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Oct. 27, 2022

Gathering spot, cultural icon, scandal maker: Casey’s is an essential stop for pizza in Iowa

A slice of Casey's breakfast pizza purchased at the convenience store chain's location in Osceola, Iowa.
A slice of Casey's breakfast pizza purchased at the convenience store chain's location in Osceola, Iowa. (Emma Platoff/Globe Staff)

OSCEOLA, Iowa — At the Casey’s here, the best type of pizza is a matter of some debate. From behind the register, Chrystal suggests a taco slice. Tom, a regular, prefers the one with green peppers.

To Iowans, Casey’s is more than a convenience store chain, and Casey’s pizza is more than a quick bite on your way somewhere else. Casey’s is a gathering spot, a cultural icon, and, thanks to all that, an essential stop on the political food tour. I opt for the breakfast pizza with beer cheese, because I’m a former Texas politics reporter and it reminds me of one of my favorite scandals: Beto O’Rourke, then a candidate for president, disgraced himself by claiming he was eating Casey’s “breakfast pizza” when any Internet sleuth could see it was a regular slice with marinara and olives.

The incident reignited an important philosophical debate — is any pizza, when eaten for breakfast, “breakfast pizza”? — and rained mockery on O’Rourke. (“Get out of our state and never come back,” one blogger raged.)

As for me, one “ultimate beer cheese” slice runs $2.99. I grew up in New Haven, so it would be easy for me to pull pizza-snob rank. But for convenience store pizza, I can’t imagine doing better (certainly not at 7-Eleven). Casey’s is impressively cheesy and loaded with toppings you never realized you needed on a pizza (scrambled eggs?). But be warned that the first bite will send a hot stream of grease down your chin, imperiling your new white shirt. Or so I’ve heard.

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