UK's 'pizza district' to get a new resident: Blaze Pizza

The pizza is being slung hot and thick on what Fayette County property valuation administrator David O'Neill has dubbed "Pie Street" — the area within a minute's walk of the intersection of Pine and Jersey streets.

You also might call it the Pizza District.

Blaze Pizza, a chain of quick-artisanal pizza restaurants based in Pasadena, Calif., is coming to 341 South Limestone in 2015. Blaze Pizzas are cooked three minutes in ovens with dome temperatures upward of 900 degrees Fahrenheit and oven floor temperatures of 600 to 800 degrees.

The chain has a number of locations in California and Florida and is developing a presence on the East Coast and in the Midwest. It is noted for giving out free pizza on its opening day. Recently, in College Park, Md., it gave out 1,644 pizzas for its Free Pizza Day.

Blaze Pizza operates on the fast-assembly chain model, with "pizzamasters" adding ingredients to artisanal pizzas that then are cooked in 180 seconds.

The pizza chain will join fellow pie purveyors Goodfellas, Mellow Mushroom, Pazzo's Pizza Pub and Joe Bologna's in the area near the University of Kentucky.

Mad Mushroom, a pizzeria now in part of the space Blaze will occupy at 341 South Limestone, will end its lease in January and move to a yet-to-be specified location nearby, according to Chris Lamar, a day shift manager there.

Wayne Albritton, managing partner of Blaze franchiser MRG, said Blaze intends to open elsewhere in Lexington, too, but its time line is fluid.

Pizzas start at $5 for a cheese pie and can be customized with ingredients for up to nearly $8, Albritton said. The chain also offers a nongluten crust as an option, bottled beer and wine.

"What sets Blaze apart is our concept itself," Albritton said. "That it is a quick casual approach ... with high value and great quality."

The Mad Mushroom move will leave King Tut's Mediterranean Grill in part of the space at 341 South Limestone. King Tut's has a lease until June 30 and no intention of moving any time soon, co-owner Ashraf Yousef said. It has been in the location for 41/2 years.

Cody Lee Latimer, general manager of Pazzo's Pizza Pub, said his restaurant could hold its own against the competition. Open since 2000, Pazzo's uses quality ingredients in its pizza, Latimer said. Also, Pazzo's has a strong local following for its large selection of microbrews and imported beers.

"I don't know how they make their pizzas," Latimer said of Blaze. "If Domino's moved in next door, I wouldn't consider it any competition at all."