From the archives: We ordered from 10 top delivery pizza places in Des Moines to tell you what's worth your money
Editor's note: This story originally published in November 2019.
Sure, Chicago and New York can tout their pizza.
And maybe Italy can brag a little bit about its slices.
But there's no place quite like Iowa when it comes to pizza. After all, we are the birthplace of taco pizza, and it takes a special kind of Midwestern sensibility to think of something like that.
There are so many variations of this Italian-American classic that it's difficult to pinpoint just what makes for a superior pie. From crust to sauce to cheese to toppings, there are layers upon layers of options.
For this edition of Best Bang for your Buck, we decided to try some of Des Moines' best pizza places, but with a twist — we ordered delivery to get a sense not only of the quality of each offering, but also how fast it arrived and whether it was still as hot and tasty as when it came out of the restaurant's oven.
There were a few criteria for some of the restaurants we chose: no national chains, and we only ordered from restaurants that delivered to downtown Des Moines (our tasting was in the Des Moines Register newsroom at Capital Square). When possible, we ordered the smallest pizza available so our stomachs wouldn’t burst (though our co-workers were happy to help with the leftovers). And we asked restaurants for their most popular offerings.
As a guide, we used the restaurants people listed as their favorites on social media. For a more extensive list that also includes non-delivery restaurants and those with suburban-only delivery, check our ultimate pizza guide on DesMoinesRegister.com.
Delivery time ranged from 30 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes, and delivery fees ranged from zero to $8.50. Spoiler alert: The slowest and most expensive was the surprise winner, showing quality counts above all.
We've included the distance from our office and how long the order took to arrive: But keep in mind, restaurants may be farther or closer depending on where you live.
It's always going to be tempting to just order from the pizza place closest to you, but if you're willing to wait a few extra minutes, you might find your new favorite slice on this list.
Below is the list of the pizzas we tried and our verdict about the top three best bangs for your buck.
Known for its wide selection of Italian cuisine, Baratta's has shown that it also knows how to make an Italian-style pizza.
We tried the "Dan's Special." When we opened the box, a smooth, white, smothering of cheese greeted us along with a colorful array of vegetable toppings.
It was a truly Italian lineup — mozzarella, capicola and Italian sausage — along with sweet red peppers, green peppers and onions.
Each bite was flavor-packed and the stretchy cheese helped bring it over the edge. The sausage was flavorful and packed a punch, while the capicola offered a more refined and less processed taste than the traditional pepperoni.
Delivery: 45 minutes, 2.4 miles away
Price: $13 for the pizza, $2 delivery fee
Address: 2320 South Union St., Des Moines
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We tried the namesake pizza from this southside staple, Bordy's Special.
The toppings were reminiscent of a supreme pizza — the kind that packs all the favorite toppings onto each slice — with the addition of capicola adding a little bit of a twist. Bordy's Special came with three different meats on it, ensuring every bite was protein-packed with not only the capicola, but beef and sausage, as well. The sausage in particular gave the pizza peppery bursts of flavor that mingled well with the sweet crunch of the green peppers.
Delivery: 45 minutes through GrubHub, 4.5 miles away
Price: Pizza was $13. GrubHub charges $6.99 for delivery, as well as a $2 low-order fee
Address: 6108 SW Ninth St., Des Moines
Felix & Oscar's
If you're from Iowa, chances are you've had some iteration of taco pizza.
Whether you’ve picked it up from a gas station or made it yourself at home, taco pizza has become a strangely Midwestern staple that Iowans are proud to claim.
So when we asked Felix & Oscar's what their most popular specialty pizza was, it's no surprise that taco was the answer.
But here's the twist: The restaurant makes a deep-dish taco pizza.
The pizza had the same toppings as the familiar taco pizza: crushed Doritos, lettuce, tomato chunks and yellow cheese, and of course it came with packets of Heinz taco sauce.
But the deep-dish components put this taco pizza on another level. With a thick, flaky crust and a solid, gargantuan bottom, the taco pizza gained a more flaky, bready taste that was a welcome addition to the Iowan classic.
