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Inside the Rise of Detroit-Style Pizza In Dallas

For this city of transplants, a comforting transplant food makes so much sense.
A square slice of pizza in a takeout box getting its cheese stretched away from the whole pie.
Courtesy Neighborhood Goods

Pandemic-born takeout options like family-style dinners to-go or meal kits from your favorite restaurants have necessarily boomed in 2020. But pizza is the OG of carryout dining. Nobody had to reinvent the pizza wheel. That’s why, if you’re going to launch a new takeout-only pie project, this year was the time to do it.

At least that’s what four likeminded pizza pushers thought when they brought Detroit-style pie to Dallas. Square, thick, and enshrined in a crispy cheese crust, Detroit pizza is the denser counterpoint to the Neapolitan archetype. The hydration of the dough is in the 60 to 80 percent range, which is to beget a moist and airy crumb. Hearty spoonfuls of sauce on top is a must. 

Earlier this year, Mark Slaughter went to the source to learn the ways of this Detroit craft. He launched Rock City ‘Za, a ghost kitchen that shares a commercial kitchen with his wife Kerry’s Baller Mom Meals home meal delivery business. He knew the pizza basics but, Slaughter says, he needed “to know how to make the dough and perfect it.”

“I’m from Detroit, I grew up up in Fraser,” he says of his bona fides. “You’ve heard of 8 Mile, I grew up in 13 Mile.”

Slaughter, like most transplants, missed a taste of home. The way Detroiters like their pie was the craving he needed to sate. Like Slaughter, Peter Colombo of Alfonso’s Italian Restaurant is a Detroit native who wanted to share a thick slice of pie from his hometown with Dallas through BigDPizza.

In August, the pie pros behind Cane Rosso and Zoli’s started Thunderbird Pies. Let there be no question that these folks know pizza—Neapolitan, Detroit, it doesn’t matter, they’re slinging some of the very best. Versions like the Drip Pan are loaded with ingredients—hot soppressata, sausage, caramelized onions, peppers, roasted mushrooms—but its solid dough foundation supports them in a way thin crust never could.

Then there’s 8 Mile Pies, which frequently sells out of its pizza offerings thanks to word spreading on Instagram. The man behind the pies, Christopher “Phanzy” Phan, says 8 Mile Pies wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for COVID. No one’s thanking a virus for pizza, but he imagined he’d still be wokking up food for his previous pop-up General Tso’s. 

Phan says the main impetus for 8 Mile Pies was to support his fellow food industry friends. He used the kitchens of coffee shops or bakeries during their off hours to keep cash flowing during COVID restrictions and slow dining traffic. The ultimate goal: set up a street hawker–style dining space with other Dallas pop-ups so they have shared brick-and-mortar real estate. Given how restaurants have had to totally overhaul how they use their dining rooms, it’s a savvy idea. Phan sold his pies on Instagram and buyers picked up at his home in Oak Lawn. 

During a tumultuous year in which we often gravitate toward comfort—the things and people and food that remind us of home—Detroit pie delivers that for its transplant operators. And of course the pizza-loving recipients regularly digging into saucy square slices.

“It doesn’t have to be complicated to be good,” says Slaughter. And you don’t have to be from Detroit to love its signature pie.

8 Mile Pies
Preorder and pickup only (locations vary). Pop-ups at Neighborhood Goods on Tuesdays.
Small batch, personal-size pies. Love the touch of honey on the perfect pepperoni cup pie. 

Rock City ‘Za
Pickup at 635 Plano Rd.
Freshest sauce, topped at the last moment to ensure brightness.

Thunderbird Pies
Pickup at Zoli’s in Addison, or delivery within seven miles.
So many pie options, all of them incredibly good. Anything with dollops of ricotta on it gets my automatic co-sign.

Pickup at 718 N. Buckner Blvd., Ste 222
Not my favorite for a classic pep, but certainly the most flavorful sauce game around.

Editor’s note: I don’t know why I have to say this: but if you are a corner brownie person, you’re obligated to like Detroit pizza. Those are the rules.

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