On the Line: Dan Smith of Out of the Park Pizza, Part One

With summer season upon us, I thought it was only fitting to go for those foods that bring party people together. Yeah, I know: Pizza is a year-round thing. But when you've got a quality lineup of brews to go with 'em, you're golden in our book. We check in with Dan Smith, owner of a duo of pie-'n'-beer spots known as Out of the Park Pizza.

Tell us about how you opened your first location. What prompted you to do a pizza joint with a focus on craft beer?
Before we opened the pizza place, I actually hated beer. But I Googled what's going up in a down economy, and craft beer came up as the No. 1 search. So I looked up local craft breweries, and the Bruery came up. I went down and tried the Filthy Blonde, the Dirty Redhead and Orchard White. I instantly fell in love. I sat down and talked to [senior director of brewing operations] Tyler [King] and [founder] Patrick [Rue], and I knew that craft beer was definitely on the rise. And me being me, I had to have more taps than anybody else in town, so 33 became our magic number.


What is your beer of choice?
Since I pretty much have a beer or two every day, I stick to the pale ales. My favorites are Drakes 1500 and the Citra Pale from Knee-Deep.

What's the one thing people didn't tell you about working in a restaurant?
Nobody really warned us about anything, so we learned a lot as we went along. One thing I never expected was the amount of close friendships I have made with customers.

What are your best-sellers?
The Chuck Norris pizza, for sure, plus Bootleggers Hefe and the Bruery's Mischief.

What inspired the Chuck Norris pizza?
I used to order the California flatbread from BJ's [which had grilled chicken and avocado], and I would always ask for a side of hot wing sauce. So the day we decided to open up the pizza place, that was the very first pizza I made. Of course, I had to add bacon because bacon makes everything better.

Your best recent food find:
It's not recent, but it's my favorite. I love the chili verde from Casa Rangal in Anaheim Hills.

Favorite meal growing up:
Pizza, of course!

What are some of the challenges to opening a storefront, and how did you overcome them?
The challenge for us was something that we continue to struggle with at times, which is finding new customers who have the same mindset as us. We are a little bit chaotic at times, a little bit unorganized. But we're a family-run place that enjoys good pizza and good beer. We just want people to be able to come in and have a good time with us. On the upside, this is one of the main reasons we have so many regulars–because we treat them like our family.

Most undervalued ingredient:
I definitely think our meatballs. We marinate them in a red wine au jus.

Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Don't microwave your pizza; always stick it in the oven at 450 degrees and throw a fried egg on top.

We love your beer selection. Anything new on tap?
Our Anaheim location has an average of three new beers a day, so check out Taphunter for the updated list daily.

Where does the restaurant's name come from?
I figured since we're on the outskirts of Angel Stadium–and my dad's a big baseball fan–it just felt like the right name for us.

Favorite places to eat:
Hollingshead Deli and Casa Rengal.

Strangest customer request for a pizza (and did you do it?):
One customer really wanted to try lobster on his pizza, so he bought all the lobster and brought it in, and we made a pizza with it. It was amazing.

One stereotype about your industry, and whether it's true:
That just because you want to open a restaurant, you're a millionaire. Definitely not true. You typically work your ass off and hope to make a little bit of money and a lot of people happy.

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