Pie Harder – Deep Dish Pizza of PDX

I tend to have mixed feelings about Willamette Weekly – sometimes it seems to a draw for trolls, other times they legitimately spotlight great local stories, including food. Earlier this year they highlighted my favorite type of pizza, deep dish or pan pizza with their article “Detroit Style Pizza is the New Hotness. We Found the Best in Portland” which ignited passionate discussion on the definition of Detroit Pizza and other regional pizzas and who has the authentic deep dish pizza of PDX. That’s probably not really a reflection of WW and more about people’s love for pizza. They followed that article up this past summer with Pie Harder, a food festival devoted to the deep dish pizza of PDX.

Ranch Pizza made my dreams come true with a mac and cheese pizza served with ranch sauce at Pie Harder 2017

Six pizza places showed off their version of deep dish pizza with sample slices of their pizza, and I ate them all. I think there were some dessert pies also available at the fest as part of Pie Harder but I had to tap out after only the savory pizza pies. If they do this event again, I would recommend it but be prepared with stretchy pants.
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Thick, Chicago Pizza in Portland

I’ve been living in Portland for about 6 years, but I am still quite loyal to Chicago style pizza. When I went to Chicago for my sister’s wedding, there was no time for Chicago style pizza, so I had to rectify that when I returned.

I’ve generally been eating the deep dish pizza of Via Chicago, which I can conveniently find only a few blocks away from me on Saturday at the Portland Farmers Market, or at their brick and mortar restaurant at 2013 NE Alberta (I admit I haven’t visited yet). Via Chicago has a buttery like dough to their pizza that reminds me a bit of of my favorite pizza vendor, Lou Malnati’s although without all of the great Buttercrust taste that cannot be replicated because Lou Malnati’s is just legendary. The Via Chicago pie dough also is a bit reminiscent to me of Pizzeria Uno but not as greasy. The pizza goes lighter on sauce on top rather than the traditional drenched layer.

A look at Via Chicago’s pizza for comparison:
Portland Farmers Market PSU, Via Chicago, chicago style pizza Via Chicago, chicago style pizza which catered the Watch Dog release part at the Microsoft store Portland Farmers Market PSU, Via Chicago, chicago style pizza

But, there has been a new deep dish Chicago pizza entrant to the Portland scene, and I felt obliged to give them a try. Thick is a food cart located at SW 9th & Washington. They handmake all their pies, so they only have a limited supply until they run out for the day, and when you arrive at the cart, depending on what it’s in the oven, that may be your only choice. For instance, when I stopped by they only had their sausage pizza ready.

Because these pizzas are thick deep dish, they all take longer to heat – this is true getting Chicago pizza in Chicago, so no different here in getting Chicago pizza in Portland, so keep that in mind that there will be a slight wait for your hot slice too.
Thick pizza cart, serving Chicago style pizza much like Giordano's Thick pizza cart, serving Chicago style pizza much like Giordano's

One thing Thick has over Via Chicago is the heft of the true Chicago pizza – one slice weighs down the small pizza to go container and takes up the whole thing. It also has the generous layer of tomato sauce and gloopy with cheese that you would expect from a true Chicago pizza on top, so that you are forced to eat this pizza like a pie, with a knife and fork. If you try to pick it up, it will just flop with its heavy load of toppings. This is unlike the Via Chicago pizza, which you can still pick up.

In my opinion, the dough for the pizza is not as good as Via Chicago because it’s not as buttery, but when it comes to all the toppings, Thick gets it exactly right, especially the tang of that tomato sauce and the thicker crust that you can eat like a chewy breadstick reward, something Via Chicago lacks. To me, the Thick pizza is reminiscent of Chicago pizza classic Giordano’s.
Thick pizza cart, serving Chicago style pizza much like Giordano's

As extra credit, Thick also offers Chicago style hot dogs! If you don’t want to risk missing out, call and pre-order.

Honestly, I would recommend either of these deep dish Chicago pizza places to get your fix in Portland. If you are Chicago-an like me, hopefully my examples that compare them to the pizza joints in Chicago can help you decide which one you want to try!

Thick pizza cart, serving Chicago style pizza much like Giordano's