There was a time when I swore that the best barbecue to be had in the state of Colorado was at the Bugling Bull Trading Post, a kind of general store/truck stop/campground supplier down on 1668 North Highway 67 in Sedalia. Pit man Mike Frislie used to run a kind of outlaw smoking operation there that supplied some seriously wicked hillbilly 'cue, working out of nothing more than a couple of knocked-together smokers set up in the parking lot of the Bull whenever the weather allowed.
He did this for years, turning out amazing country ribs and whole chickens, hot dogs and racks of baby backs -- basically whatever occurred to him to smoke that day, on whatever day he felt like stoking up the smokers. Unfortunately, he was an artist pursuing his calling completely illegally, with no licenses, no permission. And so the day came when he was shut down by The Man. In this case, though, The Man was a woman -- a Douglas County health inspector who, it should be noted, waited until after having some of Frislie's barbecue herself before making him turn off his grills for good.
Thus began the next chapter of the Bugling Bull saga. Frislie decided that he would make his barbecue operation legal and proceeded to spend months trying to build an actual kitchen. He got some help along the way, made some new friends and eventually did get a legal version of his barbecue up for sale, but something about it just wasn't the same.
Chapter three? Frislie bailed out. He told me that there just wasn't enough business during the winter months to support a full-fledged restaurant operation out there in campground country, so he closed up shop and took a job as pit man at a brand-new barbecue operation in the 'burbs -- at a place called The 'Que.
Now, though, we have another chapter to add to this story: A new business is now up and running in the former home of the Bugling Bull.
The Pine Nook Market is roughly the same kind of operation that the Bull was -- a pull-through and trading post offering a little bit of everything, from Doritos and cold Cokes to radiator fluid, skinning knives and pizza. Carolyn Montgomery owns the place, and runs it as a very homey, very friendly sort of family operation with a big old yellow dog asleep on the porch and a hummingbird feeder hung above the door.
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The only problem? The barbecue (which still exists, mostly in the form of pulled pork sandwiches) just isn't the same. Lacking that outlaw edge and Frislie's indisputable talents with a smoker, it drops down in my estimation from one of the best barbecue joints in the state to simply emergency barbecue -- the kind of place you go when you really need some barbecue, but just can't get anywhere else quickly enough.
I also had a good, big-ass ham and cheese hoagie while I was there, plus a slice of pizza that was merely decent (elevated in my memory, probably, simply because I was starving after having been forced to take a hike in the woods that didn't have a fully-stocked bar at the far end of it). Again, neither of these offerings came close to the kind of legendary backwoods barbecue that the Bull used to do.
Still, I'm happy to see that someone has at least taken over the space and is trying to do something good with it. I wish it were better, sure, but a place like the Bull? That comes around once in a generation. The stories alone that I got out of the place were enough to keep me fed during the long winters when I couldn't get down to pay Frislie a visit.
For now, I'll have to content myself with finally checking out The 'Que. The joint has been open for several months now and I haven't managed to make it there yet. I think part of me is just afraid that all the lingering magic that made the Bull great will be gone completely -- a reality I am not quite ready to face up to yet.