Labor Day weekend is approaching, and we'll bet a few of you are planning to head for the hills to enjoy an extra day of sunshine. And if you've lived in Colorado for any amount of time, then you already know about Beau Jo's. Between the original location in Idaho Springs and outposts in Fort Collins, Steamboat Springs, Evergreen, Arvada, Boulder and Denver, you might have tried it already.
The place was full (and the bar overflowing) on a recent Sunday when we visited, but we still got a table for two right away, walking over those creaky wooden floors and past the mining-character vignettes to plop down on a table in the middle of one of the front rooms. While waiting for our meals, the display of napkin art on the wall distracted us -- as did some signs we never noticed before requesting that patrons please not draw on the wall, as Beau Jo's is located in a historic building. (Really, people? That's necessary now?)
The appetizer menu isn't all that vegan-friendly, but there are some solid vegetarian-friendly choices, like baked stuffed mushrooms and honey cheese bread. We went straight for the pizza; that's a two-pound pizza on honey-white crust. (The gluten-free crust is vegan-friendly if you don't eat honey.) It's topped with Hatch green chiles and pineapple, plus Beau Jo's dairy-free cheese, which melted beautifully, as you can see in the above photo. It was the classic Beau Jo's experience, updated for modern eaters, ridiculously thick crust around the rim and all.
Beau Jo's has also started offering "prairie pies," pizza on a thin crust without the traditional hand-rolled edge; if you're looking to cut calories or carbs, that could be a good choice. There are also several sauces among which you can choose; we went with the traditional sauce, but there's also roasted garlic and olive-oil sauce, basil pesto, garlic cream sauce, barbecue sauce, hot sauce and even pork green chili (obviously, that one's not vegetarian). Beau Jo's even offers tofu as a pizza topping, as well as artichoke hearts, broccoli, sweet red onions and an array of typical pizza veggies.
We warned our dining companion that he would regret not ordering pizza, but he went with the calzone anyway, and enjoyed it (despite casting longing eyes on our slices). The veggie calzone, made with honey-white dough, brimmed with roasted garlic cream sauce, artichokes, roma tomatoes, fire-roasted red peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella, Parmesan and ricotta cheeses and Italian seasoning.
We know: It's not New York or Chicago style, but Beau Jo's caters to a Colorado crowd, and that's readily apparent in some of the dairy-free and gluten-free choices on the menu.