The saga of Pie Tap has been unfolding slowly for nearly two years. When Rich Hicks, the restaurateur behind Mooyah Burgers and Tin Star Taco Bar, which he later sold, announced plans for the restaurant's first location to open on Henderson Avenue, some people in the neighborhood fought his plans for a gourmet pizza spot and taphouse.
"... Representatives from several neighborhood groups said they opposed putting a booze-selling eatery across the street from a DISD elementary school," Robert Wilonsky wrote in The Dallas Morning News in October 2015. "That campus is James B. Bonham Elementary, which the district shuttered on May 31, 2012, as a cost-cutting measure."
The lengthy battle that ensued took so long, Hicks decided to reroute his capital into putting Pie Tap's first location in a different neighborhood: the Design District.
"It was a character builder for me," Hicks says with a laugh. As it turns out, the Design District may be a better fit for Pie Tap, though Hicks hasn't given up on the Henderson location, which is still under construction.
Unlike Dallas' trendiest dining neighborhoods, the Design District has yet to reach its restaurant saturation point, but it's certainly becoming an up-and-coming dining district home to popular spots like Meddlesome Moth and FT33 and with new additions like Quill and two forthcoming high-profile restaurants from Graham Dodds and Nick Bodavinus.
"I love the vibe over here. I love Ascension, I love El Bolero," Hicks says. This week, Pie Tap's doors finally opened for their soft open phase, and even in its humble beginnings, it's obvious that this eatery has potential.
With two $30,000 pizza ovens and a 96-hour process to make their dough, at Pie Tap pizza is the main focus, and it shows in the finished product.
"We're just obsessed with the process of dough," Hicks says, noting that theirs is made with only flour, water, salt, olive oil and their own yeast starter, which they feed daily. The resulting dough has plenty of crunch with just the right amount of doughiness; it's the perfect vessel for toppings like the fresh clams, Calabrese peppers, garlic and the Parmigiano Reggiano on Pie Tap's clam pizza ($17), a beautiful specimen that is equal parts creamy, salty, spicy, crunchy and doughy.
The prosciutto pizza ($15), a house favorite, comes piled with La Quercia Prosciutto, medjool dates, pistachios, house-made ricotta, balsamic and a small mountain of fresh arugula. The fresh ricotta is perfectly creamy and salty, flavors that bounce nicely off the sweetness of the dates, the richness of the prosciutto and the crisp, peppery arugula.
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On the app menu, one dish should prove popular with the Instagramming hordes: the spiedini ($9), wood-fired skewers of prosciutto-wrapped fontina over a bed of dressed arugula. It's just fatty and greasy enough to feel like an elevated take on fair food, a comforting feeling further conveyed by the fact that it's served on a stick.
The cocktail menu, too, has some fun touches, which is no surprise considering that Hicks tapped Black Swan's Gabe Sanchez to help craft the cocktail list. The Frozen Ripsaw ($8) will be a summer hit for sure: house-made roasted rosemary lemonade, vodka and fresh fruit are combined in a frozen margarita machine to create a fluorescent deep pink cocktail that's sweet without being saccharine. A solid tap wall and bottle list with ample local brews is made even better by Pie Tap's happy hour: All craft beer and wine is half off from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, which is a solid deal in an era of lackluster happy hour specials.
Perhaps one of Pie Tap's most intelligent touches is one that will be unveiled in the next couple weeks: delivery. But this is no ordinary pizza delivery — Pie Tap will also deliver beer and wine at half off the menu price, with a $3 to $5 delivery fee per order, Hicks says.
"We think we're one of the first concepts in Dallas to offer that," Hicks says. Pie Tap is in its soft open phase, which means they're opening at 4 p.m. and serving about half of its menu, with more dishes rolling out over the coming days. Eventually the restaurant will be open 11 a.m. to midnight on weekends and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. weekdays, with plans for brunch in the future. With a solid menu, a commendable local beer selection, inventive cocktails and beer delivery, Pie Tap is poised to become a popular fixture in the Design District — and later on Henderson Avenue, Hicks hopes.
Pie Tap, 1212 Oak Lawn Ave.