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Coal-Fired Pizza in Ellicott City open

v
vivinator Apr 25, 2009 09:20 AM

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!

  1. Doc Rock Nov 6, 2010 12:56 PM

    We have had pizza here five times now. I grew up eating pizza in a liitle place in Riverside, NJ, called Rose's Tomato Pie. I never heard the term pizza until I went to college, but I grew up eating hand-tossed fresh dough with a fresh tomato sauce and excellent cheese. The crust was thinish, but not cracker crust. It was always a bit leathery and burnt here and there with some bubbles in the crust. Until recently the best I had had since was at John's in NYC (44th St between Broadway & 8th) which also cooked their pizzas in coal fired ovens. This is a close second. I prefer their classic sauce on their pizza margherita.

    Some early reviews faulted service here. I think it has improved. The only shortcomings I note are that they could do a better job of cleaning (there are always spiderwebs in the windows) and on sunny days the sun pours through their large, unshielded windows with terrible glare and considerable heat. Blinds and little more supervision of the cleaners would go a long way to boost my rating to five stars. Nevertheless, I heartily recommend you try their pizza margherita.

    1. d
      dwoskini May 18, 2010 01:42 PM

      I have had Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza in Florida and loved it, so I was looking forward to this opening. I was very disappointed, The classic sauce was very good, but the pizza was doughy and the crust was limp. It was rather expensive and there is much better pizza in the area.

      I will not go back.

      1 Reply
      1. re: dwoskini
        v
        vivinator May 19, 2010 09:03 AM

        I was dissapointed this past weekend as well. not sure if this comment was on this thread or not but someone said go there when (the owner?) is there as he is serious about good pizza. funny when the waiter asked me how it was I said good.

      2. p
        pizzah Feb 5, 2010 02:53 PM

        I'm looking forward to checking the Kentlands location out. Coal oven pizza - I never thought it would come to the DC area. I thought it was because of the clean air issue, but I guess not, so might as well enjoy the pizza!

        7 Replies
        1. re: pizzah
          b
          Bulldogg65 Mar 27, 2010 06:36 AM

          My wife and I finally got out to Columbia to try CoalFire and I would like to provide my review.

          DISCLAIMER: I am a New Jersey-ite with a refined Italian/Pizza pallet. I do not begin to pretend to know a thing about crabs or crab cakes, but I will be damned if I am going to be told what good pizza is; NY style or not. I also understood when going to CoalFire that this was not going to be "regular" pizza, but rather some sort of "specialty pizza" with fresh ingrediants. I was not holding CoalFire to NY standards in terms of product, but thought was excited about trying their interpretation of coalfire pizza.

          We arrived at 6:30 and had no wait to be seated at a table for two. The place is aesthetically appealing but VERY poorly laid out. I understand the draw to an open kitchen and having the oven be a focal point; it is stunning with the tile work. The large bowed kitchen and service area forces all the traffic to go directly through the small dining room. Nevertheless, we sat and took a look at a small but interesting menu. We were there for an appetizer or two and pizza...not hard. We ordered their oven baked wings which are made with salt, pepper, rosemary and some other seasonings served over a "bed" of sauteed vidallia onions. We also ordered the "fresh cut" fries and a traditional pizza with EXTRA CHEESE (all caps explained later).

          The wings and fries came out first as requested. The wings looked great. Medium size and good miz of wing and drum parts. The onions were obviously not made to order as they were totally over cooked and rubbery. One bite into the first wing and I was questioning whether I had lost my taste buds. With all the seasoning, visually apparent on the wing itself, I could not believe the fact that it tasted like nothing. I tried to add some salt and pepper and this marginally improved the wings. A big disapointment as these could be a go-to item for any good pizza-pub like place. The execution was way off. The fries were the same thing, a good idea and appealing in words on the menu, but came to the table unimpressive and without a lick of taste. They were also, in my opinion because I did not see the execution, NOT "hand cut". They are double fried, giving them a good crunch but when no seasoning is added you are left with the taste of the oil and fryer...not good.

