Traditional Chicago-style deep dish pizza is its own type of food science. A flaky, buttery, biscuit-like crust lines the bottom of the pan. Cheese hides the toppings, and red sauce hides the cheese—the cheese is buried below the sauce so that it doesn’t get scorched by the long bake required to cook a cake-thick crust. As a Chicagoland native, I can say with authority that Third Coast in Lenexa (7820 Quivira Road, Lenexa) makes a very solid deep dish pizza. The makeup of the pies is comparable to Chicago tourist trap Lou Malnati’s, but the slices hold themselves up way better, in my opinion, not falling to the sag and spoon-able soupiness that often comes with the deep dish territory. The deeper the pie, the more simple I keep the toppings, so I just stick with pepperoni here and let the crust do the talking.
Why choose between an Italian beef sandwich and pizza when you can have both? Pizza Man (10212 Pflumm Road, Lenexa) is everything a Windy City expat could want, right down to the Vienna Beef signs and 2016 World Series posters lining the restaurant, which is covertly sandwiched between two daycare entrances in a Lenexa strip mall. The Italian beef thin crust pizza here is a special kind of magic—tender beef slices and pops of giardiniera are mounded into clumps under a thick sheet of mozzarella. And the cashier won’t let you walk away without what is perhaps the most important part of any Italian beef fare: a bowl of warm, greasy, au jus to dip the crispy crust into.
I grew up on Rosati’s Pizza (9928 College Blvd., Overland Park), so this Chicago-born chain now sprinkled across the continental map is a no-brainer for me. It’s still the best Chicago-style thin-crust pizza I’ve found in these parts. No matter the toppings, you can rest assured that there will be a smattering of giardiniera, a quintessential condiment that I have a hard time eating pizza without. And if your family is anything like mine, you’ll end up fighting over the tiny, crispy triangle scraps that rim the party-cut pie.