After five years of operating Earth Wood & Fire in Baltimore County, partners Carter Mason and Mark Hofmann found just the right spot for their second location — Fallston.
The new place opened in mid-August near the busy intersection of Route 152 and U.S. 1, offering the restaurant’s signature coal-fired pizza, wood-grilled burgers and creative small plates.
We walked into the dining room on a recent weeknight and felt as if we were stepping into a typical suburban spot. Furnishings include nondescript booths, bare tables and unadorned walls, except for one with a colorful sunburst design representing the restaurant’s logo.
The space, which has a bar area with five TVs, was comfortable, just not dynamic. Food and drinks are the focus, which makes strategic sense when you look around the room at the happy groups of all ages gathered around the tables.
Draft beers include local brews like Loose Cannon from Heavy Seas Beer and Resurrection from the Brewer’s Art, while bottled beers include Budweiser and Yuengling. Wines are mostly from California. You’ll also find fruity crush drinks and familiar cocktails like a Moscow mule and a mojito.
The kitchen shows its personality with starters like a grilled hanger steak with cucumber wasabi and Nana’s meatballs with arugula and Parmesan cheese.
Our waitress was cheerful and knowledgeable about the menu and didn’t mind making recommendations when we asked for help.
We kicked off the evening with the corn and crab chowder, a thick, creamy broth tasting of its main components and a hint of sherry. It was a soothing elixir that showed care in its preparation.
We were really impressed with the coal-fired chicken wings. Do try these. The drumettes and wingettes were meaty and slightly charred, imparting a smoky perfume. You don’t necessarily need a sauce, though you get one with your order. We picked a piquant blue cheese. You can get others (ranch and hot sauce) for 50 cents extra.
The thin-crust pizzas, cooked in a 900-degree, coal-fired oven, are slathered with plum tomato sauce and showered with mozzarella and provolone cheeses. They come in 10-inch and 14-inch rounds and can be doctored with an array of toppings, like tomatoes, arugula and roasted broccoli, or deluxe additions, including hot Italian sausage, garlic chicken and shrimp. Just note: There’s a charge ($2 or $2.50) for each extra, and the price can climb quickly.
Another way to go is a specialty pizza, where the decisions are made for you. That’s what we did, and we were thrilled with our vegetable pie. The slightly blackened crust was the base for an avalanche of ingredients, including broccoli, mushrooms, roasted red peppers and tangy shards of aged Provolone.
We got the smaller-size pizza and had enough slices for two people. Large pizzas are stacked on tower stands for easy eating, as we noticed at the tables near us.
The restaurant’s wood-grilled offerings are also tempting. We enjoyed a terrific turkey burger with bacon that generously engulfed a soft brioche bun. A beautiful green avocado half topped the patty, and we spread the ripe fruit luxuriously over the meat.
The menu also includes sandwiches like shrimp salad, chicken breast and salmon fillet.
After appreciating several dishes from the coal-fired oven, we couldn’t resist another of its products: a blueberry crisp. Served bubbling hot, the juicy whole berries were sweet with just-picked flavor and got a crunch from a crumble topping and a soothing balm from whipped cream.
When I asked owner Mason why the partners didn’t open another location for several years, he said, “We wanted to wait until we got the concept down.”
The new Earth Wind & Fire is a testament to their goal.
At a Glance
Earth Wood & Fire
214 Mountain Road, Fallston
The vibe: We liked the laid-back setting reminiscent of many family-friendly restaurants. The pizzeria can seat about 200 people. The bar area, where the TVs are located, is separated from the dining room by a high wall, but the main room can be noisy during peak times. An outdoor patio with a bar is being built.
You’ll fit in wearing: Casual attire
Don’t miss: The specialty coal-fired pizzas, especially the vegetable pizza.
Best for kids: A menu section for children ages 12 and younger includes cheese or pepperoni pizza ($6.50), a burger with fries ($6.50) and grilled chicken with broccoli ($8.50).
Reservations: Not accepted, but the restaurant takes call-ahead notice from people who are en route and want to place their names on a waiting list.
Handicap accessible: Yes
Price range: Appetizers, $4.50-$12; pizzas, $12-$20 (or more with extra toppings); burgers and sandwiches, $11-$17.