Sunday, April 26, 2009

Coal Fire Pizza in Ellicott City

Crisp pizzas -- charred on the edge and topped with unusually delicious sauce -- are popping out of the coal-fired oven just off Rte 108 in Ellicott City's newest pizza restaurant.

Coal Fire on Rte 108 opened last week and leapt immediately to one of the best pizzas in Howard County. The pizzas here excel on the basics -- crisp crusts with a touch of smoke, mozzarella cheese that melts and stays creamy, and delicious sauces that make the pies terrific before you add anything else.

(Update:  Coal Fire's pizza is inconsistent.  Check out the comments and other posts on HowChow.  Also see if you can figure out who is making your pizza.  Sometimes, it's great.  Sometimes, it isn't.)

Coal Fire is a casual place. Waitress service and a small bar, but no more formal than the high-end counter service at Pazani Trattoria, my other favorite local pizza joint. The menu is small, but interesting. A few salads, pastas and sandwiches and some creative twists on appetizers like wings, onion rings and a "Chesapeake Mac & Cheese" that adds crab to a classic.

This kitchen wants to send out something unusual. For example, the"signature" sauce is truly sweet and slightly spicy as the menu promises. It's delicious, and it is also completely different from any chain or even the local pizza joints. (It's also several dollars more expensive.) That sauce paired well with the cheese, which looked more like Trader-Joe-quality balls of mozzarella as opposed to the shredded stuff you get in a supermarket bag. Mrs. HowChow and I carved up an entire 16-inch pizza. We planned on boxing up the final two slices, but they were so good that we gobbled them up instead and then talked about pizza the entire way home.

The menu offers only 10 toppings. Coal Fire clearly concentrates on some basics and makes sure that they're better than standard fare. That bodes well for the interesting twists that the menu offers like penne with spicy sausage and a cream sauce, a salad with bacon, pecans and grape tomatoes, and sandwiches with brisket or roasted vegetables. I went back for a brisket sandwich, and I'm looking now for other sandwich places that offer up something as interesting as Coal Fire's sliced meat, fresh bread and creamy horseradish sauce. (I went back today and tried the sandwiches because I had been so inspired.)

Early comments on another post rave about Coal Fire. An anonymous commenter says this is owned by the folks who own Nottingham's and used to own Trapeze. Leasol astutely pointed out that a children's menu would be pretty smart -- even if it were just a small-sized pasta or a basic macaroni & cheese. (Update: Elizabeth Large wrote about Coal Fire in the Sun.)

Coal Fire is still working out some growing pains -- literally because almost every employee appears to be a high school student and figuratively when our appetizer arrived at the exact same moment as our pizza. No big deal, but strange timing when the place was almost empty. The waitress clearly didn't know what to say. It didn't matter because she was carrying good food, including the oven-baked wings that are talked up in some of the early comments on a prior post. Good-sized wings with lots of meat. Baked, so there is no coating. Served with soft Vidalia onions, which were so good that I may ask for them as a pizza topping next time.

If you have tried Coal Fire, please add your comments below. Elsewhere, there are reviews on Inside Charm City and by Frank Hecker. Hecker worked in a clever jibe about the Coal Fire menu, which sports a long explanation about the coal they use and how it's wonderful for the environment. I love being optimistic, but Coal Fire's story about industrial mining is one step below, "Our coal is mined by happy elves."

(Update: The PizzaBlogger has written a treatise on Coal Fire Pizza that includes a review, a series of photos, an explanation of the oven, and a brief interview with the manager. I haven't progressed to real reporting, so you should definitely read the review. The PB's bottom line: Coal Fire Pizza is one of his favorite pizzas in Maryland.)
Click here for my revised post about the best pizza in Howard County or for the 2009 "best restaurants" in Howard County.My bottom line is that Coal Fire is Mrs. HowChow's favorite pizza. She downplays toppings for really good sauce, bread and cheese. I love Coal Fire, but I'm still holding out for Pazani based on a memory of artichokes and other vegetable toppings that tasted so fresh. Or click for the starting page for my "What I Learned" guide to food in Howard County.

