Tennyson Street in the Berkeley neighborhood lost a chop house when Block & Larder closed in January, but there will soon be a new meat-up spot taking its place. Fort Worth native Nick Prince will open Post Oak Barbecue at 4000 Tennyson Street this summer.
Prince came to Colorado to attend college, and after earning a business degree from the University of Colorado, he worked in the banking business for fourteen years. But childhood memories and visits back to Texas to see his parents made him realize there was something missing in his life. "I missed my Texas barbecue, and I couldn't find quite what I was looking for here," he recalls. "So I taught myself how to make tasty meats."
He started out on a cheap, temperamental smoker purchased at a hardware store, and almost immediately nailed the flavor he was looking for, based on simple rubs, post oak for heat and smoke and quality meat. After entering several barbecue competitions (and even winning one), Prince decided it was time to go pro. "It's a now-or-never type deal," he explains. "I think about barbecue 24/7."
With a lease secured, Prince began putting together the other pieces, first procuring a Texas-made Oyler smoker that operates 100 percent on wood, with no gas or electric assistance. The beast measures ten feet long, eight feet wide and six feet tall, according to its new owner, and it will sit outside at the back of the restaurant, though doors built into the back wall of the kitchen will allow indoor access to the meats.
"We'll use post oak as a primary fuel source and primary flavor source," Prince notes. "The style is true to central Texas barbecue — I call it beef-forward barbecue."
So brisket will be the star, served butcher-counter style so that customers can see exactly what they're getting and can request specific pieces and sizes. Post Oak will also serve housemade pork sausage, pulled pork and spare ribs, with Texas-style sides (which Prince describes as family recipes with "a little bit of Mexican flare") and possibly a monthly whole-pig roast. Customers will be able to order meats plain or in sandwiches or corn-tortilla tacos. Loaded baked potatoes, a Texas smokehouse favorite, will also be on the menu. "They're the most gluttonous, awesome thing in the world," he states.
Part of Prince's ten years of self-taught barbecuing has been returning to Fort Worth to talk to the experts. He says Heim Barbecue in his home town is one of his favorites, and that "they've been helpful answering questions and letting me stop by."
Good Texas-style barbecue is equal parts simplicity and expertise, the new pit master notes. "Our rubs are nothing special — just salt, pepper and garlic. But I'm a firm believer that the harder it is to make barbecue, the better it turns out."
So you won't see any shortcuts when Post Oak fires up the smoker this summer. What you'll find is counter-service barbecue, a full-service bar (Prince doesn't plan on changing the original bar from Block & Larder much), and a whole lot of beef.