Last summer I stumbled across Mike Frislie at the Bugling Bull Trading Post, where he was working the drum grill and smoker out on Highway 67 (1668 North Highway 67 in Sedalia, to be precise) and cooking up burgers, brats and some of the best damn barbecue I'd ever tasted in my life. It was one of those rare epiphanic moments of pure gastronaut pleasure.
Only now I hear that after my Bugling Bull account ran in the July 29, 2004, Bite Me, Douglas County put the barbecue operation out of business. Sure, you're probably not supposed to just start up a restaurant in your front yard, garage, parking lot, whatever. Something like that is going to break a few rules no matter how good your barbecue is, but Frislie says he'd checked with the county health inspectors before he started serving, and they'd told him that he'd be fine so long as he cooked outside, used disposable utensils, did everything up just like it was a backyard picnic where he, the host, just happened to be accepting money for his services. He thought he was in the clear. He thought he was doing everything right. And he was just starting to attract a decent crowd when the county came in and told Frislie -- after a year in the barbecue biz and two weeks after I wrote about the place -- that he was doing too much business and had to douse the fires immediately.
Well, not exactly immediately. According to Brett Lebo, a friend of Frislie's, when the health inspector came in, she first ate a plate of barbecue, told Frislie how good it was, waited out by her truck for a while and, once the crowds had thinned out a bit, then served him with papers saying he had to shut down. That was over a year ago, and since then, Frislie had been negotiating with the town, the county, the state -- with everyone from contractors to inspectors -- to figure out how to set up a proper food-service operation. It cost him thousands of dollars, more time than he can calculate, required the construction of an entire inside prep kitchen (including stainless work surfaces, three-bay wash sink, hand sink, vegetable sink, mop sink and two fifty-gallon water heaters), and very nearly broke him.
Then, two weeks ago, Lebo and his wife, Abigail, came up from Dallas on an extended vacation. They were staying at the Devil's Head campground and, just like me, wandered into the Bugling Bull one day while out exploring. They met Frislie, started talking about his troubles, got to taste a little of his barbecue. "Look, we own our own business back in Texas, Abigail and me," Lebo explained. "We saw Mike jumping through all these hoops with the city, and I know that when you're inundated in a project, just buried, you can get so depressed. You can't see any way out, you get depressed, you don't want to work anymore. So I talked to Abigail about it, and she just said, 'Well, let's help him if we can.'"
Which is what the Lebos did, pitching in right alongside Frislie to get a legit barbecue joint up and running. And they aren't the only ones. Jake Viano, a carpenter who lives in an apartment above the Bull, loaned tools and lent a hand between paying jobs. Two local rangers (Erin Seward and Mike Shifendecker) have been coming in on their days off to help, as have friends and neighbors from around the community. After Brett and Abigail were in a car accident last week (they were hit by a drunk driver, and Brett was left with a broken collarbone), Frislie returned the favor by putting them both up in his home.
But a shattered bone or two wasn't going to slow Lebo down. When it became obvious that he couldn't swing a hammer or carry supplies, he got on the phone. And who did he call? Me. Not only did he confirm my opinion that Frislie makes great food (as a Texas boy, he knows his barbecue), but he also gave me the good news that, as of this past weekend, the Bull's barbecue operation is back open and completely legal.
So head on down to Sedalia and check the fellas out. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Leftovers: Openings, reopenings and rebirths -- there's plenty of action this week. For starters, Japon's long-awaited changeover from its narrow hallway of a space at 1028 South Gaylord Street into a larger spot next door in the Guild Theatre building is finally complete. After months of delays and an estimated price tag in the six-figure range, owner Miki Hashimoto finally got to show off his new-and-improved place on September 1, following that up with a private grand-opening party benefiting Children's Hospital on September 6.
Over in Larimer Square, the twenty-year-old Market (1422 Larimer) has just signed another long-term lease, so you can count on a place to sip latte while keeping an eye on your Harley. A few feet away, at 1433 Larimer, the space that once held (part of) Josephina's will soon become Corridor 44, where chef Eric Laslow will preside over a 44-foot-deep cocktail lounge-slash-small-plates restaurant. Laslow (late of Portland, Oregon, a food town where he made quite a name for himself and which, like Denver, is constantly on the edge of greatness) saw Josephina's through its final hours, and now is looking to get Corridor 44 up and running sometime in October.
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Also scheduled for October is the opening of Duo, chef John Broening's new venture at 2413 West 32nd Avenue. Broening was the chef at the late, great Brasserie Rouge -- the man responsible for that wonderful confit, all that nice charcuterie. After that restaurant closed, Broening did a brief turn at Udi's, then went quiet for a while as this deal was put together. Meanwhile, Via is up and running in Brasserie Rouge's former home in the Icehouse (1801 Wynkoop Street), and its patio is already a LoDo must-stop. Other parts of town also boast new patios. At 3230 East Colfax Avenue, Mezcal introduced its streetside corral last week; in Cherry Creek, Brix (3000 East Third Avenue) now has an outdoor patio. And up in Boulder, Frasca (1738 Pearl Street) has a new patio, too -- one reserved exclusively for the walk-in trade.
Props to Pete Meersman, president and CEO of the 4,500-member Colorado Restaurant Association, who was just elevated to chairman of the board of directors of the Colorado Tourism Office. Meersman has been involved with the CRA since 1982, became its president in '89, and has been a longtime friend to the Colorado restaurant community, seeing his members through good times and bad. He'll be leading the charge as the CRA works with numerous restaurants on Dine Out to Help Out, which will raise funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina. On Wednesday, October 5, restaurants across Colorado -- already an astonishingly generous bunch of businesses -- will donate a portion of their proceeds. And as an added twist, bars and clubs will be involved in the effort, too, through Get Out to Help Out that same night. For more information, go to www.coloradorestaurant.com.
Finally, my review of Nine75 ("Magic Time," August 25), has resulted in an unexpected honor: a framed plaque above booth 22, noting that it's "the worst table in the house" -- according to me, at least. Parties seated there get their picture taken, and also a complimentary order of meatloaf, says Nine75's Leigh Sullivan. I stand by my assessment of the meatloaf, but Leigh's right about two other things: I got Ian Kleinman's job wrong (he cooks at Nine75, but the sous chef is Toby Shimizu), and the portrait of Mao is still in residence at the sibling restaurant of the same name. It's the statue that's been replaced -- by one of Buddha. My apologies on both counts.