Break The Contradictions

MaisysBuffaloChicken

Maisy’s is what Downtown Baltimore or what a downtown in general feels like.  I prefer the latter, because it reminds me of a part of any city, that truly feels like a city.  Baltimore has a lot of neighborhoods within it, yet it does have parts that seem like there’s lots of action.

This particular part of Charles Street, which bridges downtown to Mt. Vernon, is an area I used to frequent all the time.  While it gets busier things also seem to be a bit slower.  Time has stood still, and so does the traffic, so does everybody.

Maisys

Good friends of mine were regulars of Maisy’s when it first opened maybe 5-6 years ago, but for various reasons, life happens, and life goes on.  That didn’t mean to sound so dramatic.   But my friends did sell me on the place without having to sell it.  It’s a hidden gem, hiding in plain sight.  Near several other restaurants, bars, and other establishments it might be easy to overlook and take for granted.   I could see that.

MaisysBoard

The first time I ate here was literally five years ago.  And that might have been my only time.  This was before any blogs or pizza storytelling were on my radar.  Well it was slightly on my radar or we wouldn’t be here now.   I just recall the pizza being pleasantly awesome.

I had been tipped off (sounds so exciting) on the fact that their pizza is one of the more underrated in the city.  That’s a relative term.  What’s rated one way to you, is well, yeah..

Having no recollection of what exactly I had, I can say that the pizza and atmosphere was tremendous.  Maybe it’s having no expectations, going somewhere alone, and going somewhere for the first time.  I also recall that I was in between social engagements that day, so that time alone is always welcome.  Don’t take that for granted.  We all know how time alone is fewer and far between than it used to be.  If we let it.

That was a moment in time.  Nothing noteworthy, newsworthy, or life changing.  Sometimes those are the best.   The way the place was lit did leave a lasting impression, and there’s a quaintness, despite the large space, that is perfect for this or any neighborhood.  It works in a downtown setting.

Moving along a few years later, you can’t replicate the first time.  I was with a friend, and was craving pizza. Surprise surprise.  But this time something felt off.

By no means was I trying to relive something that doesn’t exist.  The restaurant looked exactly the same, which I like.  Well maybe it was different.   I don’t know.  It’s been a while.

MaisysMenu

We shared the Buffalo Chicken and The Mediterranean.

MaisysBuffaloChicken2

There isn’t much home to write about.  It was fine. It was food.  It was there.

MaisysMEDITERRANEAN

You’ll notice the charring on the crusts of both pies. They went a little overboard.  I love brick oven pizza.  I love any way a pizza is cooked, as long as the end result is that it tastes good.  Sometimes you want it greasy, crunch, and with little thoughts to the craftsmanship behind it.

There’s some effort put into these pizzas, but something was missing.  It just didn’t wow me.  The style in which it was cut is in line with what I remember, maybe.

The tastes on both were fine.  Once again, I don’t know what happened.  But it’s average pizza.  I wish I could say otherwise.   On the Mediterranean there’s too much going on, and many of the vegetables, feta cheese, and even the pesto got lost in the shuffle.  When the pesto doesn’t work, you know something is off.   The Buffalo Chicken looks amazing, and the pieces of chicken are great, but again something fell flat.  The sauce and cheese is fine but…

If we’re counting this exactly, we’re 1-1.   I supposed the third time is the time charm.  You’ll be the first to know when that is.

Thanks so much and peace be with you…

Ideen

 

…Are The Best People

Piazza27Slices

I’m not sure what to make of this.   I took the title off of the window display of this weeks recap, Piazza 27.  Until three days ago I hadn’t heard a thing about it.  But you know how thing are, you hear about an entity once, you constantly hear about it as it gains momentum in your head, in your life, and within the universe and atmosphere around you.

Piazza27Side

But the things I’ve been hearing about Piazza 27 are on the level of life changing, astounding, and out of body, even more so out of this world.

