Sunday, May 4, 2008
*** CLOSED *** Little Joe's Pizza ~ Keller, Texas
One of Mr. RJG's favorite places to travel on business is Chicago. Especially if I'm able to get into the city or "inner ring" suburbs. I was fortunate to work for a company who had an office in Westchester. Though it was a modern office, most of Westchester is a classic inner ring suburb (in this case, the "ring" is I-294). Not to mention the towns that border it to the east and north like Hillside, Bellwood, Cicero and Broadview. It is not uncommon to drive by places with colorfully painted windows that say "Beef" or "Italian meat sandwiches".
I bring up these small details, because it helps distinguish the pretenders "Chicago style" from the real deal. Just driving up to Little Joe's and you know instantly it's the "real deal". I haven't seen windows painted like, well, since I last was in Chicago. They even have the Vienna Beef posters and banners.
The location is also classic. This part of Keller would be comfortable as an inner ring suburb of any Midwest or Northeast city. Behind an ancient combo gas station/Chinese restaurant (and, yep, the two sure do go together), is another strip mall, that looks like an afterthought of planning. Little Joe's dominates this portion. The prior two tenants were Mexican restaurants, of which Mr. Jose visited the last one - a ghastly place called Garcia's that mercifully went away quick.
Little Joe's moved in roughly 2 years ago, and it appears to be a hit, especially with transplanted Midwesterners. The last time Mrs. RJG and I went, an adjacent table was talking about how wonderful a city Milwaukee is. Now THAT isn't something you hear in everyday Ft. Worth conversation. (and, fwiw, Mr. RJG agrees about Milwaukee.)
And, also no surprise, they really are a Chicago chain - that is to say, they have two Southside suburb locations, one in Tinley Park and the other in New Lenox.
All of this does not matter if the food doesn't deliver. And it absolutely does. Mr. RJG has spent plenty of months in Chicago and southern Wisconsin, and learned that "Chicago pizza" did not necessarily mean "deep dish" - which the chains would have you believe. Little Joe's thin crust is awesome, with just the right amount of sauce, cheese and ingredients, on top of a thin, crispy crust. We've also tried the standard Italian dishes, and they're good, though not great (though Mr. RJG appreciates the "al forno" dish that is indeed very spicy). I wouldn't say that Little Joe's excels at "Beef", and for that, Mr. RJG still hasn't found a place in DFW that makes it right. Weinbergers of Grapevine is an excellent Chicago deli, but they also struggle with it. And Windy City Grill, another Chicago place in Keller, went from bad to worse. Apparently I wasn't alone in that assessment, as Windy City Grill is no more.
In the article I've pasted below, it's nice to see folks making Little Joe's a "destination spot" and are coming from all over the Metroplex to dine there. If you do make the drive, it's a bit tough to find. Once on Keller Pkwy, look for the Gold-In Chinese restaurant in the 1976 era shopping center (and for Keller - probably the oldest outside of the old town center). It's behind there on Navajo. There's another Joe's Pizza further down on Keller, and that is not related at all to Little Joe's.
Website (strangely does not mention Keller location, but is definitely the same place). Also includes a nice history:
Here's an interesting dialog on the subject of Chicago style pizzerias in the DFW area, that is been going on for some 5 years. From what I could tell in reading it for the first time today, Little Joe's is the clear winner. I would agree, though I haven't been to any of the places listed on the Dallas side of the house.