Along with every other kind of edifice springing up in RiNo these days, there are at least a couple of hotels expected to open in the near future. One of them is the Source Hotel at 3350 Brighton Boulevard, part of the overall Source Hotel & Market project (the market has been open for nearly four years now). And along with hotels come hotel restaurants — but don't expect a depressing buffet or a carpeted lounge from the folks who have already crammed Comida, Acorn, RiNo Yacht Club, Crooked Stave Artisan Ales and other food producers under one roof. When the Source Hotel opens (possibly as soon as December), one of the culinary draws will be Smōk BBQ, from chef Bill Espiricuetta, who has been with Acorn and its Boulder sibling, Oak at Fourteenth, for the past five years.
The chef says that he was born in Austin and moved to Kansas City when he was eleven, so he grew up with good barbecue in two very different styles. "I've been around barbecue my whole life — it was always just around," he explains, adding that family dinners involved takeout barbecue as often as two or three times a week.
But when he moved to Colorado, he noticed that there wasn't much of a barbecue culture, so he bought a backyard smoker to experiment on his days off. When Oak co-owner/chef Steve Redzikowski tasted the results, he told Espiricuetta that he needed to open his own barbecue joint.
Smok has gotten rolling this summer with Sunday pop-ups at the Source (you can stop by between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Sunday), and Espiricuetta will ramp up production with additional weekday barbecue served at RiNo Yacht Club two or three times a week later this year before his restaurant opens.
Once Smok debuts, it will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with Austin-style breakfast tacos in the morning and a few late-night surprises for hotel guests and other night owls. "What's going to set me apart is that I'm going to focus on everything — the meats, the sides, the atmosphere, the beverage program," Espiricuetta explains. "There's not enough of a barbecue culture here where people eat barbecue two or three nights a week, so I've got to keep people interested."
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To do that, he'll focus on seasonality to keep the sides fresh and unique and will offer nightly specials in addition to the brisket, ribs, turkey and other meats coming out of his Southern Pride rotisserie smoker fueled with red and white oak, which he says gives a mild but penetrating smoke. For example, Sundays will be fried-chicken night, and on Fridays there will be a fish fry. He's also looking to offer smoked white fish like local trout and walleye.
The Source Hotel could be just the beginning for Espricuetta's counter-service barbecue joint. "My goal is to have several of these and to really change the culture of barbecue here," he explains. "It's more about bringing the standard up."