Pizza chain to make its return to Lawrence with plans for west side restaurant

Old Chicago logo

My wardrobe has proved the axiom for years: Everything old is new again. Now, Old Chicago restaurant is set to prove it too. It once had a location in Lawrence and closed it down. But it has now filed plans to open a new restaurant in west Lawrence.

The company has filed plans at City Hall to locate near Sixth and Wakarusa, in front of the Walmart. These days the restaurant chain is called Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom. (Maybe it was called that before, but pizza makes me forgetful.) Whatever the case, beer is a big part of the restaurant chain now. In particular, craft beer dominates the menu.

The company has become known for its World Beer Tour, which is a program where you drink 110 “world-class beers,” and get rewards and prizes along the way. (Yes, it is designed to take multiple visits to complete.) The chain touts that each restaurant has more than 90 beers on tap, ranging from some of the most popular craft beers to small breweries that operate only in the region.

The restaurant also has gone well beyond pizza with its menu. There, of course, are any number of specialty pizzas that you can order, including both the traditional Chicago deep-dish variety and crusts of a thinner variety.

The menu also has several other Italian-themed dishes including calzones and at least three varieties of mac and cheese dishes. I know, saying mac and cheese is an Italian dish is causing ordinary Italians to swerve their Lamborghinis off the road. To get back in their good graces, I will point out that this traditional Italian dish also is on the menu: Italian nachos, which include house-made “pasta chips,” mozzarella, provolone, pepper jack, pepperoni, Italian sausage and a few other ingredients. It also comes with marinara sauce.

The menu also includes a variety of chicken wings, Italian wraps, salads and about a dozen burgers and sandwiches.

As for the building plans, I don’t have a timeline for the restaurant to open. The site, however, has the necessary zoning already in place. City Hall officials just have to give some technical approvals. The location will be near the northwest corner of Sixth and Wakarusa, but not right at the corner. The plans show it being one lot north of the corner lot. Plans call for a multitenant building to go onto that corner lot, although I haven’t heard word of any tenants or a plan to begin development there.

The Old Chicago restaurant will be about 5,700 square feet, will have a large 1,200 square-foot outdoor seating area, and will add 90 new parking stalls to the area out there.

In case you have forgotten, the old Old Chicago was near 23rd and Iowa, where Texas Roadhouse is now located. (Perhaps there’s a covenant that says only businesses with a geographic name can locate there.) It has taken a lot longer than anyone expected for the lots surrounding the Walmart store to develop. Walmart opened in west Lawrence in 2009. But the lots are now starting to fill up, and restaurants are a popular choice. This will be the third new restaurant in the development, joining Blue Moose and Spin Pizza.

Two pizza places across from each other. Perhaps a thin crust vs. thick crust rumble in the parking lot?

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