Food & Culture

Hip to be Square

Where to find excellent Detroit-style pizza in Seattle

By Aimee Rizzo June 9, 2021


This article originally appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Seattle, like everywhere else in America, is full of pizza.

The city has become a cheese-and-dough chameleon, with restaurants serving tons of regional specialties, from listered Neapolitan pies and Roman slices to foldable New York-inspired triangles and Chicago deep dish. But Detroit-style? That was hard to find. Until now.

This rectangular cousin to Sicilian pizza is categorized by its thick, puffy, crunchy crust, sauce layered on top of bubbling mozzarella and the most identifiable differentiator: crispy caramelized cheese edges. Since we’re in the middle of a Detroit pie renaissance, I ate from every single place in town that serves them. Really. From underground pop-ups to sports bars, these are the seven best spots for Motor City-style pan pizza in the Emerald City.

It’s not easy to secure a pie from Derek Reiff’s underground pop-up in Fremont called My Friend Derek’s, but it’s well worth keeping your eyes peeled on Insta-gram (@myfrienddereks) for what is some of the greatest pizza in Seattle, Midwestern-inspired or not. The bottom of the crust has this delicious brittle cornmeal crunch that gives way to a not-too-thick, denser-but-light dough layered with the ideal amount of stretchy cheese and an outstanding tomato sauce accented by toasty garlic. Add some Castelvetrano olives on top for a briny zing, and enjoy the best Detroit-style pizza in town. There, I said it.

The enormous hype surrounding Moto, its pizza and the friendliness of the staff is real. This little house in West Seattle serves square pies that meet all of the prerequisites, including salty brick cheese shipped from Wisconsin. There are classic pepperoni pies with phenomenally frizzled crust edges, but you’ll also find ones featuring Dungeness crab with dill, ground beef with American cheese, 100% plant-based options and the best pizza in the (literal) house: Mr. Pig. It’s topped with succulent Filipino pork belly, sau-sage, and a drizzle of calamansi lime sauce that ties it all together to cut through the heaviness without being overpoweringly citrusy. To be clear, you want this pizza. And you’ll also want a butter-pecan flavor twisted soft serve cone afterward.

Sometimes it’s necessary to strategically plan your afternoon around pizza. Capitol Hill newcomer Cornelly typically serves round pies, but offers squares by the slice on Sundays. Only catch is, you have to place your order in person, and it sells out soon after opening at 4 p.m. While you’ll find predictable pepperoni slices with Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes as part of its lineup, Cornelly experiments with sponta-neous flavors of the moment, like fontina and ricotta with garlic confit, or smoky duck pastrami with charred radicchio and saba. The crispy caramelized cheese edges on each piece crunch like a sonic boom, and their fluffy fermented dough has a wonderful sourdough-like funk.

At Chef Jason Stoneburner’s aptly named Sunny Hill in Ballard’s Sunset Hill neighborhood, he’s serving Detroit-style pies among other things like burg-ers and homemade waffle fries. These hefty squares have a chewy, focaccia-like crust that stands up to a consistent blanket of mozzarella and crushed toma-toes spiked with earthy dried oregano. Not to mention add-ons ranging from Mama Lil’s peppers to anchovies to spicy pepperoni laced with crisp ridges. This sturdy pie is made better with a side of tangy feta ranch, fit for dunking crust bits and/or pouring all over the top. And the best part? Pizzas come sliced in four, so no need to fight with loved ones over the highly coveted corner pieces.

In contrast to the shatteringly crunchy squares on this list, Chachi’s Pizza crust has a tender sponginess that works to its advantage, thanks to Shepherd’s Grain flour and a three-day fermentation process. The dough is fantastic, and yet, it’s really a blank canvas for what gets melted, dolloped, drizzled and sprinkled on top. Among the classic cheese pizzas, you’ll find a few signature creations, like a potato leek pie with chorizo and confit garlic, or our favorite, The Abuela, with a vibrant no-cook tomato sauce, pep-peroni, creamy ricotta, Calabrian chiles, nutty sesame seeds, honey and a garden’s worth of fresh herbs that balance the sweet heat tremendously well. To find out where and when to grab some, check it out on Instagram (@chachispizza).

Woodinville sports bar The Pizza Coop & Ale House offers 28 differ-ent pies to choose from, and all sport a pillowy, yeasty crust reminiscent of New York-style Sicilian slices. And with more than two dozen options, The Pizza Coop’s topping combinations are un-doubtedly inventive. Case in point: pies involving ingredients like prosciutto, Beecher’s flagship and chardonnay-infused butter sauce, or chicken tenders with bacon, parmesan and a heavy hand of herby house-made ranch. No disrespect to the tasty pizzas drenched in salad dressing and wine butter, but don’t miss the Bo Knows, a classic red topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, oregano and incredible fennel meatballs that have a terrific kick of spice.

You’ll have to hop the ferry to get to Kilroy’s Pizza, a pop-up on Bainbridge Island that operates at Streamliner Diner on Friday nights. And while owner and pizza wizard James Lorimer serves round New York-style pizza, there are also rectangular pan pies available. I’d advise anyone to set sail from Seattle just for the white sausage pizza. Complete with a buttery, airy crust, ricotta cream, jam-infused caramelized onions and crumbled pork from Wood Heart Meats, it tastes like a beautiful cross between French onion soup and a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.

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