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Coal-Fired Pizza in Ellicott City open

this opened recently.
off 108 by the elkridge border near 175.

here's some reviews from the howchow blog at the end
http://howchow.blogspot.com/2009/04/c...

Just ate Coal Fire on their opening night. I got the cheese steak sandwich which is cooked with high quality Rib-eye steak. I would highly recommend everyone try that. Also got the Coal Fire Signature pizza which was some of the best pizza I have had in a while. Pretty impressed with the service for the first night they were open.
April 22, 2009 10:09 PM
Anonymous said...

Went to coal fire last night for opening night. Had the signature sauce pizza. Wow. LEt me tell you, this place is fantastic. Some of the best pizza I have had in a while (The sauce is amazing). They actually give you 3 choices of sauce: classic, signature & spicy. The pizza has the taste and feel of a brick oven pizza. Also noticed they have a beef brisket sandwich on the menu that I will def be trying next time there. There is also a nice bar in the restaurant with 2 flat screens. The service was good, and the ambiance is also very nice.

Highly recommend!

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    1. Please forgive me for the questions I am going to ask: what exactly is "coal fired" pizza? I am extremely familiar with pizzarias like Pepe's, Sally's and the Spot on Wooster street in New Haven or Tacconelli's in Philly along with a number of others where lumps of coal actually burn in the oven with the pie. But all of these, at least in the East, are pizzarias where local laws allow the coal ovens to be grandfathered" in. None of these depend on the sauce; all are strictly about the charred and blistered crusts that bake in three to four minutes, being moved from one part of the oven to another depending on heat. I write this as someone who has driven from Reston to New Haven and back in the same day for pizza. Twice. Ellicott City is much closer. Thus, what IS coal "fired" pizza and how does this compare to the ones I've mentioned, Lombardy's or a handful of others in the New York metro area? This will give you a point for comparison: http://slice.seriouseats.com/archives...

      1. re: Joe H

        Joe -- this evening when I spoke with Brian, one of the owners, he said that because Maryland isn't a "Clean Air State" there aren't restrictions against coal oven exhaust. Mainly, the local government is concerned with insulation to prevent building fires. I got a similar response when I spoke with the owner of Joe Squared in Baltimore City while he was trying to get his coalfired oven up and running.

        The ovens run hot, but probably won't be at full blast furnace temps until they get their dough perfected and their staff taught. The pizzas took a while, but I don't know how long they were actually baked.

        The owners spent 18 months looking at pizza places around the country and went to NYC and Florida among other places, but not as far north as New Haven.
        This place would be good to check out after arriving at BWI airport or attending an event at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

        1. re: Joe H

          Joe -- This is not New Haven pizza. I really liked the Coal Fire pizza in Ellicott City, and I think it's great if you live nearby. But my father grew up in New Haven, and I can assure you that this isn't the cracker-thin pizza that makes you line up on Wooster Street.

          You're right to focus on the sauce. The New Haven pizzas are all crust and are terrific as just white pizza. Coal Fire is more of a good, gourmet pizza. Good crust. Good cheese. Really interesting sauce. It's good, but it is selling a different package. Compare this to Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Florida: http://www.anthonyscoalfiredpizza.com/

          1. re: HowChowBlog

            How does Coal Fire compare to Joe2, where I see mostly people just drinking or waiting for music and the coupla pizzas i tasted were just OK?

            1. re: chowsearch

              You know, I have only eaten once at each place. I'd certainly take either in my neighborhood, but I have to admit being disappointed with Joe2. Coal Fire really struck me with the spicy/sweet sauce and really good crust. Joe2 was good. But I remember leaving with sort of a shrug. There wasn't anything that grabbed me the same way.

              1. re: HowChowBlog

                I tried Coal Fire, and I'd say that the place has promise, but also has some newly-opened-restaurant bugs to work out.

                The pizza I had was a sausage and onion (my usual "test drive" pizza for a new place) with the "classic" sauce.

                The crust was thin, and had a good chewy texture - definitely not the thicker, bread-like crust that is common to many Maryland pizza places. On the other hand, it was not as crispy as a New Haven style or Joe2. On the whole, good flavor, good texture, good thickness, but I'd have preferred it a little crispier.

                I suspect that they may be choosing to err on the side of less done, given that many people who have not tried high-heat pizza, whether coal fired, wood fired or even a hot gas oven tend to freak out when they see the characteristic charring on the bottom and edges. I'll try asking for "well done" next time.

                The quality of toppings was good, and in my opinion, they hit the right balance of sauce, toppings, and crust. In my view, great pizza is properly a balance between all its elements. If you're the sort who prefers toppings piled on as heavily as possible, this is not your sort of pizza.

                The cheese also caught my attention. The color, flavor and meling pattern makes me wonder if they are using fresh mozerrella, as oppsed to the typical shredded "pizza cheese version. In any case, I liked it.

                Personally, I wish they had an option for hand-crushed tomatoes in place of one of the three sauces. There is a moisture and texture difference between peeled, crushed and drained tomatoes and "sauce". I think the crushed tomato option would be very much in tune with what they are doing here.

