Friday, March 25, 2011

Dine the Windy City At Uno's

It's been over thirty years  since I had my first taste of deep dish Chicago style pizza-in Chicago.  Hubby was on a business trip and I tagged along, leaving two wild kidlets with frazzled grandparents while I tramped thru all the historic haunts of the "Windy City". Two things I brought away with me: a  early morning waterfront run as the sun came up was breathtaking and reflective AND you won't find better pizza anywhere, at anytime, ever!

Cheese Dippers
Sadly Chicago is half a day away by car, so that is a bit far for a sunrise run or a pizza run . So I have spent many a weekend trying to find a perfect pie that would make me forget Chicago deep dish. I think I lucked out. One place isn't all that close-altho if you are in Oakland County or south into the Detroit limits and don't visit a Buddy's, shame on you! But if you want a closer dining experience, look no farther than Birch Run Outlets at exit 136 off I75 . Uno's, (all the way towards the back of the mall complex-map at site) now with locations in at least 22 states and Puerto Rico-most east of the Mississippi and into the Northeast, has managed to satisfy many with both deep dish and thin crusted pizzas for almost 70 years. I am delighted to say vegetarians and vegans can find something delicious to dine on while enjoying the family friendly atmosphere.

Farmer's Market Deep Dish
On a recent visit, my entree was a Farmer's Market Deep Dish style pie, with caramelized onions, sun-dried  tomatoes, spinach, pesto and a combo of three cheeses, including Feta. But what sets this pizza off is the addition of eggplant!  I know of no other pizza joint near Flint offering eggplant as a topping.  There is a smokiness to this particular pie that is so enjoyable. I have the chef go very light on the cheese-I am only using it for the glue to hold the veggies to the crust. But you can go sans cheese as I have seen others do this. The deep dish pies come in single serving and full size. The single was more than enough, when accompanied by a  salad or appetizer, for a shared dish. I took half home and it's wonderful cold for breakfast. The crust is, well..crusty! Crunchy on the outside and almost bread-like on the inside.  This may be my favorite part of the dish! Options for deep dish include construct your own pie-perfect for vegans and those who want something more traditional.

The pizza crusts can be made with 5 grain crust or traditional. I prefer the deep dish but many like the thinner, local style of crust so I would recommend the 5 grain as a nutty flavored and more healthy selection. I also believe a gluten free crust is available upon request.
Deep Dish Serving for One

There are many side dishes available at Uno's that go from healthy to indulgent. Hubby ordered a selection from the sea and added skinless baked potatoes topped with several items-all that is missing is skin. The skin is my favorite part of a potato, especially if it's crusty from an olive oil and salt rub. I wish Uno's offered plain baked simply because the health factor is something we all should consider, but if you leave off the toppings, a dish of smashed taters is not the worst choice-there is a side of red skins mashed to lumpiness that I have enjoyed. But they have better choices at Uno's such as steamed broccoli, steamed or roasted veggies in season (zucchini, red peppers, yellow squash and cauliflower) a dish I have to fight to keep to myself, brown rice with sweetened cranberries (one of my favorites), rice pilaf, and what has turned out to be my all time favorite in recent years-farro salad.
Skinless Bake
Mashed Cauliflower

Farro Salad
When I ordered this side dish, I expected it to be warm like the other sides I had previously enjoyed.  All the other grain based side dishes are served hot or warm. But farro salad, which is also known in the US as spelt or  emmer wheat, is served chilled with diced tomatoes, diced cucumbers and a hint of balsamic vinegar. These items are inside the molded farro and are there for a pleasant discovery both when you find the salad is chilled and when your fork breaks the mold. I certainly know what my go-to dish will be on subsequent visits!

Other sides I have ordered in recent months include vegetarian veggie soup of which I wasn't particularly impressed. I felt it was canned flavored-almost a metallic taste and much too salty for my taste buds. Avocado egg rolls are a good "share" appetizer or when paired with a larger salad, could be an excellent vegan meal along with the cashew/tamarind dipping sauce for a tangy and salty addition to the flavorful finger food. The egg rolls were a "test" dish last year, something Uno's does seasonally. Obviously, the test went well as they made the main menu.

Uno's has a diverse selection of entrees to please all paletes. A complete bar is available, and drinks can be served in the bar with large screen televisions or in the dining area. Desserts are sharable and often include chocolate but new to the menu is bread pudding so I certainly know what my next sweet dish will be. A children's menu is available, and one item lets kids build their own pizza, completed at the table with an apron to bring  smiles to the little chefs. Healthy sides are available for kids, too. 

I do wish Uno's would try to regulate the temperature of the dining room better. A big complaint for me is how cold it is year round. The air conditioning is brutal in the summer, and maybe that is what shoppers like. But the winter temps inside, no matter where I have sat, are too cold. So much heat escapes out the front entrance due to no buffer zone between the door and waiting area. It then pushes right to the back and it can be painfully cold.

Be sure to sign up for email announcements from Uno's. This can be done either in the restaurant or online. Recent coupons have been for a free entree with purchase, $10 dollars off your final bill over $25 and tastings of new menu items before they hit the public announcment boards or new menus. Uno's can be very crowded on weekends especially during high shopping times like summer, back to school and pre-holiday, so prepare for a wait during those times.

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I really enjoy my blogging and hope you enjoy reading. Remember, these are only my opinions relating to my daily experiences. If you are anonymous, let me know what city and state you are from in your comment. Thanks.