Coal Oven Pizza at Coalfire

October 7, 2012

I'm an avid follower of the national food blog Eater, as well as its local version, Eater Chicago. Every few months they release their list of the top 38 restaurants to eat at in Chicago. Oftentimes, this list changes but there are usually a handful of restaurants that are mainstays. One of these staples is a pizzeria located in the Near West/Noble Square area called Coalfire Pizza. I had read about the restaurant and its rave reviews for its unique coal oven cooked pizza so I thought I'd check it out for a quick Saturday night meal.

The restaurant itself is quite small with about 12 or so tables and they do not take reservations. My friend and I showed up around 7:30 pm on a Saturday and only had to wait about five minutes. The decor is minimal but the one thing that draws in your attention is that burning coal oven that is in the back of the one-room restaurant. In fact, I'm pretty sure they keep the restaurant extremely dark in order to make that coal oven stand out even more (hence my terrible iPhone photos below).

The menu is simple and small featuring specialty and make-your-own pizzas, calzones and salads. We started out with a couple bottles of beer and the house salad. The salad featured chopped romaine covered in freshly sliced mushrooms, onions and tomatoes. I enjoyed the light homemade vinaigrette and you could definitely tell the vegetables were fresh. The salad itself was gigantic and big enough to share with a group.

House Salad with fresh tomatoes, mushrooms & onion, tossed in a house vinaigrette
After much debate on which type of pizza to order, we decided to keep it simple and try the margherita pizza. I was really interested to see what this coal fire crust was all about and I felt by simplifying the ingredients on our pizza, I'd be able to decide how tasty it was.

The pizza came out piping hot and with flecks of coal "dust" on the crust. I really enjoyed how they place your pizza atop an empty can of peeled plum tomatoes, which I'm sure they go through quite rapidly. The pie featured blankets of fresh mozzarella on marinara sauce, with a sprinkling of romano and large leaves of basil on top.

I really enjoyed the crispiness of the crust but let me warn you, this is probably the thinnest pizza you'll ever try. The pizza was so thin, you could easily roll up a slice and eat it. Personally, I thought it was a little too thin but I loved the crust. While the margherita was tasty, I regretted not getting a more adventurous pizza. It was too plain to say it was an amazing pizza.

Margherita Pizza with fresh mozzarella, grated romano, olive oil and fresh basil
I left Coalfire Pizza thinking it was a great place to gather with friends, but I wasn't blown away by the pizza that, to me, was just "OK". Maybe I had hyped it up after seeing it on the Eater 38 list, but it definitely wasn't the best thin crust in town. However, I'll still give Coalfire Pizza 3.5 stars for its friendly and attentive service, fresh and large salads and an interesting approach to baking pizza. Next time, I'll try something with a little more variety!

Coalfire Pizza
1321 West Grand Avenue
Chicago, IL 60642
(312) 226-2625

Coalfire on Urbanspoon


  1. You weren't kidding about the thin part. I think it would be a little better if the crust were a little thicker and maybe add more herbs like oregano for added flavor.

    1. Totally agree Xander! I think you have to go with an all-out toppings pizza at Coalfire.


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