Logan Square’s Boiler Room set up shop in 2006 and remains a neighborhood “hidden gem.” Honestly, I’d prefer that it not be so hidden, so I’m encouraging you to drop everything and get your cheeks in a seat as soon as possible.
Why? Because head chef Bill Harner has something really special going here, and you need to experience it. Following his eight years with a steakhouse chain and a stint as a teacher, he came back to the thing he enjoys: pizza. And he takes his pizza seriously enough to give the dough a two-day rise, source his ingredients responsibly, and serve it up in a location that is both eco-friendly and the regular kind of friendly.
There are so many reasons to dig this place, so I’ve compiled my top reasons to hit Boiler Room ASAP.
They don’t rush the dough at Boiler Room, instead opting for a two-day rise. The result is a dough flexible enough to be used for appetizers like their bruschetta, which they grill and serve with tomatoes, basil, a baby burrata, and green olives.
It’s also a superior platform for their thin-crust pizza, which they offer by the slice or as 20” whole pies. These include always-available favorites like the Waltzing Matilda (honey mustard, cheddar, sautéed mushrooms, grilled Amish chicken, bacon, and mixed herbs) and seasonal offerings like the Pesto Forever (pesto, fontina cheese, roasted red pepper, artichokes, tomatoes, and scallions). Kick in an extra $5 to add chicken to the Forever Pesto pizza. You’ll be glad you did.
The dough also makes for amazeball desserts, like the airy powder-sugar dusted puffs accompanied by two types of life-altering alcoholic soft-serve ice cream. More on that in a bit.
Boiler Room’s interior furnishings have all been salvaged and repurposed to make a space that is both comfortable and funky. The cast-iron bar back was salvaged from an Illinois Steam Boiler Works boiler; booths and other seating are formed from reclaimed school desks, industrial tie down straps, and other recycled components; and old-school hospital lights have been repurposed along the walls and above tables in the main dining area. Even the washrooms make use of reclaimed transit doors and fittings (complete with overhead announcement when the doors open).
The restaurant also installed a one-of-a-kind solar panel setup that powers the kitchen hoods, and they’re readying the roof for this year’s herb garden which they’ll use for the menu items. The herb garden and three-season patio garden are watered using collected rainwater as well.
At Boiler Room, front and back of the house staff are encouraged to experiment and make recommendations for the food and drinks menus. Harner estimates that 50 percent of the items listed came about through staff experimentation. As a result, the staff are much more invested in what’s being served, have a better understanding of the ingredients (including where they are sourced), and can give you on-point recommendations to make your Boiler Room experience much more personal and enjoyable.
Boiler Room is big on Jameson and Pabst Blue Ribbon, so those items feature prominently in their specials, including:
- PB&J: A slice of pizza, PBR tall boy, and shot of Jameson for $8.50. This is available all day.
- Jameson soft-serve: Two rules govern my drinking life: “Be wary of dairy,” and “If it’s brown, put it down.” Boiler Room had me breaking both of them with their Jameson soft-serve ice cream. I tried it as part of their dessert mentioned earlier (served with pillowy powder-sugar covered beignet-style puffs). Each serving contains a shot of liquor, and it works. It really does. This was the highlight of the meal, truly. (They also do a phenomenal Jameson-infused cheesecake that you need to try if ice cream isn’t your thing.)
- Vegan Tuesdays: Boiler Room gives the vegans some each Tuesday, with pies featuring Follow Your Heart vegan cheese and seitan meat substitutes.
- PBR Bingo: The restaurant hosts free bingo “that doesn’t suck” on the first Monday of the month. Win PBR swag!
- Movie Night: On the last Sunday of the month, they show movies that use to feature PBR, but now are ones that they simply enjoy.
- Big Gay Brunch: Held in conjunction with Pride Weekend each year.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Boiler Room is cash-only. If you use their in-house ATM, show your receipt to the bar or waitstaff to receive a shot of Jameson. The ATM costs $2.75 to use but a shot is $3, so you make money on the deal.
- Last call for food and alcohol is 1:30 a.m.
- The new spring menu launches May 24.
Boiler Room is located at 2210 N. California Avenue in Logan Square. It’s right across the street from the California stop on the Blue Line.