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A tour of Detroit-style Pizza

A tour of Detroit-style Pizza
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  • A tour of Detroit-style Pizza

    Post #1 - August 7th, 2012, 9:46 am
    Post #1 - August 7th, 2012, 9:46 am Post #1 - August 7th, 2012, 9:46 am
    Hopefully discussions of pizza styles other than Chicago-style are not verboten on LTH.

    A couple weeks ago, my friends and I embarked on a tour of some of the classic Detroit-style pizza places in Detroit - Buddy's, Loui's, Cloverleaf and Detroit Style Pizza Co.

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    For the unitiated, the defining characteristics of a Detroit-style pizza are the soft and airy square crust, the crunchy exterior, and the caramelized cheese that edges the pizza. The pizzas are baked in a square steel pan - the original purpose of the pans was for spare parts in the auto factories.

    The square pans give the pizza the unique cheese crust a layer of sharp cheese is spread all the way to the edges, which crisps up perfectly during baking.

    Image

    Buddy's is the gold standard for pizza in Detroit. It was at Buddy's original location at 6-Mile and Conant where Detroit-style pizza was invnted by Gus Guerra. The "Detroiter" with pepperoni and shaved parmesean is the pinnacle of pizza in the D.

    Image

    Gus later left Buddy's and founded Cloverleaf and was our second stop on our tour. You can see in the pic below that Cloverleaf's crust was very well done, almost to the point of being burnt. It was nice and crunchy. The pepperoni didn't crisp up as nicely as Buddy's though and the bottom of the crust didn't get all that crispy either.

    Image

    Next on our tour was relative newcomer Detroit Style Pizza Co, founded by Gus Guerra mentee Shawn Randazzo. Shawn previously ran two locations of Cloverleaf, but took ownership of them recently and opened up them under the new name of Detroit Style Pizza Co. Shawn does a bit of an updated take on the classic with his Marghertia in the D pizza with fresh basil, roasted garlic, red onions and plain crushed tomatoes. The crust was just about perfect, crispy on the outside and soft and airy on the inside.

    Image

    Finally, we made it to Loui's in Hazel Park. Loui's was founded by a long-time chef of the original Buddy's. Not surprisingly, the crusts at both places were remarkably similar - which is to say delicious. I think Loui's uses a milder cheese. Detroit-style pizza typically does not use plain mozzarella. Although no one knows for certain, most places seem to use either a wisconsin "brick" cheese or a mild white cheddar. Buddy's ups the sharpness on theirs with shaved parmesean.

    A couple weeks ago, I was asked by the people behind the Pure Michigan campaign to write a post for them on something food-related that is uniquely Michigan. My post went up today on the Pure Michigan site: All Square: A History of Detroit-Style Pizza.

    The director's cut can be found at my blog Great Lakes, Better Food.

    Buddy's (various locations around the Detroit area)
    http://www.buddyspizza.com/

    Loui's - Hazel Park
    http://louispizza.net/

    Cloverleaf - Eastpointe, MI
    http://www.cloverleafrestaurant.com/

    Detroit Style Pizza Co. - St. Clair Shores and Clinton Township
    http://detroitstylepizza.co/

    I still can't believe there isn't any Detroit-style pizza in Chicago with all the displaced Michiganders living there.

    Tony
  • Post #2 - August 7th, 2012, 10:21 am
    Post #2 - August 7th, 2012, 10:21 am Post #2 - August 7th, 2012, 10:21 am
    Tony,

    Nice post! Those pictures look great and, from outward appearance, look like a cousin to Burt's style of pizza. Next time I'm in Detroit, I've got to try one of these places. I tried some Detroit style pizza at a place in Dearborn but was very unimpressed, but that pizza didn't look nearly as good as the ones in this thread.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #3 - August 7th, 2012, 10:37 am
    Post #3 - August 7th, 2012, 10:37 am Post #3 - August 7th, 2012, 10:37 am
    stevez wrote:a cousin to Burt's style

    Is Juke Joint Burt a long-time employee at Buddy’s
    in this Bizarro world?
    Image
  • Post #4 - August 7th, 2012, 10:52 am
    Post #4 - August 7th, 2012, 10:52 am Post #4 - August 7th, 2012, 10:52 am
    It's a big regret of mine that I never visited Burt's while I lived in Chicago. I've never had it but it looks like their pizza shares some similarities with Detroit-style, namely the caramelized cheese crust.

