Terrill Burnett was already an experienced chef when he opened South Polk Pizzeria in Dallas, but pizza wasn’t exactly his specialty. No matter. Before long, he was serving up “perfect pies” in a part of the city that was in dire need of his gifts, according to Culture Map Dallas.

Burnett opened South Polk Pizzeria on South Polk Street in late December 2023. Prior to that, he’d cut his teeth at several of the city’s top fine-dining restaurants, including Knife, the steakhouse from Top Chef contestant and James Beard Award-nominated chef John Tesar, and Nobu, an acclaimed Japanese eatery.

Burnett started his pizzeria with no chairs or tables, just a remarkable work ethic. After signing up for Chase’s Minority Entrepreneur program and getting some guidance on the financial side of running a restaurant business, he now has 11 employees and a growing collection of food-media headlines attesting to his skills.

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But it’s still a carryout-only joint right now, and that’s fine with his customers. “South Polk Pizzeria has become one of the best gems of black Dallas in such a short time,” South Dallas resident Jess Washington said in a recent article published in the Dallas Business Journal. “Terrill Burnett’s quality is not only amazing, but his intention to support his people around him and be an example to the community is awe-inspiring.”

Located in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, South Polk Pizzeria is a collaboration between Burnett and Dallas developer Monte Anderson. They chose South Polk Street in part because the Dallas area south of I-30 was suffering from a dearth of high-quality pizza options. Now, Dallas Culture Map reports, Burnett is “slinging the same kind of artisanal pies that are being slung across Deep Ellum, Oak Lawn and North Dallas.”

“When I partnered with Monte, I initially pitched barbecue,” Burnett told Culture Map Dallas. “But Monte encouraged me to think about pizza. I started doing my research on the concept of fermentation and got an understanding of how to do it.”

This photo shows a hand holding up a slice of pizza topped with pepperoni, bacon, ham and sausage.

South Polk Pizzeria / Instagram

He experimented with a variety of flours, looking for just the right mix of semolina and high gluten. The dough for his pizzas features a Neapolitan poolish and undergoes a 72-hour fermentation process.

The menu at South Polk Pizzeria isn’t fancy—think Meat Lovers, Supreme and Chicken Bacon Ranch—but Burnett reportedly has a BBQ chicken pie that’s to die for. “The chicken gets pan-seared, and we use a BBQ sauce base with Sweet Baby Ray’s, plus Colby Jack cheese and red onion,” he told Culture Map Dallas.

Chase, meanwhile, helped Burnett generate some buzz by giving away 200 free pizzas during a Small Business Week celebration at the Chase Community Center Branch, located near the pizza shop.

“We gained a lot of new customers that day,” Burnett said in the Dallas Business Journal story. “We were selling about 25 to 30 pizzas a day before those events. Now we’ve doubled that, easily. That’s 65 on a normal day—and 200 on a really busy day. We’re growing like crazy.”