Welcome to Twin City Pie Chasers. The first rule of the 12,000-member Facebook group? "[We're] looking for all the great mom and pop pizza shops in the TC area." The second? Don't post about "chain pizzas and or frozen pizzas from the grocery store."
And mama mia, the resulting vibes are stupendous: endless gooey, saucy, crispy pizza pics, good-natured pizza debate, and pizza recommendations from East Grand Forks to Stillwater (the group operates under a broad definition of "Twin Cities"). At the risk of painting with editorialized broad strokes, the internet circa 2023 is an irredeemable swamp of bad ideas and even worse motives. Twin City Pie Chasers is an earnest, community-building, food-porny oasis.
Following "a lot of brainstorming" over the name, pizza aficionado Dan Gougé launched the group in 2019.
"I've always tried to tell the members that I want that to be a small little community of fellow pizza lovers," he says. "There's enough reasons out there to argue with your neighbors, let's try and keep pizza civil, it's the one thing we can all agree, on right? Pizza is life!"
Members submit reviews, offer praise and/or gentle critiques, and seek advice about where to get the best pizza in, say, Big Lake or Duluth. Local hotspots like Mario's are explored with curiosity, while old-school favorites like Lake Harriet Pizza get the legacy love they deserve. Industry players are aware of the group; the owners of QC Pizza made sure to run their latest creation by the members: a beer-cheese 'za topped with meat sticks dubbed "The Wisconsiner." Live events are part of the mix, including this month's meet-up at Bricksworth Beer Co. in the North Loop. There's even an official logo—a grinning, pineapple-domed skull rocking shades—that appears on TCPC merch.
"Even with varying styles we've managed to agree on a few places that we all mutually like, and there are absolutely unpopular spots for various reasons," Gougé says, noting that mean-spirited bashing of small businesses is prohibited. "As long as a member can articulate why they don't like said place, I'm OK with it."
(Update: We may have overstated how universal the stupendous vibes are; multiple folks have reached out to Racket post-publication to complain about admin drama. The there's even a splinter group, Former TC Pie Chasers Members, that includes 100+ people who claim to have gotten the boot.)
TCPC has steadily grown since '19, adding new topics for discussion as Minnesota's pizza landscape evolves. Today there are more specialty pies like the Detroit-style ones at Racket-fave Wrecktangle or the Argentine ones at fast-growing Boludo, Gougé observes, and wood-fire crusts have increased in popularity. When pressed on his personal all-time top 3 spots, the group's admin gets carried away: Earl Giles and Dulono's in Minneapolis ("A great cracker crust that never lets me down," he says of the latter), Big River Pizza and Skinner's in St. Paul, Thirsty Pagan up in Superior, Wisconsin... he just keeps going... Broadway Pizza in Robbinsdale, OG ZaZa in Roseville, Fireside Foundry in Richfield.
Twin City Pie Chasers is private group, though the gatekeeping isn't strict. Yours truly gained access last week by answering a simple Q: What is my favorite local pizza place? (Currently, it's maybe Wrecktangle? Or Broders'? Red Wagon? Not so simple after all!)
"A lot of places cause debate, and that's the fun part of it as long as it stays friendly," Gougé says. "People are absolutely passionate about the pizzas and places that they love, that's the beauty of this whole thing."