The Cazbar empire is growing. The downtown Turkish restaurant now operates a full-time food truck, Cazbar on the Go. And this year, chef/owner Haluk Kantar and the Cazbar group have introduced a more casual concept called Homeslyce Pizza Bar.
The first Homeslyce opened this spring in South Baltimore, and the second opened very recently downtown, just a block away form Cazbar. The menu includes a few Cazbar appetizers — hummus, baba ghanoush and delectable feta-stuffed meatballs made from lamb and beef — and a refreshing Mediterranean salad, too.
But Homeslyce's focus is on pub food like wings, stuffed sandwiches, and, of course pizza. The basic pizza choice is between premium styles like the Port a Bella and the Strongman Meat Classic (these start at $11.25) and build-your-own creations with an impressive range of add-ons. Vegetables include artichokes, good kalamata olives and caramelized onions. Meat options include the Cazbar's own grilled chicken, spicy beef and soujuk, a traditional Turkish sausage.
The pizzas come in 10- and 16-inch sizes. But for lunch, the best choice is the "Slyce," a somewhat Americanized version of the a Cazbar specialty called the Lahmacun, a thin boat-shaped dough topped with minced meat and vegetables.
I tried the Slyce with soujuk, which kept the lunch bill under $10. It's big enough to share, especially if you're sharing a salad, too. You could also eat half and save the rest for a 3 p.m. snack. And it's fine pizza, too, with seasoning in the crust, quality cheese and a little kick to the tomato sauce.
The shape is the same at Slyce, but the dough is thicker and the traditional toppings aren't available. That's on purpose. Homeslyce wants to be an accessible lunch spot by day and a tavern by night.
There's no reason why a well-run pizza tavern shouldn't do well on this block of downtown. Other places haven't done well in this space. In hindsight, you can see how Cangliosi's and Milton's Grill were too fancy. Gorditos and Goodfellas didn't seem like serious efforts.
The space is contemporary and cheerful but imperfect. It's unclear, for instance, where you're supposed to place carryout orders. This could be easily resolved if management paused to picture things from the customer's point of view.
Homeslyce Pizza Bar
Where: 336 N. Charles St.
Contact: 443-501-4000, http://www.slycethebar.com
Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner
Lunch entrees: $7.50-$11.25