The hat tip goes to Vivinator, who first posted about the Coal Fire sign on Chowhound in March and talked it up last week. Billz has also weighed in on Live in Howard County. I'm still not sure what the coal adds to the pizza. When I looked in the oven, it looked like glowing coal on the right and gas flames on the left. I love the crisp pizza from a hot oven. I just don't understand how coal stacks up with wood, etc.

Coal Fire
5725 Richard's Valley Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: Coal Fire is in the Shipley's Grant shopping center on Rte 108. It is between Rte 100 and Snowden River Parkway. There is a Starbucks and Cold Stone Creamery in the shopping center.

Coal Fire on Urbanspoon


nuttyturnip said...

I had a 12" signature sauce pizza with pepperoni and mushrooms on Friday night. The sauce was definitely unique, and would make me come back again, although I thought the pizza was a bit overpriced. Next time I look forward to trying some of the non-pizza items, since like you, I didn't taste anything special about it being "coal-fired". The Creole Pasta in particular sounds tasty.

The wait staff was incredibly friendly. The one drawback is the size of the restaurant. I don't hate kids, but my meal was somewhat spoiled by a 5 person family squeezing into the 4 person table next to me, with a 3-year-old bouncing up and down and constantly getting yelled at.

Alicia said...

My husband and I tried the 12" signature sauce pizza with sausage on Friday night. The sauce is quite unique - spicy and sweet. I ordered the House Salad beforehand thinking maybe I should get my serving of veggies in. Wow, the house salad was huge! I asked for dressing (Italian) on the side. The salad was very good and fresh - I think I had a whole tomato to myself. The pizza was ok.. It sort of tasted how I make pizza on the grill.

Zoe said...

My husband and I along with two friends shared the 16" signature sauce pizza with pepperoni & sausage. I liked the sweet/spicy sauce and the fresh mozzarella. The coal fire pizza crust is very thin and charred, with a cracker-like consistency. While the pizza was great in flavor, I'm more of a fan of the doughy pizza crust (a la Gateway Pizza). I'd go back to try their non-pizza menu items, like their sandwiches and pasta. We also ordered the calamari and the baked wings, which were very good.

The wait staff is very young, and no one came to our table to take our order until 15 mintues after being seated.

Overall, it was a good dinner. The ambience and decor were nice and modern, with a cozy neighborhood feel. I wish the restaurant all the best, and I hope they stick around for a long time to come.

Anonymous said...

Hubby and I went there for lunch Saturday - sadly, the sign said they are only open after 4 p.m. We came back for dinner. We both got individual sized pizzas. I was not impressed with thed "Red" specialty (red onion & roasted red pepper). The cheese was scant (some pieces had but a little blob), and the onions were raw (probably added after baking). The crust was great, but $35 for two sodas and two 12" pizzas was way too pricey. I also thought the sauce was much too thick, more like a tomato paste. It was overloaded with black pepper and very few other herbs. I'll stick to another place next time I have a pizza craving.

Eric said...

We went over on the 17th. The pizza was good, as were the onion rings. I agree the staff is a little raw (e.g. my wife was told the salads came with the dressing already on them) and the prices a little high. We'll try it again though.

Jimmie Woods said...

This place is AMAZING. Anybody who says otherwise clearly doesn't know good food and shouldn't be allowed to eat ever again. The pizza is the best in town. If you don't like this pizza then you clearly don't know pizza. Signature sauce is to die for. The wings with the amazing onions is out of this world. The salad with the bacon is one of the best salads I've ever had.

I've already been back numerous times. The steak sandwich is one of my favorites. My latest meal was the white clam pasta. WOW.

The atmosphere is great. Good for families but also good for a night out to dinner.

The waitstaff I encountered were personable and were picking up the menu very fast. The bartenders are good looking too.

