The Art Lovers pizza at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
A gooey, warm brownie at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
The lines are still busy at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
My Red Viner pizza at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard was torn apart bady when sliced.
A White Top pizza on gluten-free crust at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
The s'mores were the best dessert option at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
An employee works the wood-fired oven at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
A Green Stripe chicken pizza at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
Warm chocolate chip cookies are among the dessert choices at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
A high-rise Simple Pie at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard.
Sunday, December 10, 2017 1:00 am
There's a reason flashy chain's lines are long
RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette
Out of a possible five
You have probably seen the lines and maybe even braved waiting in them at the newest flashy chain restaurant to hit the Summit City.
Even though it has been nearly four months since it opened, the lines are still long at Blaze Pizza at Coldwater Road and Coliseum Boulevard. This fast-service, fast-fired pizzeria that is backed by NBA superstar LeBron James is one of the fastest-growing restaurants in America.
Even with the lines, the pizzas came out pretty quickly and the results were pretty good, overall. But I could have used LeBron there setting a few screens for me when it came to service, because it was not even close to being a slam dunk.
The options are streamlined to keep the line moving. There are three crust choices – classic thin, thicker high-rise and gluten-free, the latter two costing an extra $2 – and you can choose a simple cheese pie, a one- or two-topping, a build-your-own option or one of the eight specialty pies. The sauce choices are regular or spicy red, creamy white and garlic pesto. And it, of course, has an array of meats and veggies.
The pies go through an assembly line where the ingredients are added, then hit the oven. You pay at the end of the line and can add drinks or desserts at that point.
The best crust option was the high-rise. It wasn't super thick like a pan pizza and was more like a classic hand-tossed. It had a nice crispy bottom, a chewy, bread-like thickness and a nice flavor accented by a touch of char from the oven.
My Simple Pie (basic cheese) high-rise pizza had cheese covering the entire top that was in balance with the amount of sauce and it really looked the part. But I chose the spicy sauce and wished I hadn't.
I expected this sauce to have some spice but not be a fireball. But it was a fireball and the only thing you tasted was the heat – there was no complexity.
I also tried a Meat Eater pizza with high-rise crust and it was not as good as I hoped. There was not enough pepperoni or meatballs to make it rival meaty pies at other chains, and it had way more sauce than cheese so it basically looked red on top. It is too bad, too, because the mix of crumbled Italian meatballs, pepperoni and red onions could have been really great.
The best thin-crust pie I had was the Green Stripe, which had pesto instead of red sauce and it was good pesto, too. It was thick, so my pizza maker had to work to smear it evenly, and it had the perfect basil-strong flavor I was looking for.
On top of the pesto were chunks of surprisingly tender and moist grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and chopped garlic. The garlic was the star as it beautifully caramelized in the oven. I will be adding it to every pizza I have at Blaze in the future. The menu stated it was supposed to be finished with fresh arugula, but mine had none.
My Art Lovers thin-crust pie was a disaster. It listed mozzarella, ricotta, chopped garlic and “sauce dollops” as toppings, so I saw my chance to maybe mix the two red sauces to see if a little hot would actually work. I asked to have regular red on the bottom and the dollops of hot. But what I got was an Art Lovers with spicy sauce on top and underneath.
I had to wait an extra 15 minutes to get my Red Vine pizza after the rest of my order was done because somehow mine disappeared and had to be remade.
On a busy night, the end of the line was a mess. The cooks pull pizzas and yell out the name that goes with them before throwing them on top of the counter where customers can grab them and go. The problem is that anyone can grab those pizzas and go, or just grab it with their dirty hands before realizing their mistake and just leaving it there for you. There are no name cards on the pies and differentiating one from another is tough. Several people were having similar issues.
The Red Vine – cherry tomatoes, basil, Parmesan and ovalini mozzarella (slices of mozzarella balls instead of shredded) with an olive oil drizzle – would have been a pretty pie had it not been destroyed. When the second one came out, an employee who was dealing with all of the mess at the end of the line hurriedly sliced my pizza and, in the process, ripped I giant hole in it.
I had my White Top pizza with the gluten-free crust and came away not only impressed with its quality, but with the precaution Blaze Pizza took with preparing it.
When I asked for that crust, I was asked if this pizza would require a glove change to eliminate any possible cross-contamination from previous regular crusts. I also noticed that the gluten-free pizzas were cooked on silicone pads in the oven to avoid any cross-contamination there.
The crust was much crisper and thinner than the norm and it really worked on this pizza, which had the cream sauce, finely diced bacon, garlic, oregano and arugula – which I did receive this time. It crunched almost like a cracker and its flavor was good. I would have it again.
I would also have the little dessert options again, but might ask to have them hold off on making them until I was done with the pizza. The olive-oil brownie, sea salt-topped chocolate-chip cookies and s'more pies are placed in the doorway of the pizza oven to get warm and gooey, but by the time I was done with my pizza, they had cooled off.
The s'more was my favorite and was worth having again even if it was cold.
The last thing that cooled me a bit on Blaze Pizza was its lack of service when it came to cleanliness. During all of my visits, I was in the restaurant for well over an hour and never saw anyone attending to the dining room or drink area (the blood-orange lemonade and one of the fruit dispensers sat empty during one visit) to keep it tidy. Given it is fast-casual, diners are expected to throw their trash away and stack pizza pans near the receptacles, but I think having someone wipe down the tables to rid them of the remnants of pizzas past at least once an hour isn't asking too much.
Restaurant: Blaze Pizza
Address: 401 Coliseum Blvd. E.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Simple Pie ($5.45), 1-topping ($6.65), 2-topping ($7.65), specialty pie ($8.45), desserts ($2)
Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: 0 (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.