Review No. 25: Blaze Pizza
455 Elsinger Boulevard
15.7 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
She Said: I had seen the location in Little Rock, and I didn’t realize there are about 150 Blaze Pizzas in 30-plus states. As is often the case for our review lunches, I was hungry from a workout and looking forward to pizza, so we got here around 11:15 a.m. I had been here once before on a no-carb day, so I’d tried one of their packaged salads, which was fine, but I wanted to let this place lead with its strengths. I was ready to pizza. Hard.
He Said: Pizza is not normally something that’s even conceivable on a low-fat diet, but I had heard that the menu at Blaze is presented in a way that allows you to figure out exactly how many calories everything you eat is costing you. If it’s possible to enjoy pizza and still keep to a reasonably low-fat meal, I’m all in, so I was curious about this place.
She Said: The branding here is on fleek. It’s strong, from the colors, wall-size photographs and the typeface all the way to the service (see below), and it’s truly appealing to me. This is a friendly, casual place, but it is not very relaxing (though the patio seating might be more chill, as long as the nearby construction projects are also on a break). The music is pumping and the process is noisy, but that’s part of the vibe, literally, of this restaurant. It was busy and energetic when we arrived late morning and stayed busy with many full seats until we left around noon. But it wasn’t at all unpleasant. The verve in the vibe fits with the style of food they serve and the way this restaurant serves that food.
He Said: You mention the branding, so I will actually go there. Warning: rant ahead. Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to read it. But for the love of Pete, is there nobody in the marketing or branding world that has a clue how to use an apostrophe? What on earth does “fast fire’d” signify, other than a complete lack of a basic understanding of the conventions of English punctuation? Is it supposed to be some imitation of Shakespearean usage, wherein the Bard might have spelled “loved” as “lov’d” when he didn’t want it pronounced as two syllables. But the apostrophe means that a letter has been fleft ot, which is what apostrophes are actually supposed to be used for. So the only sensible way to use an apostrophe here would be to spell it as “fast-fir’d.”
But I digress. As you noted (or “not’d”), Jones, it’s noisy in there, kind of a warehouse atmosphere. Much of the noise comes from the long line that starts to gather as noon approaches. If you had some noisy kids that you wanted to take out to lunch, this would be ideal. Also, if you are bothered by the level of sound, there is limited seating outside, though only about three tables On a nice autumn day, though, it looks like a realy pleasant place to dine al fresca.
She Said: Well, Ruud, I’m in the marketing field, and I know how to use an apostrophe, but the “Fire’d” thing made me wonder if the original was “Fireed,” and I’m not sure what that means, but I’ll probably call it that from now on: Blaze Pizza: Fast. FirEED. (I slay me.) But, back to the drinks. The menu says they have beer and wine, in addition to lemonade, agua fresca and tea and soda, but that is “subject to availability,” and since alcohol wasn’t listed on the board in the restaurant, I assumed Faulkner County’s Byzantine alcohol mores were in play. I chose unsweet iced tea, and it was good, a little strong, but easily diluted with ice.
He Said: Yes, once again the silly Conwegians cannot get a simple beer with their pizza. But since I don’t drink, it didn’t affect me. And since I was deliberately trying to keep down the calories, and see how low I could go and still get a good pizza meal, I opted for a bottle of sparkling water.
She Said: I have to say, Ruud, that this place appeals to both of our individual food-freaky needs. I like to control what I eat when I can and to know what I’m getting. I like a lot of options, and I want to know what those options are going to mean to the bottom-line of my calorie-count, etc. Yes, it’s a problem, but now I have Blaze Pizza to assuage my nervous food edge (to adapt a line from one of my poems). I can have thick-crust (580 calories) or original thin (390 calories) or gluten-free (310 calories) as the base and add on from there. The menu lists the calories of every single thing they sell you. I LOVE this. I selected one of their signature pizzas, the “Green Stripe,” which is listed as 770 calories, with the regular crust, but you can modify your order as much as you like, so I asked them to hold the red peppers it comes with and to use gluten-free dough, which costs $2 extra, but protects my arthritic foot—and it saved me 90 calories!
