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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Burt's Place [Meeting #62; Meeting #32 Revisited]

Burt's Place
8541 N. Ferris Ave. Maps
Morton Grove, IL 60053
(847) 965-7997

CPC invaded Burt's Place on 7/23/2008.

This week's meeting took us to the near north suburb of Morton Grove, a bit farther than we usually travel for pizza, but well worth the drive to eat at Burt's Place.

Burt's Place is owned and operated by the legendary Burt Katz, who previously owned Gulliver's and Pequod's. As mentioned in the Pizza Club review of Pequod's [meeting #57], there's a lot of similarity between the signature pan pizzas at Pequod's and Burt's. Both have a buttery crust on the bottom and caramelized cheese on the sides. However, a welcome surprise was that the thin crust pizza at Burt’s is like a shallow pan pizza with the same buttery, crispy crust. The toppings on each pizza were all fresh and plentiful. The cheese pizza featured a mixture of cheeses, while the pan pizzas used cheese sparingly, which left the emphasis on the thick, sweet and slightly tangy sauce.

While it sounds cliché, Burt’s fits the definition of a “little neighborhood place” extremely well. The dining room seats around forty people, and the staff consisted tonight of Burt, his wife Sharon and their granddaughter. They were all friendly, and members of the club were able to talk at length to both Burt and Sharon during and after our meal.

During our chat with Sharon she mentioned to us that Burt quit Pequod's simply because he got burnt out. While the restaurant was successful, working seven days a week became too much of a grind. Thus, Burt's Place is currently open only from Wednesday to Sunday, and while they've gotten offers to franchise the restaurant, all have been turned down.

As it is now, Burt makes each pizza from scratch, including the crust and sauce. This attention to detail was easy to taste and was appreciated by the pizza club (who ate all five pizzas) as well as previous satisfied customers whose illustrations and thank you notes hang on the walls.

Finally, it should be mentioned that if you're going to eat at Burt's, especially in a large group, its best to call in your order ahead of time.

The pizzas we ordered were:

  • Pan; Pepperoni, Garlic and Onions
  • Pan; Sausage
  • Pan; Tomatoes, Onion and Spinach (half)
  • Pan; Mushroom
  • Thin crust; Cheese
Erik (aka White Chocolate)

Petey gives Burt's Place 8.9/ 10.


CPC tries the thin crust...


The famous deep dish...


Veggies galore...


Dan chats up Burt...


You're headed the right way...


Where it went down...

Burt's Place on Urbanspoon

13 comments:

  1. Burt's Place has a special place in my heart because of the bearded man that hides in the back making pizza all night.

    Briefly, the crust was outstanding and all the toppings were excellent - the sausage was really good and was not so dependent on fennel, i loved it. Burt's sauce is not as sweet as the ones he has left behind at his other restaurants, but it is still excellent and homemade. The cheese was the one part of the equation that doesn't deserve a superlative - it was hard to taste because Burt puts less of it on his pizzas than most people.

    The "thin" is just a less thick pan pizza variant. If you think the great crust of the pan is overwhelming you, this is a more than suitable option that raises the cheese + sauce to crust ratio for those that found this to be a problem.

    I give it a 9.3

    Points off for lack of cheese (i'm getting extra cheese next time), too little toppings on the pizza, and for being so far away from my house.

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  2. Hands down, this is the best deep dish pizza in the Chicago area. Words can't describe the afterglow I had last night after stuffing as much of this pizza as I could into my slender frame. Though every aspect of the pizza here is at the top of its game the main powerhouse is the crust. Quite simply the best deep dish crust I've ever had, almost a Sicilian style, but light, buttery and crisp... and just about perfect. Woth the trip every time, I give it a 9.8

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  3. Delicious. I'm sure Burt is tired of comparisons to restaurants he has long since abandoned, but the first thing I noticed was that Burt's is, for the most part, a better version of Pequod's. It's a similar style, but Burt's crust is just perfect, and that is the one element of Pequod's that always leaves me a bit cold because of how thick and bready it is. By contrast, Burt's crust is much less dense, and more buttery and cornmealy. Interestingly, Burt told us that this is just how he made the crust when he was at Pequod's, so I am not sure why they don't follow his lead anymore. Anyway, I loved the caramelized crust on the ends as always. I was also really impressed with the thin crust pizza, which is exactly as Erik described in that it is just a shallow version of the pan pizza, so the oils pretty much soak through it and, relative to the crust, you get more sauce and toppings with each bite. Okay, I think I've said enough about the crust, but just so you get the point - it's very good. The sauce was also lovely, though it was seasoned a bit more delicately than I expected. It was there in plentiful amounts, but I would be tempted to try a pie with extra sauce on my next visit. Just to be ridiculous. The cheese is used sparingly, but that was fine. The toppings were all great, the sausage in particular. In the sausage slice I got, there were some small crumbled bits scattered atop the sauce and one big chunk on the end, which I savored. I could have used a little more of some of the other toppings, most notably the pepperoni, but at the same time I appreciated the subtle balance that was maintained by not going overboard. Burt is putting out some homemade, honest pizza and boy, do I like it.

