Handheld surf and turf is something to aspire to. Instead of steak and lobster, you can have kangaroo burgers and wild boar for the turf, and crab cake sandwiches and Alamosa striped bass fish and chips for the surf. That's the way the Barbed Wire Reef food truck has been doing it since 2011, and how the menu will read at founder Rico Aragon's new restaurant of the same name when it opens at 4499 West 38th Avenue on Tuesday, January 29.
Aragon started Barbed Wire Reef "with just a small pickup truck, a couple of grills and a fryer," he recalls. After running a similar concept called Saltwater Cowboy in Avon and branching out by serving burgers and sausages at the Beaver Creek Rodeo, Aragon moved to Denver, came up with the new name and eventually made enough money to purchase a full-on food truck at the end of 2012. Since then, Barbed Wire Reef has grown to three trucks serving at Denver's breweries, food truck rallies and special events. Wild game has been a constant theme, with elk, venison, yak and bison burgers (there are Angus beef patties, too, for the less adventurous) and sausages running from standard beer brats to rattlesnake, pheasant and alligator.
"A lot of people think it's an easy job," Aragon says of running a food truck. "But it's not — you have to have passion. It's a lot of ups and downs; one day you have a flat tire and the next day your fridge breaks."
Things don't get any easier when you graduate to a brick-and-mortar eatery (except you don't have to change flat tires), but being stationary in the up-and-coming Berkeley neighborhood will help build a loyal following beyond Barbed Wire Reef's current fan base. Aragon is making sure of that: He says the new menu will elevate what he's already been doing while offering customer favorites like chipotle barbecue pulled wild boar sandwiches.
He'll also have a full bar pouring a dozen or so craft beers. "We'll have twelve draft beers, all local breweries that have supported my business," Aragon explains. So if you've experimented with your own beer-and-ostrich pairings at your favorite neighborhood brewery, you'll be able to continue when the restaurant opens.
The new restaurant is located in what was once an automobile repair shop called Merkl's and will take up nearly 3,000 square feet of the building; the other half will be occupied by the soon-to-open FlyteCo Brewing. Barbed Wire Reef will have seating for 120 guests inside, plus another 45 on the patio. After opening day on the 29th, the kitchen will be open for dinner from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 4 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, with the bar staying open until midnight nightly. Aragon expects to add lunch hours after two months or so.
Visit the Barbed Wire Reef Facebook page for more details.