          On to the main event, the pizza. We ordered a "traditional" with extra cheese, knowing it would not be a traditional pizza sauce, but a unique blend of sweet and spice. The place even does the right thing and suggests not adding more than 3 toppings. I applaud this as any pizza worth its salt needs nothing more than crust, sauce and cheese. That is why we ordered an extra cheese, since the draw to their "House-made" mozzarella was too much to pass up. The pizza came out and looked good. The crust was good, although a bit to much of an edge without sauce/cheese for my taste. There was over 3" of crust and points of a 16" pie...a real waste. The first bite was the same as the wings and fries. I was wondering where the cheese and sauce were. There was one part of the entire pie, a slice my wife had, that had a substantial amount of cheese on it...enough to string out upon biting into it. The rest was as thin as a sprinkling of grated romano melted over an otherwise serviceable crust. The sauce was interesting, but not my style. Lesson learned there in terms of taste, but the problem again, was the execution. The pie itself was so inconsistent and not in terms of cooking which is to be expected when using a coal oven. There were parts of the pie with ample sauce and others bone dry with a paltry amount of tasteless mozzarella over the crust. Another complaint is the fact that the cooks use WAY too much semolina on the top and underside of the crust. This technique to ensure easy repositioning is common in this style of crust and cooking, but you should not be caked in ganuals of semolina.

          Lastly, if you are going to claim to be a hand crafted coal fired pizza joint with an open "watch us" pizza kitchen, DON'T USE PRE KNEADED DOUGHT FLATS THAT YOU UNFOLD IN A ASSEMBLY LINE FASHION. Take the time to prepare each pie and its crust as it is intended.

          All in all, I am dissapointed we were disappointed with our expereicen. I was really hoping to find a new go-to place. Look elsewhere. If you want a glass or two of overpriced wine or take advantage of the Happy Hour prices, the place is great looking and has a nice atmosphere.

          Staff was great as well, if not astonished I was not interested in taking the left-over three slices home.

          1. re: Bulldogg65
            s
            steinre1 Mar 27, 2010 10:49 AM

            For your new go-to place, try Facci (just south of Columbia) instead. Similar style, but much better execution.

            1. re: steinre1
              b
              Bulldogg65 Mar 27, 2010 11:24 AM

              Thanks. Will do. For a decent, although expensive, go-to take out pizza experience, we have found Flippen to hit the spot. Not great, but serviceable. Also, a small strip mall hole in the wall in Severn, near our house, Gianni's is pretty OK. Again, not worth going out of one's way, but an OK traditional NY pie...if you get it "well done".

              1. re: Bulldogg65
                JonParker Mar 27, 2010 04:06 PM

                We went back for our second visit today. Had a Margherita plain -- no extra cheese. We thought it was very good. Nice char on the crust, lovely fresh mozzarella flavor. We absolutely enjoyed the classic sauce over the other two -- the sweetness of the spicy sauce really bothered me on our previous visit.

                I won't call it the area's best pizza -- Matthew's still holds that honor in my book, but it's a damned good pie.

                1. re: JonParker
                  JonParker Mar 27, 2010 04:13 PM

                  Side note Although I disagree about the pizza, I am totally with Bulldog65 on the sides. I highly recommend the pizza, but stray from it at your own risk.

                2. re: Bulldogg65
                  keithlb1 Mar 28, 2010 07:38 AM

                  I used to live in Columbia Md in 1974-1978.
                  They used to have a restaurant with a carry out window that made awesome pizza inside the Columbia Mall which was a much smaller but better experience back in those days. The place was called Barry's and a southern Italian man ran the pizza part of it. What a great pizza, the sauce was bursting with flavor, and the cheese just oozed and the crust was a real fresh treat. There was also a place in the Oakland Mills shopping center which was pretty good back then, but the sauce was a little to sweet, I think it was called Vinnari's or something like that. It is nice to see pizza is making somewhat of a come back in Columbia Md. I was a young kid when I lived there and have many great culinary memories of Columbia. I will have to venture out there and give some of these places a try. We should start a thread for top pizza places in Howard County.

                  1. re: keithlb1
                    m
                    mdfoodlover Mar 28, 2010 12:38 PM

                    Far better pizza in Columbia, review courtesy of HowChow blogger:
                    http://howchow.blogspot.com/2008/09/t...

