If nothing else, Blaze Pizza knows their target demographics. Located in the former Willy’s Cantina on Archer Road next to Wendy’s, this is the type of place that college students can really get behind. The pizzas are inexpensive, coming in around $7 to $8 for an 11 inch pie, served up quick, and allows for endless customization. While the product isn’t terrible or bad, it certainly isn’t great either, here’s one of the more banal reviews you’ll read from me.
The setup is similar to a Moe’s or Chipotle where you make your way along a counter while no fewer than three different people excitedly call you by name and ask what kind of toppings you’d like on your pizza. You can choose from a number of signature pizzas or build your own. Gluten-free dough and vegan cheese are available as well. Amongst the eight choices, there was a BBQ chicken pizza, a “meater eat” with pepperoni, meatballs, red onion, mozzarella, and “red sauce”, and the “Green Stripe” which is a pesto chicken, red peppers, garlic, mozzarella, and arugula pizza. I brought a friend along, so I was able to build a pizza as well as order the “Red Vine”, which was the closest thing to a classic Margherita pizza I could find and always a good barometer on pizza quality.
Building your own pizza is definitely the way to go. If you’re into piling as much stuff as you want onto your food, regardless of quality, this is the place for you. Choices include everything from bacon, meatballs, grilled chicken, sausage, and ham to artichokes, arugula, peppers, basil, zucchini, and pineapple. Cheeses include a shredded mozzarella, gorgonzola, ovalini mozzarella (get this, the shredded stuff looked gross), parmesan, and ricotta while sauces are a “red sauce”, a “spicy red sauce”, “white sauce”, barbeque sauce, or just a drizzle of pesto or olive oil. I went for a number of ingredients and wasn’t charged any extra for it. It will appeal to the novelty-lover in you, or the quantity-to-quality urges, but ultimately none of the ingredients on my pizza really stood out either.
Aside from the pizza, there were a handful of salads on the menu as well. Some include a beet and goat cheese salad, a chicken Caesar, and a roasted veggie and gorgonzola. Although I admittedly did not get a chance to sample these.
The oven that is at the center of it all is propane-powered and was sitting steadily at about 540 degrees the entire time I was there. While it was certainly enough to crisp up and cook a decent pizza in seconds, it lacked the flavor and temperature of a real wood fire oven. Which is a shame, because wood can be added to the particular oven Blaze uses. This certainly did not do much to rescue the weakest part of my pizza, and that is the crust. While crispy and thin, it lacked flavor and the texture reminded me more of crispy flatbread than a pizza crust.
Look, I recognize there are varying styles of pizza and price points. At Blaze’s prices, I would choose their pizza over Domino’s, Pizza Hut, or Papa John’s any day of the week. But it’s fast food pizza dressed up to be fancier than it really is. Is it really living up to all the hype that I’ve heard? I don’t think so, it looks better than it tastes. Is it an acceptable product that’s priced correctly? I would say yes.
But I’ll tell you this. For a good ol’ New York style pizza, I’m sticking to Big Lou’s. For take-out party pizza, I’m sticking to Piesano’s. Deep dish should only be enjoyed at Leonardo’s in Millhopper. And for the real-deal-Italians-love-it wood-fired pizza, I’m sticking to Ameraucana Wood Fire. Those are just my preferences. Pizza is one of those things where you truly get what you pay for.
When I first read about Blaze’s concept, I likened them to a Chipotle for pizza, but I think Subway is a more accurate analogy. It’s an assembly-line fast food restaurant that serves a decent product at a good value, and isn’t the disgusting mess that is Feces Pizza (Cici’s). It has clearly worked for them as they have tons of locations throughout the country. Would I come back? Probably, it’s priced correctly and sometimes I just want to pile nothing but meats on a pizza so perfectly round, it looks fake and pleasures my OCD. But in a town where you can get some good pizza in any style, would you really want to stick to Subway?