Grant and Margaret Thompson remember their last trip before the world buckled down. The couple was visiting friends in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but made a day trip to Chicago to devour the city’s signature dish. “In regular fashion we had to get deep-dish pizza,” Grant says. “I don’t want to name the place. It’s one of the top two. We literally came home right into the pandemic. This was March 2020.”
Fear of the unknown begot comfort food cravings. “Two weeks in, my wife wants deep-dish pizza again,” Grant recalls. They looked up how much it would cost to have one shipped to the District. Services like Goldbelly can make that happen.
The money didn’t seem worth it and, since Grant had some experience in the restaurant industry, he purchased a mixer and set out to make Margaret one himself. They liked the results and advertised the stocky pies on Instagram. By April 2020, Grant and Margaret were the official co-founders of DC Chi Pie. “The power of social media,” Grant says. “We found ourselves filling orders.”
Even though Grant, a pastor who ran for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat in 2016, supplemented his existing home kitchen equipment with some extra ovens, it wasn’t enough. He began looking for spaces to grow into and landed at Compare Foods in July 2021. The grocery store is located just over the line from Southeast, D.C. in Capitol Heights, Maryland.
When you open a pizza box to find a three-inch thick behemoth hidden like treasure under picnic-checkered wax paper, it’s hard not to make exploding cartoon eyes. The steak and cheese, DC Chi Pie’s second most popular pizza after pepperoni and sausage, has a pleasant and unexpected sweet taste thanks to a pepper and onion mixture. Once you eat your way through about seven layers of alternating cheese and toppings, the reward is the biscuit-like crust. Firm on the outside and squishy on the inside, it eats like a hug. Grant says they make the dough fresh every morning.
DC Chi Pie sells two sizes. The “personal pan” ($25 to $30) is a misnomer because it can feed up to four people. A grocery store employee in the parking lot reports that it takes him four days to finish one, and he saves the last two slices to top with eggs for breakfast. The “super-size it” ($45) should satiate four to eight people.
“My experience, and I eat pizza, is one slice puts you down,” Grant says. That’s a tricky claim, however, because the pies don’t come pre-sliced. Part of the fun is cutting into it when you get home to count the layers of love that went into the bake. Other deep-dish flavors include plain cheese, chicken cheesesteak, salmon pesto, turkey pepperoni, and veggie. Grant says he’s working on vegan and gluten free options.
Customers can place pick-up orders online. DC Chi Pie is currently selling about 150 to 200 pies a week. Grant expects numbers to increase once they launch delivery through DoorDash in the coming weeks. The delivery radius will likely cover much of Southeast, D.C. They also cook, freeze, and ship pizzas to other states. Make sure to tack on an order of “drop the bomb bread pudding” served with caramel coulis for dessert ($7).
DC Chi Pi is looking to complete its collection of four thin-crust pizzas, each one named and inspired by a D.C. quadrant. There are two “DC Flats” so far. The “NW Georgetown” should taste like the gyros Grant fondly remembers at Ikaros of Georgetown, a restaurant life-long Washingtonians like him will recall. It’s covered in lamb, tzatziki, imported Greek garlic feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, onions, and green peppers.
DC Chi Pie tops the “SE Big Chair” with fried chicken morsels, onions, and house made mumbo sauce ($18). When Cheers @ The Big Chair closed in 2019, it stripped Ward 8 of one of its only sit-down restaurants.
“My business has been a source of, in this area, good, healthy, fresh food because certainly this is a food dessert,” Grant says. We’ll give him good and fresh, healthy is up for debate. “We use fresh products, nothing prefab or frozen stuff,” he clarifies. “We use fresh vegetables and fresh meats. I enjoy contributing to the community with quality food and being an employer.”
Next up for Grant is getting delivery off the ground, then he’ll turn his attention to opening a flagship brick-and-mortar shop in Southeast, D.C. While he searches for the perfect address, he’s also scoping out other neighborhoods for future DC Chi Pie locations. He thinks the demand is there based on the distances customers are willing to travel to score a deep-dish pie. “We have people that travel from Woodbridge, Stafford, Damascus, and even Wilmington, Delaware,” Grant says, adding that some diners, who have given DC Chi Pie a stamp of approval, are Chicagoans.
How’s Margaret feeling about the craving that spurred a growing business? “She’s amazed,” Grant says. “I’m amazed. It’s not something we forecast.” He had no plans to re-enter the restaurant industry after his first restaurant, specializing in breakfast and soul food in Northwest, D.C., crumbled under the pressures of the Great Recession. The couple was planning to enter the real estate business together, but then the pizza project took off. “It made me eat my words that I wouldn’t do food anymore,” Grant says.
DC Chi Pie is currently open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. They hope to open on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. before football season is over. Notice to tailgaters, FedEx Field is only 15 minutes away from the pick-up location inside Compare Foods. Follow along for updates on Instagram.
DC Chi Pie inside Compare Foods, 4801 Marlboro Pike, Capitol Heights, MD; (703) 867-4513; instagram.com/thedcchipie