                P{rice point is a bit higher than the typical chain pizza or generic local Maryland pizzeria, but I think that once they get their menu and processes dialed in, it will be well worth it.

                Lastly, this does not appear to be another Phat Pug. The owners were there, and chats with them and the staff seem to indicate that these folks have done their homework, and they have things fairly well thought out.

                Even so, there are still bugs. For example, while I was there (lunch time Monday), they had a carry-out pickup show up, only to find that somehow his phoned-in order had been lost, and they only began his pizza after he walked in to pick it up. That said, based on what I saw, I'd say this was a "just after opening" goof, not an example of trends that will continue.

                As one of this board's resident pizza junkies, I give this one a thumbs up based on what's there now and predicted progress to come, to be revisited after they have had a chance to get into a groove.

                1. re: Warthog

                  We picked up a pizza today about 5 PM, not sure if it's because it was a bit early and they weren't rushed, or if they're getting their act together, but the
                  pizza had a pretty nice char on the edges. I'm hopeful! We only ate at Pepe's once a long time ago but that pizza really has stuck with us as the model for great pizza. I'd say Coal Fire is a pretty decent substitute (cheaper than driving to New Haven!!!)

              2. re: chowsearch

                Chowsearch,
                I'd compare Coal Fire to Joe Squared this way:

                Joe Squared - bar atmosphere with adventurous food - Joe likes to try unusual flavor combinations.
                Coal Fire - going for mainstream, take the family, slightly upscale restaurant vibe, with bar in separate area.

                Crust - Joe Squared has a thin, crisp/chewy sourdough crust , Coal Fire is a thin, crisp/chewy "regular" crust - both seem to be shooting for the Neapolitan style with hints toward New Haven, rather than a strict New Haven, strict New York or "other". If you like the more doughy style of pizza crust found in a lot of Maryland pizza places, you will probably not like Coal Fired's crust anymore than you probably liked Joe Squared's.

                Sauce - Joe Squared usually has a normal red sauce, though they sometimes use white sauce, pesto or other unusual options. Coal Fire has tomato sauce with three options of sweet/plain, sweet/spicy balance, and spicy.
                Toppings - similar focus on quality and focus on balance between sauce, cheese crust and toppings, rather than emphasizing quantity of toppings. Joe Squared tends toward more unusual toppings and combinations, Coal Fire is sticking to a limited number of toppings to start out, with plans to expand the choices later. Coal Fired recommends no more than two toppings per pizza.

                Cheese - Joe Squared uses all manner of different cheeses and combinations, while Coal Fire uses "made in house daily'" fresh mozzarella. Neither place really goes overboard with the quantity of cheese. If you're looking for pizza with extra cheese ("You want some pizza to go with that pile of cheese?"), rather than balance, neither place is likely to satisfy.

                Beyond those basics, it's a matter of personal taste and style preferences. I hope the above, combined with Joe Squared as a known reference point (whether you like their style of pizza or not) may prove helpful as you try to figure out if Coal Fire is your kind of place.

                Personally, I'd say give Coal Fire a try. I think they've got a product aimed at fairly mainline tastes, and there's nothing really odd about their pizzas. As scarce as decent pizza is in the state of Maryland, I'd say that it's worth at least giving a place like Coal Fire a chance to earn your business.

                1. re: Warthog

                  This is a great comparison. One question: Does Coal Fire make the cheese themselves? I saw a mention on Don Rockwell that they were getting cheese from the Cierello Italian market in Belvedere Square. I'm just curious.

                  1. re: HowChowBlog

                    When I stopped in the waitress also mentioned that the mozzarella was from Cierello market in Belvedere Square. Safe to say they don't make it themselves, but it is fresh.

                    1. re: HowChowBlog

                      HCB-- I spoke to the owner at Coal Fire about this. They get their stuff from where you mentioned by making runs up there a couple of times a week believe it or not.

                      I prefer their 'classic' sauce, but the signature sauce was not unpleasing after the 3rd or 4th bite. Have not tried the spicy sauce yet and have not asked for extra char. Will have to try that soon.

                2. re: HowChowBlog

                  Thanks HowChowBlog. Much appreciated.

                  1. re: HowChowBlog

                    Great mention in the Sun's Elizabeth Large blog for both HowChow and CoalFire:

                    http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/enter...

                    1. re: HowChowBlog

                      Definitely agree with the positive comments about the sauce. My first pizza at Coal Fire I had the classic sauce. Good, but I think for both texture and flavor I'd prefer just plain old peeled, hand crushed and drained Italian tomatoes.

                      Tonight I tried the spicy sauce. I'm usually a purist when it comes to sauce on pizza. I tend to prefer "tomato", not "sauce", but this one is really nice.

                    2. re: Joe H

                      Joe, that is a good question!

                      I would argue a coal fired pizza is merely one which is cooked in an oven whose heat is generated by burning coal. Any style of pizza can be cooked in a coal fired oven, so I wouldn't say Coal Fired Pizza is a particular style, simply thin crusted pizza cooked in a coal fired oven, which is somewhat of a novelty in Maryland.

