Fast-casualists, rejoice: Coming October 9 to Evanston's Sherman Plaza is 800 Degrees (812 Church St., Evanston, no phone yet), Umami Burger's sister build-your-own pizza chain, with three crusts, 44 toppings, and endless possibilities.
Launched in California in 2012 and quickly plunked as far away as Dubai, 800 Degrees's Evanston location is the chain's tenth and first in the Midwest. Of course, the concept is the same everywhere: Approach the counter, pick your crust (Neapolitan, crispy, gluten-free), pick your base (Margherita, marinara, verde/pesto, bianco), pick your toppings (anything under the sun), and wait as your pizza artist pops it in the oven.
Pressed on what separates 800 degrees from its assembly-line compatriots (Subway, Blaze, Chipotle), owner Anthony Carron touts its premium ingredients and a ritzy interior. "We're more of a real restaurant," says the former Michael Mina chef. "Real wood, marble counters, a nice selection of beers and wine, chandeliers. When you see the pizza, you'll understand."
Chandeliers aside, 800 Degrees's most staggering asset is factory efficiency. With two wood-fueled ovens burning at a trademark 800 degrees, Carron can torch ten pizzas at a time for 90 seconds each and churn out 800 to 1,200 pies a day. (The eatery's namesake ovens take two weeks to heat up to an operational 800 degrees at first, and hover around 600 when they're turned off at night.)
On top of personal pizzas, 800 Degrees will also sell salads, bread, beer, wine ("not boxed"), and, for those prone to the paradox of choice, a handful of preassembled pizzas (quattro formaggi, sausage and peppers, spicy meatball). For dessert, Carron is searching for a local gelato purveyor. To experience the lot of it, downtowners needn't trek north for too much longer: An expansion to Michigan Avenue is already slated for July 2016.