This week, I ventured out on a solo Date Night Dining adventure to Old Chicago Pizza at Northgate Mall. Since opening in 2014, the restaurant has been a gathering spot for Hixson pizza and beer fans.
I had pizza on my mind this week after writing about the guys behind Chattanooga Pizza Review and their search for the best pepperoni pizza in the city. Old Chicago has been on my list of places to try for a year now and I had some time to kill on Monday night. It was the perfect pizza storm.
Old Chicago has two locations in Chattanooga: Northgate and Hamilton Place. The menus are similar (if not identical) with few exceptions. I was excited to try their signature deep-dish Chicago-style pizza and have a few beers.
I rarely visit Northgate Mall. The primary reason is there just isn’t anything there for me. I’ll buy some kitchen/house stuff at Belk on occasion, but I’m not buying vitamins, cookie cakes, trendy clothing or getting my ears pierced on a regular basis. I might be tempted to visit more often to get my Super Dilly fix if Piccadilly were still around. But it isn’t. I’m also too old to ride those mechanical cars, apparently. And I’m too young to wear jogging suits and walk laps.
Old Chicago is adjacent to the main entrance of the Northgate Mall. Look for Old Navy and Salsaritas and you’ll see it. I parked my car and walked inside to find a busy restaurant at 5 p.m. on a Monday night. The bar was hopping with baby boomers and I chose a seat near the far right corner underneath a TV with soccer on it. Hannah, the bartender, was friendly as she sat down both beverage and food menus.
The beer list is impressive with a ton of craft beers and local offerings. The list is updated daily as kegs come off and on.
As of this article, local brews include Chestnut Street Brown from Chattanooga Brewing Co., Igneous IPA from Hutton & Smith, Maibock from Big River and The Promenade, also from Hutton & Smith. Atlanta’s Monday Night Brewing was highlighted with their Han Brolo pale ale. Local restaurants have started carrying their beers and I thought I’d give it a shot. It was tasty and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been sipping on a six-pack all week. I enjoyed the beer while reading the latest issue of Chattanooga Pulse.
Old Chicago feels very much like a mall restaurant if that makes sense. It reminds of World of Beer with their fan clubs and promotions for regulars. The restaurant is as much about craft beer as it is pizza. The food menu is separated into about 12 categories. It starts with Tavern Bites (appetizers) and Taproom Starters (also appetizers), both filled with items to share. You’ll see things like bratwurst pretzel bites, cheese curds and buffalo chicken rolls. Other items include fried spicy pickles, cheese garlic bread and “Italian” edamame.
There are wings, calzones, pasta, “oven-baked” pasta, salads and more on the rest of the menu. Honestly, the menu is a tad overwhelming. The pizza menu alone forces you to make a number of choices: thick-crust? Thinner? 12-inch? A bigger one? A classic recipe or weird one? Do I need double pepperoni on a Double Deckeroni? Hannah threw me for another loop when she said I could split a pizza in half and order two different options. Whoa. (Apparently, this side-by-side pizza thing is common practice).
… So, that’s what I did. On one half of a deep-dish pie, I ordered the Chicago 7 with pepperoni, Italian sausage, red onions, black olives, green peppers and sliced mushrooms. On the other half, I got the Thai Pie with chili sauce, mozzarella, pepper jack & cheddar, roasted chicken, mushrooms, red peppers and broccoli.
Hannah brought out a deep-dish pan and served two slices to me on a plate — one of each — and I immediately told her to box the rest up for me. In year’s past, I might’ve tried to eat the entire pizza by myself but why do that now? Who do I need to please? The people around me aren’t going to clap and applaud my victory when I smuggle the last bite down my throat. It’s more likely the people would heckle me and yell “dirty pizza pig boy” while I wept. No. I was taking the rest of this pizza home.
The pizza reminded me of Pizza Hut’s pan crust with the flavor of Papa Murphy’s. I wish it didn’t, but that’s what I got from it. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about the flavors. There wasn’t anything necessarily wrong with this pie, though nothing stood out either. Even the flavorful Thai Pie was somewhat underwhelming. Old Chicago is closer to places like Pizza Hut and Dominos than Lupi’s or Community Pie. I am spoiled by good pizza. You will still enjoy it — because it’s pizza — but you shouldn’t expect to be floored by the experience. I’ve never had a true Chicago deep dish pie but I can’t imagine it’s anything like this.
I will say that my leftovers reheated well in the oven. Hannah was right. I’ve enjoyed a slice of pizza for breakfast throughout the week.
Would I go back?
I’m planning to take Monica to Old Chicago soon. The taproom is about the only place near the Northgate Mall that has a selection like this. You can try local brews and a bunch of quality beers — like you would’ve found at a place such as World of Beer. The pizza was just fine, but it’s not a destination pizza restaurant: one that I would seek out. I’m eager to try some of the other dishes like pasta and some of the other starters/apps. What do you think? Have you been?
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.