I love hot dogs. In particular, hot dogs from a cart. In particularly particular, the weird, freak-ass dogs served by Biker Jim Pittenger at Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs in Skyline Park. And now comes word that Biker Jim has got himself a new cart (all custom, with its own exhaust hood, ferchrissakes...) and will be using the old cart to establish a second location come summer. He's also thinking about hitting the South Pearl Farmers' Market, maybe some of the local ballfields.
What's more, Biker Jim has partnered with the guys from Waffle Brothers, another popular 16th Street Mall enterprise, to form Biker Jim's/Waffle Brothers LLC and take on a brick-and-mortar space downtown, where they plan to build a commercial kitchen. There'll be no retail, but they'll have a place to store carts, do prep, make cheesecakes (Jim makes a mean cheesecake) and work on some catering. Also, the spot will make an excellent fortress for when the zombies come, but that's beside the point...
Jim told me that he and his Waffle Brothers partners (who'd already collaborated on Biker Jim's Freakishly Small Concession Stand) have also tossed around the idea of opening an actual restaurant (reindeer steaks and waffles, anyone?). But right now, Jim's really just focusing on getting ready for summer, getting the new kitchen kitted out and finding some well-mannered fellow traveler to take over the second cart location. He said that when he put a small ad on craigslist looking for help, he got hundreds of responses on the first day — many from former bankers, former businessmen, former high-line capitalists, and even some onetime journalists.
And if that ain't a sign of the times, I don't know what is.
Good thing Jim lets those dogs go for cheap.
BBQ and A: Not too long ago, Colorado's best barbecue was being made, completely illegally, by Mike Frislie and his friends at the Bugling Bull Trading Post. This spot, along a dropping curve of highway out in Sedalia, was just awesome — a straight-up general store and pull-through, selling everything from snakebite kits and Sterno to Doritos and beer. And on the weekends, when the weather was right and the boys were feeling frisky, Mike would pull out a bunch of bolted-together smokers and a grill and start filling the skies with the scent of true and serious backwoods 'cue — and addicts like me would come from miles around just to see what that wonderful stink was.
The Bull was something special, and once I shared my discovery, folks would start lining up early just to get a taste of the good stuff. Then the question became how to keep such a popular stop-off for bikers and families, campers and BBQ junkies secret from the long reach of John Law. And unfortunately, the answer to that question was that there was no way at all. Frislie's bootleg 'cue operation was shut down a couple of years ago by the health department (from the way I heard the story, the inspector first went through the line, got herself a nice lunch, and then served Frislie with his violation papers), and he was told he would have to become legal before he could serve one more rib.
So he did. It took some time, a lot of heartbreak and the help of good friends, but eventually Frislie did everything he needed to do in order for the Bull to pass a health inspection and get a food license. But for me, the 'cue was never the same. There was just something about following that smoke trail in to the dirt parking lot, getting some country ribs right out of the smoker (or off the grill, still wrapped in foil) and then eating them in the sun with your fingers while sitting on the trunk of your car in the smell and the haze of a working BBQ operation.
Still, Frislie did some business. Summers, he and his crew got their asses kicked; winters, they just tried to hang on. Until last fall, when the Bull finally closed for good and I left a message for Mike to let me know where he was going to set up his smokers next.
Last week, I finally got word: Frislie has taken a gig as pit master at a barbecue joint — a proper, stand-up joint at Park Meadows Drive and Yosemite. That's quite a change from an illegal pit off Highway 67. The new place — called simply The 'Que — opened early last week and will have its grand opening this Thursday. Will Frislie be able to do his style of barbecue in such a nice, upstanding location?
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"Oh, yeah," he assured me. Totally. And though he's already found out that the country rib simply doesn't sell as well without the wreath of smoke, the battered grills in the parking lot and the hot sun winking down through the trees onto the dusty gravel, he's been turning out an awful lot of ribs, pulled pork, brisket and rib tips.
I can't wait to get out there and try it for myself.
Leftovers: The International Association of Culinary Professionals was in town last week getting weird and eating everything in sight.
But if you missed the action, have no fear: I spent several days embedded with this crew, and the blow-by-blow rundown of everything I ate, saw and did is online in the Cafe Society blog at westword.com.