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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe Opens Larger Lincoln Square Location — And Already Has Lines Outside The Doors

Jimmy's Pizza Cafe opened in late February in its new home on Montrose Avenue. "The best way to think about this is still as a neighborhood slice joint," owner Jimmy Kang said.

The pizza by the slice or pie counter at Jimmy's Pizza Cafe on March 1, 2022.
Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Neighborhood favorite Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe is back firing up its famous New York-style pizzas at its new, bigger location. 

Owner Jimmy Kang quietly reopened his namesake restaurant in late February at 2434 W. Montrose Ave. The demand for his pizzas has kept him and his staff busy as they settle into the much larger space, the former site of former site of Nick’s Pizza & Pub, Kang said.

“The best way to think about this is still as a neighborhood slice joint. You can walk up to the counter to order a slice, but on a much grander scale,” Kang said. “I didn’t want to lose that element.” 

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
Jimmy Pizza Cafe owner Jimmy Kang at his restaurant on March 1, 2022.

Kang was forced to move his popular pizza joint from 5155-5159 N. Lincoln Ave. after the City Council approved a developer’s plans in 2020 to tear down the two-story building and build a five-story building with work-live storefront units and 20 parking spaces. 

After nearly a year of searching for a space in hopes of staying in Lincoln Square, Kang bought the Montrose Avenue space in July 2021. 

Nick’s closed its Montrose location in 2018 to focus on its suburban locations. At the time, the owner said sales weren’t enough to cover the cost of the large building’s rent and other expenses.

Kang said at the time he’d hoped to transition by Labor Day, but the delay in securing city permits and building a larger-capacity oven pushed back their timeline. He closed the Lincoln Avenue location Feb. 7 and opened Feb. 20.

The Montrose location allows Kang to keep the same delivery zone while also expanding his dine-in and kitchen options. He’s also still waiting on liquor license approval from the city.

“I liked the layout of the place and I saw what I could do with it,” Kang said. “A lot of the bones were already here because of the former tenants put a lot of money into this place. I’m glad this worked out.”

Kang’s previous space was also too small to accommodate his Hot Rocks pizza oven, which uses a granite stone conveyor belt to cook up to 500 pizzas per hour if needed, he said

“It cooks on granite stone, so you’re still getting that crispy, Earth-baked crust,” Kang said. “It’ll always be perfect.”

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
Jimmy Kang’s new Hot Rocks pizza oven, which uses a granite stone conveyor belt to cook pizza pies at anywhere from 450 to 800 degrees in a matter of minutes.

Kang’s restaurant is known for its New York-style pizza by the pie and the slice, as well as beignets and coffee.

His restaurant was popular before the pandemic, but his takeout and delivery business skyrocketed during the dine-in bans in 2020.

Kang said Jimmy’s fans already are flocking to the new location with lines out the door on the weekends. He still occasionally runs out of dough because of the demand, but said more dough trays are coming through to help them serve more customers. The larger space also allows his team to keep more dough fermenting and ready to be baked than at his previous location. 

“It’s a great problem to have,” Kang said. 

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The order pickup window at Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe, 2434 W. Montrose Ave., on March 1, 2022.

The Montrose restaurant has two customer lines: one for anyone popping in for a slice and the other for pick-up orders.

The table setup is similar to Jimmy’s old location but with much more seating available alongside televisions and a fireplace, Kang said. 

As the weather warms, Kang said he wants to add patio seating and open an outdoor takeout window on the Artesian Avenue side of the building to potentially serve coffee and Italian ice. 

“The space has really given me the ability to really do what I want to do,” Kang said. “There’s a lot to do and the demand has continued to be pretty insane.”

Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago
The dine-in area at Jimmy’s Pizza Cafe, 2434 W. Montrose Ave., on March 1, 2022.

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