November 11, 2020

Underground Pizza inks deal to open a shop at Power Plant Live

Underground Pizza is expanding from a ghost kitchen to a 2,300-square-foot shop at Baltimore's Power Plant Live by the end of the year.

The startup that sells Detroit-style pan pizza will move into the Cordish Cos. development off Lombard Street in a space once leased by Charm City Pizza and Joe Squared.

Underground's concept has taken off since April when it started in a home kitchen with online ordering and deliveries made sometimes in a parking lot, said co-founder Evan Weinstein.

The move into brick and mortar this fall is a leap of faith, Weinstein said, and also marks a rapid growth plan for the business that lately has been selling up to 300 pies a week through pop-ups and online.

The square, thick-crust pies became so popular that the reception shocked even Weinstein, who ran the annual Moonrise Festival at Pimlico Race Course before Covid-19 forced the event into an indefinite hiatus this year. He pivoted to pizza making with a self-created dough recipe and little restaurant experience as a matter of economic survival, he said.

"I can say I'm grateful," Weinstein said on Wednesday. "I think the real success lies in the fact that people love the pizza and the decisions we're making with ingredients and flavors is working. I'm surprised that it's caught on as much as it has without more changes."

Underground Pizza moved from Weinstein's kitchen to a ghost kitchen at Abbey Burger Bistro in Mt. Washington. Pop-up locations have included Zeke's coffee in Lauraville, Pig & Rooster Smokehouse in Canton and a location in Montgomery County.

Chef and co-founder Patrick Morrow has developed the menu, which includes a pie called "The Woodlands," with hen-of the-woods and oyster mushrooms, gruyere cheese and thyme and "The Funfetti," a pie with half red and half pesto sauce and topped with peppers, onions and spicy Italian sausage sautéed in pork fat.

Most of the pizzas sold out of the shop will be take out and delivery because of the pandemic, Weinstein said. The location has a coal oven and pizza ovens because of its origins and is set up to make the Underground menu.

The Power Plant Live location will open as soon as city permits are gained, he added.

Weinstein, 38, who says he relies on Morrow's restaurant experience, said he first had a Detroit-style pizza at a music festival. He called the quest to replicate it and sell it in Baltimore a "Hail Mary" move because he needed to create an income stream during the pandemic to support his family.

"It was survival," he said. "I learned how to make the dough and made it at home. And now it’s just a matter of how do we figure out how to make this thing as big as possible. When I started selling them out of my house it was to friends, and friends were telling friends, and next thing I know ... other people, strangers, are telling me it’s the best pizza they’ve had.

"People were meeting me in parking lots to get the pizza and we still have those customers from early on."

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