                    I tried to like Coal fired on at least 3 occasions. I always came out very underwhelmed

          2. m
            MZnKBC Nov 7, 2009 08:33 AM

            The sauce is their demise!
            The crust has a nice char and they use a good quality sliced mozzarella. All of the potential is there for a great pizza, but the sugar content in all three sauces kills it.
            Why offer three different sauces if they all have the same base flavor....sugar!
            It tastes like tomato paste with oregano.
            It's a shame because they are so close to nailing it!
            Hopefully they will offer a savory tomato sauce. I think they will see huge success if they get it right. I know I would be there often....but not now.
            Also, the grilled caesar was not properly prepared...soggy mess.

            6 Replies
            1. re: MZnKBC
              w
              Warthog Nov 7, 2009 12:03 PM

              Personally, I had suggested to one of the owners that they replace the "traditional" sauce with teh basic option - peeled, seeded, and hand-crushed Roma or San Marzano tomatoes. If they want the "signature" sauce and the "spicy" for those who like additions to the plain tomato, that would be fine, but as you note, if one uses good quality plum tomatoes, they don't need the sugar (or honey, which I'm told is what Coal Fire adds).

              1. re: Warthog
                m
                maypo Nov 7, 2009 12:27 PM

                I see a sign here in Kentlands Squae that Coal Fire Pizza is opening......the sign has the same logo as the Ellicot City restaurant.........guess they must be doing well, if they are going to expand.....

                1. re: maypo
                  Trip Klaus Nov 7, 2009 05:37 PM

                  Where in Kentlands?

                  1. re: Trip Klaus
                    w
                    Woof Woof Woof Nov 8, 2009 06:50 AM

                    The traditional sauce is a very good tomato sauce. I didnt think thatt was too sweet. And why no mention of the Cheese Steak??? It's DELICIOUS. And the 2nd Coal Fire is gonna be in Gaithersburg, MD in Montgomery County. Thats what Maypo means. its place there.

                    1. re: Trip Klaus
                      m
                      maypo Nov 8, 2009 07:31 AM

                      Where the former Kentlands Beer and Wine used to be -- next door to Blockbuster and the Party Store -- same shopping center as Giant

                      1. re: maypo
                        w
                        Woof Woof Woof Nov 9, 2009 05:00 AM

                        EXACTLY what I just said..

              2. The Chowhound Team Jul 27, 2009 02:24 PM

                We split off some discussion about making pizza crust to a new topic on the Home Cooking board. That topic can be found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/639847

                1. JonParker Jul 25, 2009 08:53 AM

                  We tried Coal Fire last night. Had an order of fries to start with -- they were kind of like Thrasher's fries done as shoestrings. They were all right, but I doubt I'd order them again.

                  We had pizza with the spicy sauce. The sweetness that people are complaining about comes from honey in the sauce, according to our waitress. I agree that it would have been better without that -- they need a non-sweet sauce (or just plain tomatoes) badly. But the ingredients were good and the crust was perfect with a nice char to it.

                  It's one of the better options in the area. I wish it had been there a couple of years ago when i lived about 200 yards away. I'd return, but I wouldn't go down there just for that unless they fix the sauce problem. If they did that it would rank among the Baltimore area's best.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: JonParker
                    Pool Boy Jul 27, 2009 07:09 AM

                    They have three sauces available. One is just tomato sauce, one is their signature sauce (sweet & spicy a bit) and the last is 'spicy' (have not had that one yet, myself.

                    1. re: Pool Boy
                      v
                      vivinator Jul 27, 2009 07:54 AM

                      wow no idea they had regular sauce. perhaps that's a solution to the sauce problem.

                    2. re: JonParker
                      h
                      hon Jul 27, 2009 01:04 PM

                      Honey in the sauce? Blehk!

                      1. re: hon
                        JonParker Jul 27, 2009 02:25 PM

                        It wasn't awful, but I'd have preferred it without it. It's a well thought out pizza overall though.

                    3. y
                      yankee_fan_0 Jul 23, 2009 09:59 AM

                      OK, finally tried this place out the other day. Had a very simple cheese pie with signature sauce. Quite frankly I was bitterly disappointed. The sauce itself was just plain bad. Loaded (and I mean LOADED) with oregano to the point it was almost not edible. Real tomato pie is so simple it amazes me that people can't get it right. A simple sauce using crushed tomatoes is all it takes....the more one tries to gussy it up the worse it becomes.

