In America, there’s always been this epic battle between people who love Chicago-style pizza and those who adore New York-style pizza. These two cities may be most famous for their pizza offerings, but there are lots of other places around the country that serve up a mean pan of deliciousness as well.
College towns are becoming famous foodie destinations because of their excellent pizza, and some of the places on this list might surprise you. Creative chefs and inspired eaters are taking college pizza beyond the familiar chain restaurants and into a whole new dimension. And if you have trouble agreeing on a pizza style and toppings with your dinner companions, you can always request “half and half” or just go for slices instead!
Here are 12 of the best cities to visit if you can’t get enough of that perfectly baked dough, cheese, sauce, and toppings.
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Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids may not have as many pizza restaurants as some of the other cities on this list, but the ones that are here are excellent. And since Michigan is known for having some excellent craft breweries, don’t limit yourself to just traditional pizza restaurants either. A local poll revealed that favorite Grand Rapids pizza places were Flo’s Pizza, The Mitten Brewing Company, and Harmony Brewing Company. The breweries in Grand Rapids have great beer and pizza at the same time, and honestly, was there ever a more perfect pairing? Other pizza spots to check out include Carlucci’s Pizza, Brick Road Pizza, and Licari’s Sicilian Pizza Kitchen.
Dayton is another great Midwestern city to order a pizza and be pleasantly surprised at how amazing it is. Local polls have been taken to tally up over 10,000 votes to determine the best pizza places so that visitors just passing through don’t need to figure it out for themselves! Last year, Dayton Pizza Madness collected over 28,000 votes to narrow the competition down to one champion: Cousin Vinny’s, a local chain that has 16 locations. Others in the top spots include Donato’s, with about a dozen Dayton locations, Beavercreek Pizza Dive, Cassano’s Pizza King, and Corleone’s Pizza.
Oakland is packed with amazing pizza places, and one of the most talked-about ones is called A16 Rockridge. With the best aspects of Italian traditions and California-fresh ingredients, this restaurant specializes in Neapolitan pizzas, seafood, and meats. Zachary’s Chicago Pizza on College Avenue has great deep-dish, and Forge Pizza on Franklin Street has some nice outdoor seating with a cozy fireplace. Meanwhile, Pizzaiolo is great for a date night, Boot and Shoe Service is nice for brunch, and Lanesplitter is the place to go if you love lots of toppings on your pizza.
Step aside Philly cheese steaks; there’s a new favorite food in town. In a city known for its rich American history, it should come as no surprise that there’s a restaurant calling itself a pizza museum here. The Pizza Brain has lots of pizza artifacts and serves up some great thin-crust too. Another top pick is Pizzeria Vetri, which has been named one of the top new restaurants in recent years and become wildly popular. This particular establishment has stayed true to pizza’s Italian roots with ultra-fresh ingredients.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is a top destination for beach lovers and families looking for endless entertainment for the kids. Research has shown that there are over 16 pizza restaurants per 10,000 people in Myrtle Beach, which is a lot for a town that has less than 30,000 in population. A top pick here is the Ultimate California Pizza on Kings Highway. California couldn’t be further away from South Carolina, but this pizza place lets you design your own ultimate pizza with a variety of crust, sauce, cheese, topping, and spice options. There are actually six locations of this local chain along the Grand Strand.
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City has become really famous for its barbecue, but it’s pizza is nothing to brush off either. Creative combinations and fresh flavors make Pizzabella in the Crossroads Arts District and Minsky’s favorite local picks. This is an affordable and accessible travel destination where you can eat pizza to your heart’s content and still have money left in your wallet for dessert. Bella Napoli is a great small Italian eatery with hand-tossed pizzas and traditional toppings, and d’Bronx Authentic Deli and Pizzeria serves New York-style pizza in whole pies or by the slice. SPIN! Is a local pizza spot that’s known for its offbeat combination options, and Waldo Pizza is a good option if you have a dietary restriction and need to go gluten-free or dairy-free. Grinders, The Art of Pizza, and Pizzabella are popular local options too.
Chicago is world-famous for its deep-dish pizza, and although you can find deep-dish all around the country these days, the Windy City is still the best place to get it. To learn more while you’re in town, consider booking a tour with Chicago Pizza Tours to sample five or so different pizzas over the course of a few hours. These days, Chicago pizzerias aren’t just sticking to deep-dish but exploring many different styles to suit every taste. Favorite spots include Pizzeria da Nella in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and Coalfire in West Town. Other places to check out are Macello in the West Loop, Piece in Wicker Park, the Boiler Room in Logan Square, and Bartoli’s in Roscoe Village. Honestly, this city has a wider and more diverse pizza portfolio than pretty much anywhere else in the country!
New York City, New York
While Chicago pizza is thick, New York pizza is thin-crust pizza that you’re supposed to fold to eat. Pizza places in New York City are a dime a dozen, which can be intimidating for visitors who don’t know where to go for the best slice. As in Chicago, it’s recommended that hardcore pizza lovers take a pizza tour to get to know the best restaurants in your borough of choice. One of the most famous spots is Lombardi’s Pizza on Spring Street and Grimaldi’s. But one of the best things about New York pizza places is that they’re open late and make the perfect night after a night out at the bars. And no matter what neighborhood you’re in, you are bound to find a great pizza.
South Bend, Indiana
The University of Notre dame is in South Bend, and it’s also the largest employer in the city. You might not expect to find one of America’s top pizza destinations here, but this college-fueled demand has created an awesome place to grab a slice. The Northern Indiana Pizza Wars have aimed to decide which restaurant serves up the best local pizza, and Giannetto’s Pizza & Pasta in Granger recently took the top spot. Other local favorites in South Bend are Barnaby’s South Bend in the downtown’s East Bank neighborhood, Lacopos’s Pizza in the northwest part of town, and Starlight Pizza on the south side.
The University of Tennessee has driven Knoxville’s pizza scene because of its affordable and consistently delicious menu options. A couple can’t miss spots are Hard Knox Pizza and Sergeant Pepperoni’s Pizza in town. Other favorites in town to consider are Gavino’s Pizzeria & Restaurant, Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza, and the Tomato Head, which has some good vegetarian options and sandwiches too.
Des Moines, Iowa
There’s more than just corn and fields in Iowa, the tastiest of which is the excellent pizza spots in Des Moines. There are many affordable pizza joints in town, including one particularly interesting place called Fong’s that combines the best aspects of an Asian fusion pizza and a tiki bar.
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence has a bustling arts, culture, and foodie scene that’s gradually taking a lead in terms of pizza. Here the favorite variety is the grilled pizza, which is a local specialty that involves cooking the dough on one side on a grill and flipping it before adding toppings. One favorite spot here is Bacaro in the downtown area, which is known as the birthplace of the grilled pizza. Another great place to try this grilled pizza specialty is Bob & Timmy’s Legendary Grilled Pizza, which has two locations in North Smithfield and Providence. For Brooklyn-style thin-crust check out Nice Slice on Thayer Street, and for Chicago-style deep-dish try Sicilia’s in the Federal Hill area.