Smile Politely

Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan has uniquely great pizza

A close up of pepperoni pizza by Garcia's Pizza in a Pan restaurant of Champaign.
Thick crust pizza at Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan; Photo by Chase Branson.

Those who live in or frequent the Champaign-Urbana area may know about Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan — or maybe not. If I’m being honest, the pizza place has flown under my radar fully until my discovery of it just a month ago. If I had to venture a guess, this is likely the case for many readers, but it’s been a part of the Champaign-Urbana food scene for more than 50 years.

Situated in an unassuming strip mall just off of North Mattis, the location from the street looked a bit run down. A passerby could be forgiven for overlooking it altogether. Furthermore, as an avid DoorDash user, I typically trust the company to provide a decent portfolio of local options for lazy days when I feel like ordering something to eat. Not only is Garcia’s absent from DoorDash, but it’s also absent from Uber Eats and other delivery services. To order food for delivery, the Garcia’s website partners with Eatstreet to place delivery orders directly on their website.

Without the built in advertising and public exposure of being on the main delivery apps, their digital footprint is about as unassuming as the location’s outward appearance. But let me tell you: When you do stumble into the discovery of Garcia’s, you’ll be glad you did.

The exterior of Garcia's Pizza in a Pan in Champaign, Illinois.
Chase Branson

First, let’s get right into the food. Garcia’s primarily offers what they label as thick or thin pizzas. These translate into a classically hand-tossed versus a standard thin-crust pizza. Both of these have advantages, but really it comes down to preference.

Garcia's Pizza sliced into squares.
Thin crust pizza at Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan; Photo by Chase Branson

Garcia’s thin has the classic crispy snap of the best thin crust pizzas, and I certainly found it to be very enjoyable. It has the style of cut that Monical’s and several other places do, where it was cut into squares. I got the large thin crust pepperoni for $17.25.

A sliced full pizza pie in a cardboard box from Garcia's Pizza of Champaign.
Thick crust pizza at Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan; Photo by Chase Branson

I ordered the large thick pizza with pepperoni for $21.90. The thick pizza has more airy — and what I might call very interesting — dough. While I am sure they use the same dough for both styles, the thick pizza certainly came off as more dough-forward in flavor. The Garcia’s dough was very unique. So much so that on first try, I actually wasn’t sure if I liked it. But after a few visits now, I can say for sure that I do. It has an odd sweetness to it that I honestly can’t say I have experienced in other pizza doughs before. Once I knew what to expect, I found it quite nice.

A slice of pepperoni pizza.
Chase Branson

As for toppings choices at Garcia’s, I found these to be good also. Their cheese tasted very good, and I found that it complemented the rest of the pizza quite well. They offered a nice array of topping choices, but you can’t go wrong with the classic pepperoni. The best, however, I have saved for last. What makes Garcia’s pizza truly great, and quite honestly the reason I am writing this article today, is the sauce. Garcia’s sauce has a truly robust and flavorful experience that I would put among my favorite pizza sauces around. No need to ask for extra sauce either, as they have a pretty generous portion of it on their pizzas.

The sauce truly lifts the pizza at Garcia’s to the top of my favorite local pizza options.

Two breadsticks at Garcia's Pizza in a Pan.
Breadsticks at Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan; Photo by Chase Branson

Outside of the pizza, I also had a chance to try the breadsticks, which had a nice, firm bite to them. These came standard with some house garlic butter, two for $2.49 or six for $5.79. The menu also has many other sides and options to mix and match with Garcia’s pizza, depending on the mood.

The exterior of Garcia's Pizza in a Pan in Champaign.
Chase Branson

Aside from the food, another great feather in the cap of Garcia’s was the atmosphere. Now you might be asking yourself, “Didn’t he just say at the top of the article that it looked run down?” Yes, I did, but shockingly, this only applied to the outside appearance.

Inside Garcia's Pizza restaurant there is a floating balloon above the dining room tables.
Chase Branson

Inside, the restaurant has a nostalgic and cozy ambiance complete with a fireplace, quirky seating options, and a novelty hot air balloon flying right above diners’ heads.

Four clear globes with lightning on display at a local restaurant.
Chase Branson

Much like the food, the atmosphere at Garcia’s is something quite unique and worth experiencing. Next time you’re unsure what’s for dinner, I implore you to consider Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan. And if you already have, I do hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If pizza is on the brain, give Garcia’s a visit!

An outdoor table strung with yellow lights inside Garcia's Pizza restaurant.
Chase Branson

Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan
313 N Mattis Ave
Su-Th 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
F+Sa 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

More Articles