Beau Jo's: A Rocky Mountain Original
When adding toppings, Beau Jo's definitely seems to take into consideration the amount of crust, because the quantities are huge.
2710 S. Colorado Boulevard, Denver CO 80222 (map); 773-275-7080; beaujos.com
Pizza Style: Mountain style
Oven Type: Gas
The Skinny: Family-friendly Colorado mini-chain serves up unique mountain pies with huge corniciones and an overload of toppings; honey for crust-dipping is a genius idea that ought to be replicated
Price: Mountain Pies range from $6.99 for a plain-cheese 1-pounder to $35.99 for a 5-pounder Specialty Pie; all-you-can-eat option featuring 7-pizza buffet, salad, and soup is $8.49 for adults and 50¢ times years old for kids
Notes: Environmental commitment is very evident; extensive gluten-free options available; free garlic bread for moms on Mother’s Day
I learned three important things on my trip to Denver over the weekend to visit my older sister and her family. First, although I am not a fan of anything related to Sam Walton, the fact that a Sam’s Club in Denver sells Mexican Coke by the case makes me positively giddy about that drink’s bright future in this country. Second, if anyone trusts me with sole responsibility to watch their 2-year-old child, I will lose track of the kid at least once every 15 minutes. And third, Beau Jo's has been serving up a unique type of pizza for 36 years that needs to be added to Slice's List of Regional Pizza Styles.
They call it Colorado Style, but as far as I can tell, they are the only place that serves it, so I guess that makes it Beau Jo’s Style. Either way, it deserves to be recognized.
The original Beau Jo’s opened its doors in the gold rush town of Idaho Springs and has since added locations in eight other Colorado cities. Beau Jo’s is rightfully best known for its Mountain Pies, the thick-crust monsters that are sold by the pound rather than the traditional S-M-L-XL system. Beau Jo’s also sells a thin-crust that they call Prairie Pies, as well as a couple of additional unique creations that I have never seen anywhere else.
Skillets are pizzas cooked in a pan with a tortilla in place of a crust. Like every other pizza style at Beau Jo’s, they come loaded with toppings and, I assume, require a knife and fork. Beau Jo’s also sells pastas, all of which are served on a pizza crust bowl rather than a plate, which I guess makes them pasta pizzas.
As much as I wanted to try the skillet and the pasta pizzas, my first visit to Beau Jo’s demanded that I focus on their best-known creation, the Mountain Pie. Beau Jo’s offers 20 Specialty Mountain Pies as well as an extensive variety of ingredients for a build-your-own option, including 10 sauces and 10 cheeses. Once I recovered from the disappointment of discovering that Rocky Mountain Oysters were not listed among their 14 different meat options, I opted for Italian sausage and mushrooms.
The first thing that jumped out when the pizza arrived was the size of the cornicione. Since I grew up eating stuffed pizza, I’m used to large crusts, but this was a little taller and much wider than any crust I’ve had in Chicago.
Beau Jo’s offers two different crusts, the honey white, which is their standard, and honey whole wheat. I opted for the honey white on both pizzas. On the sausage and mushroom pie, I opted for the optional butter glaze, but either they forgot to add it or it just doesn't do much for the flavor. The honey crust had a nice, lightly sweetened taste that was complemented in some bites by the corn meal it rested on when served. The texture of the bottom crust was a little doughy, but it had nothing on the dense and very chewy cornicione.
Ordinarily, I would consider the chewiness to be a bad thing, but the cornicione on a Mountain Pie is not intended for eating with the pizza; it is there for post-pizza gluttony. Every table is adorned with a squeeze bottle filled with honey that is there as a dip for the cornicione. Fresh, warm bread dipped in honey proved to be irresistible even to a 2-year-old who opted for macaroni and cheese for lunch instead of pizza.
Beau Jo’s offers a part-skim mozzarella, but I have no idea how it tastes. I can report that the thick layer of whole-milk mozzarella was very good. There was a little well-seasoned sauce, all of which was back toward the cornicione. When adding toppings, Beau Jo's definitely seems to take into consideration the amount of crust, because the quantities are huge. For the fresh mushrooms, that was a very good thing.
As far as the sausage went, less would have been better. The sausage was overseasoned with a typical Italian seasoning. Adding to my disappointment with the sausage was that it was loose and lacked sufficient fat. I get that Beau Jo's is oriented toward healthy eating (a lot of the menu items qualify for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Smart Meal Seal), but skimping on the amount of fat in sausage is just wrong.
The second pizza was an individual-sized Vegetarian Combo, one of the Specialty Mountain Pies. That pizza came with slices of Roma tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, red onions, and black olives. Like the sausage and mushroom pizza, it came with a thick layer of whole-milk mozzarella and a nearly undetectable amount of sauce. This pizza had a stunning amount of vegetables on it—an entire salad stuffed in between bread and cheese. It tasted ... healthy, and that’s generally not the feeling I’m looking for when I eat a pizza. Some seasoning would have been nice to balance out the wet, fresh vegetables, but I would not call it a bad pizza by any stretch. After all, it still had a lot of crust for honey-dipping.
I’m not sure that many people consider Beau Jo’s to be the best pizza in Denver. In my research before heading out there, I was very intrigued by Buenos Aires Pizzeria, and I read raves about The Oven and Virgilio's. But for my first Denver pizza, I wanted something unique to the area, and Beau Jo’s certainly filled that role.