Word of Mouth

AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q Reopens Dining Room After Meeting City Demands

AJ's is fully open once again.
AJ's is fully open once again. Mark Antonation
Chef/restaurateur Jared Leonard's passion spans a wide range of regional American foods — which turned out to be a great thing for Denver when he moved here from Chicago a couple of years ago. Thanks to Leonard, we now have AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q serving Texas-style smoked meats, the Budlong Hot Chicken cooking up Nashville-style fried chicken, Norm's Deli carving housemade pastrami and other deli specialties, and most recently, Grabowski's, a Chicago tavern-style pizza joint.

AJ's, though, hasn't been running in quite the way Leonard wanted when he opened in a former commercial kitchen at 2180 South Delaware Street, right across the street from the Evans Station light-rail stop. In January, the chef threw open the doors to his spacious but bare-bones barbecue joint, where indoor picnic tables, craft beer and some of the city's best brisket awaited hungry customers. But a month later, the City of Denver decided that the opening of AJ's constituted a "change of use," primarily because Leonard had previously operated the space as a catering kitchen with occasional dinner events inside, rather than as a full restaurant.

click to enlarge
Follow the smell of wood smoke to AJ's.
Mark Antonation

Leonard says he went through multiple inspections and approvals before opening the first time, but apparently the right city departments weren't part of those inspections. But after complying with fire and safety requirements, which included adding another door at the back of the building and some other fixes, the owner just received the go-ahead from the city and is now back in business as he originally intended.

So you can now stop in from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day but Monday for smoked meats, sides, beers and good times. Leonard says the only additional work that need to be done is adding a sidewalk out front, which he will complete within ninety days. "Serving barbecue on butcher paper-covered lunch trays with only outdoor seating made us feel super Texas-authentic," Leonard notes. "But we’re excited to be seating inside again, with our twelve beer taps and bar and vintage Westerns on our projector screen. Eating barbecue inside is especially appreciated when the snow starts falling, so the timing on this is perfect.”

Call AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q at 720-815-5571 or visit the restaurant's website for more details.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation

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