Friday, April 5, 2024

Can hot honey pizza save Chicago?

     Why is everybody so worried? Getting people back downtown is easy. All you have to do is offer them deep-dish pizza drizzled with hot honey.
     Well, it worked for me. Wednesday I was more than happy to head out in a biting snow squall to Rush Street for Lou Malnati's debut of the latest twist on Chicago's beloved local dish.
     I actually had two goals.
     First, I wanted to taste it myself — pizza with hot honey? Intriguing. Second, I could share the news with a startled public. Lou's is debuting the dish Friday. I was ahead of the curve. I thought.
     Turns out, alas, I'm not in the vanguard. Nor is Lou's, for that matter: Pizza Hut rolled out its hot honey pizza last month.
      When I bragged to my older son, who lives in Jersey City, that I would be among the elite, invited to sample the new sensation, he advised me to immediately familiarize myself with Mike's Hot Honey, the very brand tying the knot with Lou's this week.
      "You're a little late," laughed Mike Kurtz, reached by phone.
     Kurtz was studying Portuguese in Brazil 20 years ago when he walked into a small pizza parlor that placed jars of honey infused with chili peppers on the tables. The taste stayed with him, and he experimented during his college years, which began at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He moved East and squirted hot honey on pizzas at the Brooklyn pizzeria where he worked.
     It's so obvious, now — you splash hot sauce on chicken; you pour honey. But it never occurred to me to combine the two. That's why some men run growing $40 million companies — Mike's Hot Honey is on the menu in 3,000 restaurants and sold in 30,000 retail establishments nationwide — and some are wage slaves jammed onto the No. 36 bus going up State Street, excited at the prospect of free pizza.
     "We created the category," said Kurtz, who began selling bottles of hot honey from the Brooklyn pizzeria in 2010. "It's kinda crazy. Two of nature's most unique and wonderful things coming together, chili peppers and honey. You'd think it would have been done before, but it hadn't been done."
     The Brooklyn angle worries me.
     "An instant classic on the New York pizza scene" Lou's boasts, perhaps unwisely. Chicagoans can be brutal when rejecting anything that suggests Gotham — Nathan's hot dogs, The Limelight, Howard Stern.
     With good reason. New York pizza is a large greasy slice flopping over a white styrofoam plate, eaten among strangers while walking along sidewalks piled with garbage. Chicago pizza is thick, superlative Lou Malnati's deep-dish, spinach and mushroom, uncut, with the butter crust, enjoyed in comfort with family and friends.

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  1. Especially deelish with pepperoni. The pepperoni cups as the pizza bakes, and you drizzle the honey so it mixes with the pepperoni fat. Awesome!

  2. suum cuique, to each his own.
    Put whatever you want on your food. I don't care because I'm not eating it.

  3. Neil, have you had Malnati's "The Lou" pizza? It ticks the main boxes of your fav: "Spinach mix (enhanced with garlic, basil & onion), mushrooms and sliced Roma tomatoes covered with three cheeses, on a garlic Buttercrust". When we order from them, it's always a medium pepperoni/mushroom, and a small Lou's.
    Also, Utz makes Mike's Hot Honey potato chips. I tell myself it's OK because I don't indulge in sweets.

  4. I would use pepperoni when I’m making a pizza because it’s hard to get fresh sausage right in my wimpy oven. But if I’m buying a pizza from Malnati’s I feel shortchanged if it doesn’t have their sausage.

  5. Why uncut? Seems to echo the famous, "shaken, not stirred."


    1. It’s what they recommend. Keeps it from getting soggy when enroute.

  6. I love ordinary honey, and Lou Malnati's pizza, but I'm not into chili peppers.
    Not a spice guy. Pass.

  7. My Last Meal would be Lou's Buttercrust with sausage, pepperoni, green olives and hot giardenera. But I am not averse to trying the Mike's Hot Honey and pepperoni.

    1. Even the most severe, brotherless hangman would afford a stay upon hearing those two sentences spoken as a last request. Jailhouse Rock!

  8. NO! pizza the way my Italian grandmother made it-and how the Romans make it-not thin crust, but bread with tomato sauce and cheese-that's it and it's wonderful. Don't mind a few veggies and maybe sausage or pepperoni -but THAT'S IT!


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