Cafe Society

Sam Taylor's gets to the meatless of the matter

It's hard to imagine anything more meaty than BBQ. It is a cuisine based entirely on the flesh of the pig, the cow and, in some cases, the chicken.

So it's no surprise that a BBQ joint owner might hang up on a sales rep trying to sell him vegan meat substitutes. That's certainly happened a lot to Jeff Friedrich of Gardein, a Canadian company that uses a blend of veggies, grains and soy to make simulated pulled pork, beef skewers, chicken breasts and other meatless meats.

But not when he called Sam Taylor's Bar-B-Que, the twelve-year-old Glendale joint at 435 South Cherry Street, whose motto is "one bone is all it takes." Instead, Sam Taylor's signed on to cater last Saturday's Pretenders concert at the Denver Botanic Gardens' Chatfield location, and to serve only Gardein products.

Pretenders lead singer Chrissie Hynde is a well-known vegan, supporter of PETA and owner of a vegan restaurant in Akron, Ohio. Gardein held "Grill-Outs" at four of her summer concerts over the summer, all catered by BBQ restaurants. A fifth, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, is scheduled for September 3.

"You might be surprised, but we serve quite a few vegans, who get our side dishes or salads," says Paul Kelly, director of operations at Sam Taylor's, adding that the restaurant cooked all the food in a separate, unused kitchen at its new Xpress location, which will open on September 1 at 4666 South Yosemite in Greenwood Village.

In fact, Sam Taylor's will be adding Gardein's products to its menu (for a dish it may call "The Great Pretenders" platter or something similar) sometime in the next two to three weeks at its main location and later at its Xpress store.

Sam Taylors's is planning to open a string of Xpress locations around Denver, which will dish up sandwiches made at the Cherry Street hub. The restaurant learned the trick to this during a recent rugby tournament at Infinity Park in Glendale, when it sold 700 sandwiches in an hour. "The next day," he says, "Xpress was born."

Of course, not everything has gone perfectly.

When Hynde saw the Sam Taylor truck pulling away during her concert, she didn't realize it was serving Gardein -- and she hollered at it. "Sam Taylor barbeque, get the fuck out of here," is what she said, Kelly recalls with a laugh.