Do yourself a favor, go to Coalfire.

Baby Stomach said...

Friends and I tried Coal Fire today and liked it a lot, ranking it in my top area pizzas.

The crust is thin, crackery and slightly charred, as it should be in a fired oven, but not overly brittle. The cheese is applied in slices, and with restraint, though what is on there presents itself with a perfect texture and salty milkiness that speaks quality. The sauce is generous and competes with the cheese for your attention, especially the Signature sauce.

We tried both the Signature sauce and the traditional, and were all pleased with both. The Signature, as described on the menu, is sweet and spicy, with flavors of onion and pepper penetrating a deep tomato base. The sweetness is not cloying, but does approach the limit of how sweet I'd want a sauce. The traditional was quite good, as well, but lacked the depth of tomato flavor seen in the Signature. I'd have been very pleased with it, if I had not just eaten the Signature sauced piece.

We started our meal with the onion rings, which, while tasty, lacked any sort of ring shape, and came as a pile of slightly undercooked, mildly greasy onion straws. We all agreed they would be better as a pizza topping than as a course. In fact, we thought they'd make an excellent topping and might special request them next time.

Service was very friendly and attentive, though a tad slow to get started.

The thin crust and restrained cheese distribution makes for a lighter pie, so plan to order a bit more than you might elsewhere. Myself and two friends polished off the onion rings and two 16 inch cheese pies without strain, and probably could have kept going, especially the chubby one amongst us, who eats like a polar bear at a fish fry.

In sum, this is my kind of pizza, and we'll definitely be paying a return visit to Coal Fire.

emkenton said...

A friend and I split a cheese pizza (with signature sauce) there tonight so we could compare it to our exact same order at Pazani last week. While we enjoyed our Coal Fire experience--they were SUPER nice to our two 15-month old toddlers!--we realized that the CF pizza is one that would benefit from toppings. The crispy crust and de-emphasis of cheese in relation to sauce would be well complemented by some salty pepperoni! When I think of a plain cheese pizza, however, I think ooey gooey greasy and Pazani is much closer to that description. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and service tonight (as well as the pizza), though, and plan to return to try something a bit more exciting!

Anonymous said...

Gave this a shot - the pizza was very good, particularly the sauce (signature). I do think that they should have an option to substitute "normal" mozzarella for the "fresh." A consistent covering would balance against the very strongly favored sauce; as it was there just wasn't enough of the "fresh"

Nat from Ellicott City said...

We ordered carry out one night to try it (on opening weekend). We had the 16" spicy/sweet Pizza with Sausage and Pepperoni. VERY GOOD. There are different types of sauces and the one we chose was excellent- exactly as it sounds, sweet with some spice.The pizza is ULTRA thin with a charred look to the top and crust. A little burn look on the edges. Did not taste bad, tasted crisp and "coal fired"! Kind of like it had been on a grill. We also ordered the Cheese Steak. Be aware that it is on a 8 " roll, so it is a little small. However, it is SO flavorful, the meat is EXCELLENT. Great quality. In my opinion, A little pricey for the quantity at $9.95.

The second time we ate there we joined 4 other adults and two kids. Be aware that there is no kids menu at this time. But there is always a cheese pizza and spaghetti dinner to choose, and the kids loved it. This time we started with the baked wings. The overall opinion was that no one really liked them. They are baked, and then drenched in vidalia onions. They tasted like rotisserie chicken. So, there was no familiar "wing" taste to them. I suppose you need to go into eating them knowing that they are nothing like standard wings you get from anywhere else. They sat on the table, really unliked. My neice had the Alfredo Primavera. Nice portion and delicious. That came with a side salad that was good too. I ordered The Coal Fire salad. This salad has thick delicious slices of brown sugar apple wood bacon. Not just a little...a generous amount. Absolutely heavenly flavor. The salda portion itself was small to mediium- a little small if that is what you want for a meal. The pizzas that were ordered were a margherita (AWESOME) and a few spicy sauced pizzas, which everyone flipped over. They were delicious. Again, the pizzas are extremely thin. Which is delicious and unique with the coal fire char to them!