    I do think they are somewhat different though. The crust/doughs are very different between Detroit-style and Chicago-style. Sort of hard to describe but Detroit-style is lighter, more airy and doughy, whereas Chicago-style always seemed more bread-like to me. I believe Burt's is based on the CHicago-style crust. Regardless, I'm sure it's delicious and I need to check it out on one of my return trips to Chicago.
  • Post #5 - August 7th, 2012, 11:17 am
    Post #5 - August 7th, 2012, 11:17 am Post #5 - August 7th, 2012, 11:17 am
    stevez wrote:Those pictures look great and, from outward appearance, look like a cousin to Burt's style of pizza.

    No, it's much airier, thicker and breadier than Burt's crust. I usually call it focaccia-like.

    When I was growing up in Detroit, this style of pizza was very much an East Side phenomenon. On the West Side, pizza was thin-crust, round and cut in wedges.

    The East Side-West Side thing in Detroit was, if anything, even more divided than Chicago's North and South sides. It was like two completely different countries. So, like the South Siders who say they never ate deep-dish pizzas growing up, I have to report that I was likely in high school before I tried square pizza. I was certainly in high school before I ever met an East Sider.

    Another dividing line was less geographical, but there were also two distinctive styles of Detroit barbecue ribs.
  • Post #6 - August 7th, 2012, 12:22 pm
    Post #6 - August 7th, 2012, 12:22 pm Post #6 - August 7th, 2012, 12:22 pm
    Looks very similar to NY Sicilian style pizza.
  • Post #7 - August 7th, 2012, 12:32 pm
    Post #7 - August 7th, 2012, 12:32 pm Post #7 - August 7th, 2012, 12:32 pm
    rickster wrote:Looks very similar to NY Sicilian style pizza.


    It is a descendant of Sicilian-style:

    Detroit-style pizza, a descendent of Sicilian-style pizza, traces its roots to one man – Gus Guerra. In 1946, Gus owned what was then a neighborhood bar, Buddy’s Rendezvous, when he decided he needed something new for the menu. He enlisted the help of his wife, Anna, who borrowed a dough recipe from her Sicilian mother. The Sicilian dough, topped with cheese and tomato sauce, would become the model for pizza in Detroit.


    But it is distinct from the sicilian slices you get from italian bakeries on the east coast.
    The crusts are not the same and the caramalized cheese crust is a distinctive difference. The bottom of the crust has an almost fried texture due to the seasoned pans that the pizzas are baked in (not cookie sheets like italian bakeries make sicilian-style in). The cheese itself is likely totally different as I believe most sicilian slices are topped with shredded mozzarella, as opposed to the sharper cheeses on detroit-style pies.
  • Post #8 - August 7th, 2012, 1:12 pm
    Post #8 - August 7th, 2012, 1:12 pm Post #8 - August 7th, 2012, 1:12 pm
    Well, there is a Detroit style pizza chain :oops: called Jet's Pizza that's in the suburbs with a half dozen or so locations.

    I like it. I love the oily, crisp crust, the carmelized cheese, and it's pretty decent for a chain that does take out. I definitely want to try the real thing in Detroit someday (on my way to Canada :twisted: :wink: ).

    http://jetspizza.com/

    Image
    Image
  • Post #9 - August 7th, 2012, 2:07 pm
    Post #9 - August 7th, 2012, 2:07 pm Post #9 - August 7th, 2012, 2:07 pm
    Ram4 wrote:Well, there is a Detroit style pizza chain :oops: called Jet's Pizza that's in the suburbs with a half dozen or so locations.