Delivery: 1 hour and 5 minutes, 7.8 miles away
Price: $16.25 for the pizza, $4 delivery fee
Address: 4050 Merle Hay Road, Des Moines
Steak de Burgo is another one of those uniquely Des Moines dishes that Iowans are proud to claim. The traditional dish is a beef tenderloin covered in butter, garlic and Italian herbs.
So imagine that — on a pizza.
Mama Mia's has created its own Steak de Burgo pizza by taking a white pizza crust, brushing it with de Burgo oil and topping it with mushrooms, garlic cloves and steak tips.
The result is a truly unique pizza that is more reminiscent of a steak dinner than what you get from the pizza joint next door. The steak tips provided a strong, beefy flavor, while the mushrooms balanced out the salty, earthy taste of the beef.
While we're not sure what "de Burgo oil” is, it gave the pizza an umami flavor that let the steak tips shine.
Delivery: 35 minutes, 0.4 miles away
Price: $15.95 for the pizza, $3 for delivery fee
Address: 604 Locust St., Des Moines
As the weather gets cooler, we're missing the delicious tastes of the Iowa State Fair. But no worries, Northern Lights offers a Fair's Best pizza that's reminiscent of a grinder we would typically grab at Carl's Gizmo Sandwiches.
Topped with spicy Italian sausage, onions, green peppers, jalapeños and banana peppers, Fair’s Best was a burst of flavor with each bite. The sausage provided a beefy spiciness that complimented the sweetness of the peppers.
But the star of the pizza was the crust. With a variety of crusts to choose from for free, we picked the garlic butter option, which made us wish we had also ordered the breadsticks.
Delivery: 50 minutes, 3.1 miles away
Price: $11 for pizza, delivery minimum is $12. $2.50 for delivery. Total was $17.50 with a two-liter bottle of pop thrown in.
Address: 3306 Indianola Ave., Des Moines. with locations across the metro.
If you want a truly solid, traditional pizza with no delivery fee, Paul Revere's is the place.
We ordered a classic pepperoni pizza. The tomato sauce is key: A sweet and savory red sauce underneath the layer of browned and bubbly mozzarella brought back nostalgic memories of how pizza tasted when we were growing up.
The crust was solid, as well, providing a nice chewiness and sweet yeasty flavor.
Toppings-wise, the pepperoni was exactly what you expect pepperoni to taste like. It was nestled underneath the cheese, eliminating the extra greasiness it can bring to the surface of a pizza.
This was one of the best delivery options we tried, with no fee and a willingness to travel just about anywhere.
Delivery: 30 minutes, 2.7 miles away
Price: 12" pizza was $11.75, minimum for delivery is $15. With a side salad, the total was $16.75.
Address: 3201 Indianola Ave., Des Moines
Truman's KC Pizza Tavern
Opening the box was a visual delight: While the pie had all the makings of a traditional cheeseburger pizza, a pile of fries in the middle was an unconventional touch and gave us even more carbs to work with.
With each slice, we grabbed a fry or two to put on top. Each bite resulted in a taste reminiscent of — yes — a cheeseburger.
The pizza was blanketed in a “house cheeseburger sauce” and covered in American cheese, mozzarella and smoked cheddar. For protein, hamburger chunks were scattered on the pizza, while familiar toppings like pickles and onions provided some freshness and crunch.
The crust was chewy and held together the monster array of toppings without getting soggy. It was a whimsical experience to enjoy a pizza that reminded us of a burger with each bite.
Delivery: 40 minutes through DoorDash, 1.2 miles
Price: Pizza: $11.99, Doordash fee $3
Address: 400 S.E. Sixth St., Des Moines
Top 3 best bangs for your buck
#3. Big Tomato
There's no place quite like Big Tomato off Ingersoll Avenue on a Saturday night. Whether you stop by after watching a show at the Yacht Club or you're just craving a simple slice, this restaurant has been a Des Moines staple for years.
We decided to try a delivery order of the honey garlic pizza. The quality of ingredients, complimentary flavors and craveable crust brought this restaurant into our top three list.
Flavor-wise, the ingredients were pretty simple: Alfredo sauce for the base. Fresh chunks of garlic scattered around. A slight brush of honey over the layer of white cheese.
