Beau Jo's Pizza: After forty years, don't go changing....
All photos by Jenn Wohletz.
I'm not at all sorry I missed being an adult in the 1970s. There were terrible fashion trends with bell bottom pants and clogs with heels, and worse hairstyles with that feathered look; the porn was all sweaty and hairy, and the food trends were...well, Irma Rombauer's Joy of Cooking came out and fondue was a thing, so maybe the entire decade wasn't all bad.
Colorado's own Beau Jo's Pizza was born in 1973. When I learned that it was celebrating its fortieth anniversary in April, I decided to get a taste of the pies that managed to survive both the Watergate era and Billy Joel's good recording years.
The Beau Jo's location at 2710 South Colorado Boulevard certainly channels the '70s-style décor I recall from my childhood -- it looks like a home that was haphazardly decorated with a combination of nostalgic artifacts, prints from a Sears outlet, dark wood tables and chairs, and light, unfinished wood beams and walls. But there are also modern, big-screen televisions in the dining room so that modern families can eat their dinner and effectively ignore each other, so I felt right at home.
Chip Bair opened the first Beau Jo's Pizza in downtown Idaho Springs on April 1, 1973 -- a 570 square-foot store that seated only fifteen. This flagship store became a popular ski hangout, and Beau Jo's soon grew to eight locations, including six owner-operated spots in Arvada, Boulder, Denver, Evergreen, Fort Collins and Idaho Springs, and two franchises in South Dakota. This homegrown chain has plans to expand with two to four more stores a year over the next five years, and a bigger space for the Fort Collins store is in the works. But time seems to have stood still on South Colorado Boulevard.
My server was so wholesome and perky that he could have been a pop singer. His pizza salesmanship talents were a definite asset to Beau Jo's but were probably being wasted at the same time, since the menu was finite: pizzas, sandwiches, calzones, salads and a smattering of appetizers. And besides, eating anything order than a signature mountain (thick, hand-rolled crust) or prairie (thick, not hand-rolled crust) pie at Beau Jo's is sort of like going to a steakhouse and ordering a salad with no steak: Sure, people do it -- but those people need therapy.
I ordered a Pacific Plantation mountain-style pie ($19.73), an Odell's IPA (22-ounce, $4) and a Dr. Pepper that came in a cute little Mason jar mug. From everything I've heard about the size of the Beau Jo's pizzas, I figured the pie and the free all-you-can-eat salad bar would be more than enough to fill me up. I waded through waves of noisy, semi-attended children (their parental units were in the restaurant, but obviously figured the place had free babysitting with meal purchase) to the small salad bar off to the side, plucked a plastic plate from a stack and, after a good look, I took the plate back to the table, empty, because I didn't want any of that salad but saw no reason to waste a clean plate.
(If you are watching your health, Beau Jo's is one of those extremely considerate chains with a menu that offers gluten-free crust or honey whole wheat crusts, as well as vegetarian and vegan pizzas; a whole section of the menu is devoted to "Smart Meal Pizzas" that are lower in fat and salt.)
I set aside three pieces of the pie to take home and savored the rest, right down to the bits of crust laced with honey. And then I got to relive my meal when I ate the leftovers, which reheated well in a toaster oven (a microwave will turn the cheese to hot rubber).
Despite wailing children, multi-generational décor and lack of ritz on the salad bar, I would happily eat at Beau Jo's again, because my mountainous pie was a peak experience. Just don't go changing, Beau Jo's...
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