San Carlos has six — yes, six — pizza places (not counting the three Italian restaurants where you can also order Neapolitan-style pizza or the many places where there is some sort of “flatbread” on the menu). Among this group, San Carlos is blessed to have two deep-dish pizzerias in Blue Line and Patxi’s, approximately 500 feet away from each other on Laurel Street. They both also serve thin-crust pizza, and we have many friends who go to each specifically for that. However, it feels like there are few indulgences greater than Chicago-style deep dish pizza, with its thick, buttery crust, ample cheese and fillings, and sauce on the top. Many diners also participate in the ritual of drizzling honey on the remaining crust as an almost dessert at the end of the meal.
Both of these restaurants are chains – Blue Line has seven places in the Bay Area, and Patxi’s has 17 locations, including some in Southern California, Colorado, and Washington. Their San Carlos locations have have ample seating and definitely draw a decent crowd, particularly on the weekends. Both have sizable bars where you can drink, eat, and watch the Warriors, Sharks, Niners, or Giants on the multiple flatscreens.
Patxi’s has a unique outdoor patio and an indoor/outdoor bar, while Blue Line has a few outside tables but also has a semi-private balcony area inside.
In addition to pizza, each has a decent selection of appetizers, salads, and sandwiches – we particularly like the meatball appetizer and bacon & blue salad at Blue Line, as well as the artichoke dip and burrata bruschetta at Patxi’s.
It’s difficult to compare these two places, and every San Carlan will likely have his/her favorite, but we made an attempt a few years ago to do a family blind taste test to compare their deep dish pizzas. The only pseudo-scientific way to do this was by take-out order so they could be eaten side-by-side. We ordered the exact same pizza at each place (sausage, spinach, and garlic) and picked them up at the same time. Then, at home, one family member who wasn’t tasting labeled a slice of each as A and B. We then tasted. Here are our notes:
- Crust – Both pizzas had a similar thickness. The biggest difference seemed to be that the Blue Line pie had more of a cornmeal taste and texture, whereas the Patxi’s crust was a bit softer and not as flaky.
- Cheese – Patxi’s was more generous with the cheese, and that definitely dominated the bite.
- Fillings – Blue Line seemed to have more sausage and spinach relative to the amount of cheese in the pie, so those flavors were more dominant. Patxi’s uses a garlic-fennel sausage, which gave a more unique flavor, whereas the Blue Line pie had a more classic Italian sausage taste.
- Sauce – this is where the difference between the pizzas was most pronounced. Patxi’s had a sweeter sauce, whereas the Blue Line pizza had more a savory sauce with greater notes of spices such as basil and oregano.
At some level we’re splitting hairs, because it was all so good. Your pizza choice should come down to three factors — the appeal (or not) of the cornmeal in the crust, the relative ratio of cheese vs. fillings, and the sweet vs. savory sauce. We have gone back to both places many times, but given the head-to-head battle of these two pizzas, the family leaned toward the Blue Line pizza largely because of the crust and the seemingly better balance between the fillings and cheese. We were split on preference between Patxi’s sweet and Blue Line’s savory sauce. However, for eating in, Patxi’s edges out Blue Line in atmosphere for its larger space and nice patio set-up. But clearly everyone is a winner here!