Cafe Society

Get a 'Cue, Bono's

I can be bought for an easy smile and a pint of sweet tea. When someone has their grill going in my neighborhood, I will sometimes sit out on my porch just to smell the air. My wife has often told me that I’ve never met a barbecue restaurant I didn’t like, and I have to correct her: Truth is, I’ve never met a pig, cooked in any old way, that I didn’t love. And whenever I find myself in a barbecue joint (which is frightfully often), I develop a reflexive Southern accent—my vowels extending, my jaw loosening. I start ma’am-ing every pretty girl in the place and develop opinions on things like linen suits and Southern-states football. I was born and raised in the industrial Northeast. My experience is more Nelson Algren than Wild Bill Faulkner. And yet I sometimes believe that I live with a small and deeply Southern man inside me—a culinary Quato who only comes out when the scent of hardwood smoke is in the air or the sting of mustard-heavy sauce on my tongue. And that little fucker? He’s hungry. All the time. He just don’t never get enough.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

What that little fucker don’t never get enough of is good barbecue, and after a week spent investigating Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q, a Florida-based chain, I can say I’ve had quite enough of Bono’s barbecue, thank you very much.

It’s not that the place is terrible (we’re still talking smoked pig, after all, and the only kind of smoked pig that’s bad is no smoked pig at all). It's just that Colorado -- which, against all odds, actually sports a profusion of excellent piggeries -- offers so much that’s better than Bono's that, other than for the sweet tea (which is wonderful), I can’t understand why anyone ever goes twice to either of the two Bono’s locations here in Colorado.

Unless they’re being paid for it, that is. Or are stuck at one of the hotels next to where the Bono’s locations have set up camp and unable to get somewhere better. But honestly, if I were a barbecue-lovin’ business traveler stranded in the Denver suburbs, while I might have been thrilled initially to discover I was at a hotel with a barbecue restaurant within walking distance, I would have been crushed when I realized I could’ve probably smoked better pork over a scrap-wood fire in the hotel parking lot.

The whiplash disappointment would probably send me into a black depression that I would then take out on my colleagues at the Western States Widget Manufacturing Symposium the next day. I’d end up picking a fight with Johnson, the vegetarian from accounting, get fired, and then spiral into alcoholism and despair. Ten years later, I’d be some crazy homeless guy on the street, wearing pants made out of old six-pack rings and a tinfoil hat, raving about how Bono's ruined my life. Eventually, U2 would write a song about me, just like "What’s the Frequency, Kenneth."

It would be a bad scene, is all I’m saying…

For those of you who just can’t get enough barbecue talk, I’ve also got a few words about Brothers BBQ in Second Helpings. And for a change, they’re not even all bad words. -- Jason Sheehan

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun