One thing you must know before visiting the new Coal Fire restaurant in Sterling: arrive hungry. How else would you be able to sample and enjoy the vast array of appetizer, entrée, and pizza choices?
Situated upon the hill in the new Plaza at Cascades Overlook (off Route 7, across from Northern Virginia Community College in Sterling), Coal Fire is easily spotted by its distinctive outdoor sign, which features a large glowing coal. Those coals are what separate Coal Fire from its competitors.
“Charred to Perfection,” is the motto at Coal Fire, and the delicious results are made possible by a unique 900-degree coal fire oven. Anthracite coal, the hardest and cleanest type of coal, is virtually free of smoke and particulate emissions, which leads to crispy and flavorful pizza crusts.
Mined responsibly from existing sites primarily in Northeastern Pennsylvania, a portion of the sale of every ton of Anthracite coal goes to a federal fund used to reclaim old mines and restore the surrounding ecosystem.
Coal Fire is a family owned and operated business. Owner and President Dennis Sharoky opened the first Coal Fire in 2009 in Ellicott City, Maryland, and now there eight locations – five in Maryland and three in Virginia.
Sons Eric and Justin are co-owners, and they are physically involved in the management of all locations.
Eric Sharoky explains that his father became devoted to cooking with coal after tasting a coal baked pizza. He traveled to New York to research coal ovens and techniques and worked tirelessly to develop the perfect pizza through hours of trial and error.
General Manager Kaitlin Stouter says Coal Fire is the best place she has ever worked because management rewards effort and builds from within.
“I started at another location as a host, became a server, and held almost every position before becoming General Manager. They are committed to building up their employees, which makes this a great place to work and dine.”
Besides the amazing results of cooking with coal, Coal Fire works hard to impress customers with fresh dough, sauces, dressings, and mozzarella — all handmade in house daily.
Sharoky is proud that Coal Fire does not own a microwave, and because everything is made fresh on site, they require only a very small freezer. As much as possible, all produce and meats are purchased from local merchants.
Focusing first on Coal Fire’s pizza, the dough is aged and then hand tossed to create the perfect thin crust. They’ve created three original sauces (Classic, Signature, and Spicy) from which to choose, and the fresh mozzarella is sliced, not shredded.
“Not many places make their own Mozzarella,” says Sharoky, “but it makes a huge difference in the taste of the pizza.”
Customers can build their own pizzas or select from artisan choices on the menu: Margherita (with plenty of chopped basil), Ricotta Infusion (with garlic, olive oil, and oregano), Ring of Fire (banana peppers and sausage), Bianco Speciale (parmesan and fresh sliced tomatoes), Prosciutto Cipolla (aged prosciutto and roasted onions), White (with garlic-infused olive oil brushed dough), BBQ Chicken (with blackened chicken and red onion), and Buffalo Chicken (with scallions and ranch/buffalo swirl). Perhaps best of all: because of the high heat, a delicious thin crust pizza can be on your table in less than 10 minutes, with an average of six minutes cooking time.
Don’t be surprised if you intend to order pizza, but end up being sidetracked by the hard-to-resist salads or entrees. The salads are stand-alone meals, and crab, shrimp, or chicken can be added to any salad upon request.
Enticing entrees range from the classic Spaghetti and Meatballs, Bolognese, Pesto, and Chicken or Eggplant Parmesan, to the more adventurous Chicken Florentine (coal oven roasted red peppers and fresh spinach in cream alfredo over penne), Creole (spiced chicken and andouille sausage in Louisiana cream sauce over penne), Seafood Pasta (crab and shrimp tossed in light seafood cream sauce, with parmesan over penne), and Garlic Shrimp (large shrimp sautéed in a tangy sauce of garlic, tomatoes, white wine, and spices, over angel hair).
The menu offers a wide assortment of sandwiches. Looking for something fresh? Try the Coal Oven Roasted Vegetable sandwich (coal roasted vegetables, goat cheese, and a splash of white balsamic vinegar). The Cajun Shrimp sandwich (blackened shrimp in a pepper medley, topped with tomatoes and coleslaw, and finished with a spread of aioli) looks amazing, as does the Ribeye sandwich (juicy ribeye, thinly cut and grilled with roasted onions, topped with melted provolone). Other choices range from the Beef Brisket, Cheddar Cheese Steak, and Italian Cold Cut, to the Homemade Meatball sub.
Besides dining options, Coal Fire offers a full bar and an appetizer menu that includes two kinds of chicken wings (coal baked and sweet and spicy, both served over baked fresh dough),
The bar area is set off from the main restaurant and can accommodate small gatherings – a spot for an after-work happy hour with friends. The Plaza at Cascades Overlook features live music every Thursday, and parking is free and plentiful.
Coal Fire’s full catering menu can accommodate groups as small as 10 to more than 100, and they are experienced in community fundraising.
Donating 20% of all sales back to the sponsoring organization, they give priority to groups that focus on children, education, and youth sports. Management provides promotional materials and can share proven tactics to generate the greatest returns for any event.