Restaurant Review: Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, Atlanta, Georgia

Max's Coal Oven Pizzeria, Atlanta, Georgia
Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, Atlanta, Georgia

Restaurant: Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria, Atlanta, Georgia

Twas the night before the Publix Georgia Marathon
And all through the town
Runners were carb loading
Wherever pizza or pasta could be found…

I wish it were that simple for me when it came to where and what I can eat before a big race (half marathon or more).  Honestly, it would make travel a little less stressful if I didn’t have to totally research every convenient (and sometimes not-so-convenient) restaurant in or around a city I was visiting.  But those are not the cards I was dealt in life.

So, as stated above, it was the night before a marathon in Atlanta, Georgia.  There were a slew of runners swarming through the city.  And we were all hungry.  And needing to fuel up for the race the following morning.  I had dome some research for some places to grab some gluten-free pizza in Atlanta that wouldn’t require hopping in the car and driving somewhere.  I narrowed it down to two places: Mellow Mushroom and a local place known as Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria.

Since I can get Mellow Mushroom here…Cathy and I chose to try out Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria.

Around 5 p.m. that evening, we stepped into the dimly lit, but rustic little pizzeria.  I loved the ambiance.  And we were greeted immediately and seated at a table.  There was a bar on the wall to the left, the kitchen against the back wall, with…yes…a coal oven that would toast up the pizzas.  Tables filled the floor and there were a few runners taking up some of the seats and booths.  It smelled fantastic inside so I was feeling good about this decision.

Our waiter came over and asked if we wanted something to drink.  As I was prepping for a race…water…and lots of it.  While he went to retrieve our water, Cathy and I tried to figure out which pizza we wanted to try.  I told her to go ahead and pick…so she made her choice and when our waiter returned…we were ready to order.

So, we ordered the Gluten-Free Fontina & Funghi Pizza ($17.00), which was a white pizza that was topped off with Fontina cheese, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, and fresh oregano.  Sounded amazing, yes?  I thought so and was already hungry just thinking about getting a slice of this coal oven pizza.

So…you can imagine my great disappointment when the pizza arrived at the table.

Traditional.  Gluten-Free.  Cracker.  Crust.

UGH!  Okay…okay…it doesn’t mean it’s bad.  I mean, Mellow Mushroom does cracker crust…but they manage to do it well…so maybe…

We dug in, each taking a slice.  As I am lactose intolerant, I took a lactace pill to help with the digestion of the cheese and Cathy took the slices that had more cheese on them.  I took one bite…and thought about how fantastic the toppings were.  The cheese, the mushrooms, the sweetness of the onions…it all worked.  It worked well.  The lack of sauce meant that none of those earthy flavors were missed.  Yes…the toppings were fantastic.

But the crust…the crust…*WHIMPER*.

I don’t know what I was thinking.  I have said it once…and I’ll say it again…I have been spoiled by my local gluten-free bakery because their pizza crust is NOT a cracker crust.  It’s chewy and delicious and crusty and amazing.  And this…this pizza crust at Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria…was NOT any of that.  This crust was…bland.  It was cooked all the way through, unlike my previous gluten-free pizza outing (in Birmingham, Alabama).  But it had no real flavor.  No buttery flavor.  Nothing that really elevated the pizza.  And then…the more I ate…the less ecstatic I was even about the toppings.  Because…I can get those toppings anywhere.  The base really needs to help elevate the dish.  And this crust didn’t achieve that.  AT ALL!

So, another gluten-free pizza fails to impress.

We polished off the pizza though…even though neither of us were thrilled with it.  And we payed the bill and left.  I was feeling so disappointed.  You know, the meal before a marathon should be filling and hearty and just really satisfying…and this was none of those things.  We walked back to the hotel and I lamented another gluten-free pizza that could have been great…but wasn’t.

So, next time…we’ll just go to Mellow Mushroom.

Live and learn.

As for Max’s Coal Oven Pizza…perhaps their regular pizzas are amazing…but the gluten-free versions fall short of anything worth raving about.

Too bad.  I was hopeful about this one.  So hopeful that Cathy and I had every intention of returning the following night.  But we quickly made other plans after we both didn’t enjoy our food that night.

Max's Coal Oven Pizzeria's Gluten-Free Fontina & Funghi Pizza
Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria’s Gluten-Free Fontina & Funghi Pizza

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