    I like it. I love the oily, crisp crust, the carmelized cheese, and it's pretty decent for a chain that does take out. I definitely want to try the real thing in Detroit someday (on my way to Canada :twisted: :wink: ).

    http://jetspizza.com/


    That's right, I forgot that Jet's had made it's way to the Chicago suburbs. Jet's square pizza (they also offer round pizza, but don't even bother with those) is definitely Detroit-style, though a fast food representation of it. It's decent and probably my favorite fast food pizza chain, but it is not on the same level as these places.
  • Post #10 - August 7th, 2012, 7:05 pm
    Post #10 - August 7th, 2012, 7:05 pm Post #10 - August 7th, 2012, 7:05 pm
    BigT wrote:
    rickster wrote:Looks very similar to NY Sicilian style pizza.


    It is a descendant of Sicilian-style:

    Detroit-style pizza, a descendent of Sicilian-style pizza, traces its roots to one man – Gus Guerra. In 1946, Gus owned what was then a neighborhood bar, Buddy’s Rendezvous, when he decided he needed something new for the menu. He enlisted the help of his wife, Anna, who borrowed a dough recipe from her Sicilian mother. The Sicilian dough, topped with cheese and tomato sauce, would become the model for pizza in Detroit.


    But it is distinct from the sicilian slices you get from italian bakeries on the east coast.
    The crusts are not the same and the caramalized cheese crust is a distinctive difference. The bottom of the crust has an almost fried texture due to the seasoned pans that the pizzas are baked in (not cookie sheets like italian bakeries make sicilian-style in). The cheese itself is likely totally different as I believe most sicilian slices are topped with shredded mozzarella, as opposed to the sharper cheeses on detroit-style pies.


    I'd agree it's distinct from bakery pizza, which is not just an Eastern phenomenon but well represented here in Chicago at various Italian bakeries. However, in my experience the Detroit pie is extremely similar to the square "grandma pizza" one gets in NYC - albeit not at bakeries but from trucks and at pizzerie that otherwise sell thin crust.

    Cf., this recent article makes distinctions between NY Sicilian style and grandma style, suggesting that NY Sicilian might be closest to Detroit (but, again, none of this being bakery pie/schiacciatta).

    http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives/2 ... rk-ny.html
  • Post #11 - August 7th, 2012, 7:14 pm
    Post #11 - August 7th, 2012, 7:14 pm Post #11 - August 7th, 2012, 7:14 pm
    Great post, and I'm curious to visit a couple of these places and compare them to Burt's next time I'm in Detroit (and I'm also a big fan of Sicilian-style pizza). Between that and some good Middle Eastern, I might not regret my next Detroit visit. :)
  • Post #12 - August 8th, 2012, 9:59 pm
    Post #12 - August 8th, 2012, 9:59 pm Post #12 - August 8th, 2012, 9:59 pm
    rickster wrote:Looks very similar to NY Sicilian style pizza.

    bingo! what I was going to state.

    While I far prefer L&B Spumoni Gardens Sicilian style www.spumonigardens.com to Detroit's pizza, I used to dine at Buddy's every other month or so, the pizza certainly did not disappoint.

    I look forward to trying the other pizza places mentioned in this thread.

    Speaking of Detroit area pizzas, a client of mine & I used to go to Tomatoes Apizza in Farmington Hills, a very good Neapolitan style pizza for sure! http://tomatoesapizza.com/
    -
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #13 - February 16th, 2018, 8:37 am
    Post #13 - February 16th, 2018, 8:37 am Post #13 - February 16th, 2018, 8:37 am
    update: Buddy's is still delicious, had some this past weekend
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #14 - February 16th, 2018, 2:31 pm
    Post #14 - February 16th, 2018, 2:31 pm Post #14 - February 16th, 2018, 2:31 pm
    A Detroit style place opened up on Foster a little ago, haven't been yet.

