Photo by Becca Sabot
Classically square-cut pizza from Broadway Pizza
Is there a Minnesota-style pizza?
Zayda Buddy's Pizza Bar in Seattle promotes itself as a Minnesota-style pizza place, no lie, and L.A. eaters on food forums plead with fellow Angelinos for secret Minnesota-style pizza locations. So what exactly is Minnesota style? Thin crust and square cut—not pie cut—are hallmarks of the Minnesota pizza. (If you have to ask why we cut our pizza pie like chessboards, even if it ends up with some pieces the size of nickels, you're not from here.) Of course, not all Minnesota pies are square cut. Some of the most Minnesotan aren't—like Fireside's bacon cheeseburger pizza. The only thing that could make it more Minnesotan would be Prince, Bob Dylan, and the Andrews sisters standing in the middle signing about Paul Bunyan. And Heggies pizzas are as Minnesotan as arguing about whether anyone in L.A. even understands what hockey is. In the end, when it comes to Minnesota-style pizza, you really need to be from here to understand it. If you bring an out-of-town food snob to try one, they'd understand it as well as they would a snowplow wake. Here are five that really deliver.
Enter the original The original Red's Savoy Pizza on the rocking East Side, and it's like passing through a time warp into the world of the Carter administration. But it's the pizza that keeps it humming along. Order a large and you get a tray loaded with the best square-cut pizza on earth. It starts with a very thin but proudly sturdy crust, a structurally necessary base to the sweet and garlicky sauce and the mega-blanket of cheese that unites the intense toppings. The Hammer, with sausage, banana peppers, and sauerkraut, is the Minnesota throwback pizza, so sour, so spicy, so good. The bacon cheeseburger pizza is probably the best version in the country—the onions and pickles make it so. Most significantly, the original The Original is arguably the sweet-spicy pizza seed from which all Minnesota pizzas can trace their DNA, and a gooey bite from a center square will tell you more about why Red's is a regional treasure than words ever could. Twelve metro locations, including 421 E. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-227-1437, savoypizza.com
2Several metro locations, Minneapolis, Minnesota
If you don't know about the Broadway Pizza buffet, you are flirting with losing your Loon badge. It's a local legend, to the extreme. So much pizza: pepperoni thin crust with cheese from edge to edge—a crispy, spicy bit of magic. Sausage deep dish so cheesy you won't need to eat another meal for a week. The pork and kraut is a genius assemblage of two sorts of bacon (regular and Canadian) with plenty of sauerkraut and a little cheddar for a bit more tang. Sixteen metro locations, including 2025 West River Rd., Mpls., 612-529-7745, broadwaypizza.com
Claiming to be St. Paul's original pizzeria (and it's hard to argue with people who've been in business since 1954!), Carbone's has become a Minnstitution. Its Minnesota-style pizza defines the category for many, not just because they grew up on the pizza but because it has a thin and crisp crust, a sweet but tangy sauce, and a mantle of cheese that drops with northern pride. It's also hard to argue with 38 locations, which bodes well for future generations growing up on the Carbone's recipes and ensuring the empire. Thirty-two Minnesota locations, including 55 Wentworth Ave. E., West St. Paul, 651-457-8383, carbonespizzeria.com
Retro like a wood-paneled station wagon with three un-seat-belted kids in the way back, Fireside scratches an itch that can't be scratched any other way. Get a pepper special—pickeld banana peppers, green and red bell peppers, and pepperoni—and marvel at the cozy curtained cedar-shingle-roofed booths, so perfect for confidences exchanged over a Summit—or reminisces of when the world was so very different. 6736 Penn Ave. S., Richfield, 612-869-4040, firesidepizzausa.com
No tour of The Replacements–era Uptown would be complete without a stop at the Leaning Tower—open on Lyndale since 1959 and a critical piece of Uptown's DNA. Try the Hot Tower, with its signature hot and spicy (not the regular mild) pizza sauce, sausage, crusted red pepper, pepperoni, green peppers, onions, jalapeños, pepper jack, and mozzarella. It's a cheesy-good fire that's best encountered during one of the two daily happy hours, when the fire can be tamed by two-for-one cold microbrews (and everything else). 2324 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls., 612-377-3532, leaningtowermpls.com