A lot of dough has been lost in the pizza wars, an ongoing national conflict where open-minded people calmly discuss their favorite pies in a civil way that respects civic institutions and culture. Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe in Lincoln Square has always seemed to rise above these conversations, offering to many the best New York-style pizza in town where customers can enjoy a true slice shop experience by picking from one of eight pies sitting in the display case.
Jimmy’s has legions of fans and owner Jimmy Kang says pickup and delivery times can often top two or three hours on the weekend. He’s doing the best he can inside his small quarters and praises his customers for their patience. Jimmy’s opened in 2011, and Kang says he was content to remain at his location which has room for about 10. It’s a little tight inside: “I don’t think people understand,” Kang says. “They don’t know how many deliveries are going out the door.”
But in early 2020 — as reported by Block Club Chicago — Jimmy’s landlord informed him that their building would be razed to make room for a new five-story apartment complex. That meant the cafe needed a new home and Kang searched all over the city, including in Lakeview. No deal worked out until his realtor found a larger space a mile south of the cafe. In September, Kang hopes to move Jimmy’s into the former Nick’s Pizza & Pub at 2434 W. Montrose Avenue in Ravenswood. The proximity to the current location means Jimmy’s won’t have to alter its delivery zone.
Kang is excited for a new 10,000-pound Hot Rocks conveyor belt pizza oven that’s already been delivered. It’s larger and retains heat better than their current appliance. Pizzas will be more consistent and he can cook more at once which means less waits. The new display case has room for 16 to 20 pies and that means Jimmy’s can experiment and offer options like more N.Y.-style squares. Kang has a few surprises he’s testing out, but he’ll reveal them closer to opening day.
The new Jimmy’s will also have a liquor license for draft beer and perhaps options like rosé or sangria on tap.
“For me, I just wanted to stick to a family restaurant. I didn’t really want to do liquor, myself personally,” Kang says. “But my realtor and different people said ‘Jimmy, you have to do liquor.’ Fine, I’ll do liquor.”
They’re also installing TVs, but Kang insists this isn’t a Lincoln Park sports bar. There will be booths away from the screens so customers can escape if they want.
The feel of the space is different from Nick’s, a suburban chain known for tavern-style pies. It closed in 2018 after a year of operations. Kang says there was too much barn wood inside, so he’s replacing it with a little bit more brick and stone to make feel more modern.
Kang says suburban pizza won’t work in the city. Residents expect more: “Chicago is more educated when it comes to all styles of food. It’s a tougher market.”
The hope is to move and open in September, but Kang has already seen obstacles with three-month delays on some material deliveries. Kang adds he’ll have to close the cafe for a few weeks before the move as he transitions to the new space.
Stay tuned for updates on an opening date.
Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe, 2434 W. Montrose Avenue, planned for a September opening.