Locals in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore (this is still one of my favorites) have been clamoring for a pizza place with simple New York Style slices to either eat in or carry out.  It’s one of those things that I’m proclaiming based on observation and based on the word-of-mouth momentum I alluded to in the previous paragraph.   I understand that.

Mt. Vernon is a neighborhood full of character, amazing architecture, great shops, bars, and restaurants of all nationalities and styles, but sometimes you just a simple slice of pizza with little wait time.   And this is what Piazza 27 is providing to locals, and students from nearby universities and institutions.

For that and among many other reasons is why I think people love this place so much.  It’s a hidden them that’s going to explode, whether it’s because of this blog or not, is another thing.  But I’m going to show my support because local business with a good energy, a good aura, and friendly people behind the counter (and they were friendly for sure) is always worthy of attention and admiration.  We don’t give enough of it.  We can never give enough.  It’s just the way it is.

But with that being said, how was the pizza?

I honestly felt influenced by the incredible reviews of this place on their Facebook page and other sites (they don’t have a website yet, which I actually find awesome) that is may have been hard to be practical in my own critiques.

I’ve been guilty in the past of buying into the dogma of a place, and going against my own genuine opinion, because so many other people have lauded the place to the point of annoyance.  And the counter to that would be I would find a place less than stellar in comparison to the reviews, because it was either out of spite or because I was sick of hearing about it.

The fact that I’ve already said all this would lend you to believe that my opinion might still not be own but headed towards a confirmation bias one way or another.

Well I’m going to do my best to say how I truly feel, but with the suggestion that you should try this place yourself if you live in and around Baltimore, Mt. Vernon, or plan on visiting.

Piazza27Slices2

I purchased 4 slices with the total being only about $13.   If you do the math, this is a deal, a bargain, and this will get you two lunches worth at least.  Yes I made this into multiple meals.  I can’t eat this all at once, that would be crazy,  or would it?  Hmmm…

The friendly face behind the counter was just that.  She could not have been more kind in explaining every slice to me.   That’s the stuff that’ll make people keep coming back, and they’ve been coming back alright, or so I heard.

For this final pizza post of 2017, the four slices I purchased were cheese, white with veggie, chicken bacon ranch, and chicken bacon pesto.  That last one, I know I know.. It’s different alright.

Piazza27Cheese

I want to be honest here.  All the slices were really good to great.  I completely understand why people are raving about this.  The crust, the dough, the sauce, and the way it was heated were great on some slices, and better on the others.

Piazza27WhiteVeggie

But I also want to understand where folks are coming from.  I think if the pizza quality was a tad lower, I sense a lot of people would still be thinking highly of this place. It’s just a thought.  There was a lack and this place filled it, but it filled it and then some.  The pizza is terrific.

Piazza27ChickenBaconRanch

Yet some are calling it the best pizza in Baltimore, the best New York pizza they’ve ever had outside of New York, and some have said it’s the best pizza every.   This isn’t hyperbole, reviews are here & here saying similar things.  There’s local community sites sharing that same sentiment.

Piazza27ChickenPesto

I can’t say it’s the best pizza,  but that’s not a fair thing to say anyways.  It’s great pizza.  The cheese and chicken bacon pesto were the two favorites of mine.  And you know you can tell what’s a good pizza place if their cheese slice is good, then it’s going to be the gateway to other tremendous pizzas.

I’ve always loved pesto but this is up there with the best of the best pesto.  And how it doesn’t clash with the the bacon is a pleasant surprise.

Piazza27Slices4

That’s not to say that the other two slices weren’t great.  They were delicious.  The white is one of the better whites I’ve had, and the veggies didn’t get in the way like some places might.  It complemented the white slice so well you could easily taste the ricotta, garlic, and olive oil.

I got a kick out of walking out of the place with this big to-go box in my hand.  Based on how I was feeling and the location, it only seemed fitting.

These slices also tasted like brand new a day later.  And that’s the best judge of a place.  I think these could last a few days and still taste great. Easy to say about any decent leftover pizza, but there is an aura about this place and these slices.