                      The crust was flavorless. The best pizza's have a good tasting crust. I don't know what makes it that way...maybe a little olive oil in the dough or something else, but this one had no flavor at all. Coming from a coal oven I found that very surprising.

                      If you want to try the best try Papa's Tomato Pies in Trenton, NJ.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: yankee_fan_0
                        v
                        vivinator Jul 23, 2009 11:29 AM

                        lol the signature sauce is way too sweet. i'm getting the spicy sauce next time. the pizza is awesome though! best i've had in md/dc! vace in dc though is an awesome value
                        I think I'll give some feedback to coal fire. they really need to de sweeten the sauce!

                        1. re: yankee_fan_0
                          w
                          Warthog Jul 24, 2009 05:12 AM

                          If there was oregano in it, I suspect you ordered (or got by mistake, which is possible) the "spicy" sauce. Try the plain sauce or the signature sauce (which is sort of half way between the plain and the spicy). As others have noted, though, the signature and the plain sauces both err on the side of being too sweet for most people.

                          I'm with you - plain peeled and hand-crushed Roma or San Marzano tomatoes, drained a little bit to remove some of the moisture, and you're good to go. If the tomatoes have flavor, you don't need anything more.

                          As for what makes the crust flavorful, in most cases, it's caused by using a minimum of yeast, and a long, slow, low-temperature rise, which leads to a slight fermentation of the dough, better texture, and more complex flavor. I have no idea what the folks at Coal Fire do, but I expect that they may not use the slow fermentation method, or at least not to the extent that is common in the NY/NJ area.

                          I went when the place had just opened, and at that time, the owners indicated that they intended to refine the ingredients list and the recipes. If you want changes, let them know what you like and don't like. Suggest that they substitute hand-crushed tomatoes for the sweet/plain sauce, if that's what you want to see. If there's a topping you'd like to see offered, let them know. It won't change if people don't let them know how to make it better.

                          1. re: Warthog
                            v
                            vivinator Jul 24, 2009 08:17 AM

                            the pizza itself is nearly perfect, though I could suggest toppings. actually didn't love the cheese vace slice I had, but the white was great. ill have to try the vace cheese slice again.

                        2. m
                          mdfoodlover May 16, 2009 05:10 PM

                          Just came home from our first visit. We liked it!
                          We had the "Signature" sauce, and topped with red onions, green peppers, & mushrooms.
                          The flavor was nice, but maybe a little more sweet than we prefer.
                          The service was outstanding. The place was absolutely packed with staff. The cook apparently oops'ed while sliding our pizza either into or out of the oven, and it arrived somewhat mis-shaped. The shape had no effect on the flavor, but they made us another one to take home, on the house!
                          I think next time we will try the spicy sauce, and/or possibly the Margerite style.

                          The location & atmosphere of the place is great. The pizza is better than Bertucci by a fair amount, and the service, cleanliness, & general mood beats bertuccis by a mile.

                          I don't think it is nearly as tasty as the pizza at el tratorria de enrique in the shopping center with Harris Teeter, but as a sit down place with service it will become my new go-to pizza joint until a better option comes along.

                          Thanks for recommendations!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mdfoodlover
                            r
                            rcooperman May 28, 2009 02:41 PM

                            My wife and I tried the Pizza at Coal Fire last night. Simply put it was not very good even by Maryland standards and clearly waaay off from what one would expect in the New York area. It missed on many counts - their signature sauce was overpoweringly sweet, the pizza crust was like card board as it was over cooked and burnt on the bottom, and there was a meager amount of sausage. I am a well experienced Pizza fan and know what an ultra hot oven Pizza should be like. This was not it. I like the charred edge but the one I had last night was charred through in the center. Perhaps they were having an off night but their Pizza was third rate. Note, I know good Pizza as I grew up in a Brooklyn Sicilian neighborhood, have been to Lombardi's, Grimaldi's and Totonnos in NYC, plus had Pizza in Naples, Rome and Palermo. Alas the search for a good local Pizza continues.

