I’ve been away for a bit, traveling on Barbecue Sauce business. It would seem that while I was away, there’s been a fair amount of activity on this thread.
In reading your posts, I find there are a few questions, misconceptions and issues that should be addressed. I particularly want to speak to the reaction that my comments regarding Pequod’s current owner were inappropriate.
My “strident” and disparaging remarks regarding the current owner of Pequod’s were unsuitable to this forum, and I apologize. Not so much to their target, as to the members of LTHForum, whose judgment, and in whose intellectual capacity I should have placed more trust. Your assertions are correct; an objective comparison of the pros and cons of Burt’s versus Pequod’s would have been enough to make my case.
In hindsight, I realize my real frustration was in coming to a website that is populated by people who are obviously in the know, who care about good food; and reading all the accolades for Pequod’s with nary a word about its founder or his current establishment. Thank you to those of you who took my suggestion, and visited Burt’s Place. I’m glad you enjoyed your food, and, I hope that if I was waiting on you the night you came in, that my service added positively to the experience.
Now, if you will please allow me, I will try to tackle your comments.
I’m impressed that you actually went to the trouble of going to both Burt’s and Pequod’s on the same night. Without even being there, I can tell you that the man seated across the room was, in fact, Burt. Mrs. Burt’s name is Sharon, and she is a nice lady.
The pizza does come out quickly as you noted, about 25 minutes from order to serving, if Burt isn’t swamped with other orders. I believe you were there on a Wednesday or Thursday; 25 minutes sounds about right. If you’re coming in on a Friday or Saturday, you would do well to call ahead to place an order. It’s certainly not necessary, but if you’re in a hurry, it’s not a bad idea. In case you’re wondering, nothing is pre-made. The dough is roughly patted out in the pan ahead of time and allowed to rise, but other than that, each pie is made from scratch. The telephone number (write this down because it’s unlisted) is (847) 965-7997.
Your friend Cathy is correct on the sausage having a nice garlic overtone, but it is not sliced, as you indicated. What you were looking at was loose sausage, hand formed into a patty, and placed on the pizza. The sausage is extremely lean, too. In its raw state it almost looks like lean ground sirloin, very red with little fat. In fact, a long time customer of ours bought some recently to make meat sauce at home. She started to brown off the sausage and found she had to add olive oil to the pan in order to keep it from sticking!
As for your notes on the décor and atmosphere at Pequod’s, the reason there are similarities is that when Burt sold the place in ’86, the current owner was smart enough to know that he needed some remnants of the original ambience if he was going to keep any of the old customers. Burt was gracious enough to sell him some of his lesser pieces to adorn the walls.
As for the absence of ladies underwear; the reports of crude humor and inappropriate wall hangings came from converts coming in to Burt’s to tell us about what was happening at the old store. I haven’t set foot in Pequod’s in twenty years, so admittedly I don’t know any of this first hand. But if enough people tell you the exact same thing often enough, you gotta figure it’s true. On the other hand, d4v3 has confirmed in one of his posts that there were indeed the juvenile decorations of which I wrote, and more. We still get ex-Pequod’s customers almost weekly, and as no one had indicated the removal of the underwear, I assumed it was still there. I apologize for my assumption, it was out of place.
I cannot comment on the metal chairs and Formica tables. When we left in ’86, the room had a similar feel to Burt’s current place. Although there were no booths, we had large round tables covered with deep red oil cloth tablecloths and heavy wood captains chairs at every table.
Finally, the background media. As previously mentioned, Burt loves classical music, opera, blues, and jazz. He also recognizes and respects his customers’ desire to be able to talk to each other without needing to shout. While he may have a handful of antique televisions on display, he would never have one blaring sports, or any other programming, while you eat.
G Wiv and Cathy2,
As stated at the beginning of this post, my personal comments regarding Pequod’s current owner were unnecessary. I apologize to the LTH members for going overboard in my approach. I should have known that the people on this site are smart enough to make up their own minds when presented with clear, objective evidence.
That said; let me give you a little background and history so that maybe, you can understand the level of frustration that brought about my initial comments. I worked for Burt at Pequod’s from 1973 until he sold the place in 1986. I started when I was 15 years old washing dishes, then worked my way up through the kitchen; made it onto the floor as a busboy and finally headwaiter/floor manager. Although I was never an owner, Burt’s level of trust and reliance on my abilities to run the front of the store made me feel that I was an integral part of the business.
We all worked hard to build that business, and we succeeded to a high degree. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, there were lines going out the door. Think Paradise Pup, in Des Plaines on a warm spring day and extend that image throughout the year, warm or cold, wet or dry, snow, hail, typhoons, it didn’t matter, we were busy from dinnertime to closing at midnight.
Our clientele covered every age group, every ethnicity and nationality, every political leaning you could name. We created an atmosphere at Pequod’s that fostered a willingness in our customers; people who had never met, to get to know and talk to each other (It should be noted that even today, at Burt’s, we’re getting the grown children of those original customers, now bringing in their own children. We’ve got three generations of the same families visiting us). It was a golden era and a very special time and place.
Burt ran the place the way he liked, eschewing every hackneyed business dictum (the original Morton Grove store on Fernald, off the main drag, surrounded by private homes, should tell you how he feels about that old saw, “Location, location, location”). He played classical music and opera, and we were still packed with high school kids. When they asked him to change the station he politely but firmly refused, telling them very diplomatically that this is the music we played here and there was no negotiation. And you know what? Those kids kept coming back! Some of them even got to like the music.
