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Crust Fund Pizza, a Tavern-Style Pop-Up, Aims to Help the Community

Donate to a not for profit and make a pizza dad’s dream come true

A pizza box filled with ambrosia.
Tavern-style pizza from John Carruthers
John Carruthers [Official Photo]
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

John Carruthers has built a strong reputation on social media as a home cook who has impressed professional pizza makers (including Paulie Gee’s Derrick Tung) with his tavern-style pizzas. Starting Monday, Carruthers is going pro — well at least semi-pro — and offering his pizzas to the public. Enter Crust Fund Pizza: A community-minded and clever way Carruthers can raise money for not for profits while sharing his love for crispy square- and triangle-cut pizzas.

Carruthers, the mild-mannered communications manager for Revolution Brewing, has written about his hobby as “Pizzadad” for the Takeout. He found a passion for baking crispy pizza and enjoying slices with his family. Pizza making is a hobby that has cooks of all abilities diving down a rabbit hole of research as they obsess over nailing textures and crust-to-topping ratios. Chef Noah Sandoval of Michelin-starred Oriole, discovered that passion as he perfected his recipes for his new Ukrainian Village restaurant, Pizza Friendly Pizza.

A cartoon pizza mascot on a box.
Crust Fund Pizza’s mascot is jolly.
Anthony Hall/Harebrained! [Official Image]

Every week, starting Monday, August 24, Carruthers will post Crust Fund’s menu on Instagram and people could place orders via DM fo pickup. In the same Instagram post, Carruthers will highlight an organization that he wants to support. Carruthers got creative to avoid violating ordinances; he can’t sell any food. No one wants a situation like what transpired in the West Loop with Claudio Velez and his famous tamales. A complaint from a West Loop resident triggered a cease-and-desist letter that made Velez cry after threatening his livelihood.

Carruthers suggests at least a $25 donation. He’s figuring operations out on the fly, but if folks donate more, he wants to throw in a special surprise. Carruthers will specify a day and pickup will take place between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. at a “secret location” that will be disclosed after an order is confirmed. Carruthers says he may have a rotating special with funny name or a moniker that holds special significance. That’s the same strategy that Doug Sohn employed at famous sausage slinger Hot Doug’s.

For the first round, Carruthers wants donations to support the Triibe, a news site focused on Black Chicago. The site’s work made national headlines for connecting with young Black Chicagoans and telling their stories in ways that legacy media hasn’t.

Carruthers is no stranger to pop-ups like this. He’s partnered with Paulie Gee’s pizza chef Dennis Lee on his own special encased offerings. He’s also a co-founder of ManBQue which has thrown food events around Chicago for years. Carruthers has also enlisted his friends to help. Anthony Hall, a designer from Harebrained, created the logo and Zach Sherwood designed the menus. The cheeky cartoon mascot looks like Monopoly’s Rich Uncle Pennybags drawn in the same retro style from the twisted video game Cuphead.

Pop-ups like Crust Fund are becoming a part of pandemic life for Chicago. Folks can order cocktails or Chinese food via Instagram. And now, starting on Monday, they can order Pizzadad’s authentic Chicago-style pies.

Crust Fund Pizza, for more information visit the Instragram page.