Restaurant was clean, staff was extremely friendly and accommodating. The see thru window to watch the pizza makers was a hit with all the kids in the place.

We arrived on a Friday at 5 pm with a party of 8 and had no problem being seated, but by the time we left at 7:15, the place was packed, with people waiting to be seated! It seems to be getting popular!

The only irritating issue was that when we wanted to split the bill three ways, they had no idea what to do. It took about 20 minutes for them to finish that. Learning process, we guess. Also, lack of kids menu is not going to do well here. Howard County is FULL of families that do require a small selection at least for little eaters, at a reasonable price.

A bonus worth mentioning is walking a few feet across the street for some Cold Stone Creamery Ice Cream after.

We'd rate this restaurant, besides the bill issue an 8.5/10.

Anonymous said...

Great idea, but neither MapQuest nor Google have a map of the location at 5725 Richards Valley Road. Somebody better clue them in.

Pizzablogger said...

Getting ready to head out there now.

The Baltimore Sun review,0,6478042.story

shows their oven, which is somewhat of a strange looking oven for a coal fired oven. Usually they have a much, much smaller opening, (as in not much more than a slot) which allows a much higher temperature (800 to 1000 degree F) than the oven at Coal Fire, which supposedly hits 580F. Interesting.

The pizza on the Sun picture does look good though. Time for pizza!

dzoey said...

My wife and I tried it earlier this week for lunch and were disappointed. The kitchen seems like they're having problems controlling the done-ness of the pizza. The first pizza we got was mostly black on the bottom and all I could taste was the char. We sent it back and the next one was better, but still there were parts where all we could taste was the char.

The parts that weren't overcooked were very good. I liked the thin crust, the sauce, and the cheese. I also had a house salad with a very nice blue cheese dressing.

Maybe after the kitchen's had a few months of practice we'll try it again.

Anonymous said...

Just saw the Coal Fire Pizza guy at Great Harvest Bread Company. He was buying "a few dozen" mini-baguettes. Just thought I'd throw that out there. :-)

Must say, I love Great Harvest, but haven't been there in 3 months, and was really disappointed today. Did it change ownership? Chocolate chip cookie was half-baked (in a bad way) and biscotti was stale.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I recently ate at Coal Fire in EC. On a Friday night at about 6:00 the restaurant was 90% families with toddler aged children. Very noisy and messy. There also appeared to be a lot of carry out trade. While the dining room is small and basic it had a chaotic feel to it.

I ordered a plain cheese pizza and my wife had the brisket sandwich. We also split a grilled romaine caesar salad. I’d never had grilled lettuce before and while it was a little soggy the salad dressing was very good. (I give them points for originality for throwing a stalk of romaine on the grill.) Not sure I would order it again.
The signature pizza sauce is unique and very tasty, with a sweet and spicy tang. Slices of mozzarella are used sparsely on top and the crust is very thin and crispy. It was kind of like pizza-lite. Personally I think grated mozzarella spread over the entire pizza would better compliment the sauce and give you some cheese in every bite. Not sure why the coal fired oven is significant as there is absolutely no charcoal taste to the pizza, which surprised me.

My wife’s brisket sandwich arrived at the table alone on a small plate. No fires, rings, chips or even a few slices of fruit (the waitress did warn us). While the meat itself was very good the roll was very average. Sorry, but for $9.99 a sandwich should be a meal and this was far from it.

My impression is the owners are working out a lot of kinks. The staff is very young and the serve timing is off. The good news is they were busy and that will hopefully force more efficiency.

Ryan_GrubGrade said...

Is there a BBQ Chicken Pizza?

Anonymous said...

