During the time I’ve spent in Korea, I’ve seen the most interesting food fads come and go with the changing seasons. Some have been managed to be quite delicious while others have left me with little to no desire to eat out. With said food fads, it seems only natural for the city to get an influx of new restaurants featuring whatever is popular at the time. So then, what’s the cool new thing of the moment? The answer appears to be Chicago style pizza.
Located only meters away from the beloved First Alleyway, it’s hard not to notice the bright lights of the new James Chicago Pizza. I won’t lie, I was quite hurt to see that this flashy new restaurant replaced my favorite ice cream guy. Still, the promise of warm, melty pizza on a cold day eventually won me over enough to give the place a try.
A few friends decided to join me when I finally went to pay the restaurant a visit. Once we arrived, we were happy to see that the large menu by the register had English translations, though typos and menu items like Energy Salad left some of us feeling a bit confused. We initially showed up for pizza, so we ordered the one and only pizza option they had without toppings (available toppings included chicken breast, salami ham, and shrimp). While placing the order, I noticed the side menu that offered other unique options like Bulgogi Fries, Bulgogi Kimchi Risotto, and Cheese Oven Spaghetti. Since my party was quite hungry, we ordered all of that as well.
After we placed our order, everyone sat down while I made my way to the self serve area. As with other similarly fashioned restaurants, we were given the freedom to get our own water, pickles, garlic sauce, and even strawberry jam. While some people may prefer having waiters, I have always been a fan of not having to wait for water refills.
Before long, the Bulgogi Fries arrived. What we got was a pile of french fries that had been topped with marinated beef, corn, peas, onions, some sort of tomato based chili sauce, cheese sauce, and sour cream. Though colorful, the taste was interesting, to say in the least. I personally would have preferred a little more simplicity, but we still ended up eating all of it. The next dish to arrive, which was the Cheese Oven Spaghetti, was more cheese than anything. While I’m usually not the type to have anything against large amounts of cheese, a few of us actually had problems trying to find pasta in the sea of melted mozzarella we had received. As expected with all dishes with large amounts of gooey cheese, it cooled down quickly and didn’t take long to go from a liquid to a solid.
The Bulgogi Kimchi Risotto, which also had a fair amount of cheese, was a nice surprise. The meat, kimchi, and cheese somehow all went nicely with the rice. It should be noted that those of us with Korean genetics seemed to enjoy this dish more than the others. The final dish, which was the pizza itself, offered a different kind of surprised. Though I had been expecting a mess of cheese, tomato meat sauce, and slices of tomato on my pie, the ring of powdered sugar on the crust was not something I thought I’d see. I actually thought it was flour at first, only to quickly realize that the tables around us had been eating their crust like a dessert. I will admit that I’ve seen this practice outside of Korea and famous pizzerias back in the states, I prefer having the option to add sweetness to my pie instead of having that decision made for me. The rest of the pizza was fairly standard.
At some point during the dinner, there was an unfortunate mishap that caused the hot metal skillet holding the pizza to fall on one of us when the unbalanced stand holding it up fell over. Though no one was seriously hurt, it’s something one should be careful with when enjoying pizza that’s being held up over a small flame at all times. On the bright side, the employees were helpful and quickly brought over a bag of ice to help with the very minor burns.
Overall, James Chicago Pizza was decent. Though there are some things I would have personally changed, it turned out to be a decent place with a fair amount of seating available for larger parties. The non-pizza dishes were quite unique and may be worth trying at least once.
Address: 광주광역시 동구 충장로안길 4-1 (located on the same street as First Alleyway)
Hours: 10:00AM to 10:00PM (last order at 9:00PM)
Average Price Range: 19,000 for pizza, 12,000 for sides