If it weren't for the restaurants, there would be little reason for most of us to visit Highland Park Village. Hermes, Dior, Stella McCartney, Tom Ford, Christian Louboutin — this shopping development was built for the wealthy, and the poshly dressed clientele valeting luxury vehicles seems to reinforce that.
Dining options at Highland Park Village have been, until recently, surprisingly dull. Mi Cocina and Starbucks are particularly pedestrian. But the neighborhood boasts the popular Bird Bakery and Royal Blue Grocery, an upscale grocer that sells a lot of Dallas-made products. And now, in a neighborhood that takes itself quite seriously, comes a new restaurant that doesn't: Perfect Union Pizza Co.
This new pizzeria comes from Nick Badovinus, the Dallas restaurateur known for over-the-top concepts like Town Hearth, where luxury collides with Badovinus' sense of humor. Perfect Union Pizza Co. similarly feels at ease, a little slice of cool in an otherwise stuffy neighborhood.
One of the first things you'll notice upon arriving is the staff attire. Staff members wear mismatched T-shirts from various Dallas businesses such as Oak Cliff's Local Moto — but none of them belong to Badovinus. On a menu board mounted to the wall, Perfect Union lists some of its sources, some local, some not: spicy sausage from Jimmy's, Canadian bacon from Nueskes, ice cream from Howdy Homemade. In an interesting twist, the night's staff — both front-of-house and back — are listed by full name on the menu board. The music oscillates between cool Oak Cliff hipster and ironic Oak Cliff hipster, which somehow works for the laid-back space.
While Neapolitan pizza still seems to be a popular trend in Dallas, Perfect Union doesn't go that route. The oven-fired pizzas, made with 24-hour fermented dough, are pleasantly crisp but still have the chewiness that proves comforting in a good pizza. The menu is filled with Badovinus' signature humor, from a pizza named #Jeff (a white pie with scamorza cheese, Canadian bacon, roasted pineapple, shishitos and red onion, $17) to the Scampi? But of Course, another white pizza topped with rock shrimp, vodka sauce, red onion, garlic salt and pea tendrils.
The My Sharona ($16), a red pie topped with soppressata, charred pepperonata and calabrian chili, got an intense punch of heat from the chili that proved so punchy, it was better when the peppers were scraped onto the plate. The Jonny Slapps ($18), a white pie with guanciale (cured cheek or jowl), pea tendril, "cream redux" and egg, sounds like a stretch but was hard not to finish in one sitting although each 10-inch pizza is enough to feed two people. You can build your own pizza here, but the no-substitutions-allowed pies on the menu are fun explorations of uncommon pizza toppings.
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There are other dishes on the menu, too — vegetables like warm carrots and ricotta, a caprese salad, spaghetti and meatballs — but the real magic here lies on the pizza menu. There's fun to be had on the drink menu, too, which boasts a section devoted to low-ABV spritzes ($9) likely to be popular during the hot summer months. There's also sangria ($10), a small menu of wines by the bottle and, in keeping with current trends, plenty of wines on tap.
In short, Perfect Union takes Nick Badovinus back to his simpler concepts, such as burger joint Off-Site Kitchen, before the $100 wood-fired steaks and luxury tater tots of Town Hearth. It's one of two new restaurants from high-profile Dallas restaurateurs opening this summer in Highland Park Village. Julian Barsotti is preparing to open a sister Italian restaurant, Fachini, above Perfect Union.
You may not stumble upon this pizzeria while taking a break from a shopping spree at Alexander McQueen and Escada, but this pizza joint is solid enough — and affordable enough, comparatively speaking — to warrant a trip to Highland Park Village.
Perfect Union Pizza Co., 33B, Highland Park Village