Have been to Coal Fire twice now. Signature sauce is way too sweet for me, and the texture seems gloopy, add the heat and it was a no go for me. I much preferred the regular non spicy sauce. Crust is thin and crispy but it works because it is also chewy, which keeps it from being Pizza Hut crackery crust (kudos to Coal Fire for probably using high gluten flour, letting it rise in the fridge long enough, in order to get that chewiness). The crust reminded me of neighborhood trattorias with pizzas made in wood fired ovens in Bologna when I was there on a work assignment some years ago. Coal gives a nice char which I like, not to everybody's taste but it is not so overly charred that it will put you off if you are in that category. However, the second visit the pizza was left in the oven too long, they need to make sure they cook these just the right time or it will overcook easily and go into BBQ land.

House salad was basic but very good, dressing was classic but had just the right balance of oil, vinegar and spices.

Yes, it is small, should be bigger. But my main complaint is that I think it is about 15-20% overpriced when compared to the competition in the area (Pazani's, Trattoria Amore, Bertucci's, can't remember the name of the one just on the other side of Snowden River also on rt 108 run by Italians). My kids really loved Coal Fire's pizza but the prices are such that I can't just bop in with two kids in tow and spend 30.00 on a large pizza, one salad and three drinks. I don't remember the exact amount but it was more than I expected. Also, after the pizza the menu seems kind of burger jointish to me, which does not seem to jibe with the coal fire ethos. Just and observation.

The Dean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy said...

My family and I visited Coal Fire a couple weeks ago. I really wanted to like it, but I must say we were disappointed. The pizza came out severely burnt on the bottom, which I know is the style, but even the manager agreed it was more burnt than it usually is. To his credit, he made us a second pie which was better. I was also surprised that the selection of toppings was so ordinary for an upscale pizza place. No kalamata olives, no roasted garlic, or any other distinctive toppings other than what you can get at Pizza Hut.

Anonymous said...

I was intrigued by the concept of coal-fired pizza, so we decided to give it a try.

First of all, be warned, you can't find this place on Google or iPhone - it sends you to the middle of a neighborhood somewhere. Just go west on 108 past Snowden and you will find it on your right.

We got carry out. The greeting staff was young and friendly, but, our order was a bit messed up. The "Signature" pizza from an online menu my wife found (with onions and peppers) has had its name changed. It's now the Rustic Red. The signature is just a plain cheese pizza. Both have the signature sweet sauce. I was assured the plain cheese pizza was good as well, so I decided to give it a go.

The crust was unimpressive. To me, it tasted like a thinner Papa Johns crust. There wasn't significant charring or character to it as I would have expected from something as exotic as a coal-fired oven. It actually came with a surprisingly thick layer of fine cornmeal or flour on the bottom, which made it taste mealy. Overall, we didn't like it.

As for the cheese pizza with signature sauce, it was OK. The sweet sauce was a nice change but the cheese didn't have a lot of flavor to it. It did have a nice char to the topping that added some flavor.

We also got a spicy sauce pizza with sausage and green peppers. These toppings made a quite tasty pizza, if you could get past the crust. If they could fix the crust I would get it again.

We got a calimari appetizer to go, but it didn't translate well to take out and was oily and soggy. But I don't hold this against the restaurant, what might be good eat-in can turn out to be horrible carryout.

Honestly, I'd rather go to Bertucci's for this style of wood/coal-oven pizza, even though it's a chain. Overall, Trattoria da Enrico in King's Contrivance sill reigns supreme for pizza in Howard County.

Leda said...

Just came from dinner at Coal Fire, and we really enjoyed ourselves. We had a sampler of several things, including the wings, the onion rings, the Coalfire Salad, the grilled caesar salad and the Margherita pizza.

Everything was very good. Standouts were the Coalfire Salad - the brown sugar applewood smoked bacon was amazing and the dressing was great. The caesar was interesting and very tasty - the dressing was perfect. We ordered the Margherita with the signature sauce instead of the classic, and it was very good. Chewy and thin at the same time, which I've never seen before.

