Wednesday, August 1, 2012

great lake - chicago, il

1477 west balmoral avenue
chicago, il 60640

located in andersonville right around the corner from big jones, great lake pizza is a place i have been trying to get to for some time now. owned by husband and wife team nick lessins and lydia esparza, great lake is a true labor of love. every pizza served at great lake is made by the hands of lessins and virtually every ingredient is sourced from local farmers and suppliers for optimal quality and freshness. however, being that the restaurant is open just four days a week (dinner only), has a twelve seat dining room, and is located in an area that is not conducive to reach via public transportation, it has been bypassed over and over again in lieu of places that are more convenient to visit and serve more than just pizza. this time around i was determined to fit great lake into our busy dining schedule, and decided that stopping at the restaurant immediately prior to hitting the road back to st. louis was the most logical course of action. while there is little argument that the pizza is anything less than incredible (gq magazine named it #1 in america and grant achatz has praised it), much had been made about the long wait times, price of the pizzas, and the supposed curt attitudes of the proprietors. with just a 3.5 star rating on yelp and a plethora of viscous reviews, i approached our meal with excitement but also a bit of trepidation.
carrie and i arrived at the small storefront at around 4:40pm and kept an eye on the door from a bench down the street. as 5pm grew nearer we noticed a pair of women standing in front of the restaurant and at that point rose from our seats and waited behind them directly outside of great lake. we were soon joined by a few other people and a make shift line was formed. at 5pm on the head the doors opened and we were greeted by lydia and welcomed inside. we were given one of the only two two-tops in the restaurant and received menus and water right away. consisting of a pair of salads and three different pizzas (each with their own set of addable toppings), the menu at great lake is bare bones to say the least, making the focus of the restaurant quite clear. aside from a ginger ale offering, no drinks aside from water are available, however patrons are encouraged to byob with a $3 per person "disposal fee" being imposed. with the dining area at capacity and the phone ringing incessantly for carryout our order for a single pie was placed minutes after our arrival.
arriving piping hot after about 35 minutes, our selection was the #1 made with sauce from eden foods organic tomatoes, wsdc dante lamb sheep's milk cheese, mission extra virgin olive oil, ground tellicherry black pepper, and grey sea salt. we also opted to add both housemade chorizo and henry's farm garlic to the pie. after waiting a minute or two for the pizza to cool down i took my first bite and am happy to say that it was everything that i hoped for. the crust was an absolute work of art being crisp on the outside with a wonderfully chewy interior and subtlety charred flavor. for the toppings, the sheep's milk cheese was fairly mild with just a hint of kick while the chorizo packed a great spicy punch. coming in at $34 with our added toppings, this was easily the most expensive pizza i have ever had, but it was certainly worth every penny as it ranks right up there with andolini's in tulsa as the best pizza i can ever remember having.

based on my experience, i can say that with the exception of no public restroom being offered, any complaints about great lake are completely unwarranted. carrie and i were treated with nothing but kindness from the staff and we did not witness anyone else being spoken to in an unwelcoming manner. i ended my review of big jones by stating that if i lived in andersonville i would have a hard time staying away from the restaurant. my feelings toward great lake mirror that same sentiment and i am truly envious of those who live in neighborhoods with such strong restaurants. ever since this trip, carrie has been looking online at apartments in andersonville...
Great Lake on Urbanspoon

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