The Best Pizza Chains in America

Pizza is one of the most widely eaten foods in the country, and it's easy to see why.
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Before Thanksgiving, we asked our readers to vote for their favorite pizza chain, out of a list of 100 throughout the country. From the smaller guys like Jet's Pizza and Hungry Howie's to the big guns like Domino's and Pizza Hut, just about every pizzeria that would consider itself a chain (even a few with less than 10 locations) made their way into the survey. Close to 1,000 people voted for their favorites, and in the end one surprising chain found its way to the top.

5) Uno Chicago Grill
Click Here to see The Complete List of America's Best Pizza ChainsFormerly Pizzeria Uno, this chain’s origin story is probably the best known of the bunch. Ike Sewell opened Pizzeria Uno in Chicago in 1943, and it’s there that he essentially invented the Chicago-style pie, with a buttery crust piled high with cheese, sauce, and toppings and baked for more than an hour, and it blew people away. Today there are more than 140 Uno locations in 24 states and around the world, spreading the deep-dish gospel. Along with pizza, they also serve appetizers, steaks, sandwiches, burgers, seafood, and even (gasp!) thin-crust pizza. Photo Credit: Uno
4) Pizza Hut
The first Pizza Hut was opened by brothers Dan and Frank Carney in Wichita, Kan. in 1958, at a time when pizza parlors in the region were still a rarity. It took off, and soon the trademark red roof, which has since been retired, was sprouting up all across the country, and today it’s the country’s largest pizza chain. Never afraid to experiment with new pizza-esque products like the P’Zone, the Cheesy Bites Pizza, and the much-missed, two-crusted Priazzo, they’ve occasionally hit gold, like with their now-ubiquitous Stuffed Crust Pizza. They’ve even recently added flatbread-style pizzas to their menu. If there’s one chain that’s not afraid to get a little silly sometimes, it’s Pizza Hut. Photo Credit: Pizza Hut
3) Ledo Pizza
Click Here to see The Complete List of America's Best Pizza ChainsLedo Pizza, with locations primarily in Virginia and Maryland, has nowhere near as many locations as its other rivals at the top of this list, but the chain, and its trademark square pizza, has a fiercely devoted following. The distinctive pizzas have a thin crust, thick-cut pepperoni, and a sweet sauce, and are available in several sizes as well as gluten-free varieties. Served by waitstaff instead of over a counter, the wide menu also includes appetizers, salads, subs, and entrées including fettuccini Bolognese (using an original family recipe) and shrimp fettuccini Parmesan. The reason for the square pies? Round baking sheets were very tough to come by when the company was founded in 1955. Photo Credit: Ledo Pizza
2) Domino’s Pizza
Founded in 1960, Domino’s is today the second-largest pizza chain in the U.S., after Pizza Hut, and the largest worldwide. The three dots on their logo represent the three stores that were open in 1969, and a plan to add a new dot for every new store never materialized, for obvious reasons. They offer pizzas with a variety of toppings (as well as rectangular "Artisan" pizzas like Chicken & Bacon Carbonara), toasted sandwiches, stuffed cheesy bread, wings, and a build-your-own-pasta option. It’s greasy, tasty, and just about everything you’d want in a fast-food pizza chain. Photo Credit: PR Newswire
1) California Pizza Kitchen
Click Here to see The Complete List of America's Best Pizza ChainsBy a stunning two-vote margin, California Pizza Kitchen can officially claim to be America’s favorite pizza chain. Founded in 1985 in Beverly Hills, Calif., by attorneys Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax, the casual dining chain is renowned for its innovative pizzas, including the barbecue chicken pizza, which is now ubiquitous but was basically invented there. They’re constantly expanding and also do a lot of community outreach and fundraising, and the menu is loaded with gourmet pizza offerings like Thai Chicken, Habanero Carnitas, and California Club, and seasonal offerings take advantage of what’s in season. Small plates, wine flights, and salads like caramelized peach with pecans, cranberries, and gorgonzola have a distinctly fine-dining feel, but the approach is always casual and fun. So congratulations, CPK, you’re America’s Best Pizza Chain! Photo Credit: California Pizza Kitchen

Pizza is one of the most widely eaten foods in the country, and it's easy to see why. It's bread, cheese , and sauce -- what's not to like? But as you might know from that time you tried to make a pizza with a slice of Wonder Bread, American cheese, and ketchup when you were a kid, it's not as easy as it looks to make a great pizza. Not only are these chains turning out good pizza, they've got it down to a science.

Some chains pride themselves on still making each pie by hand, 100 percent of the time. Others turn out a vast quantity of pizzas daily with the help of high-tech machinery. But at the end of the day, what they serve is still pizza, and according to our voters, it's delicious.

So what exactly did our voters look for when determining what their favorites were? We asked them to vote not just for ones they've been to, but for ones they truly respect. They were told to take into account the freshness of the product, service, convenience, menu diversity, deliciousness of the product, and overall experience. Some voted based on a loyalty to local chains and others preferred the big guys. But in the end, the people have spoken, and we have ourselves a winner. And it might not be one that you were expecting.

-Dan Myers, The Daily Meal

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