Skip to Content
Food & Drink

Let’s Review Taco John’s New Taco Pizza, a Triumph of Messy, Unnecessary Midwestern Fusion

A gimmicky 'za worthy of Whiplash.

Kyle Matteson

Until my high school math teacher opened a Subway in the ‘90s, the only fast food chain available to us growing up in my 2,500-person hometown of Colstrip, Montana, was a tiny Taco John’s take-out counter. Then, one fateful night, the TJ's building was loaded onto a trailer and hauled 400+ miles away to Cut Bank, Montana, just south of the Canadian border. This move—similar to Norm Green ripping the North Stars away from Minnesota—was devastating to me and my friends; the next-closest Taco John’s was 80 miles away and none of us were old enough to drive, though we might've if we could.

My first exposure to the Midwest delicacy known as taco pizza actually began back in in Montana in the late ‘80s. My mother managed our local pizza parlor, Bob’s Place. Its menu was mostly your standard-issue pizza combinations, save for the specialty taco pizza and shrimp pizza (which I can expand on at another time and place). To this day, I still hold Bob’s Place’s taco pizza among my all-time favorite taco pizzas. Many Midwesterners will point to two main purveyors of taco pizza: Happy Joe’s and Casey’s (yes the gas station chain), both headquartered in Iowa. Of the two, I definitely prefer Happy Joe’s but, for gas station pizza, it's no secret Casey’s punches well above its weight.

Kyle Matteson

With that emotional culinary history in mind, you can imagine my excitement when Taco John’s announced it was testing a taco pizza of its own last fall, including in the Mankato market. (Though TJ's started in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1969, Minnesota now boasts the majority of its 360+ locations.) TJ's taco pizza doesn’t deviate much from its usual "West-Mex" ingredients, but the one touch that I was happy to see is the crust, which is made from a mixture of corn and flour—not all places do that.

Taco John's taco pizza finally arrived in all stores a few weeks ago, and this past weekend I knew I had to try it for myself. Sadly, all of the Minneapolis Taco John’s locations have now closed, including the final one that floated above the city for years inside the Minneapolis skyway. (It closed last fall, and the space now boasts fantastic Korean-style egg sandwich joint Eggflip.) So I opted for one the newer metro locations in Burnsville.

The first thing you'll notice about Taco John’s taco pizza offering is the cost: $9.99. Seemed a bit pricey, to use the preferred Midwestern parlance, but once I saw another customer pick up theirs I realized this was a hulking 10-inch pie, not the 45-rpm-vinyl-sized Mexican Pizza you see at Taco Bell. Obviously I decided to order a small order of Potato Olés with the requisite side of nacho cheese, plus a side of the new Fiesta Sauce that's used on the taco pizza. Since TJ's just offers inferior Pepsi products, the only proper way to wash this (very Americanized) Mexican-Italian feast down was with the electric-yellow goodness of Mountain Dew. 

Kyle Matteson

So, how does the taco pizza stack up? I gotta say, Taco John's holds its own among the Happy Joe’s and Casey’s of the world. The corn and flour crust crackles with crispiness while proving much more flavorful than plain flour alternatives. From there you get a base of goopy refried beans and crumbly seasoned ground beef, followed by an avalanche of fresh-ish toppings: four-cheese blend, lettuce, tomato, tortilla strips, and that new Fiesta Sauce, which tastes like a blend of sour cream, salsa, and maybe a hint of ranch.

(Sidebar: While I’m normally a nacho cheese purist for my Olés, I really enjoyed dipping them in the Fiesta Sauce; if you’re the adventurous type like me, you can also arrange some Potato Olés on your pizza and drizzle nacho cheese over the top.)

Considering it’s a pretty sizable offering, I only ate half of my tac pizza and took the rest home for leftovers later that night. (375 degrees at four minutes in the air fryer = perfection, just remember to take the lettuce and tomatoes off while you cook it.) I give TJ's taco pizza a solid, Pitchforkian 7.7 out of 10 and look forward to trying it again soon. For now it’s a limited-time offering, though the pizza riff is enjoyable enough to make the seasonal rotating roster, much like the Apple Grande or the reliably festive Nachos Navidad.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Racket

Honk! Honk! Does Wridz Beat Uber and Lyft?

Plus cops being cops, local TikToker makes bad, mysterious late night classical music, and Racket makes the Strib in today's Flyover news roundup.

Timberwolves Superfan Jiggly Boy: ‘It’s OK to Just Go Nuts with Your Joy for These Guys’

It's an exciting time to be a Timberwolves fan, making it the perfect time for the franchise's most excitable fan, John 'Jiggly Boy' Sweeney, to talks hoops with us.

Freeloader Friday: 111 Free Things To Do This Weekend

Art-A-Whirl, mega plant sales, Doors Open, and so much more!!!

Strib Analysis: American Dream Is Dead, Especially for Minnesotans

Plus a new downtown Minneapolis chicken joint, a voting rights bill passes, and reporting leads to change in today's Flyover news roundup.