Openings and Closings

Soi Kowboi Opens at Gold Point Serving Burgers and Spam Alongside Oysters and Caviar

Soi Kowboi's Smasharoonie burger.
Soi Kowboi's Smasharoonie burger. Andrew Miller
"Food doesn't have to be so fucking serious," says Blake Blacksberg, whose pop-up Soi Kowboi has now found a permanent home at the Gold Point, the bar at 3126 Larimer Street. "Most of my background is in fine dining, and I got really over that hoity-toity bullshit."

Over his thirteen-year-long career, Blacksberg has cooked all over, from San Diego and Cincinnati to Colombia, Cambodia and Thailand. He was living in Austin when the pandemic hit and spent the first seven months after that traveling and working on various farms, but he knew he was ready for a permanent move.

He was familiar with Denver from regularly traveling to see shows at Red Rocks, and he loved the city, so about a year ago, he officially relocated; most recently, he was working at Cart-Driver. But now he's striking out on his own. After a planned trip to Thailand for a training class was canceled during the Omicron surge, Blacksberg decided to sell his car, buy a flat-top and start slinging his own food. His first pop-up, at the Wild in February, was a hit. "I was expecting like twenty people, and we had something like 150 or 200 show up," he recalls.

After several more successful pop-ups, Blacksberg was connected to the owners of Gold Point through a friend — the owners had tried his food and were already fans. "I genuinely think it's a match made in heaven," Blacksberg says of the partnership. "We solidified our first meeting with a shot of Malört."

The pop-ups launched under the name Farang (a Thai term for foreigners), but Blacksberg recently made the switch to Soi Kowboi, the name of a go-go bar-lined street in Bangkok, when he found out that another chef in town was using Farang for his own pop-up series.
click to enlarge Blake Blacksberg wants to have fun with food. - ANDREW MILLER
Blake Blacksberg wants to have fun with food.
Andrew Miller
While the name changed, the concept hasn't. "My goal with this is that I want to implement my Southeast Asian experience and all of those flavor profiles onto white-trash vessels," he explains. That means items like the Spamela Anderson, Spam sliders made with kimchi aioli, and the namesake dish, a chicken sandwich dubbed the Soi Kowboi. "It's a curry brined chicken with som tam (green papaya salad) over the top and Thai basil ranch. It looks like your everyday Western chicken bacon ranch, but you taste it, and it tastes like Thailand," he describes.

The plan is to do two menus at Gold Point. During the week, there will be a selection of small plates inside, like mapo tofu chili dogs and Funyun dip with trout roe over the top, along with splurge items like Beausoleil oysters and caviar. "It's the shit I want to eat," Blacksberg notes. "It's very eclectic, very highbrow, lowbrow." On weekends he'll be doing burgers, sliders and the chicken sandwich on the patio, weather permitting.

He also plans to stay open late and hopes to create a place where those working at nearby restaurants can stop in after a shift for a meal and a drink. Eventually there will be a smash burger, Tivoli beer and shot of Fernet combo available from midnight to 1 a.m.

But to start, Soi Kowboi will be open Wednesday through Sunday from 4 to 11 p.m. as Blacksberg staffs up, which he's doing with several goals in mind. "I want this to be a worker-run business," he explains. "So we're offering everyone profit-sharing, we're paying everyone the same with tip pool, offering all the benefits we can — mental health resources, addiction resources. I really just want it to be as worker-oriented as possible."

Blacksberg and Soi Kowboi represent the latest in a trend: pandemic-era startups that are now growing into more permanent fixtures on the food scene and upping the culinary quality while prioritizing fun and community. "Everybody helps everybody," he says of Denver's growing pop-up scene. "Everybody is really good friends, and we all support each other and want to see everybody succeed and be the new kids on the block." 
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Molly Martin is the Westword Food & Drink editor. She’s been writing about the dining scene in Denver since 2013, and was eating her way around the city long before that. She enjoys long walks to the nearest burrito joint and nights spent sipping cocktails on Colfax.
Contact: Molly Martin