I like BBQ. A lot. And there is (or was) a food desert of the good stuff. It seems puzzling to me that a state many call a ‘Cow Town’ has (had) so few smoked meat joints. Sure, we can take our pick from many high-end steak restaurants, and even a few low-end establishments; but some legit ‘Q’? That takes some mining.
There’s my go-to Piggin’ Out Bar-B-Que – It’s great BBQ, and it’s close to my home and I like Zach and his crew. I was even close to having a sandwich named after me – so that helps. And my friend introduced me to Wayne’s Smoke Shack. Pure as gold, Texas BBQ. We of course, have our Moe’s, and Brother’s BBQ – but these seem to make a product that may ease my ache for the stuff – much like a pint of 100 proof peppermint schnapps eases a broke af alcoholic’s pangs – but doesn’t satisfy as much as a weekend of great sex does. And that’s what I’m looking for.
BBQ is an event. It’s not like you can just happen in on a place and decide to eat BBQ. You SEEK BBQ. It requires strategy. You confer and conspire with other Q lovers. You set meetings, and agendas are drawn up. BBQ eating requires well thought out plans. What time to arrive? Planning. What are you getting? Planning. Are we getting a full Lb., or do we need leftovers? Planning. BBQ is not to be fucked with – It requires thoughtful care and respect to consume it.
One guy in town does in fact enlist those two requirements: Thoughtful Care & Respect. Jared Leonard is a dude from the south – But more importantly – He’s a dude that smoked meat in one of BBQ’s holy places – Chicago. And he did it better than most in his city. Chicago is in my blood too. My father is from Chicago. It’s a tough town. It’s also a cow town. It’s also a jazz town – much like Denver was.
Jared has restaurants. Successful restaurants. But, I’m here to talk to you about AJ’s Pit BBQ. Once upon a time ago, there was a restaurant called, BBQ Supply Company. Fitting as it was in Chicago; Jared and his crew did in fact supply BBQ supplies – They supplied knowledge. Jared would hold some of Chicago’s best attended BBQ symposiums. Hundreds of smoked stained home cooks and professionals would sit and listen intently to the “Gospel of ‘Q’ According to Jared”, and it won him disciples from around the world. Naturally, business thrived. But as every entrepreneur does – we see an opportunity and pull up stakes and move on to the next challenge.
I was invited to see first hand what Jared had conceived – The rebranding of BBQ Supply Company to AJ’s Pit BBQ – named after his wife and him, and also his son. That’s why I like Jared. He knows what matters: Care and respect.
Needless to say, I ate the hell out of everything he put in front of me. Ever had a beef rib? I did. And I’m a better person for it. Ever had smoked Kettle chips? Not like, here’s a dusting of smoked spice – but actually throwing kettle chips in the smoker, smoked kettle chips? I did. And I shook my head in disbelief and laughed at the thought of such a notion. Jared doesn’t mess around with banana pudding either…I won’t go into too much detail, but if you find yourself slathering it all over your face and running it through your hair – I won’t be surprised. Jared and his meat require no sauces – as great BBQ would remind you – but his Carolina, Sweet & Spicy and Jalapeno are drinkable. And AJ’s conveniently sets them on the table in neat little sauce bottles that tempt you to take a pull.
Collards, truffle mac-n-cheese, Wagyu pastrami, spicy sausages made from a 100 year-old recipe sourced from a family in Texas, Kurobuta pork, Red Bird Farm’s chicken, all oak smoked in a 1,000-gallon Camelback smoker. Also, keep a look out for Jared’s Budlong Hot Chicken to make an appearance.
The ambiance is perfect too. Jared spins vinyl records through big Peavy speakers that look like something that Van Halen left behind if they used his space to rehearse in. It looks like an authentic BBQ joint, because it is. All tucked away in a neighborhood that needed great BBQ. Our neighborhood we call, Denver.