But you do have to drive all the way out to 102nd and Pflumm.
Pizza Man, while not new by any definition of the word, is an experience still unknown to most East students. And when I say “experience,” I mean it. Located in a nondescript strip mall, it seems small and unassuming. Your first clue as to what lays inside the restaurant is the multitude of Cubs paraphernalia and a gumball machine that lay inside the first door.
But there are more Chicago-themed knickknacks than your brain can process once you step into the warm, greasy atmosphere of Pizza Man. The entire dimly-lit hallway to the bathrooms is covered in a mural of different Chicago sports legends: Michael Jordan, Bobby Orr, Dick Butkus, Sammy Sosa. Signs featuring enormous hot dogs and the Chicago skyline cover the walls. A young couple ate, watching college basketball on an 18-inch TV perched on a shelf across the room. Three businessmen chatted as they ate their Italian beef sandwiches, and a family of six laughed loudly from the largest table in the restaurant. The only thing more shocking than the three arcade machines lined up against one of the red painted walls was the fact that someone actually wandered over to play them in the half hour it took us to eat.
Pizza Man may not be a sleek, organic new restaurant—but it doesn’t try to be. Instead of modern art and glass tables, it has posters advertising “Beefed Up!” Chicago dogs and dark red vinyl-covered chairs. The pizza only comes in thin crust and has a fair number of toppings available with pepperoni and sausage, as well as Canadian bacon and anchovies. I was surprised to hear that a restaurant so famous for their authentic Chicago-style food would neglect the deep-dish crust that is characteristic of Chi-Town pizza.
But all my doubts were cast aside as the pizzas were brought out on round metal plates. True, there was a relatively thin layer of grease over the surface of the pizza. But the cheese was gooey, and somehow in that tiny little kitchen they had perfected the ratio of sauce to cheese. I found myself traveling back and forth between the plastic napkin dispenser and our table several times to get napkins to wipe the remnants of cheese grease off my hands.
My pizza had pepperoni on it, done just the way it should be—crispy and lots of it. The crust was just the right width for a thin crust pizza, not a cracker and not soggy. As I downed the entire 9-inch personal pizza, I kept thinking that this would be the perfect meal to have after a hiking trip or simply a long day at school. Nothing but fat and delicious, warm, heavily topping-ed pizza.
But however delicious the pizza was, it didn’t stick in my mind. I felt like I could get an equally delicious slice at Pizza Oven or Pizza 51—two more convenient options for East students. PV’s Minksy’s couldn’t hold a candle to the flavor and texture of Pizza Man pizza. But the Chicago-style pizza didn’t blow me away completely. I can’t give an opinion on the sandwiches and hot dogs they boast of such as the Italian Beef and Chicago Style Dog because the friendly 30-something guy in a rumpled white T-shirt behind the counter informed me upon my arrival that the hot dog would take 30 minutes to make. He then pointed to the sign posted to the fake-wood paneled ordering counter which read “Call in Advance for Faster Service.”
Even though I didn’t get the opportunity to test out their other signature foods, Pizza Man lives up to the food that its name suggests. Good pizza for a cheap price ($5 for a 9-inch personal pizza plus 50 cents for each topping) made it worth the 15-minute drive out to its only Lenexa location. Would I go here every weekend? No. But if you’re feeling a craving for good ol’ Chicago-style pizza, or even a chilidog, make the trek to Pizza Man. It beats an eight-hour drive for a slice of authentic Chi-Town pizza.