My food buddy and I decided to try two pizza places in Baltimore that have had rave reviews. We had an early start and off we went to Eastern Avenue to Matthews Pizza, which has won best pizza in Baltimore numerous times. I was extremely hungry with just eating a slice of watermelon all day. I was up and ready for this pizza. Since we knew we were heading to two pizza places we ordered the small margherita pizza with tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil.
I have to admit I have a preference for thin crispy pizza, it doesn’t make it a better pizza, it just meets my personal likes. Matthews offers a thicker crust ..but then again it isn’t a crust, it seems more like a focaccia dough. The tomato was in cubed pieces with sufficient mozzarella and strips of baked basil. The texture was fine but the taste was bland. We both added more Parmesan, garlic powder, oregano and chili pepper flakes. The staff was pleasant enough but to me Matthew's wasn't "all that."
Next, Joe Squared on North Avenue next to the Maryland Institute of Art Building. It isn’t in the best of neighborhoods. My companion wanted to sit at the bar which gave us the added benefit of 2nd hand cigarette smoke. I let it ride and put it in the atmosphere column. We settled in on the mushroom pizza with sautéed mushrooms and mushroom powder.
I thought I would order a cup of gumbo while we waited for the pizza. When the gumbo arrived it was a conglomerate of meat sauce, some shrimp like creatures, sausage, ground beef and okra…it was a mixture of what seems to be their Bolognese sauce and regular gumbo. It needs to be listed on the menu as Gumbonese. As we both are finishing the Gumbonese we were informed there were no mushrooms so we chose another pizza margarita. Another disappointment. The crust was thin and crispy but they seemed to have just spread tomato sauce on this square pizza with limited mozzarella and fresh strips of basil. It was lackluster except for the crust. We picked off the mozzarella on half the pizza and added it to the slices we were eating and left the naked slices.
Joe Squared seems like a cool hang-out for the art students but not worth my return. I found I was barstool dancing to some of the music but eventually there was too much rap. Was it Eugene O'Neill who said "you can't go home?" I can't go back, funky places are a part of my youth.