When our local take-and-bake pizza place folded this past summer, it left a big hole in my weekly menu plan. And it wasn’t just that. I was sentimental about it too. It was a place we’d been going to since before we had kids, and eventually, it became our go-to family spot at least once a week. Sometimes more.
So seeing a sign for Bake 425 turn up recently in our neighborhood got me excited. It has yet to officially open in Evanston, but the first locale, a few miles north of here, just did. While it’s based on the familiar carry-out, bake-at-home concept, Bake 425 has its own story to tell as far as its pizza is concerned.
This past weekend, the Highland Park location had a tasting, so I stopped in. The vibe was super-friendly. I got to meet the founder, Bill Borneman, and head chef, Ambrose Erkenswick, along with Norman Rice, the marketing director. The staff behind the counter quickly explained the amazing selection of toppings, and I sampled The Omnivore, which is way more fancy than I would normally pick, but I loved it! The minimal decor really gives the pizza and the beautiful ingredients the spotlight. A quick look at the menu screams that this is not your average pie, with names like Earth Lover, Backyard Barbecue, and Butternut Deluxe.
An earlier phone chat with Norman was all about the food: “We source the mushrooms from a little farm in Illinois. [Bake 425] is a gold mine for that sort of thing. We have super small batches of sausage from ‘Nduja Artisans … and Smoking Goose Meatery. There’s duck sausage, port sausage, a veal brat, and something called the Kitchen Sink. And we make our own fresh mozzarella everyday.”
Toppings range from simple organic vegetables to savory proteins and handmade cheeses — and include herbs from the store’s own garden wall. Seasonal produce like purple potatoes and brussels sprouts inspire the changing menu. Meals can even be gluten-free from start to finish, with dessert from Kiki’s.
I picked up a beautiful salad, and also saw a tidy selection of small-batch ice creams, all-natural sodas, and craft beers.
Bake 425 is not your typical pizza place, but don’t let all this fancy talk fool you. I happily walked out with my usual order: a tasty, basic pepperoni.
Update: Bake 425 has several locations.