by Steven Doyle
Catherine Jacobus and David Haynes opened their Deep Ellum restaurant, Stonedeck Pizza in 2014 wanting to put out a great product and excellent beer. They did just that, but their story is super interesting. And yes, their pizza is interesting and excellent and the beer well curated.
The pizza style is totally unique, square with seriously adult flavor profiles, many that are unique to the pizza business. Look to the Asian BBQ pork with pickled daikon and carrot, and crushed peanuts. We loved the Chicken Tikka Masala with its braised chicken tikka, feta cheese and side of pickled onion. The Guapa en Fuego is totally a flavor blast with chipotle, house-made chorizo and several styles of jalapeno that all together blow your tastebuds away. Servers are warned to inform customers that this is a seriously spicy pie.
The best part about all of these different pizzas? You can have them all on one plate. You may choose up to eight different styles of pizza for a mega-flight. In fact, everything at Stonedeck can be made into a flight. Flights of beer, flights of house-made moonshine (made in a huge varieties of flavors), flights of pizza and desserts. The choices are simply endless.
We sat down with the owners for a little Q&A session, and feel it best we share this conversation as it took place.
Tell us what brought you to the restaurant business.
David: I was actually, for many years, pursuing a career in the film industry. As a writer, doing short films, and did many including some here locally. And Catherine’s work lead us to Los Angeles where she worked for a cosmetic company. It is obviously where you need to be when in the entertainment business, but a few things happened. Financially things dried up for the industry, and that coupled with the writer’s strike everything changed for me. That’s when I realized at 40 years old this business would be a struggle.
So since you were in the film industry, working at a restaurant is an easy progression?
David: It is funny you say that because it is true. It’s like the movie The Big Picture with Kevin Bacon where this guy comes into a restaurant and is asked what he does. He says he is a director and the other guy says “oh, Tommy our busboy is a director, too”. It really is true. My very first restaurant was Coppertank in Austin on 6th Street. But in the past I have bartended at Deep Drinks, Trees for a while, Jeroboam, Aquaknox and Fish Bowl with Stephan Pyles.
Catherine: That was all back in the 90’s, but David got back in the restaurant business in LA, then in New York when my business took us there.
David: Right. I was partnered at this place in the West Village called Slice. It was an organic Farm to Table pizza restaurant with a slant towards vegan and gluten-free. My partner wanted to take it to all vegan and that is when I bowed out. You know, when you are working with gluten-free crust it is difficult. You are working with odd ingredients to make it all work, and people don’t want to be eating that. I think if you want pizza, get a pizza.
So you were finally in the business. What brought you to Dallas?
David: Well we are from here, our family lives in the area, and New York is such a grind. Being from Dallas the winters were so, so long for us.
Catherine: And as far as my work went I had accomplished what I wanted to. I had been with the same corporation for 23 years. There was nothing else I had to prove to me or anybody else. So we said to each other, why don’t we go to Dallas and do this [open a restaurant] ourselves.
Why Deep Ellum?
Catherine: We thought at first it would be Uptown, but we actually live just blocks away from this Deep Ellum location. We thought it would take a year to find the perfect spot. But we would walk through this neighborhood and we were really shocked at what had happened to Deep Ellum. When we left before there was nothing around here, it was truly dead. But we looked into a few places in Uptown and the prices were crazy and totally corporate, so we knew we didn’t want to mix in that scene or demographic. We looked at Lower Greenville and saw that we would have problems with the neighbors and wanted to sell alcohol until 2am.
But we found this spot and started constructed in March of ’14 and opened in July.
How did you finally decide on the style of pizza you would do. It is totally unique.
David: The core of what we do here recipe-wise I developed in New York. We label the crust as American thin. There is a firmness to it, when you pick up a piece it doesn’t droop even with a lot of topping. But there is something there that is substantial. It’s not cracker thin. But here you have that truly homemade kind of experience. It is all hand-made and slightly different depending on who is making the pizza.
There is a lot going on with your ;pizza. A lot of flavor, and very unusual toppings.
David: First, it is all made in house. There are no pre-made ingredients here. We roast our own vegetables, we make our own Italian sausage, we do everything in-house. We even shred our own cheese. And I don’t have a freezer, so we do this fresh each day.
You do a lot of flights here. Not just beer or even the flavored moonshine, but pizza flights. That is so fun.
David: That came about while I was still in New York. It came to me that we should serve different styles on one pizza. People love variety, they really don’t want to make decisions. And it gives them an opportunity to try something that they might not try otherwise.
Catherine: And pizza is such a sharable food. You come in and everybody wants something different. So this is an easy way for those people to share. Everybody gets what they want. So everything here can be a flight, even the desserts.
We really love the feel of the restaurant. You did a great job.
Catherine: There is a rhythm and pride in what we do here. We are both here each day and we know who our customers are. We know there names and what they like and that feels different. We wanted to create a space where customers and employees alike would say “that’s my place, that’s my third place”. You know we have our home, we have our work and then there is the third place.
Any chance for a second location?
David: I think we are both open to a different concept but it would have to be close. We would want it to be within walking distance of this place so we could check in on both businesses easily. There are people clammering to move up north like Frisco. They can have that. You know, we said from the beginning we were not in this to create an empire. We just want to create a good living for us and our employees and have a place where our customers can come and enjoy themselves. If we can do that and not lose money then what else is there?