Dallas residents have been flocking to get pizza from pop-up 8 Mile Pies for months now, but the idea came about five years ago from a visit to Austin.
After a night of going out on Sixth Street, Christopher “Phanzy” Phan came across Via 313 Pizzeria with a group of his friends. The line that wrapped around it persuaded him to go in.
“We've just gone out and were walking home, so everyone was tipsy, and then there was just this line outside of this trailer off one of those streets,” Phan says. “I decided to get into it because it's got to be good.”
Phan said what he had at Via 313 was amazing: The Detroit-style pizza stirred something inside him that he couldn't shake. He craved that pizza continuously and stopped by every time he passed through Austin.
But in Dallas, he couldn’t find anything like it. His solution was to make his own.
“If you typed in 'Detriot-style pizza' in Dallas ... I honestly don't think you could have found one,” Phan says. “So that's what I think the pandemic allowed me to do, introduce something new.”
After the coronavirus pandemic slowed down his pop-up General Tseaux’s Kitchen, he started a new one, the takeout-only pizza company 8 Mile Pies.
The shift didn’t come easily. His intent was to just sell to friends and those in his apartment complex. Not many orders came in until Anna Swann, founder of Ulam, posted her pepperoni pie and her Italian sausage and kale pie on Instagram.
Her followers kept asking where they came from, and she directed them toward 8 Mile Pies.
“Just like any piece I tried, I was like, I know that this tastes like home for some reason,” Swann says.
Swann’s favorite pizza right now is the artichoke pie. After meeting Phan at the recurring Night Market hosted by Sandwich Hag, Swann wanted to keep supporting him during his shift to pizzas.
“I just loved the way he pivoted in COVID and really leaned into it because I know he has been working on this recipe for a while,” Swann says. “I know it's not easy for a lot of people to do, but the fact that he did is awesome. I'm really proud of him because his food is really good. He deserves it, and people need to eat it.“
And just like that, Phan went from cumin lamb, dan dan noodles and the popular Chicky Nugs to square pizzas with crispy edges, just like the ones he missed from Austin.
Phan learned how to make his own Detroit pies in 2019 but has been working in the food industry since he was a child; his family, mostly refugees from Vietnam, had a restaurant. Phan shifted his attention to cooking in college, where he made his first dish, thit kho (braised pork belly) with his mom’s help.
“I was always missing out on what my parents cooked for us when we're at home,” Phan says. “I really missed a certain meal, and all I wanted was good food.”
His love for food led him to the pop-up business, starting with General Tseux’s Kitchen, with his wife by his side. Although not a cook, Phan’s wife Laurie plays a big role in the business.
“She is a huge part of our success. I only like working in the kitchen, and I love the food aspect of it,” Phan says. “So she's, you know, marriage-wise, she's the other half of me ... She's the other half of this business, as well.”
Now, the two are taking a break from 8 Mile because they're expecting their first child. But we're told to expect more pizza later this year.
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