizza in the city.

The Best Tavern-Style Pizza In Chicago guide image

When non-Chicagoans think of “Chicago” pizza, deep dish is often the first thing that comes to mind. But like having two US senators, we actually have a second representative: tavern-style. Originally served in bars after Prohibition, these pies have a thin, crunchy crust and are cut into small squares, making them an ideal bar snack—or for any time you don't want a slice of pizza that warrants its own zip code. From bars that have been around since the 1940s to takeout spots that are only a few years old, here’s where to find the best tavern-style pizza in the city.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Sandy Noto

Vito & Nick’s Pizzeria imageoverride image
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Vito & Nick's Pizzeria

Vito and Nick’s has been around since the 1950s and is a Southside institution worthy of its place in the Chicago Pizza Hall of Fame (which doesn’t actually exist but probably should). Their cracker-crust pizza is super thin and crispy, with bubbly browned cheese and spicy tomato sauce. It's the kind of pizza you can eat a lot of, and you should plan on doing just that.


When Pizza Fried Chicken Ice Cream opened in Bridgeport in 2020, it focused on very good Sicilian-style slices sold from a takeout window. But they’ve since pivoted to tavern-style pies—which are also incredible. The crust is thin and crispy, burnt around the edges, and topped with things like pepperoni, or sausage with giardiniera. We like both of those options, but we’re also fans of the simple cheese pizza, which really gives the buttery, thin crust a chance to shine.


Professor Pizza operates out of the Humboldt Park Eatery (a takeout and delivery-only ghost kitchen) and makes a variety of delicious pies. Their tavern-style has a thin but durable crust that holds up to toppings, and a garlicky red sauce. We're fans of the sausage and pepper that's piled with mozzarella, sausage, roasted peppers, peppadew, whipped ricotta (along with sauce and parm). We don’t understand how this pizza manages to stay crispy, but it does, and it’s delicious.


You might already be familiar with Middle Brow’s regular pizza, which has a puffy sourdough crust. But on Tuesdays they serve tavern-style pies, and they’re fantastic. The crust is very thin with crispy burnt edges, and a sweeter sauce than what you’ll normally taste on their regular red-sauce pies. The best part is that the cracker-thin crust still has the delicious sourdough flavor that we expect (and love) from this place.


Phil’s in Bridgeport is cash-only, counter-service, opened in 1960, and has a retro interior complete with a tin ceiling. Their thin crust pies are beautifully greasy, and generously topped with thick sauce and a blanket of cheese. It’s one of the more substantial tavern-style’s you’ll find in town. Our go-to order here is sausage with giardiniera, which adds a delightful amount of heat.


Candlelite Chicago is a Rogers Park staple known for its giant neon sign that publicizes local birthdays, marriage proposals, and important messages like “Nick Finally Moved Out!” But even more iconic than its 70-year-old sign is Candlelite’s pizza. The pies at this spacious neighborhood sports bar are very thin with a fantastic crackly crust, yet the underbelly maintains a pleasant airiness and chew. The crust is the perfect vehicle for standard pies like the Deluxe, which has an ideal ratio of zesty tomato sauce to cheese, plus sausage, pepperoni, onions, peppers, and mushrooms. But they also have great creative options like a BBQ pizza topped with pulled pork from Hecky’s in Evanston.


Cracker-thin crust, spicy tomato sauce, and an even disbursement of toppings are why Pat’s South Loop is on this guide. The cheese is generous without being overwhelming, bubbly but not burnt, and the pie has an ideal ratio of sauce to cheese to crunchy crust. There’s really not much more one can ask for in a tavern-style pie. It’s carryout-only, and if you’re lucky they’ll occasionally throw in a can of Pepsi.


This Pat’s in Lincoln Park has been around since 1950, and has no affiliation with the other Pat’s on this guide. This is pretty much the platonic ideal of a tavern-style pie: cut into cute little squares and spread with a thin layer of tangy sauce that helps maintain the crispiness of the crust. You can dine-in, but we like getting it for carryout—it reheats wonderfully.


Like turtles and Cher, Chicago’s tavern-style pizza spots are prone to longevity. Marie’s in Albany Park has been around since 1940, and is known for its thin crust pies and perpetually Christmas-themed dining room (which has been closed since 2020, but you can order takeout and sit on their large back patio).  What sets their pizza apart is its cheese blend, which has a complex, salty funk that balances nicely with sweet tomato sauce. The crust is the blandest on this list, but we don’t mind because it gives the toppings a chance to shine.


The tavern-style pizzas at Nueva Italy in Rogers Park are on the thicker side compared to other pies on this list, but they still have fantastic crispiness. The slightly thick dough holds up well against the tangy tomato sauce, cheese, and classic toppings like sausage and pepperoni or less traditional ones like gyro meat. We also recommend upgrading to a rich butter crust (a buttery version of the regular) for just two bucks—a perfectly good use for the $2 bills that you somehow accumulated throughout the years. The restaurant is small and only does delivery and takeout—but if “patience” isn’t a soft skill that made it onto your resume, they have a perfectly usable bench in front that’s ideal for instant pizza consumption.


There are several locations of this iconic Southside pizza spot, which has an equally iconic ordering situation: You call a central number, a real live human being will answer the phone, you tell them which Italian Fiesta you want to get your pizza from, then they’ll place your order. Wait time varies (it can be anywhere from 25 minutes to three days—yes we’re serious), but one thing is guaranteed: The pizza will be great. The thin crust is a little soft, topped with a sweet sauce and lots of cheese. The whole thing reminds us of cafeteria pizza bread in the best way possible.

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