                            1. re: rcooperman
                              s
                              steinre1 May 29, 2009 04:25 AM

                              I couldn't agree more with the review above. Had the pepperoni pizza for lunch. Signature sauce was WAY too sweet, crust overdone and quite a bit of grease. We all thought it was average at best and a little pricey to boot. If we went back again I'd definitely pick another sauce...

                              1. re: steinre1
                                t
                                tbombs34 Jul 20, 2009 07:14 AM

                                Unfortunately, I echo the comments of rcooperman and steinre1. My wife and I went to Coal Fire this weekend. The pizza was just "eh". Not bad, but not that good. The signature sauce was too sweet IMO and lacked any tomato flavor. I definitely appreciate char on my pizza, but the crust here was almost burnt. Also, the curst had little flavor other than the char. Maybe they should try adding a sourdough starter to the dough or employing a longer fermentation period to draw some additional flavor out of the dough. On a positive note, the toppings and cheese were good and they used the correct amount so as not to overwhelm the crust.

                          2. h
                            HowChowBlog May 5, 2009 01:11 PM

                            In terms of local pizza, what other places stack up to Coal Fire around Columbia/Ellicott City? I like Pazani near Rte 100 and Rte 103. I know people have favorites, and I'd love to try others.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: HowChowBlog
                              i
                              ivysmom May 5, 2009 04:02 PM

                              We like Serafino's pizza off Rt. 40 in Ellicott City, and Bertucci's is an OK fallback over
                              by the BJ's on Snowden River Parkway. I'd be interested in other good places like Coal
                              Fire, too.

                            2. v
                              vivinator May 3, 2009 12:54 PM

                              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
                                j
                                Jason1 May 4, 2009 06:48 AM

                                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
                                  v
                                  vivinator May 4, 2009 08:06 AM

                                  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
                                    h
                                    hon May 4, 2009 08:43 AM

                                    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
                                      v
                                      vivinator May 4, 2009 09:08 AM

                                      ah, thanks.
                                      here's a lombardi's menu for comparison:
                                      http://www.menupages.com/menuprocess?id=2086&link=8370ecba65a04410424f22c7575af67d0e7229fcacebe4b5ef731aeb92e60caeb986c4728c72ced72f3c3528bcdcfde5

                                      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

                              2. v
                                vivinator May 2, 2009 08:17 AM

                                do they sell pizza by the slice?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: vivinator
                                  w
                                  Warthog May 2, 2009 12:29 PM

                                  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
                                    Joe H May 4, 2009 05:20 PM

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

                                    1. re: Joe H
                                      w
                                      Warthog May 5, 2009 05:07 AM

                                      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. h
                                    hon Apr 27, 2009 11:31 AM

                                    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
                                      Lydia R Apr 27, 2009 02:49 PM

                                      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. Joe H Apr 26, 2009 08:28 PM

                                      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...

                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: Joe H
                                        Lydia R Apr 26, 2009 08:44 PM

                                        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: Lydia R
                                          Joe H Apr 26, 2009 10:11 PM

                                          Thanks, Lydia.

                                        2. re: Joe H
                                          h
                                          HowChowBlog Apr 27, 2009 07:31 AM

                                          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
                                            c
                                            chowsearch Apr 27, 2009 07:46 AM

                                            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
                                              h
                                              HowChowBlog Apr 27, 2009 04:42 PM

                                              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
                                                w
                                                Warthog May 1, 2009 11:17 AM

                                                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
                                                  i
                                                  ivysmom May 4, 2009 04:18 PM

                                                  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
                                                w
                                                Warthog May 1, 2009 09:02 PM

                                                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
                                                  h
                                                  HowChowBlog May 4, 2009 06:17 AM

                                                  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
                                                    b
                                                    billzinhoco May 4, 2009 07:13 AM

                                                    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
                                                      Pool Boy Jul 24, 2009 05:53 AM

                                                      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
                                                  Joe H Apr 27, 2009 11:00 AM

                                                  Thanks HowChowBlog. Much appreciated.

                                                  1. re: HowChowBlog
                                                    Lydia R Apr 27, 2009 03:04 PM

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

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

                                                    1. re: HowChowBlog
                                                      w
                                                      Warthog May 1, 2009 08:41 PM

                                                      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
                                                      p
                                                      pizzablogger May 25, 2009 02:30 PM

                                                      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!

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