Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Veg Week: Pizza Popping From Coal-Fired Oven

The beauty of pizza is that picky people don't stand out.

Do you want just tomatoes and cheese?  Fine.  You want to add pepperoni?  Fine.  Half onions, half mushrooms?  Hot peppers?  Fine.  People expect you to list the exact ingredients you want in your meal. 

That makes the vegetarian options almost limitless at pizza places like Coal Fire in Ellicott City.  We last went to Coal Fire on a Friday when friends spent a night near BWI en route to New York City.  Late night, no reservations, two kids?  No problem.  Coal Fire was the perfect place to fill a back booth and fill ourselves with pizza.

The basic pizza at Coal Fire makes a great vegetarian option because you'll get an entire meal's flavor from the slightly spicy sauce and the slightly charred crust. Coal Fire's gimmick is an extremely-hot oven that turns out thin, crisp pies, and it's best move may be the light layer of mozzarella, which used to be made in-house and is still delicious wherever they're making it.  Done right, the pizzas are full of flavor without grease or heaviness.

As I mentioned, you can outfit your pie with your own toppings.  Even a vegetarian can split a pizza with a meat-eating friend if you split the toppings as well.  Coal Fire is a hybrid place -- a restaurant aimed at unusual food that wanted to be a chain from the beginning.  So it's run by teenagers. Boys make pizzas. Girls wait tables. At least that's what I have always noticed.

The girls have always been nice, and it's a very kid-friendly atmosphere.  But the boys' work can be variable.  Often great, but I stayed away for a while after getting a few pizzas where the crust just wasn't good.  Don't make my mistake.  Don't eat a burnt or badly cooked pie.  Talk to your waiter because I think Coal Fire is the kind of place where they want to put out skilled food, and they'll try to make your happy.

This is part of Veg Week here at HowChow. With Mango Grove temporarily closed as it relocates, we're suggesting some other spots where you could please a vegetarian friend or please yourself. Obviously, any local vegetarian should check out the vegan kitchen at Great Sage in Clarksville. Or click on all the HowChow posts that we have marked on the theme.


Jimmy in Columbia said...

we've been to the Coal Fire a couple of times since it opened. They have never disappointed! When you go there don't miss the Roasted Romaine lettuce Salad... very good... on par with La Scalla's.

Anonymous said...

CFP seems to be hit or miss, sometimes good, sometimes bad. But you pay the full check either way. It should not be necessary to "talk to your waiter" about a "burnt or badly cooked pie" and then have to wait another 20 minutes while it is corrected. Such pizzas should not be brought to the table to begin with. If CFP cannot institute basic quality control and deliver a consistent product they should get into another line or work.