In praise of old favorites: Crystal Lake Pizza Hut

Ask me about my favorite restaurants in the far northwest ‘burbs where we live, and after raving about a great local sushi bar, a fantastic authentic Mexican place, and a wonderful place to grab brunch, I’d also throw the Crystal Lake Pizza Hut into my list.

In Praise of Old Favorites: Crystal Lake Pizza Hut

Really. The Pizza Hut location in Crystal Lake, Illinois is one of the most charming restaurants in McHenry County. Now, I know what you’re likely thinking. Pizza Hut? A Pizza Hut? What’s so special about a Pizza Hut? Well, while it’s true that Pizza Hut’s food doesn’t differ from location to location, the restaurant itself is what keeps us coming back, year after year, especially when the weather’s cooler. Why? Here’s why:

Right in the middle of the restaurant, at table height, is a large brick fire pit. Do you know how satisfying it is to gather around that fire as a family, relaxing, talking and enjoying eating pizza and watching sports on their big TV? An enormous amount of this Pizza Hut location’s appeal is the fact that it still has its original decor. It was constructed in 1972 — think dark woods, deep-tone brick, and a general sense of coziness. And… it hasn’t changed. Some might argue that after 43 years, it might be time for an update. Those people would be wrong.

I remember coming here when I was much younger, then hanging out here in high school. This Pizza Hut hasn’t changed. Year after year, the only discernible updates have been to the entertainment options in the restaurant — jukeboxes have come and gone, replaced by video games and other coin-ops. There’s currently a skill crane in the spot where I used to pop dimes into a machine to hear my favorite songs over dinner.

A few years ago, when our children started receiving Pizza Hut Book-It free pizza coupons from school, we started coming here regularly again. The kids love to get their free pizzas (of course they do — they know as well as I do that you don’t waste a free coupon!) and we also like trying whatever new pizza sounds interesting on the menu. It’s a delightfully quirky building too. One corner of the restaurant has a floor-to-ceiling window:


Photo from Coldwell Banker, not me. It was night when we went…

My kids think the idea of a corner window is “awesome.” I agree. If you need to use the bathroom, you’ll have to head to the basement. Inexplicably, this Pizza Hut’s basement has its own color scheme and decor that always makes me feel like I’m walking into a 1980s Cheap Trick album cover:


I’m not kidding. Doesn’t it?

In a day and age where businesses come and go, open and close, it’s wonderfully refreshing to know that an old favorite remains unchanging year to year — and decade to decade! Sure, we could order a pizza and eat it at home, but for the same price, we can also go and enjoy a night out together. And, we get to sit around that great fire pit and feel warm and cozy.

And the pizza? It’s great too.

Note: This is not a sponsored post. We love eating here, and after our most recent visit, I thought, “I should blog about this place. I’m so glad it’s still here after all these years.” If you’re in the area, it’s so worth checking out.


  1. hammar says

    You make me feel REALLY old! My husband and I went on our first date to Pizza Hut 2/23/73!!! I was 14 and he was 16! Yes, I remember everything you’re talking about. We still live in CL and haven’t been there…..probably since high school! LOL I can’t believe it is exactly the same. May have to go back, just for memories.

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