Monday, December 15, 2014

Two Boots Baltimore Review (CLOSED)

If you look closely- you'll see snow flurries!
5/17/17: As of late April, Two Boots Baltimore has closed. 

As it it is my final week in Baltimore for this semester, I've been brushing up on my course material for final exams and sneaking off campus to take the opportunity to visit restaurants that have been on my to-do list. 

Two Boots Pizza, located in Midtown Belvedere and nestled between the University of Baltimore and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), caught my eye after discovering that they happen to be very gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan friendly.

Founded in 1987 in New York City, Two Boots' celebrates the unique cultural and culinary intersection of Louisiana and Italy (the two "boots") while featuring funky decor and a commitment to local communities. After my pizza disappointment earlier this week at Seasons, I went to Two Boots with the highest of hopes. As I soon found out, Two Boots knocked my boots off with their level of allergen awareness!

I arrived shortly after their opening and found the store pretty empty. Selecting a windows-side table, I was greeted by the friendly staff and given a menu to peruse. I loved their pizza combos which feature fun and funky ingredients and equally witty names to match. The "old bay beast?" The "Cleopatra Jones?" Not your average specialty pizza names! Not able to process the many options, I began to ask questions about what would, and would not, be safe. 

Talking with my server (I really wish I remembered his name) proved to be really enlightening as he explained Two Boots' commitment to gluten-free customers. Their crusts come from California and feature a flour blend that is more nutritious that your average rice crust. For dairy-adverse and vegans, they offer Daiya's non-dairy cheese (coconut based) that is free from egg, soy, and gluten. All but a couple of their toppings are gluten and dairy free, and they have dedicated baking pans, pizza cutters and a prep area to ensure gluten-free pizzas really remain gluten-free. In addition, they do not discriminate between celiac, gluten-intolerant, or lifestyle gluten-free customers and make sure to follow protocols for all so that double standards do not put people at risk. 

Two Boots' colorful interior.
I ended up ordering the "V for Vegan" specialty pizza sans cheese (it usually comes with Daiya). Featuring artichokes, shiitake mushrooms, red onions and a criss-cross of two types of pesto atop their spicy red sauce, this pizza is both colorful and tasty. Normally, the two pestos atop the pizza are a red pepper-based one and a pesto-based one, but a kale pesto was substituted in place of the basil since they had run out of the ingredient. I loved the freshness of the veggie toppings, but the real stand out of the combination was the sauce and pestos. Tomato-y with an unmistakable spice, the sauce packed heat and flvaor. Working alongside the equally heat-packing red pepper pesto, my mouth was on fire and loving every moment. The kale pesto was more subdued, but added it's own flavor which provided a nice contrast. I added shrimp on top as a rare treat (since it's rarely served in the dining hall), and the shellfish fit right in among the veggies and spicy notes.

The crust itself deserves a separate shout-out as it held up to the weight of the toppings and proved itself in the taste and texture department. Perfectly capturing the ideal thin crust pizza, the crust is crunchy on the bottom and ends leaving a satisfactory chewiness towards the center. Without a doubt, the crust is a serious contender for the best gluten-free crust I've had yet.

The best part about my experience was that it fired on all cylinders: Two Boots brought great food, a great vibe, and great service. While relishing the last slice of my pizza, I daydreamed about my next visit, and regretfully realized I probably will not be back until next year when my second semester commences. I look forward to my return visit, and many more to come next year. With locations around the country, I can only hope that one day Orlando may be home to a Two Boots location so that I can enjoy this delicious fare both at home and in school. Until then, the allure of great gluten-free pizza will draw me back to Baltimore to brave the remainder of winter after my Florida-based break.

Update 5/8/15: Before heading home for the summer, I decided Two Boots was the perfect way to end my freshman year with a bang. This time, I decided on the "Night Tripper." Normally a white pizza, the white sauce can be adapted to be dairy-free using vegan cheese, but I opted to substitute red sauce since I'm not a fan. Make sure to request mild sauce, as the default red sauce has mozzarella in it.

This pizza is topped with garlic cloves, sun-dried tomato, spinach (I added this), mushrooms, and a lovely swirl of jalapeno pesto. The whole pizza is a party in you mouth and the flavors clash in a downright delicious manner. I definitely do not recommend it if in close company with another, as the garlic is potent, but so powerful. The staff proved to be just as helpful and knowledgeable as I first found them, maintaining their status as one of my favorite gluten-free spots in Baltimore.

The Basics

Address: 1203 W. Mount Royal Ave, Baltimore, MD 21217 (See other locations here)
Cuisine: Pizza (cajun-inspired and otherwise)
Ideal For: Lunch, Dinner, Late Night (Fri, Sat until 2am)
Price: Small pizzas (the only gluten-free size) average $10. Gluten-free crusts an additional $2, Daiya non-dairy cheese is an additional $1. Additional toppings range from $1.50-$3 each.
Accessibility: Easily wheelchair accessible
Special Features: FREE delivery to those living in the delivery zone ($10 minimum). 

Disclaimer: This review is based upon the information I have at the time of the review and does not reflect changes in ingredients or availability of items. Please contact the bakery directly for up-to-date information and feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. I was not compensated for this review and it is a reflection of my personal opinion.

Two Boots on Urbanspoon

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