"Is the food good?" That's what the guy who was hanging the signage for Russell's Smoke House, Frank Bonanno's new restaurant in Larimer Square, wanted to know earlier today.
He, along with everyone else who's been anticipating the opening of the smoke house, can find out tonight, when Russell's, located just to the right of the inside entryway of Wednesday's Pie, Bonanno's diminutive pie hideout, and just before the swinging doors that lead to Green Russell, Bonanno's speakeasy, unlocks its doors at 6 p.m.
"We got the go-ahead to open just after noon today, and we're having a super-soft opening tonight" says Bonanno, who was in the kitchen smoking ribs and prime rib when I stopped by earlier today. "We're exhausted, but I'm really psyched about opening and how the food is looking," he adds, noting that the staff held practice runs three weeks ago, when the smoke house was originally slated to open. "Everything," he says, "looks great."
The smokehouse, which is Bonanno's fourth venture on Larimer Square, and the eighth restaurant in his ever-growing empire, bends toward "Colorado old-school cooking -- almost chuck-wagon-style," says Bonanno, who's smoking his meats in the basement, using two state-of-the-art Southern Pride smokers, fueled by hickory wood. "It's the most expensive kitchen equipment we've ever bought, but these are perfect, and they made perfect sense for us, since we obviously can't have a pit," explains Bonanno. Bonanno is cooking alongside chefs Matt Lewis, the former sous chef at Row 14 and Taylor Drew, who's been with Bonanno, most recently at Mizuna, for the past three years. Their menu -- pork and beef ribs, fried chicken, blackened catfish, prime rib, wild Alaskan salmon, lobster rolls, brisket and a slew of sides, including macaroni and cheese, collard greens with bacon and spoon bread -- is bolstered by pie (naturally), several cocktails, tap and bottled beers (most of them craft beers) and wines on tap and by the bottle.
The smoke house's hours are nightly from 6 p.m. until close -- or, says Bonanno, until the food runs out.
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