The Bite

Smotherly love: Chris and Nick O'Sullivan, the English brothers behind Brothers BBQ, have been making some improvements at their second location, which opened last year at 568 Washington Street. When neighbors fussed about the smoke and smells emanating from the building, a former gas stop/convenience store, they put in a new hood. (Don't forget, this is the same neighborhood that put the brakes on the nearby Fire House Car Wash.) Then, when the 'cue crowds kept coming, they put up a groovy, metal-rimmed patio with big beer-advertising umbrellas to accommodate the overflow business. As you zip past on Sixth Avenue, the outdoor dining section looks a little like the new stadium.

And I will be zipping past -- straight to the original Brothers location, at 6499 Leetsdale Drive -- if the O'Sullivans don't start paying more attention to what's happening inside their second barbecue joint. During a half-dozen recent visits -- okay, maybe I need an intervention, but the pork sandwich with Brothers' sweet, smoky, Kansas City-style sauce is truly addictive -- we had to wait ridiculous amounts of time for our food, which gave me plenty of opportunity to notice that the place was so filthy it made the average gas-station restroom look like an operating room. All of the tables were sticky, there was grime on the floor, we could barely see out of the windows, the bathroom resembled a war zone -- and we could only imagine what the kitchen looked like (though we tried hard not to). Since we always get our Brothers to go, at least we didn't have to eat at those tables, but when I sat down in a chair, I got some kind of black gunk on my shorts, and once, when I made the mistake of leaning against the counter, I wound up with an elbow so covered with sauce that I could have put it in a bun and been out of there.

Instead, we had to wait that time, and every other time, at least half an hour to get our food -- despite the fact that there were never more than two people ahead of us. And many employees seemed to be milling around -- some carrying mops to clean God knows what, some just looking around with quizzical expressions on their faces. It's not like they were actually cooking most of the food: The baked beans, potato salad, barbecue sauce and other items are all made ahead of time and simply need to be packaged up and shoved into a to-go bag. At the very most, someone needs to put the already-smoked meats on a grill to heat them up, but I doubt even that gets done.

At least the original location gets the food out quickly. So what gives at the new spot?

Chris O'Sullivan, who traveled around the country with Nick studying barbecue before they finally landed in Denver and opened Brothers, says he was unaware of any problems at the Washington address, but he promises to get right on it. "That's not cool," he says. "I'll talk to my brother, and I promise it won't happen again."

Gonna hold ya to that, bro.

Just across the street, at 630 East Sixth Avenue, the space that had been the notoriously cranky Newsstand Cafe for eight years has been leased again. After the Newsstand left, the place became Finster Bros. Sixth Avenue Cafe for a year and then, very briefly, Vicious Rumors. Now it will be called Pablo's on Sixth Avenue, according to Craig Conner, who opened his first Pablo's back in 1995 at 1060 14th Street, where it quickly became a regular stop for theatergoers.

Although the new Pablo's won't have magazines, like the original it will offer soup and empanadas, and it may even serve fresh-roasted coffee. "We're working on getting a roaster," says Conner, "but that probably won't happen until a few months after we open." The target date for that is October 1.

In the meantime, if you're looking for a good, cheap sandwich, check out Mr. Lucky's Sandwiches -- also across the street from Brothers BBQ, at 711 East Sixth Avenue. While the sandwiches aren't super-huge, they're more than adequate, and the meats are fresh. I had an excellent chicken salad with a creamy dressing and a good tarragon sweetness for $3.50; throw in a small Coke, a bag of chips and a tip, and you can still get out of there for $6.50, easy. I've never spotted more than one employee there, though, which means you'll have a wait if more than two people are in line.

But, hey, at least it's clean.


While we're in the neighborhood: Los Troncos (730 East Seventh Avenue), whose patio abuts Brothers', seems to have overcome that little liquor-license snafu that resulted after new owner Jorge E. Ramirez neglected to reapply for a license in his own name (but then, he was in good company, since the concessionaire at the Pepsi Center made the same mistake -- see The Bite, July 26). When the crowds at the nearby Benny's Restaurant y Cantina (301 East Seventh Avenue) spill out onto the sidewalk, as they did after Sunday's AIDS Walk, Los Troncos is a good alternative. An order of carne adobada tacos brought a huge helping of just-grilled pork, and the margaritas tasted even better when you considered their recently endangered status.


More cheap eats: The homegrown Butcher Block chain of restaurants just lost another link. Years ago, former manager Jim Stennes took over one of the greasy-spoon Butcher Blocks and turned it into the Southside Cafe (560 South Broadway), which today is one of my favorite breakfast joints. Now the Butcher Block at 2470 Broadway has changed its name to the Cutthroat Cafe. The cut-rate prices and same diner-style fare remain, however.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kyle Wagner
Contact: Kyle Wagner