ZaLat pizza tastes good when you're drunk. Owner Khanh Nguyen is cool with that.
In fact, being a late-night pizza delivery company -- one that'll bring you and your intoxicated friends a pie as late as 4 a.m. -- is a huge part of ZaLat's mission. By year's end, ZaLat may have as many as six shops serving late in Dallas and Plano.
"My goal in pizza," says Nguyen, "is if I'm inebriated in New York City at 3 a.m. and I happen to fall into a corner pizzeria, what I have in my mind right then is a pizza that's thin, greasy, very savory." That's how he describes ZaLat's pizzas.
Some of his competitors in Dallas are pizza spots that stay open or deliver late, like Zini's, Serious Pizza, iFratelli, Greenville Avenue Pizza Co. and LA Gourmet. Plano has a significantly smaller group of late-night pizza spots.
Nguyen and his staff spent five months making pizzas before ZaLat opened, obsessing over crust, tomato sauce and cheese. Nguyen, a lawyer and former software guy, invited restaurant industry folks for sneak peeks. Dallas chef John Tesar declared it "best NY style pizza ever in Dallas."
First came ZaLat in April 2015 on N. Fitzhugh Avenue, on a rundown stretch of Dallas and next-door to Nguyen's other restaurant, a pho place called DaLat. Next, he closed an existing DaLat in downtown Plano and converted it into a ZaLat in October 2015. On Monday, March 7, 2016, the third ZaLat opens, this one also in Plano, at Legacy Drive and Independence Parkway.
With three ZaLats now open in D-FW, the owner hopes to open three more before year's end.
ZaLat isn't intended to be any kind of fancy pie place. At two of the three restaurants, there's minimal seating, and Nguyen really hopes you'll take your pizza and scat or allow his staff to deliver to your home or business.
The newest ZaLat in central Plano is built into a former Domino's Pizza. To grow the business, Nguyen wants to follow a keep-it-simple model, similar to how Raising Cane's does chicken and chicken only: "I want to nail the basics," he says. At ZaLat, that means pizza and nothing else.
The amusing menu has helped solidify ZaLat as a late-night stoner place. The Loaded Notato pizza -- named because it tastes like a loaded baked potato -- is topped with bacon, chives, cheddar, jalapeños, blue cheese and ranch. (Yes, both.) The Pho Shizzle, perhaps a nod to sister restaurant DaLat, has chicken, red peppers, caramelized onions, Sriracha and hoisin. The Hottie does what it promises: lights you up with Tabasco, Sriracha, jalapeños and pepperoni.
Anything can come with a side of Sirancha -- Sriracha mixed with ranch. Because, it's 4 a.m., remember?
To try to keep quality consistent as ZaLat grows quickly, Nguyen has a manager inspect and sign each pizza box before it lands with its hungry customer(s). "It's not a marketing thing for us," Nguyen insists.
"How do I ensure this level of quality, especially if I'm going to go multi-unit? We have to design it where somebody inspects this thing and puts their name on the line, literally."
The Dallas Zalat keeps more regular late hours than the two Plano spots. But despite a closing time of 10 p.m. in the 'burbs on most days, all three will deliver until 3 or 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Nguyen is eyeing Oak Cliff and Preston Hollow as potential neighborhoods for his next late-night pie shop. He takes an approach we don't often hear from Dallas restaurateurs: "The beauty of putting up one of our locations is, I mean, we're doing takeout and delivery," Nguyen says.
"We don't have to be on the hottest of the hot streets."
- In Dallas: 2519 N. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas.
- In Plano: 1032 E. 15th Street and 7224 Independence Parkway.