Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Custom FUEL Howard University Grand Opening

College students love options; and man/woman can't live on neighboring McDonald's and Potbelly alone. Enter Custom FUEL to the rescue. The popular pizza chain opened its second DC location (in addition to two FUELs) yesterday to great fanfare and long lines (often, outside the front door.) Guess who loves custom pizza?

Howard University, that's who; and with good reason. Rectangular, made-to-order pies are a welcome break from the disappointment one encounters when ordering pizza by the slice. You know what I'm talking about... "We only have cheese, pepperoni and this weird combo with extra anchovies. What do you want?"

Good question. For starters, how about three choices of crust (Original, Whole Wheat, Gluten Free) and eight sauces (including BBQ, Garlic Oil and Vegan Tomato?) That's just the beginning, when it comes to customization; but Custom Fuel may want to make a few changes to the ordering process, which can be a bit daunting. For example, each pizza, salad, or dessert requires a separate ticket (written by hand.) For a table of four with a hearty appetite, we could be talking about 8-10 different tickets. That said, it's opening day; and I didn't see one unhappy face the whole time I was there.

Custom Pizza with sausage, pepperoni, red peppers & more

The atmosphere screams cozy-hip with plenty of seating in the two-level, high ceiling space. There's even a giant buffalo head atop the front counter (go Bison!) FUEL's signature stools are here too, and may be the single best stick of furniture in any DC restaurant: I absolutely love 'em. The rest of the space is chic-industrial with a big splash of light, courtesy of the tall windows facing Georgia Avenue, an up & coming strip if ever there was one.

White Pie

Good looks aside, folks won't line up for long... if the food isn't worth the wait. Thankfully, Custom FUEL's pies take care of that. 13 vintage pies (including Old Bay Shrimp & Pork BBQ) and six Classic Pizzas cover all the basics; and for those who need even more choices, there's also the option of creating your own... something I did with sausage, pepperoni, onions, red peppers, FRESH mozzarella, basil, regular and sun-dried tomatoes on a whole wheat crust with Spicy Marinara sauce.

Caprese Salad

As tasty as that sounds, I enjoyed their White Pie even more. White sauce, parmesan, roasted garlic and a delicious blend of mozzarella & Romano cheeses. Sounds simple; but there in, lies its beauty. It was so good, I added a reminder to my iPhone to order it again next time.

Custom FUEL also serves a wide variety of salads (a dozen, including their $2.97 side salad) plus the option of making your own. We chose a traditional Caprese Salad, that was mighty fresh; but light on the promised tomatoes, basil and fresh mozza... so much so, I wonder if we got the correct salad. For what's it worth, it was still plenty good as is. Not to mention healthy, although co-owner Jeremy Wladis was fast to point out, most everything on the menu is fresh & good for you (i.e. fresh, often local vegetables & herbs (cut daily) & dough made each & every day from unbleached, unbromated flour.)

Nutella & Fruit Pizza

It's easy to believe him: All you have to do is look at the food, to know it's fresh. Even desserts aren't as sinful as you might expect. The Nutella & Fruit Pizza was covered with fresh apple slices and Nutella (yum) and best of all, sets you back less than five bucks. Speaking of price, don't expect to break the bank at Custom FUEL. Classic pizzas run $6.97 ($6.57 for just mozza & sauce) while Vintage Pizzas cost an extra dollar. Add $.97 for some proteins (Bacon, Chicken & Prosciutto) or $1.97 for Shrimp; but keep in mind, you can find lots of Vintage pies with each of the above ingredients for regular price. Collectible Salads cost $7.97.

Dining Area

There's no denying the genuine buzz of Opening Day; but something tells me, it's going to stay this way for the long haul. Quality food choices are few & far between in this area, and word-of-mouth should only bolster the customer count. Pizza & college kids go hand-in-hand, great pizza & college kids = big success.

Order Station (with Bison head)