I’d say definitely go here.  There’s something going on alright.  Best pizza ever?  Not to me, but I’m just one opinion.  It’s great pizza at a great price, at what seems to be the ideal location.  A few businesses have been unsuccessful since I’ve been in the area, but I think that’s over now.  I know that’s over now.   We have liftoff.

We have a winner here in Piazza 27, and once they gain even more momentum, all bets are off.

Piazza27Menu

They’ve only been open a month (menu can be found here) but the cat’s been long out of the bag.

Piazza27Front

I’m going to have to come back here and do a sequel.  Something magical is going on here, and I’m even getting a better energy and feeling as I write about it.

Happy New Year, Peace Be With You, and I’ve got to come back here.  And soon.

Ideen

 

 

 

Joe To The Second

JoeSquaredLamb2

There’s quite a few instances where I could have done a pizzeria more justice.  There’s times where I either know was too harsh on a place, not hard enough, or too kind.  But more importantly is the overall energy levels that surround said pizza place.  And that also applies to me.  I have to be in the best mood possible.  Yet I must go in unbiased and treat everything with equal importance, equal respect, and equal praise and criticisms.

Of course I have favorites.  Some I’ve written about, and some that are yet to come.   And believe me, more is coming…

JoeSquaredFront

And with that I present to you, an oldie but a goodie, but not quite an oldie, Joe Squared in the Station North neighborhood in Baltimore.  This is the Artscape special for this year,2017 edition, which is becoming a fun little tradition (here’s the last two years of posts related to this awesome festival) that I’ve grown to become fond of.   And Joe Squared will be right in the vicinity of all the activity this weekend.

They moved locations not too long ago.   Their original location footsteps away from their new locale had a charm to it.  It felt Baltimore, it felt old world, and it just didn’t feel like how many newish places are looking and feeling today.  It had an authenticity, which still exists in many places, but is slowly dissipating.

However, I never had their pizza in the old spot.  I only grabbed a drink and maybe an appetizer from time to time.  I wasn’t there enough to consider myself a regular.  Not even close.  But I did feel at home and felt cozy when I was there.

Several year later, my first pizza eating experience at Joe’s was actually at their (at the time) second location at PowerPlant Live.

It’s where friends and I would prefer to eat before a concert.  We all love pizza, and as a bonus we loved their risotto, and indulged there on a number of occasions. 

I couldn’t tell you exactly what we ate.  But I know once we had this mushroom risotto that was existentially awesome.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  Actually I could but I think that’ll work.

I don’t remember the pizza we ate, but the square shapes and the simplicity of our cheese, our toppings, and the pizza crust, made it always enjoyable.  I never said it was the best pizza I ever had, but it surely belong in the conversations of the better pizzas in Baltimore.

And after all this time, I impulsively decided today to grab two personal pizzas to go.  Yes as I alluded to earlier, I wanted to keep the Artscape theme going, and I nearly dropped the ball. Since, I was short on time, instead of sitting down and dining it, I opted to get two pies to go, to have a little now, and maybe save some more for later.  And I saved quite a bit.   Don’t read into too much of that just yet.

The interior is nothing to be too mesmerized about.  It’s a basic set up with pictures, a spacious dining room, and a medium sized bar.  Because of this, no pictures are really necessary, outside of the food.  It also made the decision to get my za to go that much easier.

JoeSquaredMenu

I went with a simple one, The Flag, and then a more complex pie, The Cumin Braised Lamb.

In a nutshell, these are no the pizzas I remember.  Much time has passed, nor should they be. But the charm and the openness and welcoming vibration I got from these pizzas was not there. It’s been replaced with something not as enthusiastic, and not as down-to-earth.  At least not on this day.

