Once again, there are no peanuts at the Cowboy Bar, the temporary saloon in the basement of the Hall of Education — right by where the cattle are groomed — that’s popped up every year during the National Western Stock Show since long before pop-ups were cool.
One of the hallmarks of this bar — besides all the hooting and hollering — were the free peanuts that people could grab with their big beers and shots; after they were done, they just swept the shells onto the floor. But that was before politically correct folks put the kibosh on anything having to do with peanuts.
Still, you’ll find plenty of consolation prizes at the Stock Show this year, whether you’re looking to pig out on maple-bacon funnel cakes or graze on a growing number of vegetarian options. But beef still reigns as the top-selling chow at the Stock Show — beef in its many and varied forms. During the two weeks of festivities, more than 27,000 burger patties are sold, according to executive chef Jake Crabtree, who oversees every aspect of food service, up to and including the 1,000-person plated dinner for Citizens of the West served on the rodeo floor January 13.
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“The brisket nachos were the biggest seller we had last year,” Crabtree adds, and other favorites include green chile, veal bratwursts (“The best in town!” the chef proclaims) and Pueblo-style sloppers. (Not a hit: the stew the crew tried a few years ago.) The culinary team also loves serving Rocky Mountain oysters, adds Crabtree’s right-hand man, Mike Van Trabert, in part because “we don’t have to shuck them.”
Local beef and other products are important to Crabtree, whether they’re burger and hot dog buns from Aspen Baking or prime cuts from Buckhead Beef. If you’re hungry for a steak, stop in at the National Western Bar and Grill inside the Expo Hall, which becomes a fully functioning steakhouse for the duration of the show. The executive chef points out that it’s typical for the bar to go through 600 ribeyes and New York strips and 300 filets each year. To go along with those, rodeo fans also guzzle 1,600 gallons of beans and 2.3 million ounces of beer (none of which will be absorbed by peanut shells this year).
Do your part to take down a steer (or at least the tastiest parts); tickets are still on sale at nationalwestern.com.