My family raved about the onion rings and the wings. Service was good - all in training, but the manager is keeping a close eye. The wine and beer selection were perfect for the place.

We will definitely go back!

nuttyturnip said...

Ate there for the third time tonight. Since I enjoyed the applewood bacon so much, I asked if I could get it on the pizza. I was told that they haven't tested it in the oven, so they couldn't put it on the pizza, but they could bring it to me on the side, and I could apply it myself. I got a decent-sized cup of still-hot bacon, enough that each slice got a few pieces. It was delicious and fit well with the other toppings (pepperoni and mushroom. My only complaint is that the bacon cost $4 (toppings are normally $2); not sure if it was worth the cost, but it's nice to know the option is available.

Pizzablogger said...

You guys got a winner in Howard County. Very good pizza for sure!

Mike said...

We live right next to Coal Fire so we tried it tonight. The service was horrid; dirty plates stacked on our table that I had to ask the server to get rid of after she walked by them a half-dozen times, iced tea with 3 ice cubes in it (and not even a thought given to a refill), the pizza came out before the other food and we had no plates (I had to go find some). The pizza was "ok". Good sauce, burnt bottom. The sandwich...oh GOD the sandwich. I had the brisket sandwich. I lack the ingredients in my house to make a sandwich THIS SHITTY because all I have is FRESH bread and TASTY lunchmeat. It consisted of 1/4" of fatty, dry, room temperature meat with a pathetic money-shot of sauce that covered only part of the dry, chewy, room temperature bun. It was cut in half and tossed on a little plate with nothing else. It was one of the worst, blandest, driest, chewiest, shittiest excuses for a sandwich I have ever seen or tasted. NOT WORTH $8.whatever. Drive to Ledo Pizza up the street. Big, hot, delicious, loaded cheesesteak on a perfectly toasted bun for $3.00 less. AND the waiter will even check on you and offer refills!

Anonymous said...

Although the waitress raved about their coal fire, oven-baked (instead of fried) wings they were anything but overwhelming (esp. at $8.95 for 10). They only offer one type - herbed with caramalized onions. The rosemary spice was not evenly distributed. One piece has most of the rosemary and the rest barely a hint. If this isn't one of your favorite herbs, don't bother ordering them. Another wing was so overcooked I thought it was a piece of coal from their oven. Pizza was pretty good but certainly not the best pizza in town as stated by other reviewers; not worth $13.95 for a 10" pizza with no meat (peppers & onions). One final pet peeve, $2.25 for a fountain soda; come on!!! Try Tomato Palace if you want brick oven pizza - in my opinion still the best in town with a better atmosphere.

Kim said...

Just ate there last friday night. We came in for a late dinner - close to 9pm - and there were only a few other folks there. We had excellent speedy service at that time of night!

I was warned that the wings were "weird" which is a buffalo-wing-eater's way of saying "these are not buffalo wings". So after that I HAD to order them, and I was not disappointed. I really liked the subtlety of the flavor and they were done well.

The pizza itself was excellent. I never tend to eat the crust, but in this case, I definitely finished it off!!

I would go back in a heartbeat.

pizzablogger said...

@ Anonymous: Tomato Palace is the one owned by the Clyde's restaurant? When you say brick oven pizza, how is the oven fueled? Do you know if it is fueled by wood, coal or is it fueled by gas? Now I've got another place I need to check out!

Another good friend of mine was at Coal Fire Pizza last night and he mentioned it was quite busy. He also peeked at the temp gauge on the bottom of the oven and the reading was 582°F. That's definitely getting low....putting some more heat under the crust during busy rushes would help keep pizza quality up when it is busy.

Vk@Nyte said...

