Credit for this doughy, crust-heavy style of pizza goes almost entirely to Beau Jo’s, a pizza chain with six locations in Colorado. In addition to pizza, Beau Jo’s also serves calzones, pasta, salads, and garlic bread. Pretty standard pizza chain stuff, but with only six locations I figure the food has to be pretty good. For local food chains, vigorous expansion can often spell the death of flavor, so keeping things small is a wise move.
But what is Beau Jo’s self-described Mountain pie, exactly? What makes the pizza definitively Colorado? To my understanding, this unusual style is a thick, topping-heavy pizza with a hand-braided crust whose peaks are meant to resemble the Rocky Mountains when baked. Oh, and the pizza is also served with honey.
Per Beau Jo’s website:
Our Mountain pie has a hand-rolled edge of daily made dough creating a barrier to hold in a mountain full of fresh toppings, to satisfy an adventurous appetite. Our Mountain pie sizes comes in pounds, 1#, 2#, 3#, and 5#. The crust offers a built-in dessert to be dipped in honey. We recommend a pound per hungry person when ordering sizes. Our prairie pie does not have a hand rolled edge and has a lighter amount of premium toppings. The prairie pie comes in small, medium, large and extra-large sizes. The pizzas complement the different types of terrain here in Colorado from the mountains to the prairies.
So, the pizza is meant to mirror the gorgeous Colorado landscape with a braided, hand-rolled edge. I can’t say that I’ve ever had pizza that recreates regional topography before. Perhaps tavern-style pizza does capture the flatness of the Midwest, albeit accidentally, just as a California pizza topped with salmon reflects the colorful West Coast.
Still, the Colorado-style pizza sounds kind of forced, a shoehorned idea. Does the high, bready crust actually “hold in” more toppings? And of most importantly, is the end result delicious?
At Beau Jo’s, I ordered a 2# Mountain pie with sausage, pepperoncini, and bell peppers, but none of these toppings could mask the fact that there’s just entirely too much dough. It’s thick, bready, and bland. All of that crust and almost no flavor—it certainly feels like you’re eating mountains here. There’s not enough pepperoncini in the world to cut through the doughy “crust,” which in this quantity really doesn’t seem like crust at all. No charred undercarriage like a classic New York slice, no crispy edges like a gorgeous Detroit-style pie.
Even more peculiar is that Beau Jo’s, in addition to Parmesan cheese and chili flakes, also serves its pizzas with little packets of Kraft honey. The honey, I am told, is integral to the Mountain pie experience. Rip open some honey and squeeze it onto each slice of pizza—seems like a great idea, but the honey barely makes a dent in all that dough.
The Beau Jo’s website is quick to point out that “any leftover crust can be eaten with honey.” By acknowledging this, Beau Jo’s supposes that pizza crust on its own is undesirable, and that’s simply not true—crust is only undesirable if there’s way too much of it. You shouldn’t need to convert it to dessert to take it down.
There are other unique versions of so-called Colorado-style pizza around the state. Rocky Mountain Pizza Co. makes its crust with honey, noting, “It is ‘Colorado Style’ pizza - thin and crispy in the center with a bit of a pull toward the outer edge.” High Mountain Pies in Leadville also appears to serve a puffy, bready product, though no honey is mentioned. So the style certainly pops up here and there, but no other pizza seems to have the rugged, raised, hand-braided crust of Beau Jo’s.
If you find yourself facing the Mountain pie, I suggest combining a copious amount of chili flakes with the Kraft honey. You’ll end up with something that vaguely resembles Mike’s Hot Honey, which is a good addition to pizza (among other things).
Some regional foods begin with a practical purpose that suits their setting. Utah’s thick milkshakes, for instance, exist because the Utah heat melts the milkshakes down to a drinkable liquid, giving consumers ample time to enjoy their frozen treat. West Virginia pepperoni rolls were created as handheld food for coal miners, and they succeed to this day as an item for truck drivers to eat on the go. The Colorado-style pizza, however, is neither practical nor very tasty. No matter what the menu says about the crust “creating a barrier” to hold in the toppings, the whole thing seems mostly for show.
Tavern-style pizza is all the rage these days. Taco pizza has made strides nationally. Deep dish, Detroit-style, and even New Haven pies have all broken through to the mainstream and become widely embraced across the country. Colorado-style Mountain pies, though, seem destined to remain in Colorado, and that’s just fine. The world needs its regional oddities for all of us to discover.