Jake and Elwood’s in Louisville serves Chicago-style pizza and hot dogs
I have always loved pizza. But when I was a kid, there were really only two types of pies I was used to: the bland rectangular pieces of cardboard that were served at school and the personal molds that I won with At Pizza Hut RESERVE! program. Needless to say, I read a lot and was obsessed with those miniature slices – overcooked pepperoni and all.
Fortunately, I’ve come a long way since then, and Louisville offers a plethora of pizza options. One is At Jake and Elwood’s, a restaurant on Frankfort Avenue that serves deep-dish pizzas and Chicago-style hot dogs. I sat down with owner John Thurlow to talk about making pizza amid the pandemic.
Originally from Chicago, Thurlow was previously a programmer for the Chicago Trade Exchange. Although he never worked in the restaurant industry, he always wanted to open a Chicago-style restaurant.
“I had visited Louisville,” he told the Courier Journal, “and absolutely loved the city. On July 5, 2019, I submitted my two-week resignation (and on) July 19, I moved here. I really wanted to bring my love of Chicago food to another city.
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When his real estate agent called about an availability — the building that once housed the Frankfort Avenue institute, Cliftons Pizza — he set his sights on opening a shop there.
“I didn’t get out of here until the landlady agreed to sign a lease with me,” he recalls. “We opened our doors (on) March 16, 2020 – which is the same day the Governor closed the restaurants. We opened at 11 (and) actually had a full dining room. (But) at 6 p.m., everyone had to leave.
Thurlow said he felt lucky because everything on the menu — pizzas, hot dot dogs, sammiches, etc. – was easy to offer to take away.
“If that hadn’t been the case,” he said, “with the time and money I invested in this place, I would have gone bankrupt, on the spot.”
Staffing, he says, was a challenge from the start.
“All the good employees were already working elsewhere,” he said, “(but) within weeks of opening I had a line of people who wanted to work here because (so many other) restaurants closed. .”
The influx of potential employees, however, was short-lived. He says that when people started getting stimulus checks and unemployment benefits, the line of eager workers dwindled.
“I went from having adequate employees, to having great employees, to having no employees,” he said.
Two years later, Thurlow is still looking for workers — Jake and Elwood are still hiring, he says — but they’ve all learned to get by with a smaller crew.
“I have a very good staff now,” he said. “The backbone of this place…is the staff.”
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He adds that his head chef, Dave Hawkins, has been a godsend.
“He was a client here,” Thurlow said, “and he left (his last job) specifically to come and work for us. … He really loved (this place) and wanted to see it succeed.
The pizzas Hawkins makes, adds Thurlow, are unlike anything else in town.
“A lot of people don’t understand that…our deep dish pizza’s crust is thinner than our thin crust pizza,” he said. “You lift the crust off the side of the pan and pile it deep. On our 14 inch pizza we have about four and a half pounds of cheese on it.
Thurlow offers eight different deep dish versions – plus a build-your-own option – in small and large sizes. Meat lovers will appreciate The Stockyards, which offers Italian sausages, pepperoni, bacon and ground beef; and vegetarians could opt for The Wrigleyville, made with fresh spinach, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and red onions.
“It’s really great value,” Thurlow said. “You can come here and spend $29.99 and you can easily feed a family of four and take home leftovers.”
Jake and Elwood’s pizzas — plus Chicago-style dogs and sammiches — are available six days a week, via counter service to sit-down in the dining room and out back on the pet-friendly patio .
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“I say ‘pet’ rather than ‘dog,'” Thurlow explained with a laugh, “(because) we’ve had cats, dogs, goats, ferrets, parrots, (and) a boa constrictor (here).”
Thurlow is currently working on expanding the bar area on deck. Customers will soon be able to enjoy their pizza between games of table tennis, billiards and darts while listening to live music on weekends. For now, the outdoor bar is only for cracking open beers, but patrons can enjoy the full bar — and viewings of Chicago Cubs games — inside.
“It’s a full bar…but (it’s) more of a beer and shot type place,” Thurlow said, adding that once the rest of the outdoor area is complete, Jake and Elwood will be a neighborhood place to go. people can just hang out and hang out together.
“I think the industry will come back,” he said. “We’re finally turning this…curve.”
Given the evolving nature of the coronavirus pandemic, the focus of our weekly restaurant column will change for the foreseeable future. Each week, Lennie Omalza will interview restaurants struggling to adapt and survive while serving our community. Please send your cover suggestions to Managing Editor Kathryn Gregory at [email protected]
WHAT: This is a sports bar and neighborhood pizzeria that serves authentic taste of Chicago, including deep-dish pizzas, dogs, and Chicago-style sammiches.
WHERE: 2230 Frankfurt Ave.
SERVICESindoor dining, outdoor seating, takeout and delivery via DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats; Tuesday and Wednesday, 4 p.m.-12 a.m.; Thursday and Friday, 4 p.m. to midnight; Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Sunday, noon to 9 p.m.; closed on Mondays
CONTACT: 502-690-2167, jakeandelwoods.com