Food News

Rebranded Barbecue Joint Launches With Daily Service and Liquor License

Brisket, ribs, sausage and pastrami, with housemade sauces and pickles at AJ's.
Brisket, ribs, sausage and pastrami, with housemade sauces and pickles at AJ's. Maureen Witten
When Jared and Amanda Leonard launched BBQ Supply Co. in Chicago in 2010, the name made sense. More than just a restaurant, the Leonards' establishment offered catering and events planning (with a barbecue focus, of course) as well as cooking classes and a retail shop so that budding pit masters could make great barbecue at home. But when the couple moved to Colorado to expand their restaurant business, BBQ Supply Co. was a little confusing as a name.

So beginning Saturday, January 26, the Leonards are relaunching their smokehouse as AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q at 2180 South Delaware Street, with expanded hours, whiskey, craft beer on tap, two barrel-aged cocktails and a few menu surprises.

click to enlarge AJ's founder Jared Leonard slices meat from beef ribs. - MARK ANTONATION
AJ's founder Jared Leonard slices meat from beef ribs.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Guests line up for a taste of ’cue. - MARK ANTONATION
Guests line up for a taste of ’cue.
Mark Antonation
Jared began selling Austin-style brisket and other smoked meats under the BBQ Supply Co. name in Denver last spring. The space was also the commissary kitchen for his other projects, Au Feu, a quick-service counter selling Montreal-style brisket and poutine inside Zeppelin Station, and the Budlong Hot Chicken, which sells Nashville-style hot chicken sandwiches out of a food truck (although there are five brick-and-mortar locations in Chicago). Barbecue was served only on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to when all the meats sold out (usually within two or three hours), and Sundays were added later in 2018.

Loyal fans were clamoring for more, but Jared also sensed confusion from potential customers. So he and Amanda decided to start 2019 with a bang — and the name change. Jared brought in his faithful Bewley cabinet smoker (which burns whole logs of Texas post oak) from Chicago to replace a smaller unit he'd been using, while Amanda fixed up the space with a homey foyer (which will accommodate customers waiting in line on cold Denver days), a small bar, indoor picnic tables and side rooms for private parties.

click to enlarge Jared Leonard with a brisket hot out of the smoker. - MARK ANTONATION
Jared Leonard with a brisket hot out of the smoker.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge The Texas-made Bewley smoker is fueled with post oak. - MARK ANTONATION
The Texas-made Bewley smoker is fueled with post oak.
Mark Antonation
Jared's specialty is central Texas-style barbecue; brisket is the star, but he also serves beef and pork ribs, spicy beef sausage (brought in from a Czech family in Texas who have been making sausage for more than 100 years), and smoked wagyu pastrami that's similar to the Montreal-style brisket he serves at Au Feu. Other menu items include tri-tip, burnt ends, pulled pork, turkey and chicken, with pit beans, slaw, truffle mac and cheese, and flaky biscuits as sides (make sure you get some salt-and-pepper butter for your biscuit). Not all meats and sides will be available every day, and other rotating options will include ham-hock braised collard greens and custard-filled cornbread. The surprise special guest will be the Budlong's hot chicken sandwich with Mississippi comeback sauce.

AJ's will be open daily at 11 a.m. until all the meats sell out, but with the increased smoking capacity (there's also a monstrous Camelback smoker mounted on the bed of a vintage farm truck out front), that should be at least 9 p.m. or so, instead of mid-afternoon. Amanda and Jared plan on introducing Barbecue 101 classes in the near future and will also be adding a patio this spring.

AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q is located across the street from the Evans light rail station, just a couple of blocks off the intersection of South Broadway and West Evans Avenue. For more information, see the restaurant's Facebook page.
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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