The garlic gave each bite a burst of pungent and delicious flavor that left our taste buds happy but our breath a bit rancid. Without being overly sweet, the honey on top complimented the flavors, contrasting with the flavor kick of the garlic and settling in nicely with the slightly creamy, Italian seasonings of the Alfredo.
The honey wheat crust brought it all together, with a sweet, yeasty flavor.
Though Big Tomato is known for having less-than-exceptional service (I mean, it's right there in neon in the window) the delivery driver was kind and only a little later than expected.
With the cheap delivery, as well ("almost anywhere until 3 a.m.," says the menu), this is an affordable local classic.
Delivery: 1 hour, 1.7 miles away
Price: $16 for pizza, $2 delivery fee
Address: 2613 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines
#2. Papa Keno's
This pizza looked a little funky, tasted a little funky and took our taste buds on an unexpected ride that was both fun and delicious.
Papa Keno's next to the Drake University campus is known for dishing up its giant slices to hungry college kids .
It's a chain, but a regional one from Kansas with just one Des Moines location, offering up New York-style slices.
We asked about Papa Keno's popular specialty pizzas, and The Shredder was recommended.
We ordered it even though the combination of toppings seemed to be a little on the wild side: pepperoni, green onion, Roma tomatoes, Romano cheese and ... blue cheese.
What resulted was a combination of flavors that kept us wanting more.
Set aside the idea of blue cheese for a second and you have a pretty typical pepperoni pizza.
The mozzarella on top was provided a higher-quality creamy, dairy taste that worked well with the sweet and tangy red sauce. Chunks of tomato provided a light, fresh, citrusy flavor. Crust-wise, it was nice and slightly chewy.
The star, though, was the blue cheese. Don't imagine blue cheese dressing — instead, think of the crumbles that offer a pungent, sharp, tang — a more exciting cousin to the tamer mozzarella. The blue cheese also offered a textural contrast.
Don't worry if funk isn't your thing though — it wasn't overwhelming.
Papa Keno's offers delivery from the restaurant and also through a third-party app.
The pizza was delivered in the time we expected. The driver was the only one who declined to enter our building, so we met her outside. (Don't worry, we needed the exercise after our pizzapalooza.)
Delivery: 45 minutes, 2.5 miles
Price: $17.99 for pizza, $3 delivery fee
Address: 2330 University Ave, Des Moines
#1. Taste of New York
For any New York pizza snobs who lament the lack of options in Des Moines, pick up your phone and give Taste of New York a call.
We ordered the most popular dish from Taste of New York in West Des Moines — a traditional, Neapolitan-style cheese pizza.
That sounds simple, but everything about the gargantuan 18" pizza was exceptional. From its creamy, rich mozzarella cheese to the tangy tomato sauce, there was no ingredient or cooking process that was overlooked.
Cheese-wise, Taste of New York uses a mixture of part skim and whole-milk mozzarella from Grande Cheese Co. They give each bite an Instagram-worthy cheese pull, even though the pizza wasn't piping hot when by the time it arrived. Each bite delivered a creamy, rich milk taste that is often missing from other pizzas, and the scattering of brown spots on top of the cheese showed us it was well baked.
Underneath the cheese was a fragrant, red tomato sauce that helped give some tang and flavor to the dense amount of dairy over it. In traditional style, a little bit of red sauce peeked out between where the crust and the cheese met, allowing us to get a full dose of the sweet flavor.
The crust was neither burnt nor overcooked. The yeasty dough provided a flavorful but not overpowering sweet wheat taste and a chewy texture. It was reminiscent of a perfect bread stick.
For the size of the pizza, the price was well worth it, particularly if you're trying to feed a lot of people. As far as delivery, the pizza traveled far but retained its heat and quality better than those from most of the other places that delivered.
MyTown2Go was one of the more expensive delivery options we tried. But the pizza was so delicious that we felt it was worth every cent.
Delivery: 1 hour and 10 minutes through MyTown2Go, 12.5 miles
Price: $17.99 for pizza, $8.50 delivery fee
Address: 165 S. Jordan Creek Parkway., Suite 160, West Des Moines