    Fat Chris'
    1706 W. Foster
  • Post #15 - February 16th, 2018, 2:40 pm
    Post #15 - February 16th, 2018, 2:40 pm Post #15 - February 16th, 2018, 2:40 pm
    knitgirl wrote:A Detroit style place opened up on Foster a little ago, haven't been yet.

    Fat Chris'
    1706 W. Foster

    Very respectable Detroit style pizza if you ask me, and friendly people. Not much of a dining in vibe, but nothing offensive either. I'll be back.
    I find the pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted, cured meats. (Seinfeld)

    Twitter: brbinchicago
  • Post #16 - February 16th, 2018, 4:16 pm
    Post #16 - February 16th, 2018, 4:16 pm Post #16 - February 16th, 2018, 4:16 pm
    Not in Chicago (but not as far as Detroit), Journeyman Distillery's restaurant Staymaker in Three Oaks Michigan puts out a Detroit style pizza. My wife and I have enjoyed it; I believe they are using the spent grain from their whiskey in the crust (which you get as rye or bourbon crust). They also do some non-traditional toppings (bacon and squash and bourbon pear are currently on the menu, though I have trouble straying from the traditional cheese.

    Staymaker (at Journeyman Distillery)
    109 Generations Dr
    Three Oaks, MI
  • Post #17 - February 17th, 2018, 12:28 pm
    Post #17 - February 17th, 2018, 12:28 pm Post #17 - February 17th, 2018, 12:28 pm
    I had Buddy's and Loui's in Detroit last month and I made two trips to Tomatoe's Apizza in Farmington Hills. I've have Buddy's at least 6 times at the original location and in Dearborn and it's always great - I love it. I finally made it to Loui's (at the very last minute) and it was very good, but I like Buddy's more. Buddy's does one of the best Caesar salads I've had anywhere. They do their own dressing which is very strong and they give you a lot of shaved cheese on it plus lemon wedges if you like. We always get one before the pizza.

    I had done some research and found Tomatoe's Apizza which is New Haven style. I see in this thread Sweet Willie mentioned in 2012, but I missed it. Anyway, it was great - WAY better than the overrated Piece in Wicker Park. I ended up having Tomatoes twice because I was in the area and wanted a different style. Funny because I saw there was another Buddy's location close to that one.

    I am surprised Buddy's doesn't go national. They are truly the Lou Malnati's of Detroit with consistent food and service.