    9.1

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  4. I agree with what everyone mentioned above about the toppings, crust, sauce, etc. being excellent. I'll rate Burt's a 9.5

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  5. On the ride home with White Chocolate I used the word "buttergasm" to describe the crust... I still feel this is apt...

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  6. The similarities to Pequoud's are obvious, but this is definitely an improvement. The crusts were buttery and crispy on the bottom, light and soft in the middle. The charred edges are addictive.

    My favorite was the sausage pizza. The slice I had only had one big piece of sausage on it, but it was very tasty and did not overwhelm the sauce, which was delicious and lightly flavored.

    The mushrooms were fresh, not canned, as other establishments use.

    The pepperoni was very good. They weren't crispy, but rather soft, but I liked it.

    The ambiance is also nice. I particularly enjoyed the oversized novelty whisk. It's out of the way, but it's nice that Burt comes out to converse with the diners. It's a family-type atmosphere, quirky, and most importantly, delicious.

    I give it a 9.0.

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  7. Not a member of the CPC, but I'm a big fan of trying the different pizza places around Chicago.

    After seeing your review this morning, doing some more reading on LTHForum, and being reminded that I had heard of Burt's Place long ago and filed it away, I decided to try it out for lunch. I grew up in Morton Grove, now live in Skokie, eat a lot of Pequod's, and have spent a good deal of time at both the MG and Clybourn location. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of their pizza, and I had to see if Burt's lived up to the "hype". It's surprising that I had heard little of it until recently.

    My wife and I went and got our standard half-sausage and half-pepperoni pizza. I'm happy to report that I wasn't disappointed. We agreed that if you took the best qualities of both Lou Malnati's and Pequod's, you'd have Burt's Place pizza.

    The crust was fantastic, and certainly the highlight of the pizza, especially with the carmelized cheese. It was not as buttery as I expected based on the reviews I had read, but that was a good thing. The amount of cheese seemed perfect to me, and was nicely flavored. The sauce was certainly different, a little more sour than I'd like perhaps, but very very good. The pepperoni had great flavor, and didn't have the pop-you-in-the-face spiciness of Pequod's pepperoni, which I usually love but surprisingly didn't miss. If anything, I wish there was a little more of it. The sausage had a unique flavor and was quite tasty, though I think I prefer the fennel sausage at Pequod's. Next time, I'll definitely try the fresh jalepenos, but today I kept it to my standard toppings to do a comparison to my "usuals".

    Most of all, the atmosphere and people were great. Today his daughter was helping out and she was extremely friendly, and Burt himself was a very nice guy. I look forward to talking to him more next time. My major complaint with Pequod's is that I was never particularly impressed with the service in their Morton Grove location (though they're always nice on Clybourn), and this was a nice change.

    I'll probably have to eat it a few more times before I claim it to be my favorite deep dish pizza in Chicago, but it's certainly up there. I don't see myself always going there over Pequod's, but as it stands today I prefer the lighter feel of the pizza from Burt's. I'll likely go back again and again and again.

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  8. Burt's a serious pizza man and I'm clearly a fan of the caramelized crust pan style pizza that he has developed. I am in agreement with most of what has been said above. While I don't think that it's necessary to pit the entities of the Burt pizza bloodline against one another, I reluctantly issue the minority report on the Pequod's comparison.

    I prefer the particularly generous toppings, sauce, and cheese of the Pequod's variation. I like Burt's thinner version of the crust bottom but I give the edge to the Pequod's overall topping/sauce/crust balance that the filling crust requires. For me the "thin" cheese pizza was the closest to reaching this balance at Burt's. I also prefer the thicker caramelized end at Pequod's as I believe it has more flavor.

    Whatever variety one prefers, for the best experience this rich pizza requires an empty stomach with a mild carb/fat gnaw.

    8.3

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  9. I was expecting to be blown away by Burt's. I wanted Burt to absolutely wow me with his pizza. I was disappointed. This was a good pizza that with some tweaks could be a great pizza.

    The crust was excellent - buttery and surprisingly light. The next layer was the cheese. I've never had that little cheese on a deep dish pizza. There was nothing special about the cheese - just run of the mill mozzarella; perfectly good but not enough of it.

