While Chef John Hall was working long nights at fine-dining leaders like Gramercy Tavern and Momofuku in New York, he got an itch for good late-night pizza, which led to running Insomnia Pizza out of his Brooklyn apartment. Later, when Hall returned to his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, he and three other local restaurateurs seized the opportunity to buy the old post office in Avondale, a Birmingham neighborhood. The first Post Office Pies opened in 2014, followed by a second in nearby Tuscaloosa last fall. The original location features a no-frills interior with chalkboard menu, two handmade brick ovens, bar, and open kitchen. While guests can build their own pies or choose mainstays like pepperoni, the menu’s seasonal specials shine with options like the Summer Melon & Cucumber Salad and a meat sauce jalapeño pizza topped with an egg.
Holding customer service, local sourcing, and in-house prep as key tenets of the business, Hall shares the vision behind Post Office Pies.
Given your fine-dining background, what inspired you to open a pizza fast casual?
I don’t really look at POPs as pizza fast casual in the typical sense. In New York, I found the need for a solid late-night pizza for all of the industry folks getting off at odd hours, and I decided to make it happen myself.
I took what I knew from fine dining and used that to create a pie with the freshest ingredients and simple cooking technique. I committed myself to applying what I had learned at some of the top restaurants in the world—for which I am so grateful—to pizza. Fresh, local, accessible: In that sense, I suppose it is fast casual, but I would definitely not assume our pizza and salads to be created in haste!
Why did you choose an old post office for the first location?
Our first location is in the heart of Avondale, a few blocks away from where I grew up. Coming back to the South, I knew the only place I would go would be Avondale, to start, at least. I have seen these buildings my entire life. When Avondale Brewery opened, the neighborhood followed suit with new spots opening up all down the block. The old post office was near and dear to my heart. As soon as it was in talks of becoming a restaurant space, we jumped at the chance.
What’s your favorite menu item?
Oh man, that’s a hard one. Right now it has to be the Margherita and a Roasted Corn Salad. Very basic pie—let the dough and the fresh toppings do the talking.
What’s up next for Post Office Pies?
We are a group of dreamers, so there are plenty of ideas in the works, but nothing set in stone just yet. I am always looking for my next project. I wish I could do it all, but patience is a virtue, they say.