                      Coal fired pizza ovens are a generally misunderstood. Most of the famous New York coal fired pizzerias and the New Haven pizzerias do not in fact place the coal in the same chamber as the cooking floor where the pizza cooks.....the coal is loaded into a seperate chamber, which creates a very dry cooking environment. In addition, most of these ovens are built based on some sort of barrel vault (more rectangular) configuration, which by its nature can cause certain areas of the oven to be hotter than others....hence the sometimes significant moving around of the pizzas in these ovens.

                      This is much different than a circular, more Neapolitan pizza oven, where a well designed oven will reflect the heat off of the ceiling and walls in a much more even manner, creating much less "hot spots" in the oven as compared with the more barrel vaultish configurations most commonly associated with brick ovens.

                      Joe Squared uses a circular oven which was actually designed to use wood as fuel, but Joe decided to use coal. His oven is also very hot, necessitating the use of an extremely heat resistant titanium screen on the cooking floor under where the coal is placed. By having the heat source in the same chamber as the pizza and also due to the circular configuration of the oven, much more of the cooler air outside of the oven is sucked into the opening, which creates much less of a dry environment than the coal fired ovens in New York or New Haven.

                      I would strongly argue that the big thing about a coal fired oven is not the coal, but the heat. Most standard Bakers Pride and Blodgett gas deck ovens found at most pizzerias top out at 650°F. Coal and wood fired ovens typically have a cooking floor of at least 800°F on the floor (with as much as 1500°F or more reflecting off the dome), which helps to give the pleasing char to the crust most associated with these ovens, as well as varying amounts of smokey aroma and/or flavor to the pizzas. The biggest advantage gained from having a hot oven is how quickly the dough will "spring", which helps to give a competently made dough a world class texture, replete with various shaped air holes and a light, nearly breadlike texture on the inside of the lip, while still having a crispy outside. God, my mouth is watering thinking about it.

                      BTW, the oven at Tocconelli's is not fueled by coal, it's fueled by oil, which is pretty unique. I love your pizza passion.....driving to New Haven and back solely for pizza is awesome! Sounds like my kinda pizza lover :) Some Pepe's or Modern "ahbeetz" would certainly hit the spot right now!

                      At this time, the grandfathering of coal ovens in New York applies to Manhattan only. This is the reason you are seeing new coal fired pizzerias opening in Brooklyn, for example.

                      I am leaving as soon as I post this for my first go around at Coal Fired Pizza. A lot of good info in this thread for sure and I am excited to try the place out.....Maryland could use some more good pizzerias!

                  2. The original comment has been removed
                    1. I work around the corner from this place so I snagged a menu at lunchtime and scanned it in, this is the whole menu. If I am going to pay almost $10 for a cheesesteak it better be damn good.
                      There is a bar, the decor is rather spare, there was almost no one in there at 1pm.

                      http://www.clubbasement.com/coalfire.jpg

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hon

                        Thanks hon!
                        The back of the menu relates information on the federal fund to reclaim abandoned coal mines. Seems all coal sold now has a "tax" to contribute to this fund. The Department of the Interior - Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's website has more info: www.osmre.gov

                      2. do they sell pizza by the slice?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: vivinator

                          If they do, I saw no evidence. There was no mention of "by the slice" pricing that I recall on th menu, and I didn't see any pre-made pizza sitting out from which to remove and reheat a slice. On the other hand, the crust is so thin that almost anybody could finish a 12" by themselves.

                          1. re: vivinator

                            There is not a coal oven on the face of the earth that sells pizza by the slice...

                            1. re: Joe H

                              I can't confirm or deny Joe H's assertion, but just from a practicality standpoint, the process of taking a slice from a pie that's been sitting out, popping it back in the oven to reheat, and pulling it back out to serve it would be problematic. With the high temperatures, the timing would have to be really precise, as the time window between "Yuck! It's still just lukewarm." and "OOPS! I just made pizza charcoal" would be really thin.

                          2. while coming back from costco I got the signature 12" for 13.95. the price is annoying. not only is the circumference less than costco 10.95 for a 16"( although the margherita at coal fire is 11.95). plus unlike costco, so less volume. that said, the sweet/spicy sauce was great. not a huge thin crust guy but crust not bad either. if only a little cheaper. plus this thin crust just seems a bit more nutritious than costco's.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: vivinator

                              Does Costco make their pizza in house, use fresh mozzerella, and cook it in a coal oven? Don't you think these things add overhead?

                              1. re: Jason1

                                that's true. but costco does taste good in my opinion, so just using it for comparison. also real pizza from nyc which is held up as the standard is known for cheap pizza. aren't coal-fired pizzas in nyc common?

                                1. re: vivinator

                                  The coal-fired pizza places in NYC (Grimaldi's, Lombardis, Totonnos, etc.) are not the cheap pizza places you find in every other block.

                                  1. re: hon

                                    ah, thanks.
                                    here's a lombardi's menu for comparison:
                                    http://www.menupages.com/menuprocess?...

                                    also here's grimaldi's in hoboken:
                                    http://www.grimaldis.com/hoboken.htm

                                    berttucci's may be a good chain for comparison (though not coal-fired
                                    )http://www.bertuccis.com/#MAMenu