Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Rush Street
Sausage pizza $22.95
Italian beef sandwich $4.95
Chili cheese dog $3.48
Onion rings $2.25
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Monster of the Midway

Chicago via Cowtown at the West Side’s newest and juiciest eatery, Rush Street.

By KEN SHIMAMOTO

Rush Street

929 University Dr, FW. 817-820-0644. Mon-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm. MC, V.

Hog butcher to the world, city with big shoulders, a town grand enough to contain such expansive personalities as Howlin’ Wolf, Richard J. Daley, and Mike Ditka, Chicago is a place where the sturdy folk demand substantial food. No niggling salads or tiny morsels of food drizzled with faux-exotic sauces here. Specialties like deep-dish pizza and Italian beef sandwiches are what keep the Chicagoans going and, incidentally, are also what had been making Windy City natives Chuck Carr and Rob Belcher homesick, after the two had found themselves stranded in Cowtown. So — following the logic that if you can’t get to your city, bring your city to you — Carr and Belcher this summer opened a Chicago-themed restaurant, Rush Street, in the old J&J’s Oyster Bar location on University Drive, across the street from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. And if there’s a more authentic slice of Chicago in Cowtown than this eatery, we can’t find it.

The god-king of Rush Street’s menu is the deep-dish pizza, a relatively new but-sure to become legendary item. (It had been offered only at catered parties until this month.) On our first visit, my guest and I were warned that take-out boxes still weren’t available and that the deep-dish we had ordered would take half an hour to 45 minutes to prepare and cook. When we were told that our only other option was a sausage pie, my guest — a feisty ex-Chicagoan and no big fan of pork — asked our server why we couldn’t just get a simple plain pie. “If you’re just heating a frozen pizza,” my guest said, “you’d think that the toppings would be the last thing to go on.”

Hearing the F-word, our congenial host Belcher, a ringer for Jim Belushi and someone who’s clearly Not From Around Here, felt compelled to intervene. It’s not frozen, he explained. The pizzas are handmade on site every day, and the crust is stuffed — which explained why “just picking the sausage off,” as my guest wanted to do, was impossible. As if on cue, the counterman produced an uncooked pie for our inspection. It was an imposing sight — a good two inches thick, topped with a generous amount of tomato sauce and cheese.

When the sausage pizza finally arrived, it didn’t disappoint. Belcher said that one of his employees calls the house specialty the “anvil pizza” and with good reason — it’s heavy, lousy with spicy Italian sausage and mozzarella. Two slices from one of these beauties should satisfy even the heartiest of appetites, which makes the $22.95 price tag seem a little less exorbitant. The crust was surprisingly light and crisp, the sausage aromatic and flavorful. The cheese in the filling served primarily to bind the other ingredients together. After one bite of this loaded delicacy, you can only fantasize about how these guys might handle a plain cheese pie.

Belcher says that he and his partner plan to offer sausage and vegetarian pizzas on the regular menu, but, for other varieties, patrons are encouraged to call ahead a day or two in advance. (We’re on the list for a cheese pie next Tuesday.) A variety of beers are available on tap and in the can, making Rush Street a congenial place to hang out while you’re waiting for your pie.

While my guest and I were waiting for our pizza to make its grand entrance, we tried a chili dog and some onion rings. Me, I’m an East Coast loyalist where hot dogs are concerned — I’ll stick with my Hebrew Nationals (available at Albertson’s, kids) and brown mustard. And now, after tasting Rush Street’s dog, I’m pretty comfortable in my East Coast snobbery. The Vienna Beef six-incher (a Windy City favorite since the 1893 World’s Fair) was kinda ordinary; its only distinguishing trait was the poppy seed roll on which the dog had been delivered. The onion rings were lightly battered and crisp, sweet and tender inside, but no different than other good rings elsewhere. What made the whole moment memorable was the fact that my guest and I could take breathers between heavy eating to enjoy some smokes (at somewhere other than Ol’ South), which only made Rush Street seem more like a neighborhood joint up north, back before the health nazis took over.

On another day, I went back to grab an Italian beef sandwich to go. The counterman wrapped it in multiple layers of paper “to save your [car’s] interior.” The thinly sliced beef is marinated in spices (most notably oregano and thyme), topped with sweet and hot peppers, and served on a crusty roll. The net effect is simple, flavorful, and satisfying — kinda like Rush Street itself.


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