The founders of Famous Dave's and Rainforest Café are teaming up for their next challenge: Dave and Steve's Big Dreams Pizza.

Dave Anderson and Steven Schussler plan to open the pizzeria in the former Clays Galaxy Drive In space in St. Louis Park this spring or summer. The location will be the first in what they hope becomes a franchise.

"I've really been on this quest to make the best pizza in America," said Anderson, who became synonymous with ribs after launching Famous Dave's in 1994.

Schussler said, "When you try Dave's pizza, you'll never want anything else."

They plan to serve a rectangular "Chicago tavern-style pizza with a butter-kissed" crust. "It has a very crispy, crunchy, golden crust," Anderson said. "It's the perfect foundation for sauce and cheese and toppings."

Minneapolis-based Shea design firm has been hired to convert the space into a pizza parlor, though it will not be typical of Schussler's themed concepts and will retain curbside pickup. "We want to be your local neighborhood pizza joint," Anderson said.

Although Dave and Steve's Big Dreams Pizza is a pilot, they aren't ready to discuss growth plans. Both men are focused on training future operators, wanting opportunities for others to have the success they did. "We're getting into it because of what we want to do with our people," Schussler said.

The two men go way back. Anderson invested in Rainforest Café early on.

Neither is involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurants for which they're known, though they say they're far from being ready to retire.

"Neither of us plays golf," Schussler said. "Retirement is not the end game."

Anderson opened the first Famous Dave's in Hayward, Wis. The publicly traded chain has grown to more than 100 locations. He left the company in 2002 when President George W. Bush appointed him assistant secretary at the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. Anderson, who is part Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and Choctaw, was inducted last year into the National Native American Hall of Fame.

More recently, Anderson launched another barbecue concept named after his father, Jimmie's Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse. He opened the first one in Wisconsin and a second in Minneapolis in 2017. While his son and daughter-in-law run the daily operations of its four locations, Anderson has returned to actively promoting Famous Dave's.

Schussler may be best known locally for Rainforest Café, which debuted in 1994 at the Mall of America. In recent years, he came up with the concept for the Boathouse in Florida's Disney Springs. That restaurant, inspired by Lake Minnetonka boat culture, has received accolades for its waterfront ambience.

Based in Golden Valley, Schussler has also developed restaurant concepts Yak & Yeti and T-Rex on Disney properties in Orlando. He also had a chain of nightclubs in the 1980s called Jukebox Saturday Night, including one in downtown Minneapolis.

Schussler, who owns the drive-in space, had tried to work with a restaurant operator to bring it back. It reopened in 2020 as Clays Galaxy Drive In but closed in October 2021 amid staffing issues.

They say the pizzeria's name pays homage to their roots starting with nothing except dreams.

"Both of us never gave up," Anderson said. "We always had big dreams."