New East Dallas destination ZaLat is a blink-or-you'll-miss-it, carry-out-mostly pizza joint born from an unlikely womb: that of DaLat, a late-night pho standby located just next door. The vibe here is, intractably, one of wrongdoing. Pizza? Born of Vietnam? Of course, that's the whole point. The incongruity, the illicitness — it's part of the charm. If your dealer were a pizza place, your dealer would be ZaLat.
The menu runs the gamut from the traditional (pepperoni, margherita, and what I dub the Kevin McCallister: a large cheese pizza just for you) to the weird (a Reuben pizza, a pie with spicy coconut cream sauce). Both employees and patrons also spoke reverentially about a pho pizza, though it appeared neither in the kitchen nor on the menu.
A selection of secret pizzas appears to be, In-N-Out-style, part of the ZaLat culture. Headlined by the aforementioned pho pie, the off-menu menu also includes a hush-hush riff on the Hawaiian pizza, which starts out with freshly grilled pineapple chunks along with slices of raw, not pickled, jalapeno. ZaLat's Facebook page offers further insight into test kitchen antics, including a giardiniera pie and a S'mores dessert version.
The Zealot — pepperoni, salami, Jimmy's sausage, black olives, mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions — was the slice sampled, and man, it was good. The crust, while not quite as light, crispy, or charred as traditional New York slices, was sturdy and tasty, the dough clearly treated with care. Hey, if it's good enough for John Tesar, it's good enough for me.
And then there's the Srirancha. Yes. They serve Srirancha. On pizza. It's reminiscent of Taco Joint's hallowed jalapeno ranch, if it had crack in it. It's simultaneously the best thing ever and an abomination, addictive while also being offensive. Then again, if you're eating at a place that serves a cheeseless spicy coconut pie, you're probably not a purist who's troubled by the time-honored pairing of pizza and ranch.
ZaLat is also open super late, as you might expect from a place that serves such perfect drunk food. Their website says they'll serve you from 5 p.m. till they run out of dough, but on Facebook the message is more conservative: the lights turn out at midnight. My hunch, since it shares DNA with DaLat, is that midnight is more a guideline than a rule.
ZaLat's essence is captured in its storefront: folding chairs, hastily set up in front of the door. A lonely "OPEN" sign, ablaze in pink neon, brings to mind the movie Cocktail, or perhaps Striptease. A visit to ZaLat feels more like you're buying contraband than pizza. Remember, though: it's carry-out or delivery only. You can text your order to (469) 573-2007 and then swing by to pick it up; delivery is also offered within a five-mile radius via a third-party company called Web Meal Deliveries, but it'll cost you extra.