The fast-casual concept is all the rage in the restaurant world. Now, Blaze Pizza is fueling the fire with its custom-made pizzas cooked in 180 seconds in an open-flame oven.
The franchise, which started in California in 2012, opened an Inner Harbor storefront in April, just off Market Place. Other Maryland stores are in College Park and Laurel.
We knew we were in the right place when a fire engine pulled up quietly in front of the downtown pizzeria. The four firefighters weren't there on business — they were there to order pizza.
Next, two Baltimore police officers locked up their bikes and came in for lunch. And that doesn't count the dozens of other customers who queued up for the specialized pizzas during our visit.
The staff is friendly and works like an assembly line. You order your 11-inch, thin-crust pizza and then proceed down the line, watching your pie being assembled.
You can pick your toppings, including meats, veggies, cheeses and sauces. Or you can order a signature pizza, like an Art Lover, with artichokes, mozzarella, ricotta, garlic and dollops of red sauce, or a Simple Pie with mozzarella, Parmesan and red sauce. Even with a signature item, the staff asks if you want to add ingredients to your pie.
By the time you finish paying for your order, your pizza is ready for carryout or dining in.
The dining space is streamlined with concrete floors and geometrical designs on the walls. A colorful mural greets diners with the words, "Make Waves."
Baltimore is awash in pizza shops these days, but Blaze is already a trailblazer.
Scene & Decor: The decor is simple and focused on the fire-engine-red pizza oven. Geometric designs and a bright mural add interest to the dining room
Appetizers: The salads are pre-packaged and fresh, marked with the date of assembly — the day of your visit, most likely. The beet and goat cheese side salad ($3.85) was a wonderful find at a pizza place. The sliced ruby beets were mixed with peppery arugula and almonds and served with a tangy vinaigrette on the side. The Caesar salad ($3.85) with chunky croutons and shaved Parmesan was a good representation of the classic dish.
Entrees: You can make whatever kind of pizza you want with dozens of additions available for the made-from-scratch shell. But sometimes you want the restaurant to make the decision for you. We liked the signature pizzas, especially the Veg Out ($8.25), with zucchini, mushrooms, red onions, mozzarella, Gorgonzola and puddles of red sauce, and the Link In ($8.25), with Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, sauteed onions, mozzarella and red sauce.
Drinks: Sodas, iced tea and lemonade.
Service: Counter service.
Dessert: The s'more pie ($2) is the only offering, featuring a puffy layer of marshmallow and chocolate sandwiched between two indistinguishable cookies. It tasted dry to us.