Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Blackthorn Of Pizza And A Shocker

Within weeks of moving to St Louis I began to hear whispers of the Blackthorn Pub and it's delicious yet slowly served Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Claims such as "best pizza in town" were being bandied about - which made going there all the more intriguing considering my hereto search for good pizza in St Louis had been somewhat fruitless. So, after a long 6 months, I finally made it to the Blackthorn Pub and I was hungry for some awesome pizza, or awesizza.
Now keep in mind what this place is known for, the first being, of course, the pizza. The second, though, is waiting. Whenever you hear about Blackthorn people will regale you with tales of waiting for 2 hours or more for these pizzas. They usually claim it was worth it, but still, 2 hours is a long time for a hungry boy.
The place itself really is worth a visit. It's dark, beat-up and, although not completely original (they have dollar bills stapled to the ceiling), it does feel like it has a personality. There's plenty of room for eating/drinking and the bar is plenty big enough to cozy up to. And you better be ready to hit the bar because that's the only way to order anything at Blackthorn Pub and I mean anything. Even your pizza. You'll know your pizza is ready when they warble your name over the loud speaker. The older intercom isn't crystal clear so make sure you listen for the vowels that vaguely resemble your name.
As for the pizza - Yes, it is good. Very good. If you like Chicago deep dish style this pizza should fulfill your pizzaing needs. Keep in mind though it isn't a deep dish in the traditional sense. This is a stuffed pizza through and through. The difference is in the extra layer of pizza dough on top but under the sauce. It's more like an actual pie and while this is very popular in Chicago, it is not the traditional deep dish. Luckily it tastes fairly traditional. The sauce is tomatoee enough with a hint of spice. Frankly, this is what makes the Blackthorn pizza. Their crust, while obviously fresh and cooked perfectly, is unfortunately not my favorite as I prefer a buttery crust. Don't take my word for it though- many deep dish pizza lovers would consider this crust extraordinary. The cheese was excessive enough so no complaints there. Thankfully there was no Provel to be found. All in all this was a greatly enjoyable pizza and I look forward to eating it again.
Now here's where you should all be very surprised... Or not. I don't know enough about this place. Either way, I've found real Chicago-style deep dish. And maybe it isn't made with as much care as Blackthorn and I can't account for anything else there, but Caleco's at Broadway and Chestnut, Downtown St Louis has my favorite pizza so far in Missouri.
Caleco's
Why is this a shocker? Probably because this isn't even a pizza place. It's a fairly commercial looking chain-like restaurant that has a billion other things on the menu besides pizza. Just perusing the menu if you're not careful you could miss the pizza section. They even call their deep dish "Sicilian Pan" and maybe it is, but it certainly tastes like Chicago-style to me. I really like Blackthorn's sauce but I *loved* Caleco's. Chunky bits of tomato and a real zing to it gives this sauce the upperhand. Their crust is even buttery just how I like it! While it still wouldn't be able to hold up to, say, a Giordano's pizza, you'll be hard pressed in St Louis to find anything closer. So far...

I still haven't been everywhere obviously so I can't equivocally call this the St Louis pizza winner just yet. I have tried Obama's fave, Pi, which I enjoyed enough but for an awesome hand-tossed try Feraro's in Soulard. If I'm going to eat a hand-tossed, Feraro's is the place. Plus, they make Buffalo Chicken Pizza- One of my favorites. I know there are few other places I need to hit that escape me for the moment, but I'll hit them.
In the meantime, if you're hungry after a ballgame don't forget there's a place just two blocks away busting out pizza better than most. If you like deep-dish I don't think you'll be disappointed. Consider me shocked. I'm not even sure Caleco's knows what it has there.

14 comments:

Angie said...

Awesome post. I fricken love pizza, and I do love the Blackthorn. I have not frequented this place you speak of...calecos. I must check it out! And Giordanos and Lou Marnatis are on our places of pizza joints to try when we go to Chi town next week. I can't wait! Any other places you would rec?

Jim Barnthouse said...

Those are the definite places to go for deep dish. One of the better but less known places for thin crust... Aurelios. It's a very sweet sauce but peeps swear by it.

Mike said...

if at all possible eat at aurelios.

the best thin in town. . .

Jenn said...

Ugh, Caleco's...SRSLY?!?! I cannot stand their pizza and only go there when we can come up with no other viable lunch options. When I do eat there, I always stick with a salad.

Anonymous said...

My favorite pizza place in St louis "area" is Balducci's Winefest. It is out in Maryland Heights, but WELL worth the drive. The restaurant has a "Cheers" type of bar atmosphere, in the basement of a stripmall. The meat lovers thin crust is the best I have ever tasted! You definitely have not lived until you try it.

Dave said...

Having lived in Chicago 5 years, we were told Blackthorn had good Chicago-style deep dish. The wife and I were excited so we headed over since it's minutes from our house. We were dissapointed to get a good deep-dish pizza, but certainly not a Chicago-style deep dish.

I can't believe Calecos would have good deep dish but I'll have to try. That place looks like a TGI Friday's with a different name. I guess the suburbanites feel at home there when downtown.

Anonymous said...

Chicago Style Pizza? Really? mmm...yeah, let me bite into a giant piece of crust with a big 'ol piece of gray rat meat in the center. Delicious!

Jim Barnthouse said...

Yikes! I assume you're talking about the sausage patty so prevalent in Chicago-Style pizza? Yeah, agreed. I think that's gross too. Then again I don't really like sausage pizza in general. And that's why crust flavor is so important!

maire said...

Caleco's isn't a national chain. It's been there a long long time. The owner actually opened Bono's pizzeria on Watson which uses the same house dressing. It was pretty good thin crust pizza IMHO.

Book of Blues Finn said...

If I/we end up coming down for Cubs/Cards/Barnthouse weekend, then we have to hit one of these spots!

Anonymous said...

whoa! kickin' it up a notch with a new look...impressive.

Brooke said...

i'm so excited that someone's with me on the buffalo chicken pizza. from now on when people make gagging faces at me i will declare that Jim Barnthouse would kick their close-minded ass. If he weren't in St.Louis. And if he really did kick people's asses over pizza.

bob said...

There used to be a few Calecos here and there; they also ran Club Riverport back when it was in operation. I think only the one downtown is left, there might be one somewhere else in the city. I always loved their pizzas as a kid. Now I'm a die-hard Imo's fan but like a good thick crust once in a while too.

Anonymous said...

La pizza on Delmar toward 170 makes a fantastic NY style pizza. Try it.