    I am going to try some of the other well known Detroit style pizzerias like Cloverleaf when I am back soon.
  • Post #18 - February 18th, 2018, 8:51 pm
    Post #18 - February 18th, 2018, 8:51 pm Post #18 - February 18th, 2018, 8:51 pm
    Ram4 wrote:... and I made two trips to Tomatoe's Apizza in Farmington Hills.
    It is quite coincidental that you mention Tomatoes Apizza. Mrs Willie & I will be back in Detroit area in a couple weeks and she has been jonesen to get back to Buddy's after her first try of it last weekend. I was thinking I'd take her to Tomatoes Apizza as I haven't been in years and your post has solidified this idea. It looks like there are now two TA locations.
    I did absolutely nothing and it was everything I thought it could be.
  • Post #19 - February 19th, 2018, 2:32 pm
    Post #19 - February 19th, 2018, 2:32 pm Post #19 - February 19th, 2018, 2:32 pm
    Sweet Willie wrote:
    Ram4 wrote:... and I made two trips to Tomatoe's Apizza in Farmington Hills.
    It is quite coincidental that you mention Tomatoes Apizza. Mrs Willie & I will be back in Detroit area in a couple weeks and she has been jonesen to get back to Buddy's after her first try of it last weekend. I was thinking I'd take her to Tomatoes Apizza as I haven't been in years and your post has solidified this idea. It looks like there are now two TA locations.
    Yeah, my girlfriend and I might be back in Detroit this weekend (50/50 chance) but I had to laugh at having just posted about it and wondering when I will return. I think it's a must to still have at least one meal at Buddy's when I am there. My gf really liked Tomatoes and I did too, but it would not be my first choice over Buddy's. And I did want to try at least one other Detroit style pizza while I was there like Cloverleaf or Detroit Style Pizza Co. Ever notice how the brick cheese almost goes back to it's original form as it cools? Kind of a strange texture. I'm a picky eater. I'm not into coneys, Middle Eastern, and I am not a big ham fan, although we did have Mike's Famous Ham Place on our first trip just to try it so for me I can concentrate on the pizza. Although the Detroit burger scene that Da Beef has posted about is on my list to check out.
  • Post #20 - March 5th, 2018, 11:25 am
    Post #20 - March 5th, 2018, 11:25 am Post #20 - March 5th, 2018, 11:25 am
    We were in the Detroit suburbs this weekend for business, and only had time for one real sit down dinner in the area. Of course I wanted to checkout Cloverleaf but I gave into to my better half and we went back to Tomatoes Apizza in Farmington Hills for delicious New Haven style pizza. We had a fast breakfast Sunday at Gus and Us Grill (in Allen Park) as we were in the area and was surprisingly cheap half-way decent food. It's a typical Greek coffee shop and was crowded on a Sunday morning of course. I have a nostalgic weakness for open face hot turkey sandwiches at these places, but I didn't pull the trigger this time. I wouldn't recommend this place to a foodie.
  • Post #21 - May 15th, 2018, 5:51 pm
    Post #21 - May 15th, 2018, 5:51 pm Post #21 - May 15th, 2018, 5:51 pm
    We were back in Detroit this month and I had time to try Cloverleaf and the Halsted Road location of Tomatoes Apizza. Cloverleaf was great; I would put it ahead of Loui's and almost as good as Buddy's. I prefer the hot Italian sausage at Buddy's to the mild sausage at Cloverleaf.

    The Halsted Rd location of Tomatoes was very good but take note: they use a gas oven at this location (the other location uses a coal oven) however the end product was still excellent. They also do not serve alcohol at this location. So I would stick with the location on 14 Mile.
  • Post #22 - August 14th, 2018, 1:03 pm
    Post #22 - August 14th, 2018, 1:03 pm Post #22 - August 14th, 2018, 1:03 pm
    Tried another old time Detroit style place called Shield's yesterday. I thought it was very good (nice tang to the brick cheese) but I still think Buddy's does this style best when you have their spicy Italian sausage. I suppose any of the other three mainstays I've had (Cloverleaf, Loui's, Shield's) would be fine anytime as well I just think the sausage at Buddy's is one of my favorites anywhere. The preferred topping here is pepperoni which I never get. Shield's was voted best pizza in Detroit by WDIV Channel 4. Buddy's was #2. Jet's Pizza was voted #3 to show you that you can't take these lists seriously (although I really like Jet's square pizzas and it's probably the best chain pizza there is).

    Shield's Pizza
    25101 Telegraph Rd (US 24)
    Southfield, MI 48034
    (248) 356-2720
    http://shieldspizza.com/
  • Post #23 - August 28th, 2018, 2:54 pm
    Post #23 - August 28th, 2018, 2:54 pm Post #23 - August 28th, 2018, 2:54 pm
    After seeing the Cubs play the Tigers last Tuesday I tried another well known Detroit style pizza - Niki's Pizza in Greektown. This is a greek restaurant so they have things like pizza with feta. I had a sausage pizza. The crust here was probably the crunchiest of this style I've had (outside of Jet's). They normally use mozzarella cheese on the pizzas. I thought it was another very good pizza but not at the top level like Buddy's. Greektown is a small entertainment area and it's worth a stop if you're in that area plus they are open late.

    Niki's Pizza
    735 Beaubien St
    Detroit MI
    313-961-4303
    http://nikisdetroit.com/

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