And that pizza was good! The Green Stripe pizza has tasty, tender chicken, roasted garlic and mozzarella fired up in the oven, and then they dress it with fresh arugula and pesto drizzle. I also opted for the sea salt and oregano. When I sat down with my pizza at the table, I could actually smell the arugula; it was so fresh and pungent. I also loved that I could see all the ingredients as they used them for my dish, so even though I was eating pizza, it was a whole-foods pizza, made on dough they make at the restaurant daily. Though it was not the highest-calorie pizza on their menu (the Meat Eater is the highest at 950 calories of the signature offerings), it was rather filling, and I brought home half of it, as I definitely want to finish it. This is a great place for me to fulfill my pizza cravings while appeasing my food-related issues.
He Said: Okay, Jones, my own “freakiness” is a kind of necessity, but I’ll concede that they make it as easy here to watch the nutritional content of their food as anyplace I’ve ever been. They have certain “signature pizzas” like your Green Stripe, but they also give you the option to completely build your own pizza from scratch. You go along an assembly line and tell them what kind of sauce you want, what kind of cheese, what kind of meat, what other toppings, and they build it for you and fire it for about three minutes, and you’re ready!
I had the regular thin crust (390 calories), the classic red sauce (30 calories), parmesan cheese rather than mozzarella (50 calories), turkey meatballs (80 calories), green peppers and mushrooms (5 plus 10 calories) and a bit of sea salt and oregano at the end. The whole pizza—roughly a medium size, with six slices—was 565 calories, a reasonable sized lunch. But you do have to watch it—as Jones says, you can easily get to 950 calories without working up a sweat with the signature Meat Eater pizza.
As for fat content, Blaze does have a Web site where you can find the fat content at least of the signature items. The Meat Eater, for example, has 48 grams of fat. But you could get it up to 60 grams (and over 1300 calories) by having the high rise dough, white sauce, olives, and barbecue sauce, so I’d recommend being mindful of what you’re adding on. Jones’s Green Stripe had about 30 grams. My own pizza, as close as I can figure it, contained only about 12 grams of fat. That is an excellent total for a decent pizza!
She Said: This is a quick-service restaurant, so we lined up at the counter to place our orders. I grabbed menus from the holder as we walked in the door so we could peruse our options as we waited in a short line. We got a quick orientation from the first staffer to greet us, who filled out a little form based on our orders to pass along with our pizza pan throughout the process. She wrote my name, got my preferences, asked if I had any food allergies (which I don’t), and then told me how the process would work. Different people placed the stipulated ingredients on my gluten-free dough as I watched. All were friendly and helpful. At the end of the line, the cashier checked everything to make sure my pizza was ready for the oven. Ruud paid for ours together, and then we waited for our names to be called. It was a very short wait, especially when it comes to pizza. Before we left, another staffer came to our table to clear and check on us and our experience. Every single person was friendly, helpful and energetic. That’s a joy you don’t always experience in such eateries.
He Said: Jones is right about the service, it was friendly and energetic, especially from the person who greeted us and started us off on our adventure around the counter. I did have a bit of a problem at the end, since because of the noise I didn’t hear my name called, and when I tried to get someone’s attention to let me have my pizza, they were quite busy and it was hard to break through. But overall it was fine.
What We Got and What We Paid: Green-Stripe pizza (with gluten-free crust), iced tea, bottled water and a Build-Your-Own pizza for $24.81.
She Said: This is the fulfillment of my pizza needs, not just because I’m food-freaky, but because it’s freaking delicious. And if you’re not food-freaky, go here and go crazy just for the taste!
He Said: This looks like it will be my go-to pizza place. I actually thought I was going to have to give up on pizza forever, but the choose-your-own options here make it possible to get a really good pizza that’s not going to send me into the hospital with a pancreatitis attack. Even at a place like Zaza, where you have a lot of choice over what to put on your pizza, they just don’t have the low-fat options that they have here.
So…He Said and She Said: Get pizza exactly how you want it, fast and friendly.