Ironically, this story begins in Chicago. After one too many deep-dish pies, my fiancée & I took to Instagram to discover a new place for our next meal. The #chicagofood hashtag led us to Paulie Gee’s in Logan Square. It was there that I not only discovered, but fell in love with Detroit-style pizza.
Served in a rectangular deep dish pan, each slice is thick yet surprisingly light and airy, with a crispy, nearly-burnt caramelized cheese crust baked around the exterior. On top of the melted cheese are two stripes of marinara sauce drizzled end-to-end. With each bite, the contrast of the soft and chewy dough with the crunchy, cheesy outer layer created a satisfaction I’d never known.
I was hooked, and the search for Detroit-style pizza in LA started long before the flight back home.
After an extensive search on Google, Instagram, and input from followers of @TheBadHindu, I became educated on the history of Detroit-type pizza and armed with a shortlist of 3 local LA restaurants to visit.
First up was Apollonia’s Pizzeria, located in an unassuming mid-Wilshire strip mall. Their square slices are as close to Detroit-style as one could ask for, with crisp cheesy edges and an extra dollop of burrata for good measure. Unfortunately, their squares are a special menu item available at specifics hours on Friday-Sunday.
Overall, the slices I sampled were delicious but reheated, which created an unnecessary layer of oil on top – a future visit will be timed to taste the pizza fresh out of the oven.
Next was Bootleg Pizza, a Thursday-Saturday evening pop-up in Little Ethiopia on Fairfax Ave. Every Wednesday, their upcoming menu of four pizzas is announced via Instagram, with striking specials such as “Weird Billy” with mortadella and pistachios, and “Golden Child” with zucchini and blossoms.
Although flavorful, these slices are much smaller, thinner, and denser than what Detroit-style is known for… and I later learned that Bootleg is chasing a New Jersey-style pizza, which explains these differences.
Purgatory Pizza in the Arts District was the last stop on my quest. With a hipster-meets-rock ’n’ roll vibe, Purgatory offers nearly a dozen different slice options ready at any given time, and a massive, vegan & gluten-free friendly menu to order fresh. Their Detroit-style is one of four different square options, and is served for dine-in orders only. Their meat is farm-raised and many ingredients are organic, making the quality and craftsmanship apparent with each bite.
The pizza was perfectly balanced with a soft, chewy dough and a crisp, cheesy crust baked all around. A cook at Purgatory – an obvious pizza fan himself – suggested I try TOWN Pizza in Highland Park, who recently started experimenting with their own square Detroit-style slice.
So I’m crowning Purgatory Pizza as reigning Detroit-style champion in LA – for now! With restaurants ready to jump on the next Instagram-able food trend, expect to see an uprising of pizza places trying their hand at these eye-catching square slices.
Until then, I might just have to make a pilgrimage to the Motor City, where it all began.