1477 W Balmoral Ave
Great Lake has garnered honor after honor for having the top pizza in Chicago, if not the nation. Great Lake features a small, daily changing menu of specialty pizzas with locally-sourced ingredients, which justifies the relatively high price of the 14″ pizzas ($22+). Generally, hype lets us down, but sometimes we have wins (eg Kumas). So how would Great Lake hold up?
It is not joke to say that Great Lake is tiny. There are probably only about 8 seats in the place and you cannot sit down until you have ordered and your entire party is there. If you attempt to sit or stand in the restaurant without meeting these requirements you will be summarily kicked out. So long story short, don’t bank on sitting down. A steady takeout traffic also slows things down (a tip: if you’re gonna eat here, do takeout!).
When our party of three finally got a table we shared a Cremini Mushroom, White Cheddar, Black Pepper Pizza with herbs ($23). The crust was pretty good, and though it was thin, it held up to the toppings, unfortunately, but was over-charred in places. We also had a prosciutto pizza with buffalo mozzarella ($25). Again, a good pizza with a solid crust, but an inexcusably sparse topping of both mozzarella and prosciutto. Now I know this type of pizza is sparsely topped as a rule, but for 25 bucks I want more than 5 mozzarella rounds….
In summary, Great Lake was good, but not THAT good. If I had gone to this place before all the hype I would have liked it more, but not much more. With all of this praise, it was inevitable that the actual product would be something of a letdown. I think the somewhat difficult seating/dining arrangement has also only served to build their paradoxical fame. If you are going to be treated like trash the product must be GREAT, right? All told, I would rather go to a similarly or cheaper priced place with actual tables and service that doesn’t seem to begrudge your mere existence.
A bonus: there were also hard-to-find Mast Brothers chocolate bars for sale.