Baltimore has, over the past five years, become a solid pizza town, with offerings to please both traditionalists and wild experimenters.
Bagby Pizza has been an important part of that revolution. After establishing itself as a Harbor East favorite, Bagby Pizza Co., part of the Bagby Restaurant Group that includes Fleet Street Kitchen, Ten Ten and Cunningham's, expanded last summer, opening a second location in the Festival at Woodholme in Pikesville (construction is set to begin next summer on a third location in Foundry Row in Owings Mills).
The format is friendly and fast-casual, with plenty of tables but no table service — and the pizza is terrific.
Scene & Decor On a recent Thursday night, the small restaurant was busy but never uncomfortably packed; we easily found seats at a long counter against the front window. Full of warm wood with green accents, the look is a little brighter than the original location's city-rustic brick decor, but still pleasing.
The only downside of the new location is the parking. The lot, which serves the whole busy shopping center, was a zoo during our visit.
Appetizers Bagby's menu is straightforward, including seven signature salads and eight pizzas and a long list of customizable ingredients for both.
We started with the Harvest Green salad ($7.85) and it was delightful. Raw spinach was topped with chopped tomato, corn, bites of asparagus, edamame and large, thin slices of bright pink radish, then mixed with goat cheese, sprinkled with crispy wontons and dressed with champagne vinaigrette.
The salad hit all the right notes. It was crunchy and bright, with plenty of flavor and, thanks to the pretty radishes, visually exciting.
A side order of meatballs ($4.50) was also a good decision. Well-seasoned and served in a slightly spicy tomato sauce, they were soft, savory and satisfying.
Entrees Pizza is the main attraction at Bagby, and it is good. The crust, carried over from the original location, is thin and crispy, with enough heft to stand up to lots of toppings.
We opted for three of Bagby's easy-to-eat, personal-sized pies: the Big Cheesy ($5.95), the Carne Supremo ($9.95) and the Honey BBQ Chicken ($8.85).
The Big Cheesy, a simple cheese and tomato sauce pizza, showcased the crust. The tomato sauce-to-mozzarella ratio was good, and the sauce was bright and likable.
The Honey BBQ, a favorite from the original location, was topped with fresh tomato and mozzarella, plus bite-sized pieces of barbecue chicken, bacon, scallions and a bit of honey. It reminded us of the first taste of gourmet pizza we ever took, at a California Pizza Kitchen back in the 1990s — a retro flavor that we enjoyed.
The Carne Supremo, another tomato sauce-based pie, added asiago cheese to the mozzarella and was piled high with meats, including sweet fennel sausage, soppressata and pepperoni, and finished with caramelized onions.
The sausage, when eaten alone, was a little underseasoned. But it was just right when combined with the rest of the meats and cheeses; a more heavily seasoned version would have made the pizza as a whole too salty.
Drinks BYOB is an option at Bagby, with no corkage fee, but during our visit, we didn't spot anyone taking advantage of the policy. We bypassed a trough of fancy sodas in favor of fountain drinks ($1.85), keeping our approach to the meal simple.
Service The fast-casual, customize-as-you-walk method of ordering at a long counter, made popular by Chipotle, lends itself well to Bagby's menu. The young staff was friendly, efficient and very competent; we especially appreciated that for our salad, they asked how heavy we wanted the dressing (medium was just right).
Bagby donates any tips offered to a local cause; the specific organization changes on a regular basis. During our visit, it was an area school. Given the speed and affable nature of the staff, they should be raising a lot of money.
Dessert Bagby's housemade cheesecake ($3.50) was pulled from a case and handed to us in a plastic container. When we were ready to dig in, it was room temperature, soft and wonderfully creamy — much better than the average carryout dessert.
By the time we'd polished off the cheesecake, we'd been at Bagby for the better part of an hour — and the steady stream of customers never stopped.
But still, the staff was smiling. And so were the guests.
Nearby on Dish Baltimore: Pikesville Restaurant Reviews