This, declares Gary Lee Bomar, standing behind the bar of his new, eponymous Motor Club & Grub, has "always been my dream."
A dream, he continues, that's finally come to fruition after more than a year of blood, sweat and tears. "It's been a year-and-a-half process putting this together, and even four years ago, when I first looked at this building, I saw the potential, and while I still have a lot of stuff to do, it feels so good to finally be open."
It should: Bomar encountered a parade of delays and obstacles along the way, including vocal objections from the West Washington Park Neighborhood Association, which argued that a liquor license would sully the 'hood. But Bomar persevered, and on Saturday, he crossed the finish line, opening his vintage car-themed roadhouse in a former auto body garage.
And it's smashing. The exposed wood-beamed space is immersed in eye candy, with concrete floors, garage doors that open to what Bomar promises to be the "best patio in Denver -- or at least on South Broadway," black diamond tuft ceiling above the reclaimed white oak bar tricked out with rusty wrenches, shiny hubcaps from the '40s and '50s and beer handles designed from Chevy 218 piston heads (and exhaust pipes) and Flathead Ford racing pistols that double as light fixtures.
And everything in the bar, reveals Bomar, was custom-fabricated by his good friend Darren Cook, who in his spare time designs and builds amusement parks. Cook is also responsible for the bathrooms, which pimp mirrors from semis, bright-red mechanic rags in lieu of paper towels, and sparkling terrazzo countertops, which were a labor of long nights of heavy drinking. "We drank the hell out of Bud Light Platinum and Jägermeister bottles to get the glass to make the terrazzo counters," admits Cook, who claims that he and Bomar bought out every liquor store in Denver to accomplish the job.
In fact, there's so much to see -- railroad spike coat hooks and purse handles, a steel foot rail from the Rio Grande Railroad, a weathered Coca-Cola sign that takes up most of one wall, a brothel-red gas pump that Lee acquired from a nearby station, and a vintage cigarette machine that looks as though it might burst into flames -- that it's almost too easy to forget that Bomar serves a kick-ass menu of roadhouse grub, courtesy of chefs Alvie Claiborne and Nate White, who was cooking in the kitchen at Coop de Ville at the Stingray -- now closed -- before joining Bomar.
"It's smoked comfort food," says White. "We smoke our own meats, our vegetables, our aiolis and even our vinaigrettes, and we're also making our own mustards and ketchup." And soon, he divulges, "we'll smoke our own sausages, cure our own meats and do pretty much everything we can in-house."
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That includes plucking his own herbs from a rooftop garden, which Lee plans to add in the future, along with more landscaping, a smoker, a fire pit and fireplaces on his patio, which is still a work in progress. "Eventually, I want this to be like an exterior living room," says Bomar, who also plans to surround the patio's perimeter with bamboo. "I've got big plans for this," he concludes.
And when I stopped by yesterday to take a look at the space -- and eat -- Bomar's head was spinning with more ideas. But until they all come to bear, here's a glimpse of what you can expect when you step through the doors.
The bar at Gary Lee's, which is bedecked with vintage hubcaps, tap handles constructed from Chevy 218 pistons and exhaust pipes, and a 500-pound black diamond tuft ceiling. Smoked tomato gazpacho. The patio at Gary Lee's, which was a huge point of contention when Lee first drew up plans to gut the former auto garage. In the future, Bomar plans to outfit the open-air space with a fire pit and fireplaces. Pulled-pork plate with barbecue sauce, hand-cut fries and smoky collard greens. Sausage plate with elk jalapeno-cheddar, chicken apple and Parmesan, spicy Polish and cheddar bratwurst, plus housemade mustard and cheddar and Gouda cheeses. Smoked meatloaf topped with gravy and sided with potato salad. Vintage cigarette machine, which will dispense T-shirts. Tap handles. Smoked portobello sandwich with arugula, roasted red peppers, romaine, balsamic vinegar and red pepper sauce. The kitchen, helmed by chefs Nate White, formerly of Coop de Ville at the Stringray, and Alvie Claiborne. Vintage hubcaps elevate the bar display to an auto theme. Chef Nate White. Smoked chicken wings served with celery, carrots and blue cheese, horseradish ranch, ranch or honey mustard. The women's bathroom, which boasts a terrazzo countertop sparkling with glass shards from Bud Light Platinum bottles and Jägermeister bottles. The men's bathroom also showcases a terrazzo countertop, along with mirrors salvaged from semis; both bathrooms forgo paper towels and instead offer cherry-red mechanic's rags. Bar storage with wrench handles dating back to the 1940s.