When It Comes To Pizza, It’s Hip to Be Square

Sausage and mushroom pizza take a fun square turn at Square Pie Guys in San Francisco.
Sausage and mushroom pizza take a fun square turn at Square Pie Guys in San Francisco.

First-time restaurateurs Marc Schechter and Danny Stoller may call themselves and their new San Francisco establishment, the Square Pie Guys.

Even if the pizza is actually rectangular. And even if the other items on the menu deserve top-billing, too, including Asian-style fried chicken wings that nearly steal the show.

Semantics aside, this Detroit-style pizza joint is already winning over fans and making repeat customers, even after being open just a month. On a recent Wednesday night, when I was invited in as a guest, the place was packed.

Detroit-style pizza was born in — where else — the Motor City. Originally, the thick-crust pizza was baked in industrial car parts trays. At Square Pie Guys, the pizzas are baked in deep rectangular pans.

Danny Stoller (left) and Marc Schechter (right) in the kitchen of the first restaurant to call their own.
Danny Stoller (left) and Marc Schechter (right) in the kitchen of the first restaurant to call their own.

Stoller hails from Seattle, where he cooked at such institutions as Tilth and Revel. Schechter worked his way though some of San Francisco’s finest pizza places, including Pizzahacker, Del Popolo, Casey’s, and Pizzeria Delfina.

“I’m a pizza nerd,” Schechter says proudly.

Not content to just mimic what he used to make at other establishments, Schechter decided to do Detroit-style pizza because, “Eating the ends of other pizzas just isn’t worth it. But Detroit-style is like a big cheese ball.”

Indeed, it is — with the cheese purposely placed all over the top of the dough, including the corners touching the pan, so that it melts, then gets wonderfully crisp on the edges.

The mostly open kitchen.
The mostly open kitchen.
The dining room with mezzanine seating above.
The dining room with mezzanine seating above.

You order at the counter here, then get a number to stick on your table, and wait until a server brings out your food. There’s a big roll of paper towels on each table — and you will need it. There’s also dispensers of chili flakes and grated Parmesan.

Plenty of paper towels at the ready at every table.
Plenty of paper towels at the ready at every table.

You might start with the chilled salad bowl ($12). Unless you are planning on sharing it with three other people, you are likely to not finish this in one sitting. It is enormous. I’m pretty sure if anyone ate all of it by themselves, they’d be too full to enjoy any pizza. And that would be a crime.

A big bountiful salad. And I mean, big.
A big bountiful salad. And I mean, big.

This hearty salad is heaped with kale, shave broccoli and florets, cherry tomatoes, creamy gigante beans, and sunflower seeds, and dressed with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. It’s vegan, too. It’s all crunchiness, with a hit of spice, and plenty of tomato flavor. It’s a hardy salad with all the kale, so even if you take leftovers home, it still tastes pretty good the next day without having turned into a soggy mess.

Szechuan chicken wings to fall for -- hard.
Szechuan chicken wings to fall for — hard.

Of course, you must order pizza here. But the other item you can’t skip is the House Szechuan Dry Fried Chicken Wings ($11). They are phenomenal. Stoller was inspired by the fried chicken at his favorite El Cerrito Chinese restaurant. The wings get a good amount of prickly heat from Japanese togarashi. They are super crisp and greaseless. They remind me of the seasoned five-spice salted fried chicken I grew up eating as a kid in Chinese restaurants. These are a little salty, but not so much as to make you think twice about reaching for another and another.

Square Pie Guys offer nine different pizzas. You can also create your own with customized toppings. Any pizza can be made gluten-free or with vegan cheese, too, for an additional $3 or $2 charge, respectively.

My husband decide to create his own ($16) — choosing the red sauce, roasted mushroom medley ($1.50), and Italian sausage ($3).

Another look at that meaty sausage pie.
Another look at that meaty sausage pie.

I went for the current special pie: Summer Elote Corn ($22), loaded with garlic ricotta cream, roasted kernels of local corn, taco seasoning, cherry tomatoes, cotija cheese, and cilantro-lime crema.

Traditional Detroit-style pizza is made with Wisconsin brick cheddar. At Square Pie Guys, though, they use a combination of cheddar and mozzarella.

When the rectangular pie arrives to the table, some first-time diners think it’s rather small. But it’s deceptive. As Schechter explains, the amount of dough used is the same weight as that of a medium pizza at Domino’s. Finish one piece here, then start on another, and you’ll soon realize you’ll have no problem feeling satiated.

What I appreciated with this pizza is that it’s not as much of a gut-buster as Chicago deep-dish style. You don’t feel like a brick is sitting in your stomach afterward. The crust is definitely thick, but the crumb is more like focaccia — airy and tender. And while the toppings are generous, they aren’t stacked to overkill like with deep-dish.

The mushroom-sausage pizza had the familiar flavors of that classic pairing, earthy and meaty, with the sweetness of the tomatoes in the sauce.

A square pie inspired by Mexican street corn.
A square pie inspired by Mexican street corn.

I initially feared the Summer Elote Corn would be too rich, creamy, and heavy tasting, given all that it had on it. But the cheeses and sauces aren’t added in extreme amounts. I liked how the corn kernels had charred edges for added smokiness. And the edges of the pizza were sublimely crisp and cheesy. Like a pan of brownies, the best pieces of a Detroit-style pizza are the corner ones.

For dessert, there is Monkey Bread ($7). It’s essentially balls of the pizza dough, fried with a crisp sugar shell. A pile of chopped fresh peaches goes over the top, and separate bowls of whipped cream and caramel sauce accompany it for slathering and dipping.

Monkey bread for dessert.
Monkey bread for dessert.

Because it’s made with pizza dough, this monkey bread is much heavier than the typical bakery version made with a more tender brioche- or airier croissant-type dough. It’s fine if all you want is something sweet to end the night with. But if you’re after a more pastry-like bomboloni or doughnut, this will disappoint.

Better to just save up the calories to come back another time for more square pizzas and fantastic wings.

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2 comments

  • There are so many different takes on pizza, aren’t there? And I love them all! Too much love, actually — it’s one of those dishes I eat only a few times a year because of all that love. 🙂 This looks terrific — thanks.

  • The Detroit pizza trend has been hitting the city for the last few months and I have yet to try a place because every time I go they sell out. Haha (OK, I maybe tried once or twice.) It’s nice to have new options to help spread out the wealth. I’m going to add this to my list. BTW, you know I won’t eat the chicken wings, but how do you think they get it to be greaseless? That’s my pet peeve of deep-fried foods.

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