Windy City Pie, maker of mind-blowing Chicago-style deep dish pizza with a crispy cheese edge in Interbay, is leaving behind its cramped residence at Batch 206 Distillery’s Batch Bar to open a full-sized restaurant on Phinney Ridge, ideally by early January. Windy City’s last day at Batch Bar is December 31.
The pizzeria is taking over the former home of Phinney Market Pub and Eatery, which closed in July at 5918 Phinney Ave. N. Unlike Batch Bar, this will be an all-ages place, with a full bar paying homage to Chicago and seating for 63, plus another dozen at tables on the front sidewalk. Owner Dave Lichterman is planning to install booths, for that classic pizzeria feel, and drastically improve the flow of the kitchen for his staff.
It feels like damning with faint praise to say Windy City Pie makes Seattle’s best Chicago-style deep dish pizza, as that’s a woefully limited category — in fact, the other major contender is Windy’s sibling restaurant in Beacon Hill, Breezy Town Pizza, which serves creatively topped slices of deep dish made with a special sourdough crust. Put it this way: Diners who aren’t yet familiar can rest assured that Windy and Breezy are two of the best pizzerias in Seattle, period, and would likely fare well in direct comparison to Chicago’s finest examples of the style, too.
That said, owner Dave Lichterman has, as expected all along, outgrown the tiny confines of the Batch Bar kitchen, and is looking forward to having a space where he and his team get to run the show and interact more regularly with customers, which he sees as a necessity for walking newcomers through the quirks of his product. It’ll be a big change from the status quo at Batch Bar, which is more first and foremost a cocktail bar showcasing the distillery’s wares, and whose food is counter service- or takeout-oriented by necessity.
“A lot of people aren’t familiar with this style of pie,” Lichterman says, so they don’t know where to start — not even how to slice such a behemoth, or where to find the cheese (it’s under the sauce). “And a lot of people from Chicago haven’t been to Pequod’s or Burt’s or Papa Del’s, so they might not be familiar with the burnt edge,” the part where the cheese melts over the sides and chars beautifully — and intentionally. “They’re like, ‘You burnt my pizza, you asshole,’ and I’m like, ‘No, please try it!’ Every table I hit I talk about the edge. This is one of the best parts of the pie, if you’re not eating this you’ve come to the wrong pizza place.”
Lichterman also needs to convert savvy diners who are wary of the many creative licenses he takes with deep dish pizza as a medium — like putting pineapple on it. “I’m generally not a fan of [pineapple on pizza] but [it] totally works on Windy pies.” He doesn’t want customers to put more than a few toppings on each pizza, nor does he want them to eschew toppings entirely. “It’s meant as a palette, not just a cheese pizza,” he says. When people ask if he has a margherita option, he tells them, “No, you should go to Breezy Town and get the Toddler,” the dismissive cheese slice that was the only concession he’d make for the “buttered noodle” set.
With far more room and a much larger walk-in cooler at the new restaurant, Windy City will experiment even more with its menu. Super-slow-fermented Breezy Town sourdough slices — which have gone through literally hundreds of topping combinations with punny names, like the Stranger Things-inspired Demigorgonzola, in just half a year — may appear, along with chocolate chip cookies and another Chicago classic, the Italian beef sandwich. It’s just a few ingredients: thinly sliced roast beef, prepared on-site like virtually everything Windy City serves; hot giardiniera, an Italian pickled vegetable mix; and jus, to dip the sandwich in. Lichterman likes his “wet,” or fully dipped, which means he’ll serve it on his hearty sourdough roll so it doesn’t immediately fall apart as a soggy mess.
Naturally, the seemingly simple sandwich “is another thing people have a lot of feelings about,” Lichterman says. “Chicago people shit-talk other people’s deep dish but they really shit-talk other people’s Italian beef. But Chicago is a vibrant city with a very active, imaginative food culture.” Translation: Things change, so don’t try to tell Lichterman what he’s doing is inauthentic.
Yes, Lichterman is a highly particular person making a highly particular product, clearly inspired by folks like the late Burt Katz, ornery namesake of Chicago’s legendary Burt’s Place, the restaurant that made Anthony Bourdain change his mind about deep dish. In fact, when talking about how Windy will now be an all-ages restaurant, unlike Batch Bar, Lichterman borrows the line “Pizza for adults,” from the Burt’s Place menu. “I want kids to be welcome when their parents can make sure they don’t disturb other patrons,” Lichterman says, promising to remove the dedicated play area that Phinney Market had.
“I’m a little hardheaded for what is the service industry, but for the most part people respect what I’m trying to do and I respect the hell out of them enjoying the food,” Lichterman says. Don’t like it? Well, there’s still the takeout option.
- All Coverage of Windy City Pie [ESEA]
- All Coverage of Breezy Town Pizza [ESEA]
- All Coverage of Batch 206 Distillery [ESEA]
- Windy City Pie [Instagram]
- Windy City Pie [Official Website]
- Breezy Town Pizza [Official Website]
- The Italian Beef Sandwich at Al’s in Chicago [E]
- Anthony Bourdain - Chicago Deep Dish Pizza [Vimeo]