The pizza universe is a deep and expansive one, with more regional styles and variations out there than can be easily counted. From the classic Neapolitan pie evolved the countless round pies out there, from the New York slice to the bar pie; from its Sicilian cousin we have all sorts of rectangular pies, and everything in between is a cheesy, saucy mix of long-ago whims and inspiration. But over the past few years, the signature pizza style of Detroit has begun to take hold of the nation’s pizza subconscious, and it’s a style that you definitely need to know about.
Detroit-style pizza can trace its roots to the city’s industrial heritage; its signature square shape comes from the pans originally used in the pizza’s development, which were intended to be used to hold nuts and bolts in factories. Today, Detroit-style pizza is known for its thick and chewy crust, which is achieved by baking it in a well-oiled pan, once before and once after toppings are added. The edges tend to be cooked to well-done and crunchy, the bottom is crispy and almost fried, and the cheese is usually Wisconsin brick cheese, which is sweet, mild, and perfect for melting. In some cases, the tomato sauce is ladled on top of the cheese and toppings instead of below; the smallish pies are usually cut into four square slices.
In Detroit, Buddy’s Pizza, a chain dating back to 1946 that has 12 locations in the area, is widely regarded as the inventor of, and standard-bearer for, Detroit-style pizza, but many other purveyors of this square pie have popped up since then.
Detroit-style pizza was a regional anomaly as recently as a decade ago, but in recent years its popularity has exploded. In 2013, Detroit-based Little Caesars took the pie nationwide, and this style of pizza has even caught on in New York City, where Emmy Squared opened to wide acclaim in Brooklyn in 2016 and has since expanded to Manhattan and Nashville. Padrino’s is spreading the Detroit-style gospel in Los Angeles, Union Squared in Chicago, Via 313 in Austin… as more and more people become aware of Detroit-style pie, more and more people hope to find a nearby place where they can try it.
So what is it about Detroit-style pizza that’s so good? For one, because the pies are small, every slice is a corner slice, with its chewy, caramelized crust and edge-to-edge cheese and toppings. And because the crust is thick and crisp, it never gets soggy or saggy and can support as many toppings as you want. It also, as you can probably imagine by now, tastes really, really good.
So go forth with this knowledge and seek out the Detroit-style pie nearest you. And if there isn’t one, you can always just try some of the best pizza in your state.