In light of the current cover story, "Santa Is Grounded," which tells the story of a mall Santa named Bill Lee whose reindeer were seized in an animal-cruelty case that some critics say was unjustified and could be unconstitutional, we caught up with Biker Jim to chat about his reindeer sausage -- and whether the menu item is a tough sell this time of year.
See also: - Santa is grounded! A nightmare before Christmas - Reindeer have nice racks, and other fun facts about these non-mythical creatures -Biker Jim on where he'd eat if had only 24 hours in Denver -Hot dog! Biker Jim's makes the Forbes list of the top ten dogs -First look: Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs
Biker Jim, aka Jim Pittenger, grew up in Alaska, where he says reindeer sausage is common -- or at least more common than it is in Colorado. "I've been eating it since I was a kid," he says. In Alaska, he adds, reindeer is "used very similarly to how we would use buffalo down here -- as kind of a game-food animal."
Biker Jim's reindeer sausages come from the aptly named Alaska Sausage Company. Shipping is expensive, but Biker Jim says the delicious meat makes the trouble worthwhile. "I brought it down (to Colorado) because I knew it would set me apart from the other people," he explains.
And it did. From his beginnings as a street vendor to his current position as the proprietor of a tube-steak empire that includes both food trucks and a restaurant, Biker Jim has earned praise for his reindeer sausage, including a spot on our 100 Favorite Dishes list. But reindeer isn't the only exotic meat on the menu; Biker Jim also serves elk, wild boar and pheasant.
But around Christmas, "there's still that stigma that goes along with serving reindeer," he notes. Jim tells a story about his first year slinging dogs downtown, when he was set up right near a sit-on-Santa's-lap operation with six different Clauses who worked various shifts. "Of the six, three ate the reindeer sausage," he reports, adding that one Santa was from Alaska. "The other three were having nothing to do with it at all."
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But, Biker Jim assures us, the reindeer in his sausages "probably have not been used as Santa's reindeer at any point prior to us eating them."