Burt served a good, honest product at a fair price in a store where everyone was treated with respect. We were known for kibitzing with the regulars, giving them a mock “hard time”, but when we treated you like that, you knew you were part of the family. In essence we ran the store and created an atmosphere of familiarity that we would have wanted if we were customers ourselves.
When Burt sold the place in ’86, I will admit there was some anger on my part. It’s difficult to say, but some of it was directed at him for not selling the place to me. In hindsight, it was the biggest favor he ever did for me and I’ve forgiven him several times over. I wasn’t ready for the level of commitment needed to be a restaurant owner, I had my own career going (by that time Pequod’s was my second job; I was only working Friday and Saturday nights, taking Sundays off to be with my family), and frankly I don’t think I could have done it without him. Besides, his opening the new place three years later was a direct cause of my starting the Barbecue Sauce business soon after.
The main focus of my anger, though, was on the new guy. Let me ask this; if you had never owned or run a restaurant before in your life, and suddenly you bought a successful restaurant (paid top dollar for it too, I might add), one that literally had lines going out the door every weekend of the year, where you had a steady and loyal customer base who brought in new family and friends on a regular basis, wouldn’t you wait at least a few months, just to see what made the place so successful, before making any changes? I mean, if it was a struggling business, then I can see where immediate change might be necessary, but this place had everything going for it.
The new guy started making ridiculous changes from the first minute of the first day. Burt even stayed on for a month, after the sale was complete, to guide and inform, so there would be a smooth transition. The new owner never approached him for help or advice. He thought he was smarter than all of us, even though the level of success he had paid so dearly for was all our doing.
I’m sure some of you are making the argument, “It’s his place; he can do what he wants with it.” You’re right. But, if you’re going to buy a restaurant and make it over in your own image, why not buy a place without an existing reputation and character, spend a lot less money, and turn it around? I mean, what if it’s specifically the classical music that makes the place so special? What if it’s the fact that there are no televisions in sight that keeps your regulars coming in week after week? And what about the food? Clearly they’re not making the pizza the same way Burt did. Why change the food in a successful restaurant? Before making any changes, shouldn’t you wait and see just what it is about the place that keeps your customers coming back so regularly? Why make changes that are going to result in chasing away a broad existing customer base?
Others of you are probably saying to yourselves, “BuddyRoadhouse couldn’t handle the changes. He’s used the word “change” in a negative context numerous times in this post” (I’m nothing if not self-aware). Well, your right and your wrong. I actually thrive on change. Finding a newer, better way to do something has always been a joy for me. The difference here is that nothing about these changes was newer or better. Not only that, but they were made, as I said, without any previous restaurant experience or any amount of time to find out why we did things the way we did them while Burt ran the place.
My final and most definitive argument regarding the poor management of Pequod’s by its new owner is this: As I stated, we used to have lines waiting to get in. We would take your order while you were waiting in line so that when you sat down your food would come up quicker. People tried to bribe me for a table (I never took the money). So, let me ask you this; anybody have any trouble getting a table at Pequod’s lately?
Sorry for the rant, but, I do not suffer fools gladly.
I’m very happy that you enjoyed your experience at Burt’s.
Thank you for the vindication regarding the crude décor at Pequod’s. As I said, it’s been a long time since I’ve been near the place, and was basing my comments on remarks from ex-Pequod customers who show up on Burt’s doorstep. You are correct, though, the motivation for my statements was more out of enthusiasm for Burt’s as opposed to any long harbored resentment for the current owner of Pequod’s, despite evidence to the contrary in the above argument.
Good call on the peppers. Burt uses fresh peppers of every color available on any given trip to the market. In addition, if you order mushrooms, you will find, depending on availability and price, mixed in with the typical white buttons, chunks of shiitakes, portabellos, and porcinis. His spinach is fresh leaf as opposed to the frozen, chopped variety (if you get the spinach, make sure to order it with another ingredient on top. The one draw back to fresh spinach is that it dries out pretty quickly in a 700 degree pizza oven. The extra ingredient on top will keep the spinach moist). Also, if you like a nice tangy flavor every once in a while, try the banana peppers; good stuff!
As for the difference in crust thickness from outer edge to center, each crust is hand patted, with all the potential imperfections that implies. I wish I could say the difference you noticed was by design, but alas, it is just happy coincidence.
Good eye on the IHOP plates. But, let me ask you this; are they vintage International House of Pancakes plates, or are they specially designed International House of Pizza plates?
Also, you’re right about the antipasto salad. It is a good little salad but should be renamed, having no resemblance to an actual antipasto. It is something I have tried to convince Burt to change, but as stated above, he does things his way, rightly or wrongly.
As for the onion rings, knuckle under next time and try them (order a smaller pizza). They are excellent, particularly when dipped in my Barbecue Sauce!
Finally, for those of you who have stuck around this long, let me make some recommendations so you’ll always be happy eating at Burt’s. All the pizza ingredients are exceptional; from the crust to the cheese to the tomatoes and all the toppings. Burt does have some additional items on the menu as a courtesy to that group of folks who come in with one guy who doesn’t like pizza (?!?). Lasagna, ravioli, mastaciolli; they are just “okay” and do not even begin to compare with the pizza. If that one “odd man out” is in your group, encourage him to get the hamburger. It is an excellent ½ pound institutional burger that I eat from time to time when I want a change of pace. If you stick to the pizza, salads and garlic bread (the garlic bread is outstanding, by the way) you’ll have a wonderful experience every time at Burt’s.
Thanks one and all for your patience with my posts and your willingness to give Burt’s a chance.
Hope to see you soon,
8541 N. Ferris
Morton Grove, IL 60053