Buzzy Dallas startup specializes in crispy cheesy Detroit-style pizza
Dallas' pizza scene keeps getting bigger and better, and now there's a cool startup bringing a new slice.
Called 8 Mile Pies, it's a delivery-only operation that specializes in the unique square pizza that's a signature of Detroit. 8 Mile founder Christopher "Phanzy" Phan is seriously into Detroit-style pizza. In fact, nevermind "style," he says — it's Detroit pizza, end of story.
"This is a Detroit pie," he says. "It's not made there but it's exactly what you'd get if you went to Detroit right now."
Detroit pizza's key traits include:
- a square shape
- a thick, crunchy airy crust
- baked-in cheese on the rim of the pizza that creates a super crispy cheesy edge
Phanzy, who worked at pizzerias throughout college, became enchanted after visiting famed Austin shop Via 313, and began making Detroit pizza at home.
"What I make is not as deep as Chicago-style pizza, it's very much like a Sicilian-style pizza, what they call a 'grandma' pie," he says. "I would make these grandma pies for friends, and people started saying, 'Maybe you should sell this.'"
[Pizza note: Sicilian and grandma pies both have squared edges. Both are baked in a pan, and both are crunchy on the bottom. Sicilian originated in Sicily and has a light, airy crust, similar to focaccia. Grandma originated in New York and is flatter and not as airy.]
Phanzy goes to great lengths to procure ingredients that appear in a true Detroit pie.
"That means shredded Wisconsin mozzarella and Wisconsin brick cheese, and I use either Stanislaus or Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes to make fresh tomato sauce," he says. "Sometimes I bake it with the sauce, but I've also tried adding it after it comes out of the oven. It looks very pretty."
The most distinguishing element of Detroit-style pizza is the way the cheese goes right up to the edge of the pie and forms a crisp, melted-cheese crust.
"It's cooked in a steel pan so it gets crispy on the edge," he says. "It almost looks burned. But when you bite into that crisped edge, it wins over people who don't like crust on pizza."
After he launched, his pizzas started showing up on Instagram, where he got a high-5 from hip restaurant Ulam Modern Filipino Kitchen. Suddenly 8 Mile was off and running.
Phanzy makes 50 pies each weekend. In these post-COVID times, ordering takes place online.
"We post the menu every Wednesday at 8 pm on Facebook and Instagram, and it's a frenzy for about a half hour until we sell out," he says.
He usually makes five options.
- There is almost always a "pepperoni cup," topped with natural casing pepperonis which form delectable little cups with crisped edges as the pizza bakes.
- There is often a white pie topped with something novel and upscale such as kale and Italian sausage, or artichoke and spinach.
His pies are $15 for the pepperoni or $17 for "fancy" flavors such as the one called Nonna, which he just introduced: It's a grandma style with fresh bufala mozzarella, and fresh basil and herbs. "We try to come up with something new every week," he says.
The pizza is ready for pickup on Friday or Saturday night in the Oak Lawn neighborhood, where Phanzy lives.
He's looking to partner with vendors who don't typically open at night such as a bakery or coffee shop.
"Everything we make, I invest right back into the business," he says. "We're ready to scale up with a proper oven and down the road, a place where we can have a brick & mortar space."
If you know your Detroit culture, you know that 8 Mile was a 2002 Eminem film named for the border around Detroit. "We wanted to have a name people recognized, and something that said 'Detroit,'" he says.