Ever since Denver Deep Dish stopped slinging pizza at the Bar Car at 819 Colorado Boulevard just over a year ago, the watering hole's tiny kitchen has been getting by with basic bar food. But now you can pick up a little something porky to go with your PBR: A new barbecue company called the Swine Emporium is smoking meats out back and serving pulled pork, pulled chicken, ribs and hot links inside.
Swine Emporium is the project of chef Norm Schryver, who also owns 9 Pan Catering. Schryver says the idea to serve barbecue was hatched "over beer in my front yard," where he and Bar Car managers Jeremy Matzke and Victor Muniz came up with the plan.
Schryver's background isn't rooted in barbecue, but he became obsessed with smoking after multiple trips to Kansas City several years ago to visit a friend. After working on his recipes at home, he contacted another friend, Eric Grainger, who built Swine Emporium's smoker in his garage.
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The chef's immersion in Kansas City barbecue influenced his style, so he sticks with a simple dry rub when smoking his meats and uses a variety of woods to add flavor, including hickory, apple and oak staves from used whiskey barrels."We let the meat shine through," he explains. Schryver also makes his own sauces: a regular and a spicy KC style, a Carolina-style mustard sauce, and a Memphis-style, vinegar-based sauce.
Meats are piled onto platters with choices of sides — mac and cheese, green-chile creamed corn (don't miss this one), slaw or potato salad — or served as sandwiches or tacos (more traditional fillings like carnitas and al pastor are also available). Schryver says he's hoping to add a second smoker so that he can expand the menu to include brisket and housemade bacon.
The Bar Car was opened six years ago by Leigh Jones (who also owns the Horseshoe Lounge and Inga's Alpine Tavern), but the space has a much longer history. Its previous incarnation was as the Recovery Room, which served medical professionals from the health-care facilities just across Colorado Boulevard (most of which have been demolished). Before that, there was a dive called the Boulevard that dated back to at least 1965.
Now you can grab a seat at the antique bar and order food from the Swine Emporium menu from 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 3 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday.