Mick Mullen's Irish Bar has everything you'd expect: pints of Guinness, shots of Jameson, music from Flogging Molly...and a big bowl of Creole gumbo loaded up with crawfish, andouille, shrimp, chicken and crab legs? While most Irish pubs serve grub at least marginally linked to the Emerald Isle — corned beef and cabbage, Irish nachos — Mick Mullen's skips the faux-Gaelic in favor of something very different: traditional Southern cooking from QueLisa's Southern Plates.
Mick Mullen's opened late last year in the former home of the Paradox Lounge, at 3467 South Broadway in Englewood. Owner Michael Fealey was content to run a booze-only establishment until the coronavirus hit and new regulations required bars to offer a food menu if they wanted to stay open. That's when one of his bartenders connected him with Darrellisa Reese and Questa Walker III of QueLisa's, and he arranged for them to serve dinner at the pub four nights a week.
Reese, the owner of QueLisa's, founded the business in 2019 as a commercial kitchen offering takeout and delivery service only, a prescient model that many cooks have adopted since COVID-related capacity restrictions made dine-in business far less profitable. According to Reese, the two Southerners — she was born and raised in Houston, and Walker is a native of New Orleans — had been "filling the belly and warming the soul of our neighbor," who happened to be a bartender at Mick Mullen's. Since June, they've been filling many other bellies at the pub, dishing up a menu that rotates weekly but often includes gumbo (which they call Swamp Juice), hot wings, baked mac and cheese, fried catfish, red beans and rice with ham hocks and sausage, Dirty South nachos with ground beef and crawfish tails, and other Gulf Coast fare. They even make a vegan gumbo.
The two met in Lake Charles, Louisiana, when Walker approached Reese at a gas station to ask for directions, which he didn't really need, and ended up getting her phone number. Both had grown up eating and cooking Southern dishes, which led to careers in food service. "I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother," Reese recalls. "I've been in the kitchen since I was seven. In the South, we learn to cook from our families, and the recipes have been handed down for generations."
Walker's family also taught him how to cook. "Southern food is about quality as well as quantity, so if you don't get both, it's not the real thing," he explains, adding that he spent years studying and learning more about cooking professionally while in prison for a non-violent drug conviction. Now eight years out of the system, Walker says his focus is on running a business and serving great food.
The couple moved to Colorado in 2018 and settled in Englewood. Both Walker and Reese worked for Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs while formulating a business plan for their commercial kitchen; they continued to work for Biker Jim's for several months after Reese launched QueLisa's. But they soon had enough business of their own — especially after they connected with Mick Mullen's. "They have embraced us with open arms," Reese says of the pub and its customers. "It's like family. To be honest, it's a match made in heaven."
Englewood as a whole has been very welcoming, Walker adds, explaining that he and Reese plan to expand the business there. "If we think about six months from now, our main goal is a brick-and-mortar right here in Englewood," he explains. "We realized that there's a big demand for authentic Southern food here."
And they think their restaurant would have a distinct advantage in meeting that demand because they know the ingredients and cooking techniques of Cajun, Creole and other Southern cooking so well. "Southern food has a specific taste because it's from a specific place, and you know it as soon as you taste it," Reese notes. "I call it love."
QueLisa's Southern Plates offers dinner from 5:30 or 6 p.m. to midnight every Thursday through Sunday at Mick Mullen's Irish Bar, 3467 South Broadway in Englewood. Reese and Walker also serve a complimentary brunch for members of the military on the last Friday of every month. Call 720-737-9308 or visit quelisas-eats.com for what's on the week's menu at Mick Mullen's, as well as information on catering and private events.
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