When the Bell Tower strikes midnight, a hush falls over Franklin Street. Shopkeepers close their wares, content with the day and longing for a warm bed. But in one corner, behind Crepe Traditions, the patrons of Old Chicago still laugh and cheer, delighting in the scent of freshly baked $3 personal pizzas and almost any beer their full heart, or stomach, could desire.
An American and Italian-style burger and bar restaurant, Old Chicago began as a modest establishment on Franklin Street four years ago. According to kitchen manager Charles Cook, it has grown into one of the most family-friendly and diverse restaurants in Chapel Hill, making fresh food from scratch on site every day with only locally grown produce.
If you’re looking for quantity and quality for both family weekends and casual broke college student affairs, Old Chicago is one of the best for sampling the world at home. Offering everything from calzones to build-your-own-mac-and-cheeses (#goals) to their famous ale crust pizzas, OC has something for everyone.
The restaurant offers 36 different beers on draft every day and even more bottled. Of course, aside from the rewards menu, there is nothing more enticing to college students than $3 one-topping personal pizzas, offered daily after 10 pm. What could be a better match made in heaven
On a recent trip to Old Chicago, I tried appetizers, a salad, and two pizza halves based on the bartender Helena's recommendations that are super underrated. So nix your usual order, and try out one of these dishes to go with your cool draft.
1. Screamin' Mango Wings
If love at first bite existed, Old Chicago’s Screamin’ Mango Wings are guaranteed to make your heart burn (possibly literally) every time. Perfectly crunchy with a balance of sweet and spicy, these wings leave your tongue tingling in happiness
2. Buffalo Chicken Rolls
One of my favorites, the Buffalo Chicken Rolls are like a hug for your soul. With chicken and tangy buffalo sauce wrapped in a blanket of cheese and fluffy dough, it's hard to stop yourself from downing the entire plate in one go
3. Spinach, Chicken and Avocado Salad
An underappreciated classic, the Spinach, Chicken and Avocado Salad is simple with tender spinach and a lemon vinaigrette that adds some tang. For a one-stop texture station, this is your ride. However, I found it a little overdressed, so ask for the vinaigrette on the side.
4 & 5. Thai Pie and Tuscan Chicken with Spinach
Even though Old Chicago is mainly American and Italian based, the Thai Pie (left) presented a new combination of flavor and texture with every bite. Wonderfully chewy, the thick Chicago pizza crust sops up every last bit of colliding sweet and savoriness.
As for my new personal favorite, the Tuscan Chicken with Spinach (right) is light yet filling. Using the same vinaigrette as the Spinach, Chicken and Avocado Salad, this pizza melts in your mouth. Carbs, greens, and protein cannot get any better than this.
Of course, Helena and Charles also recommend the best sellers: the C-7 (available in veggie mode!) and Double Deckeroni pizzas, and the Buffalo Chicken Wings.
Don't Miss the Mini-Tour
Every few months, Old Chicago offers a themed “mini-tour,” featuring limited edition menu items of both food and special handpicked beers. Upon successful completion, patrons are eligible for prizes and credits on Old Chicago’s “World Beer Tour,” which gives points for sampling alcohol with every visit. Dedication pays off, as customers can join OC Rewards for exclusive offers and discounts on food with no cost.
Sad if you keep missing them though? Don’t worry, for the restaurant offers free tasters and daily happy hours, even if you’re not a member.
Overall Old Chicago is very accommodating for food restrictions, having a gluten free menu and accommodations for vegetarians. It truly embodies the definition of Chapel Hill, or as my roommate puts it, “Come for the food, stay for the people.”