The big positive is the coal-fired and thin sourdough crust.  That’s tremendous and a gave the pizzas a distinct taste, outside of the toppings.  Because…

I’ll go with the more adventurous pie first.  The lamb had a lot going on.  The lamb by itself was absolutely terrific.  You can’t help but pick pieces off yourself and enjoy.  I did bit of that. Because otherwise the eggplant didn’t work for me here.  It tended to dominate each bite I took. Now I love eggplant but this was a bit much.  The onions didn’t mesh well either.  As individual entities the ingredients were fresh.  But I don’t think this came together as capable as it should. I I can envision many people loving this because of the lamb.  I loved the lamb but I wanted to love everything, and I couldn’t.  It was merely ok.

JoeSquaredFlag

Now the usual standbys of The Flag, which is essentially three pies in one, a cheese, a variation of their white, and their pesto mozzarella.

JoeSquaredFlag2

This should be a safe bet correct?  Well not quite.

The cheese and white were missing something.  I tasted more of the crust (which is a good thing sometimes) than anything else.  The cheese was missing something. Maybe more  cheese?  And the white was too creamy and then not creamy enough.  I feel that depended on the bite.  Garlic cream is usually beautiful, but maybe it was trying too hard.

But the pesto will never let you down. I could eat this all day, but I wouldn’t because that would be unhealthy or something.  Yet that pesto taste so real, so magical, and just plain delicious.  I wish I got that as a pie by itself.  It’s fantastic.

What else I want to do is give this another go.  There’s so many pies to choose from, maybe I just found two of them that didn’t resonate with me.  They might with you though.   But a place that carries this much weight deserves to have more of their pizzas sampled.

Speaking of which, if you’re at Artscape this weekend, I would absolutely recommend Joe Squared as a dining destination, if seating is available.  I imagine on a weekend like this that seats might be at a premium.

Next time I’m back I will hopefully be with a friend or two, and absolutely try a couple more pizzas.  Again, one being rather simple, and one being out of the norm.  There’s plenty of that, and options for everyone.  They do offer vegan and gluten free options as well.  Always a good thing.

So this is just the beginning.  I’ve been saying that a lot but it’s the truth. I look forward to coming back and having another go at this.

For their menu click here, location and contact information, and their list of specials.

JoeSquaredSpecials

Maybe I’ll try a special next time myself.

We’ll see you at Artscape.

Thanks so much.

Ideen

Iggie Pop

Iggies

The first time I visitied Iggies in Mt. Vernon, a few years ago, I didn’t fully appreciate my time there. I was just looking for a pie to go and to most likely eat in my car.   For a spot like this, it’s almost an insult to the establishment and to me.   Last night was a wonderful dining experience.

When I read the menu in advance, the immediate stand out was the Anatra Arrosta, which is the Roasted Duck.    I was looking for a different type of pie, and this was it.

Woof

I walked in and forgot how cool this place looked on the inside.  There were plenty of photos of Italian Greyhounds, that made this animal lover very happy.    I didn’t fully notice or appreciate the first time, if at all.    For this detail alone, this immediately becomes one of my favorite places.

menu

The menu options were abundant, which nearly led me to stray from my original choice.  But I’m glad I went with my first instinct.

pizza!

So how was the pizza?  Well it was amazing.  The whole ordering process at the counter, to when it was brought to me, took less than 10 minutes.

The simplistic recipe of mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and shredded duck was absolute perfection.  The personal size I purchased filled me up, and I had about half my pie left.   One of my favorite things is seeing how the cheese is baked into the dough.  And how great does that look here?   The crust is thin and baked perfectly.  I enjoyed eating and savoring each bite.

yum

There’s so much additional charm here.  It’s a BYOB spot, so folks were bringing in bottles of wine and their favorite case of cold ones.   My pairing of choice was the complimentary water in a dixie cup!  This is stuff for the ages folks.

I wish I could say more to give this place justice.  They have a Pizza Of The Moment, which rotates periodically.

pizzabox

My favorite part of all is that they help support local charities, and any that help animals, I am always  a fan of.

The amount of creations I want to try here are plentiful.  Iggies could have a blog dedicated to them all its own.   I will be back.  And soon.

entrance

Thanks so much.

Best,

Ideen