    Of course, as the inventor of the carmelized crust that makes Pequod's famous, Burt includes a little caramelized action on his crust. However, because the crust at the back of his pies is so much thinner than Pequod's, there isn't enough cheese there to give those bites the lovely chewy texture that Pequod's has. As a result, the caramelization tasted, when I could taste it, like burned crust. It didn't detract from my enjoyment, but it certainly did not enhance it.

    Up next was the sauce. I like tangy sauce and Burt's sauce is a little sweet. The slightly chunky texture of the sauce was outstanding, but the sweetness just is not my cup of tea.

    Finally, there were the toppings. Though he does not offer as many options as most places, the ones he offers are great. The sausage was some of the best I have had anywhere. The vegetables were all fresh, something that was particularly noticeable with the spinach. But unlike the sausage, which he gets from a small butcher, spinach is cheap. There was no reason him to skimp on the spinach like he did. But that's not a major complaint - the toppings were outstanding.

    So I'm left with a pizza with a great crust, not enough cheese, a sauce that I did not particularly care for, and exceptional toppings (though in insufficient quantities). I wouldn't be upset if I ate Burt's regularly, but there are a lot of places I would rather eat at more frequently. If someone wanted to go to Burt's the sausage alone would make me happily go along for the ride.

    Next time I go, I'll get extra cheese and extra sausage, and I have little doubt I'll like it a lot more. But for this visit, Burt's gets a 7.8 from me.

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  10. A pizza with a real sense of style, but overwhelmingly defined by its butter-drenched fried, crumbly biscuit base and crust. A nice tangy sauce, but sparse on cheese. Toppings underwhelming. A pizza made by a wayward master. I tasted resentment. Fun, but not my idea of a good time. 6/10.

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  11. Burt's Place in Morton Grove definitely nails the atmosphere of a small suburban homemade pizza place. It's cozily littered with a bunch of knick-knacks--even a Pequod's wooden whale sign from where he worked.

    Undoubtedly, the crust is the star of his pizza. There's carefully crafted sweetness and the ample butter ensures a gentle crumble. The sauce was very tangy and the toppings were more an average amount evenly dispersed than piled on generously. The sausage especially hit the right notes, not too sweet. Only a thin layer of cheese definitely shifts the focus back to the crust. Another note on the crust: while it is buttery, at times I found the total pizza to leave a dry aftertaste.

    While it doesn't quite meet the hype of being the elite pizza, I think the distinct crust, palpable care towards making the pie and the charming suburban aesthetics (Burt & wife included) make it worth driving out to once in awhile.

    7.9

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  12. Wow- can you say DIVE?! From the outside, I decided to head into this place with LOW expectations (especially since we were way lax on reviews the last time we were there and all I ever heard about was how Burt ran out of dough). Once again proving why you should never judge a book by its cover people!

    I don't like to waste my time with cheese pizza. But I'm an omnivore, so what the heck. Glad I gave it a go because this stuff was a great way to start this 12 person CPC meeting 2 hours north of civilization!

    Then Sharon (Burt's wonderful wife) started bringing out the pan pizzas. I thought I had died and gone to heavan. The crust was light and buttery, with just the right amount of crispy (beats Pequod's). The carmelized cheese part of the crust was good too, although I prefer Pequod's caremelized bits more. I won't talk about each deep dish individually, they were all phenomenal. The sauce was light and sweet with a hint of tangy. There was enough, but not an overwhelming abundance of cheese on any of the pizzas which I really liked too (doesn't way you down!).

    Burt's was a huge hit in my book. I was pissed at myself for not being able to make the previous meeting:( I don't make it up to Morton Grove very often, but I have to say, if I ever am again, I'll be heading to Burt's.

    The CPC isn't supposed to review based on atmosphere, service or the like and I have rated Burt's accordingly, for the pizza alone. I heart it. HOWEVER, I can comment about it. Burt's is a total mom and pop shop. You can't roll up with a party of 12 at 9pm like anything downtown. They run the place how they like it and its small with precise hours of operation. If you don't like it, go somewhere else, but you are the one that is going to miss out. I hated the idea of letting a pizzeria know that we were coming to review their place in advance, but, its the only way to dine at this place. Make everyone's lives easier and call ahead, I'm happy we did!

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  13. ...um, about that score~ 9.5/10!!! Can't make it a 10 like Ryan did for Pequod's, since I do prefer Pequod's carmelization it is not the perfect pizza. Screw that 'its not my idea of a fun time' crap, it's not a dance party. Burt's is solid. End of story.

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