My family and I went to CoalFire soon after I read about it here..Hmm. where to start? The service was decent tho not perfect, it would seem the staff based on other reviews seem a little "un aware" of what there job is or how to perform their duties-well my server(i can't remember his name which is terrible considering he did a great job)did his best with the tools handed to him,I knew something was amiss when he first came to the table and noticed my 3 children and an irate girlfriend..Knowing this,he got us our drinks and explained as best he could the style of pizza and the sauces then started us on some bread(which we had to ask for). We ordered some caesar salads though were "grilled" which umm should of been explained better- I liked it however my gf thought it was garbage..oh well,you can't please everyone..When the pizzas came out-they were great! Though my gf loves extra cheese(which we had asked for),it came with what seemed like the basic amount of mozz.Whatever, i still liked it-maybe lighten up on the sauce ratio to cheese next time.
What needs to be fixed: Table time vs.Dinner time.
we had sat at the rear table for at least 5 minutes before the server appeared,15 minutes more til we had our garlic bread,etc etc..Not that it was the servers fault- I don't think it was,there aren't that many tables there-to be reeally busy, however there needs to be a system of service to the table.From the time someone sits down to the time they get drinks,apps, salads etc..So that there may be turnover of tables,less lines and more service.

I will definitely be back again.Who doesn't love an area where u can get pizza and icecream -all in one spot??

Anonymous said...

I ate at Coal Fire shortly after it opened and don't plan to return. Nothing special about crust or sauce and service was so slow (90 minutes we were there) and bad. Waitress gave us the wrong check three times.

John G. Boyle said...

Went there for the first time on Thursday. My "Ring of Fire" pizza was great. My wife loved her "crabby mac." The service wasn't too bad, but it seemed like they were barely keeping it together. Hopefully, that'll improve in time. Even if it doesn't, we'll be back...

LexC said...

We went to Coal Fire for the first time last weekend. We loved it!!! We had the signature sauce with sausage, sweet roasted red peppers, and black olives. It was amazing. We had our 2 and 3 year old with us, and while they didn't have a kids menu the waitress made lots of suggestions for kid friendly meals. We got the baked chicken wings for an appetizer and the caprese salad. Both were really good. We went early (5:30) to avoid the rush, and were in and out in an hour. It was a little expensive, but this just might have become our new favorite pizza place (especially since they do carry out.)

lar said...

went for lunch with my mom last week. limited paper menus, lame service from a teenager that sat down at the table across from ours with her friends and openly discussed how she can't wait to get the hell out of there, real lack of good toppings,no kids menu, charred cracker crust. oh yeah, and pricey! sorry coal fire.

Anonymous said...

Greatest restaurant. Point blank. I recently moved out of state and will be making the 8 hour drive at least once a month just to eat there. and THERE IS A KIDS MENU. you just need to ask for it.


Anonymous said...

My husband and I here recently. We love pizza and heard this place was a good spot. The pizza was good but they do not put enough cheese. I've eaten many pizza's with fresh motz and usually alot more is put on. I think they are being cheap. The dough was good and the coal fire oven makes this pizza a must try! I will go back but i'll make sure to ask for extra cheese!

pizzablogger said...

I hate to say it, but my last three visits to Coal Fire Pizza have been disappointing (just visited last Sat evening 11/21/09).

The common thread in those three visits is that Steve Santos has not been at the oven. Hopefully the new pizzamaking and oven crew gets up to speed quickly and those pizza crusts won't be dried out and/or burnt as often.

The staff is always very friendly here and we did have great service. Come on CFP, I'm pulling for you!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone remember Barry's in Columbia Mall? Great pizza made from scratch. Remember the sharks on the walls?

Anonymous said...

Our server was very nice and prompt. Lots of kids around, they enjoyed watching the dough being tossed.
Our first pizza was really burnt. They must have trouble controlling the temp. When we mentioned it, she said “well, that's the coal firing”. Perhaps, but I thought the time in the oven might be a consideration. We got a second pizza.
Frankly, the signature sauce is way too icky sweet for me. I asked for extra, sincerely regretted it, and was charged extra as if it were a topping (most places don't do this). Cheese is decent, but not memorable and it's not drowning the pizza.
They need to be a little more creative in their combinations. The three basic pizzas were quite pedestrian. I guess they expect most people to create their own, but negotiating toppings with the rest of a table isn't always easy.
Finally, the price is just too high for me. It was $30 for lunch and while we took some home, it wasn't an experience we'll be likely to repeat

Anonymous said...

