Steamer and I tend to talk big when it comes to holidays—like the Christmas we planned to go downtown for a fancy-schmancy dinner—and inevitably end up ordering delivery or cooking a frozen pizza, generally because Steamer drinks too much on any day ending in "Eve." I can't remember my sisters' phone numbers but I have a shortlist of open-365-days restaurants committed to memory. When Easter rolled around this year, Steamer and I once again talked big—especially since my brother was in town for a visit.
It shouldn't have been a big surprise that we spent the morning eating chocolate bunnies and the afternoon debating whether we should have the proper lamb dinner or take the pizza route. We compromised—pizza out—and settled on Coalfire Pizza, a spot we had heard only great things about.
What I didn't have memorized was where to get booze on a Sunday night—calls to the near-Coalfire Binny's and Di Carlo's reminded me that it's not always easy to buy beer after 6 p.m. Wary of wandering through River West in search of holiday hooch, we swung by Logan Square's Vas Foremost Liquors.
Steamer ran in with a $20 in hand and came out with a 12-pack of Lowenbrau. Enter pouty Zinny: I like red ales and Belgian beers, and German lager and pizza sounded like a watery bore. "Shows how much you know," said Steamer. The drinking bout was on!
We waltzed into semi-empty Coalfire and grabbed a table. Service was quick—both in offering a beer opener and in taking our order. The menu is pretty simple, and our request followed suit: We bypassed the salad, cracked open three beers, and went straight for the pizza.
Coalfire puts "an American spin on the classic Neapolitan-style pizza," baking super-thin cheese-topped crusts in an 800-degree oven; sauce and toppings sit on top. We settled on one meat and one non from the Coalfire Creations list, which recommended one eight-piece pizza for 1-2 people: the Margherita, with mozzarella, romano, olive oil and basil (we added black olives for a buck); and the Proscuitto, topped eponymously.
I braced myself for the first sip—and it was OK, actually somewhat flavorful. I bit my tongue and opened my mouth, polishing off half the clean and dry brew before the pizza (quickly) hit the table, the silver trays cleverly placed on industrial-size cleaned-out cans of tomatoes.
We dove in, grabbing slices that were almost appetizer size; in other words, guilt-free. The crust was thin but more chewy than crispy, ashy but not burnt tasting, and the olives on my piece were certainly thrown with a heavy hand. It was good, and I was happy to see Steamer and my bro chomping down on the proscuitto: more slices for me…and more beer.
I cracked open my second and move over, Peroni. I wouldn't have thought to grab a German beer for my Neapolitan night, but Steamer's choice did nothing to squash the pizza's flavor, and the pizza's flavor didn't overpower the Lowenbrau—or turn it into a watery mess. With a slightly full mouth I mumbled an apology and acknowledged Steamer's beer-selecting prowess, to which I got a "ha!" and a "Stick to the wine, Zinny!" in response.
I had kept a menu expecting we'd order a third pizza. Easter bunnies or not, our collective appetite is usually a big one. Instead, we ended up taking some to go and finishing our holiday at home, in front of "The Family Guy," polishing off the last of the 12-pack and idly snacking on the last couple of pieces. Steamer got one more beer apology, too, somewhere around that fourth Lowenbrau.
Zinny Fandel's tales of living the (mostly) BYOB life are intended to be attempted at home and in the community, preferably at BYOB restaurants. If you know of a BYOB spot she simply must tipple at, let her know.