Two very different kinds of barbecue joints just celebrated their first year in business, proving that Denver is hungry for traditional smokehouse grub — no matter the style. Globe Hall serves Texas-style barbecue from a 120-year-old bar in a hidden Globeville neighborhood, while GQue Championship Barbecue serves lunch and dinner from a strip-mall location at a busy intersection in Westminster.
Globe Hall was the first of the two, opening at 4483 Logan Street the first week of November 2015. Owner Jeff Cornelius spruced up the former Sidewinder (just enough so that it still retains its dive-bar charm) and also reopened the music hall next door. Cornelius serves brisket, ribs, pork shoulder, spicy sausage and other meats smoked on an enormous outdoor cooker Wednesday through Saturday before the live music kicks in each night. While lunch was initially available only on Saturdays, he just added Friday lunch last week and plans to extended that to Wednesday and Thursday soon. "I think I misjudged the demand for barbecue at lunch," Cornelius explains, recognizing that many traditional smokehouses sell out well before the dinner hour. "People really do enjoy barbecue for lunch."
Denverites like barbecue for dinner, too, judging by the steady following Globe Hall has built over the past twelve months. While the menu is small and the style of barbecue served is traditional to Texas Hill Country (where seasonings are simple and sauce is an option but not a primary focus), Cornelius says that customers really get what he's doing. "People ask what kind of smoker I use, what kind of wood I use," he notes. "I think Denver has really benefited from the kind of places...that have opened in the past two or three years: Wayne's, Roaming Buffalo, GQue."
Going from a backyard barbecuer to a pro has come with lessons learned over the past year; Cornelius has added macaroni and cheese by popular demand and has expanded the meat offerings to include smoked wings and burnt ends (which tend to sell out quickly). He also just launched a food truck that will initially appear at special events (like the Holiday Flea at the Sports Castle from December 2-4 and Denver Beer Festivus on December 17), but which will hit the streets mainly during lunch hours starting next year. The truck is also available for catered events.
Cornelius notes that Globe Hall's location and the huge number of music venues in Denver have been tough challenges to overcome. But he says barbecue fans have found their way and that lunches are catching on with workers downtown, only six minutes away. And he's also worked hard to solidify Globe Hall's reputation for Americana, roots and bluegrass music.
Jason Ganahl opened GQue in Westminster a week after Globe Hall opened and has built a loyal following that comes for barbecue that he honed while on the competitive circuit — a style with roots in St. Louis but with other regional influences, too. Ganahl says the big change from amateur to professional has been just the hours and the commitment to a consistent product. "Back then it was all for fun," he says. "And now it's my livelihood."
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For the first three months after GQue opened, Ganahl worked from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. "What's cool is now I'm starting to get my life back," he adds.
And although he took barbecue competitive cooking seriously, serving paying customers has taken his focus to a new level. "It's a different kind of competition now," he notes. "Now every single customer is a judge. But there's still nothing I like more than slicing into a good brisket and handing it out to people."
Ganahl and Cornelius both jumped into the barbecue business with no previous restaurant experience and have found success through different paths. But it's an ongoing fight to draw more customers every day. Cornelius just took a couple of days off after working 21 straight days while launching his food truck, adding an Airstream trailer to Globe Hall as the green room for visiting musicians and prepping for the restaurant's one-year anniversary. And Ganahl is still working on perfecting recipes and adding new items every day. He says his cooks are now at a level where he can start adding fun daily specials.
For those considering a similar career path, Ganahl's advice is "Don't do it!" But then he adds, "You want to be able to look back and think it was all worth it — and it has been."