In these food-happy times, even the pizza joint has evolved beyond the slice-and-soda model into something the most diehard foodie could love. HomeSlyce is proof.
The bar/restaurant, which has Federal Hill and Mount Vernon locations, joins a handful of new Baltimore spots that elevate pizza beyond the ordinary, focusing on great ingredients and experimental toppings.
At the Mount Vernon location, service is sometimes scattered, but the food is top-notch.
Scene & Decor When we arrived at the Mount Vernon HomeSlyce, around 6:30 p.m. on a midsummer Thursday, we had no trouble finding a table. The bar — casual but stylish with white booth seating and dark wood — was about half full. Several low sofas that sit in the front window, looking out over Charles Street, were occupied, but plenty of tables remained empty.
Within 20 minutes that changed, as diners poured in from First Thursday events near the Monument and regulars geared up for a weekly trivia contest.
Service Unfortunately, our arrival also coincided with a rush of delivery orders, leaving only one waitress to handle the rapidly filling tables. She was friendly and apologetic as she explained why we waited 15 minutes to order appetizers, but she was also clearly overwhelmed.
Even later in the meal, when another waiter joined the mix, our waitress couldn't quite find her stride. We had trouble catching her eye and when she did check on our table, she left after a brief chat, before we had a chance to order new drinks.
Drinks We did get our first drink orders in before things got crazy, so as we waited to order food, we enjoyed a Fat Tire ($5.50) and a "Brew-mosa" ($6.94) —HomeSlyce's beer cocktail take on the mimosa. Though it wouldn't be our first choice as a brunch drink — it was too boozy — the combination of light beer and orange liqueur was citrusy and fun.
Appetizer The spinach pie appetizer ($6.75) arrived at the same time as our entrees, so we weren't able to linger over it as long as we would have liked. That was too bad; it deserved our attention.
Instead of a traditional delicate triangle of phyllo-wrapped spinach, HomeSlyce's pie is a round of flaky dough stuffed with seasoned spinach and topped with grated cheese. The style was unexpected, but the flavors were spot on.
Entrees At HomeSlyce, a "slyce" of pizza is actually a 10-inch boat-shaped pizza of chewy crust and fresh toppings. The concept is borrowed from the Turkish flatbread pide; HomeSlyce owner Alec Kantar serves a similar dish (with different toppings) at his Turkish spot, Cazbar.
Cazbar and HomeSlyce share a dough recipe, and it's a good one: chewy inside and crisp on the outside. We tried the "Pop-Pie" ($12.65), a Popeye-inspired combination of fresh spinach, garlic herb sauce, caramelized red onions, gorgonzola and goat cheese topped with mozzarella.
Though some bites were overly cheesy — three cheeses is a lot — the combination of savory and tangy cheeses with fresh and sweet vegetables was addictive.
The steak sandwich ($8.69) was simply built, but impressively flavorful. A stack of steak, gooey mozzarella, earthy mushrooms plus onions and peppers sat on dense bread, topped by lettuce, ripe tomato and a slathering of mayonnaise. Thanks to fresh ingredients and careful preparation, the sandwich was a winner.
Accompanying fries were on the limp side, but they were saved by a spicy-creamy dipping sauce so good we nearly asked for seconds.
Dessert By the time dessert rolled around, HomeSlyce was jam-packed, loud and crazy with trivia buffs. In between questions, we sampled a mini Nutella calzone ($4.41).
The calzone — sweet pastry stuffed with Nutella, strawberries and bananas — sounded phenomenal. But while uneven heating kept the pastry crisp, it left several strawberries ice cold, detracting from the whole dish.
Bottom Line By the time we tracked down our waitress for the check, we were more than ready to head out. HomeSlyce's atmosphere was fun and everyone was kind, but the scattered service left us frustrated.
But our satisfaction with the food outweighed those problems. HomeSlyce's kitchen knows what it's doing. So even with erratic service, this next generation pizza spot is worth a try.
Back story: After several years as the successful owner of Cazbar on Charles Street, Alec Kantar branched out into the pizza business, opening two locations of HomeSlyce in 2012. The first, in Federal Hill, opened in April and the second, near Cazbar on Charles Street, opened in October, bringing Kantar's doughy crust and boat-shaped personal pizzas to Mount Vernon.
Parking: Street parking or garages
Signature dish: At HomeSlyce, a "slyce" is a boat-shaped personal pizza with thick crust surrounding a valley of cheese and toppings. The Pop-Pie slyce combines three cheeses — gorgonzola, goat and mozzarella — with spinach, caramelized onions and garlic herb sauce. The result is undeniably cheesy, but also savory and full of complex flavors.
Where: 336 N. Charles St., Baltimore (there is a second location on Light Street in Federal Hill)
Open: 11 a.m. to midnight daily
Credit cards: All major
[Key: Superlative: 5 stars; Excellent: 4 stars; Very Good: 3 stars; Good: 2 stars; Promising: 1 star]Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun