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Blaze offers tasty, custom-made pies for under $10

You won’t find a better pizza in Albuquerque than Blaze Pizza, a new fast-food style pizzeria at Coronado Center. And if you do find a better-tasting one, you won’t pay just $6 for it.

Blaze Pizza has two locations in Albuquerque. The pizzas start around $6. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

This new hipster bistro is like Subway for pies: You line up and select the toppings for your own little thin-crust pizza, they make it assembly-line style for you, then they toss it in a super-hot oven to “blaze” it for just a few quick minutes.

It’s great pizza, thin and crispy and not too greasy, cooked evenly throughout but soft inside and dripping with cheese. For under $7 (for the average one- or two-topping pie) and under $10 (for an over-the-top supreme), you can feed yourself fast and get your own custom-made, sizzling-from-the-oven pizza to eat there or take it to go.

There’s only one problem – the place tends to get crowded.

The price is great, the location can’t be beat (especially if you’re a shopper), and the taste stacks up against that of any other pizza joint. But that means the place is probably going to be packed. Even during a non-rush time on a weekday, I waited in line and then waited to get my order.

It’s a great problem to have if you’re a restaurant, but it’s problematic for a diner.

It’s not an uncommon one, especially for a smaller establishment, and there isn’t an easy solution. On one hand, lots of people are enjoying their pizza or their company, on the other, a line of customers is waiting for an order or waiting for a table to open up.

The whole idea behind Blaze is to build to-order gourmet-style pizzas quickly and at a fair price.

During warm weather, a big outdoor patio helps ease the crowding – and eating al fresco is one of the best ways to eat pizza – but in the winter everyone crowds inside and some people linger long after their meal, so diners might end up waiting awhile to sit down or just giving up and taking the order to go.

I ordered a small salad for an extra few bucks, depending on the salad and toppings, and it was well-worth the money.

I tried a strawberry-and-arugula salad ($3.95) that was fantastic (the arugula was fresh and spicy, and the balsamic glaze was delicious, but the strawberries were slightly banged-up from age and tossing. Still, it was a delicious and healthy side order. It was big enough that I couldn’t finish a whole pie and the salad.

I also left with a signature dessert item to eat later – a s’mores cookie ($2), made on two round graham crackers with a marshmallow and a chunk of milk chocolate.

The cookie was amazing – pop it into a toaster or microwave for just a second and you’ll feel like you’re sitting around a campfire.

Service is friendly and engaging, and kids will enjoy the DIY vibe. Big parties can be accommodated with the restaurant’s big communal tables, but during rushes there isn’t much seating available. And diners line up haphazardly to wait as their little pizzas crackle in the big, crowded oven.

If the restaurant’s staffers could figure an efficient way to move diners through the line quicker, and if they could politely nudge linger-eaters and long-talkers to give up their tables to the next diners, Blaze could be a near-perfect pizzeria that would become a city staple.

With enough time, they could get there.

Give Blaze Pizza a try – it’s one of the best pizzas in town.

3 1/2 stars

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