David Dobrik On The Joys And Challenges Of Running His New Pizza Place - Exclusive Interview

The club of YouTubers and internet personalities who've extended their brands into the restaurant space has recently expanded by one member. This past November, David Dobrik's pizzeria, called — what else — Doughbrik's, opened its doors. It joined other food businesses from online creators, like MrBeast Burger and Dylan Lemay's ice cream parlor, Catch'n Ice Cream.

Although Dobrik has taken a step from back posting content to the YouTube channel that made him famous, his pizza place seems to be an overnight success, with LA Magazine reporting that the business's opening day attracted lines so long that they spilled out onto busy Sunset Boulevard.

Dobrik, who gained fame from his YouTube channel but is now a star on multiple platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, didn't just slap his name on a generic pizza place and call it a day. As he discussed with Tasting Table, he's been involved in every aspect of the restaurant, starting in the earliest planning phases. We talked to Dobrik about bringing his pizza dreams to life.

Creating Doughbrik's unique pizza

What made you want to open a restaurant, and why pizza specifically?

I'm from the suburbs of Chicago, [and] pizza in Chicago and anywhere in that area is such a big deal. I think my ultimate goal one day is to own a hotel. I want to create places that people could come and hang out in, and a pizza place was a place where people could come hang out, something that we did as kids literally every weekend. 

There wasn't an event where there wasn't pizza when we were growing up, so it's a big part of us growing up, and we wanted to make something equally as fun for people to come and visit and to hang out in LA — a cool, fun place when you're trying to find the next spot to go to. It's right in the middle of everything. That's why. We just love pizza.

What was the inspiration behind the doughy-style pizza? It seems to combine aspects of a few different pizza styles.

We tried a lot of pizzas. Originally, we were going for the tavern style, which was going to be our main style, but then with our partner chefs, Allen and Ian, we started experimenting with thicker, focaccia bread styles, and we completely fell in love with it. We wanted to create a specialty pizza. People call it a Detroit-style pizza, or Chicago-style; they're a little bit confused about it — that makes me really stoked. Maybe it doesn't have a specific style to it and it feels a little fresh. There's so much pizza out there, so we wanted to make something that felt a little bit new and you could identify it easily as being ours.

What was the hardest thing to get right about the pizza?

The toughest part about the whole experience was when we were trying the pizzas. We did — I don't know how many — 30 to 50 [or] more taste tests, and these would go on for months. You get lost in every little detail of it. It was getting the right amount of thickness for different things, whether that was the crust or the cheese or the pepperoni. Finding the right ingredients was easy, but figuring out how they all mix when they're in the oven was a whole different thing. I never realized that when you have too much toppings, it all droops to the center. Keeping the pizza balanced was the toughest part.

Chicago pizza tips

You also mentioned the Chicago tavern pie. Can you explain what makes that so good for people who only know deep dish from Chicago?

We opened with our specialty pizza, and now we're going to have the tavern available in [about] four weeks, to be conservative. We're still figuring out how to be absolutely the best, but tavern is great. That's the actual pizza I grew up on: tavern-style pizza, cut into squares, cracker-thin. That was my favorite. It's very different than deep-dish pizza, that's for sure, or Detroit-style. It's a lot thinner, and you can pop them in your mouth like they're Cheez-Its. That's my favorite part about them — you can have about 30 and then you're still not full.

What's your favorite place to get pizza when you're in Chicago?

This is tough. I love going to Gino's East. I love Lou Malnati's. My friends love to pick up Pequod's. Due's Pizzeria — I go there for deep dish every time I'm there. I'm a big fan of deep dish. Even though we don't have a deep-dish pizza, I really, really love it, but it seems like not too many people like deep dish. You've got to be born into it.

Running a restaurant is a tough job

You're a first-time restaurateur. Is there anything you know now that you wish you could have told yourself when you were planning this whole thing?

Everyone always says the restaurant business is hard, and it's very true, and I knew that going in, but I didn't expect the challenges to be so frequent. I'm used to making videos, so I know when a video is to my liking and when it's been, in my opinion, perfected, or as good as it could be, so I know when to put it out.

But with pizza, especially when you're not at the restaurant every minute and you have other people operating the ovens and making the pizza and doing the customer service and all that, there are many moving parts to it. It's a lot of people. That is difficult — to train employees, or get everyone on the same page, or make the pizzas consistent, or make sure we have enough cheese. Every day there's something new, and it's not something that I wasn't expecting, but now that I'm here, I'm in it. This isn't a thing you open up or you turn the key and then it's good to go. This is a full-time child. It needs attention every hour of the day.

It seems like the restaurant has been super busy since it opened. What has surprised you most about the reception?

Even the grand opening — and I've said this before, but I'm not saying it to be humble or anything — I wasn't expecting that many people to come check out a pizza place. I was so blown away by it, and the fact that it's consistently full. Not only that, but to be able to drive by in the middle of the night, at 11:00 or whatever when we're open on the weekend, and see people. You can tell that they're having a good time there. It's good energy in there. That makes me so stoked. [I'm] not so much surprised but so ecstatic that it worked out way better than what I anticipated. Surprised but pleased.

The mysterious blue moon ice cream

You mentioned that you really wanted to open a place where people could hang out and have fun. Can you speak to how that's a thing at Doughbrik's?

In the future, my goal is going to be to have bigger locations, a much bigger restaurant [with] 40, 50, 60, 70 tables, and it's a full-on sports bar or whatever it is. But as of now, I love where we're located. We got really lucky with the spot, and we wanted it so bad. It's right in the middle of everything. A lot of my friends and I, that's where we hang out all the time, and especially when we're going out, we're always like, "Where do we go next?" There's always 30 minutes of us sitting on the side of the curb, trying to find out where the next party is or where we're going to hang out. To have that pizza spot in the middle of town is awesome because it's the perfect place [to] go get fueled up and keep going.

Another aspect of the fun element is that you're also serving ice cream. I'm curious about the blue moon ice cream, which you can't buy where I live. For people who don't know, what is blue moon ice cream?

It's funny because even our employees that have been serving it for a couple of weeks — one of them just asked me two days ago, "How do I describe blue moon to people?" It's kind of difficult, but it's like a sweeter, bluer vanilla. That doesn't really describe it well at all, but some people compare it to Fruity Pebbles. It's a flavor we'd get in the Midwest a lot, and I wasn't seeing it anywhere here, so I wanted to bring that flavor in. It's our most popular flavor by far. We only have chocolate, vanilla, and blue moon, but it's pretty cool that people are trying the blue moon over the chocolate and vanilla. That's saying people like it.

Was it hard to get blue moon ice cream over to California?

It wasn't super hard. If you consider [that we had to call] 20 or 30 different locations to see if they can get it, then maybe it was a little bit hard. It definitely wasn't like getting vanilla, but we didn't have to climb a mountain. I think it's in one location here in California, and I don't think people know about it. Other than that, I've only seen it in the Midwest, and nobody knows about it [in] California. Every time they say "blue moon," they assume that it's flavored like beer. I'm like, "No, that's not what it is."

Fun at the Saddle Ranch

You mentioned that you and your friends hang out on the Sunset Strip, where Doughbrik's is now. And I [read] that you really liked hanging out at the Saddle Ranch, which is next door to Doughbrik's. Have you ever ridden the mechanical bull there?

It's actually kind of embarrassing, but no. And [going] to Saddle Ranch is the only thing we did from [about] 2016 to '19. We went to Saddle Ranch three times a week. There were moments we [would] stay out there till 2:00 a.m. and then we were back at 10:00 a.m. for breakfast, and we'd stay there all day, so the fact that I haven't ridden the bull is embarrassing. It became such a local spot for me [that] I didn't even realize there was a bull there anymore because we were in the same seats all the time. So I haven't ridden the bull, I'm embarrassed to say.

It was your local spot. You didn't need to blow it up by getting up and riding the bull.

No, I didn't need to prove how much fun I was having. I basically lived there.

Food memories from his travel show

You hosted a travel show called "Discovering David Dobrik," and you went all over the world for that. Are there any food memories from that show that stick out to you?

There was a moment we were in Austria and we were going to Slovakia, and we were in the car. ... We stopped at a gas station and got these hot dogs, and there's something special about European hot dogs because the bun is a real loaf of bread, and it's so nice because they cut the middle out of the loaf of bread, and they squeeze the hot dog in, and then they put the ketchup into the hole. It's so delicious, and you can wrap your hand around the entire hot dog. There's no part where the ketchup is pouring out or anything, and that was the most delicious thing.

Other than that, we went to South Africa, and we stayed at a resort there called Cheetah Plains, and they made us food every day. It was the most delicious experience ever, ever.

And in Dubai ... That food guy [known as] CZN Burak — his name is Burak Özdemir, and he has these restaurants. They're really big in the Middle East. We went there and it was delicious. It was a place I recommended in Dubai.

On Slovakian food and being a picky eater

You mentioned going to Slovakia. You moved from there to the U.S. when you were a kid. When you were growing up, did your parents feed you Slovakian food?

Yeah, they did. The one I can remember the most is called halušky, and it was noodles with cottage cheese and little bacon bits. It was my favorite thing to eat. My mom would also make these pancake-type things with this carrot juice and pork. I'm a really picky eater, so there were only four or five home-country foods I had, and those were the ones that my mom gave me at a really early age. My parents ate at Chipotle quite a bit, and it took me about three years to be like, "Okay, I'm going to try this thing," because I was so freaked out by all the things inside it. Hence why I'm all about pizza now. It's so universally accepted.

Have you always been interested in food, even though you're a little picky?

Totally. I'm obsessed with eating. I love it. I do eat the same things quite often, but I'm a maniac and it's really bad. I was on a diet recently for three months, and I gave it up because I was so over it. Now I don't know if I'm relapsing or what, but I am eating like a maniac. You can really notice I'm gaining weight, so I'm going to have to slow down a bit. Yeah, I love food.

Why he loves Gordon Ramsay

Who are some of your favorite Internet food personalities?

I'm going to sound so basic, but Gordon Ramsay. I only watched ["Kitchen Nightmares"] on YouTube because I never ... I love that show, and I didn't find out about that show till two years ago, by hanging out with more food people. They were like, "How have you not seen this?" I just started recently watching that. I love going to Hell's Kitchen when I'm in Vegas. I like him. 

I don't watch too many food things. The most food things I consume are definitely on Instagram and on TikTok. I feel like so many people are food reviewers now. There are so many places in LA to review, so there's always something new popping up on my feed, either from LA or from different parts of the world.

Do you ever cook at home?

No. Oh my gosh. No, no, no. That's too dangerous. I can't do it. I want to keep my home. No, I don't have the patience for cooking. If I'm hungry, I need it now, and I can't watch food being made because I won't get as excited for it as ordering it and opening it up. I'm a big DoorDash [and] Postmates guy. I do that all day.

His favorite foods and future plans

When you're not eating pizza, what are some of your favorite dishes to eat when you go out or order in?

I love a good cheeseburger. I love pesto pasta. I love any kind of pasta. I like anything to do with steak. Chicken tenders. Anything that you would feed a 12-year-old that's picky, I will eat. This is a little hot take, but I do love Olive Garden. I love their salad. I love their breadsticks, and the pasta, the Alfredo — it's amazing. And I get two Diet Cokes so I'm ready to go; I don't run out.

Do you want to expand Doughbrik's or open any other restaurants in the future?

I don't think there'll be another restaurant other than Doughbrik's, but I would love, love to expand it. We could have expanded a year ago, even before we opened, but to get it right, I want to take as much time as we can. I'm in no rush. Just getting one location to function the way that we want it to takes a long time, and I want to make sure our quality is as good as it can be before we start spending our time with another location. I'm in no rush, but definitely, the goal is to open as many as we can, one by one, slowly and surely. That's how I want to do it.

You can eat Doughbrik's Pizza at its location at 8363 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.

This interview has been edited for clarity.