I’ve made about a handful of visits to the Blaze Pizza nearest my home. The concept was interesting to me. It’s basically the idea Kramer has early on in Seinfeld lore except you have trained people applying the toppings and shoving their arms into an oven.
But I’m skipping ahead.
Many of the things you’ll read about Blaze is that it’s the “Chipotle of pizza.” That was actually the tag line that got me intrigued to try it because you can get pizza anywhere, and you can get pizza you customize anywhere, but you usually can’t watch it happen like an assembly line everywhere.
Walking in on my first visit, I was quite overtaken by the fact that the actual space is laid out and even decorated like a Chipotle. I mean, the color scheme is slightly different, but the same idea is there. Even the ordering system is the same. Form a line and one person starts your order and pushes it down the assembly line while you customize it. There’s even an eerie similarity in what happens to the dough to Chipotle. They use this dough stretching apparatus that’s pretty much exactly like the thing they use to warm the tortilla at Chipotle. The only real difference at Blaze (besides the fact that you’re ordering pizza not burritos) is that there’s nobody at the end of the line telling you guac is $3 extra (and then begrudgingly slaps the guac in your hand). But, trust me, you’ll totally feel like that person might as well be there.
A basic cheese and sauce pizza is under $7, and their signature pizza and Build-your-own options are under $8. You can literally have them dump their entire kitchen on your pizza for under $8. As you go along, if you want more meat, they’ll add it. More veggies, they’ll add it. More cheese. Etc. They only charge you extra if you want a gluten free crust (more on this later) or if you order extra things like salads, sodas, or smores cookies. I don’t really know of many pizza places where that’s true.
On one of my visits, I opted for the Meat Eater (pepperoni, crumbled meatballs, red onion, mozzarella, red sauce) but I substituted their spicy sauce and added extra meatball and some jalapeno peppers. I actually really like this combination of toppings, and don’t mind their crust. I’m not the type of person who walks into a place like this and expects anything different from a QC friendly experience. I can guarantee that crust will taste the same every time just based on the setup of the operation. I don’t think you need me or anybody else telling you there are better pizzas out there.
Other times, I’ve gotten pizzas they finish with arugula and/or pesto. I’ve asked for extra of both and even on one visit asked for so much arugula it cleaned out their immediate supply. And they didn’t charge me one penny extra.
Where I really see this place excel is in their treatment of people who order the gluten free crust. For shits and giggles one night, I ordered it, and by chance, the young lady behind me did as well. This started a little differently where a sticky, more white dough (consistent with high rice flour content) was moved along a different line atop a contraption to keep it from touching gluten contaminated surfaces. They even have a separate counter dedicated to the gluten free pizzas. On top of that, the first person to top my pizza asked if I would want each person to change gloves along the way. And once it’s in the oven (still atop the contraption), the person flipping them around in there uses a different implement.
Taste-wise, the gluten free version is just as passable as their regular crust, which is a surprise as there are many dreadful gluten free crusts out there. The extra cost is off-putting, however, if you’re someone who does have intolerance, it’s nice to know there is a place that will go that extra mile to try to eliminate cross-contamination.
In either case, this type of pizza doesn’t carry well even though they’ll gladly give you a cute little box to take your pizza to go. This poses an issue as this place gets extremely busy during peak times and has limited seating.
One things I noticed on multiple visits were the amounts of families that ordered multiple pies. Part of the allure of the pizza experience is the ability to feed a crowd for a relatively small amount of money. If you have a family of four, and each person customizes their own pizza, you can be over $30 in the hole. That same family could have been fed for under $15 at a conventional pizzeria if they could just agree on a topping or two. In my opinion, the economy of a place like this falls apart if you’re dining with more than 1 or 2 people. In a pinch, though, it’s a perfectly average place to pick up a personal pie.