No, I'm not a food critic. And no, I haven't eaten at every pizza place in the world, or even every pizza place in Chicago (obviously--I've only been there once). But I love pizza, and it's a proven fact that I at least know a good pizza from a bad one. Not that either of the pizza places that will be discussed here are bad--far from it, in fact. So far from it, that I have had a difficult time deciding which one is better...because they're both amazing.
What it all boils down to is what a person likes. I'll begin with Lou Malnati's, a Chicago staple since 1971. The moment I took a bite of this pizza, I was in some sort of heaven. The buttercrust, the sauce, the hot freshness of it all...took my breath away. I'm a food lover, but it takes a lot for me to be quite this reverent--yet reverent I am. I won't even get into the delicious dessert that I had--a Chocolate Chip Pizza. Self-explanatory, and also hot, fresh, and delicious. If I could have fit more pizza and two of those desserts in my stomach, I would have been a much happier girl.
What also impressed me about Malnati's was the service (at least at the Naperville, IL location). Apparently, the waitress messed up our order--our friends ordered a pizza that was half cheese and half with a bunch of toppings; ours was supposed to have the same toppings on the whole thing, but she claimed that she put ours in as half and half as well. Honestly...I wouldn't have even noticed, I was so impressed with the quality of the food. But she didn't even wait for me to notice! She called herself out on her mistake and gave us our pizza for half off. Needless to say, she earned her giant tip ;o)
The very next day, we were lucky enough to experience the Chicago Pizza and Oven Grinder Co., which is in quite an interesting location--the ground floor of the building that is located directly across from where the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre occurred!
The "Oven Grinder", as my local friends call it, is one of those places that many people will never experience. There's no giant sign outside. They only accept cash. Their pizza comes in two sizes--half pound and pound; two different crusts--white or wheat; with or without meatsauce, and with or without mushrooms. Yes, there are other things on their menu (the Mediterranean bread is a great appetizer/meal accompaniment!), but we (and from what I hear, most people) went for the pizza. Or rather, the "pizza pot pies", because that's what they are. A thick, heavy-duty crust filled with sauce (and mushrooms, if you wish, but I don't) and covered with a thick layer of cheese.
Now, I'm pretty traditional when it comes to pizza. I don't care for thin-crust or New York Style. I love regular crust (so long as it's not from some crappy chain like Domino's) and I especially love deep dish pizza (when it's done right). That's why, in the end, I'd say that I prefer Malnati's pizza over the pizza pot pies from the Oven Grinder. But really, when it comes down to it--you can't compare the two. They're actually totally different meals, and whereas I would choose Malnati's over the Oven Grinder if I ever make it back to Chicago, in the end...it's all in what you prefer.