The first Blaze Pizza opened in 2012, in Irvine, Calif., and has since spread across the U.S., billed as the “fastest growing fast casual restaurant brand,” with over 200 locations in five years.
The first metro Atlanta location opened last week on North Decatur Road, with a free pizza giveaway that made for long lines outside the free-standing building that was previously home to longtime Decatur diner Evans Fine Foods.
The changes to the space include a contemporary industrial design that’s anchored by a “blazing-hot” gas-fired oven that turns out each pizza in just “180 seconds.”
Led by operating partner Carl Hoover, whose background includes interests in Wendy’s and Zaxby’s, the new Blazing South franchise group plans to open several more Atlanta locations and eventually grow the brand throughout Georgia.
Last week, Hoover was on hand for the grand opening, along with Decatur general manager Grant Watkins, who has been busy helping to get the franchise rolling.
“We’ve been working for about a year, now, to get our restaurants open here in Georgia, and this is our flagship,” Watkins said. “We’re hoping to get six more open by the end of 2018. We have have one coming in Midtown, another on Akers Mill near Cumberland Mall, and the rest will be around metro Atlanta.”
Of course, Atlanta has been fertile ground for new fast casual restaurants, including a spate of pizza concepts, lately. But Watkins was quick to make the case for what makes Blaze different.
“The thing that sets us apart is that we make our dough in-house every day, we make our sauces in-house every day, everything is fast-fired, right down the line, and it’s fast enough for lunch, so you can get in and out,” he said.
Signature airy, thin-crust pizzas, such as the pesto-chicken Green Stripe, are priced at $8.25. And most top out at under 800 calories per pie. You can also build your own $8.25 pizza with unlimited toppings.
“We have a James Beard award-winning chef in California who creates all of the recipes for our signature pizzas,” Watkins said. “The menu is very streamlined. We have eight signature pizzas and we try to make it as easy for the guest as possible. And you can eat a pizza that’s pretty healthy and still enjoy it.”
Of course, it is possible to go really crazy with the build your own options, which include sauces, cheeses, meats, veggies and “finishes,” such as balsamic glaze, olive oil and ranch dressing.
“We’ve had people come in and add all the meats and all the veggies,” Watkins said. “But we recommend that you limit yourself to about five or six, because if you get more than that you don’t really get the individual flavors.”
“Simple Salads” come in side or entree sizes and include the likes of tomato mozzarella, kale and quinoa, and seasonal fruit and arugula with goat cheese.
Drinks include house-made lemonade and agua fresca and a small selection of beer on draft and in bottles, including local offerings such as SweetWater and Three Taverns.
“We’re a fast-growing brand, but we keep everything consistent,” Watkins said. “You can go to a Blaze in California or come to this one here in Georgia, and you’re going to have the same experience.”
2131 N. Decatur Road, Decatur. 678-705-8508, blazepizza.com.
More images from a First Look at Blaze Pizza in Decatur