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Thursday, April 17, 2014

PizzaTaco no longer just a Pratt thing

By Denise Neil
The Wichita Eagle

A PizzaTaco is to Pratt what a NuWay burger is to Wichita.

Both are sort of strange and don’t make a whole lot of sense to outsiders. But both have been around so long, they’ve earned loyal devotion among the locals.

Now, Charlie’s PizzaTaco is attempting to make its invention – which is pizza in flavor and taco in shape – a local “thing” in Wichita, too.

The restaurant, which has operated at 105 W. First in Pratt since 1965, opened another location in mid-November in the former Pitas & Paninis space at 602 N. Tyler Road, offering an eight-item menu made up mostly of odd, pizza-esque dishes. It’s owned by founder Charlie Hoffman’s son, Dave, and his brother-in-law, Tim Holmes.

ON THE MENU: The pizza taco is the menu star, and its only sidekicks are a pizza burger, a ham and cheese sandwich, a veggie lasagna, a bierock, a pizza pup and an obscene-looking but surprisingly delicious pizza raft, which features a rectangular toasted flatbread topped with “channels of Bavarian kraut,” smoked sausage and what seems like more than a pound of melted mozzarella.

DON’T-MISS DISHES: The best thing at Charlie’s PizzaTaco is Charlie’s PizzaTaco, an invention originally conceived as a way to utilize a just-purchased pizza oven and feed kids going to the movies nearby. A PizzaTaco features a folded-over flatbread stuffed full of mozzarella cheese, shredded lettuce and crumbly pork sausage. (Beef also is available.) The only thing “taco” about it is its shape, and it’s a monster. A PizzaTaco fills the basket it comes in and easily could feed two, which is good because it costs $9.25.

The ingredients were as fresh and delicious as they were plentiful, but the PizzaTaco is much improved by the addition of sauce that is served on the side. It’s available in mild, hot or extra hot, which adds to the “pizza or taco” confusion. But the sauce is a marinara-flavored tomato sauce, not salsa.

The rest of the dishes we tried weren’t as fabulous, though some were certainly worth trying. Among them was the aforementioned “pizza raft,” which is so bizarre you can’t help but laugh in its presence. It’s also $9.25 and could serve two or more. It was surprisingly addictive, though one of my dining partners lamented that it would taste better after several beers. (Good news: Charlie’s PizzaTaco serves beer.)

We also sampled the bierock ($6.25 and served with chips and a pickle). The filling, a mix of sausage, ground beef, cabbage and cheese, was well seasoned and tasty. But the dough that encased it was thin to the point of transparency and seemed a little underdone.

The least of the dishes we sampled was the pizza burger, which had inside a “patty” of sorts, which seemed to be a smash-up of compressed mozzarella, pepperoni, beef, sausage, olives, mushrooms and onions. The texture and flavor were a bit off, and we didn’t finish it. It was $8.65, served with chips and a pickle.

Charlie’s PizzaTaco also offers a salad bar, oddly placed in the front of the restaurant in between the register where orders are placed and the register where orders are rung up. But it was overflowing with fresh and colorful toppings.

AMBIENCE: The dining room is small but has been nicely remodeled with lots of dark wood surfaces. It has a few booths and tables on an attractive, dark tile floor. Framed black-and-white pictures of scenes around Pratt hang on the wall and are a nice touch.

PRICE RANGE: A bit high at first glance – most dishes are between $7 and $10. But most dishes also are big enough to feed two people.

SERVICE: Charlie’s PizzaTaco has an order-at-the-counter setup. Diners get a disc printed with the name of a Kansas town (we were Hays). Then the staff delivers the food to the table. Our service was efficient, and the manager stopped by to check on us and offer refills on sauces and drinks.

Ratings reflect the critic’s judgment of the food, service and atmosphere in relation to the price. If you would like to nominate a restaurant to be reviewed, call 316-268-6327.

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