TJ, TTM and other interested parties,
Ordering ahead from Burt's is not an absolute requirement, but not pre-ordering is a huge gamble.
Just a minor tweak to CTD's wording, the folks who walked in without pre-ordering were not denied service, they were simply told the truth; a 90 minute-two hour wait (and it can go as high as three or four hours) for a pizza; and then allowed to decide if they wanted to wait that long. The only time we get someone who is willing to either wait or order and come back, is when they have come from out of town (actually, a very common occurrence given our exposure on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations", Saveur (and plenty others) magazine, local TV, and the internet) and feel like it is a "now or never" situation.
Pre-ordering is much simpler than some less than bright folks would have you believe. Just call ahead as far in advance as you possibly can (some out-of-towners will call days and even weeks in advance. Locals usually call very early on the day they want to come in. Call too late and you will either lose out or be forced to take a dining time of 8:00pm or later). Place your order (you can see a copy of Burt's Place menu at urbanspoon.com), including the number of people you're coming in with and what time you want to eat. Show up 15 minutes before the agreed upon time for your pizza to be ready, and that's it. If you called for your pizza to be served at 7:00pm, then it will be on the table at 7:00pm whether you are sitting there or not.
A couple of insider hints (all of this should be obvious to a Roadfood veteran but I know there will be folks visiting this site for the first time, reading this):
1. Know what you want before you pick up the phone and call in your order (see urbanspoon reference above)! We have a very small, very busy staff trying to take care of a lot of people. We don't have time to read the menu to you while you and your spouse discuss (usually at length) what you want on your pizza.
2. Make sure all your friends know you are coming to Burt's before you call in your order. Do not place your order then call everyone you know to tell them that you are going to Burt's. This will inevitably lead to people saying, "Ooh, we want to go to Burt's too! Can you call them back and change the order and add to the number of people you'll be coming in with?"
Calling back with changes puts you on the naughty list. This is a 35 seat restaurant with two people running the floor and one guy (Burt) doing all the cooking. We take orders very judiciously; making sure we can provide good service and good food to only so many people in any given half hour shift. Once that shift has been filled to what we consider "capacity", we stop taking orders for that time slot. If you call back with changes, that screws us up and could possibly affect your fellow diners.
3. Don't ask us to recommend something. There are no preset combinations. Order what you like. The list of ingredients you'll see at urbanspoon.com is ala carte. You can create whatever combination you want and we will make it to your specifications. Presumably, you have ordered a pizza before from somewhere else. Whatever combination you liked at that other place will be just as wonderful (if not more so) at Burt's. If you ask me what I like on my pizza I will tell you, "Anchovies, broccoli, habanero peppers, and caramel sauce" If you think that sounds like a tasty combination, then may God have mercy on your soul.
4. While I don't want Burt's to sound as cheerless and as rule-bound as Seinfeld's Soup Nazi (a comparison we hate, BTW), it is a business. A very busy business at that. We want to take your order, take good care of you, and then do the same for as many people as possible in an evening. Unless you are, in fact, David Letterman, let let me state the obvious by saying, "You're not David Letterman". Save the bad jokes and the interview questions for someplace else.
If all this sounds too complicated or repressive, then okay. Check out Lou Malnati's when you're in Chicago. We only have nine tables. If you're not filling up space in one of them, it just means we've got one more table available for someone who really wants to be there.
Sorry if the above sounds snarky or mean spirited. It's not meant to be. But you'd be amazed at how hard it is for some people to order a freakin' pizza! We've even considered giving an IQ test before allowing anyone entry.
Anyway, that's the scoop. Now you're informed and you can be a good Burt's customer. Hope we'll see you soon.
I so much love this. Most people who do not understand the inner workings of a restaurant, can be oblivious to what it takes to put out food, with a small kitchen, and limited staff. Some owners prefer to keep it small to maintain the quality of the product.
It is not snarky, or mean-spirited, but true to the intentions of the owner of the restaurant!!!
We had a small restaurant in Cincinnati called ForkHeartKnife, that had a small space. Their food was excellent, and got lots of press (blog, and print). They ended up closing, because they couldn't accomodate the crowds, and felt if they expanded, they couldn't put out the quality of food that they wished to.
I salute Burt for staying true to his vision. Some people have "fast food" mentality, and want it in every aspect of dining. Good food takes time, and I am willing to wait. Hope I can "call ahead" the next time I'm in Chicago.