We ate at Coal Fire Pizza last night for the first time. We went early (about 5:45 p.m.) and so there weren't too many people there. The service was good. The pizza was good, although a bit bland for having the "spicy" sauce. The sauce also had a distinct flavor (not good or bad, just different) and there was not a lot of cheese on the pizza (Rustica). The house salad was a generous portion, and the wings were good, not great. The onions and pita wedges that came with it were a nice addition. Interesting looking wine glasses. Overall a good experience - not great for the price. We may go back but we will continue our search for great pizza in the Columbia area.

Alex said...

If I were craving thin crispy crust, I'd come out. But since I don't, Coal Fire isn't worth a special trip. If I were in the area and had a few extra bucks, for sure. More pics on my blog, per usual. :)

Anonymous said...

I really wanted to like this place. The service was fast and friendly, the place was clean and warm, and the pizza arrived hot. I even liked the crust. But the sauce was sweet and lousy, and the cheese was scant. So disappointing. I'm willing to admit that some diners may prefer a sauce that is sugary, and heaven knows most pizzas have too much cheese. But this didn't work for us.

Sara said...

I have to confess, I after skimming all of the comments, I must agree with annonymous (above). I am a big fan of European style pizza, I liked the crust, but agree that the sauce was too sweet. The #1 turn off for me though was that the olives on my pizza were from a can...this I expect when I order and get it delivered but was truly disappointing at a sit down pizza joint...

Vk@Nyte said...

in response to "sara"

unfortunately in HoCo, their is a lack of fresh gardens with olives growing in them...most restaurants in HoCo use the same local distributors unless they are a fast food joint-they make it and ship the products themselves..Time & money are a troublesome thing especially when it comes to how much staff and how much you are paying them to how much business you are doing dat to night.
Coming from a variety of restaurants myself I can tell you that the "x" time spent on slicing olives by hand versus ordering 20 cans or glass containers of olives per week,eventually will sooner or later take a bite on your budget, especially if you are too busy to make time for someone to slice olives...Also if you had asked,they also have other styles of sauce...If this wasn't what you had expected,you should've asked somebody before going there or maybe go to Ledo's or Tratorria if that is more your "European" (whatever that means)style..

Jeffrey said...

Tried Coal Fire carry-out last Saturday night with anticipation. Disappointed - crust was soggy in the middle, cheese was scant, tried two of the sauces which were ok. Fries were unsalted/unspiced - my wife, who never salts, reached for the salt shaker immediately; onion rings were not sturdyily constructed from batter (a la Cheeburger Cheeburger) but schreds of onion and fried batter with little seasoning. Overall impression - too expensive, not worth it. Count me disappointed - I like the idea of an independent pizzeria, atmosphere in restaurant is great, lots of business, but not worth it in my opinion.

Pizzablogger said...

I'm afraid I have to agree with many of the recent comments posted here.

I can't speak for the other food items sold at CFP, but the pizza here has taken a steady progression downwards and unfortunately the only thing now consistent about it is how lackluster it is...and it breaks my heart. --K

Anonymous said...

I go to Coal Fire for Happy Hour sometimes. They have some hot looking female bar tenders.

Carole said...

Tried Coal Fire with friends last night. Onion ring appetizer was greasy. Dipping sauce was great!They both ordered pizzas, said they were good, though quite pricey for toppings that were only veggies. I had the roasted veggie entree. Side salad was overdressed and had too much iceberg lettuce. I was still eating the salad when my entree was served, 10 minutes before the pizzas. Server put it under heat lamp. Very disappointing as there was little taste. Added shrimp for $4.95. It was 4 small shrimp. Total price of $14.95 was grossly overpriced. Would not return.