Can you recall experiences at barbecue events or a barbecue joint that made you feel like you were in barbecue heaven?
They are moments when you forget all your troubles, kick back, have fun, eat fantastic barbecue and embrace the joys of being alive.
One of those moments happened to me a couple of years ago in Boulder, Colorado. My wife, Gretchen, and I were on a road trip with two good friends — Linda and Gloria — when my barbecue radar sighted a small building with a parking lot and picnic table on the corner of 20th Street and Arapahoe Avenue.
The yellow plastic sign declared in bold black letters: Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que.
“There’s Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que!” I exclaimed. “Linda, would you please turn around and stop there?”
Linda was pleased to oblige. Gretchen and Gloria said it was fine with them.
I have been a fan of Daddy Bruce since 1984, when Daddy Bruce Sr. entered his sauce the first year of the Diddy-Wa-Diddy National Barbecue Sauce Contest. Daddy Bruce was famous for his barbecue joint, and for serving free Thanksgiving dinners on Thanksgiving Day.
I never met him, but his generosity and contributions to the community made him a hero to me. And I loved his sauce. It was dark and vinegary with secret seasonings which made a perfect complement to barbecue meat. I haven’t tasted that exact sauce again since 1984, even in Boulder where 85 year old Bruce Randolph Jr. carried on his father’s legacy.
After meeting Bruce Jr., we ordered brisket, ribs, slaw and beans for a snack. The chopped brisket was smoky, tender and heavily sauced with an orange-colored vinegar base sauce. The crunchy sour slaw was good, but the beans and ribs were my favorite — a perfect combination of tender smoky ribs with beans that were a notch above most other barbecue beans I’ve tasted.
When we finished eating, I went inside the small building that housed Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que to tell Bruce Jr. we loved his barbecue and appreciated his hospitality. I noticed a piano and asked about it. He told me he gives piano lessons and that he could teach me to play in ten minutes. Then he proceeded to teach me. His teaching method is simple and effective. In only a few minutes he had me channeling my inner Scott Joplin!
Chef Paul Kirk and I are working on the 2nd edition of “America’s Best BBQ” restaurants. We had planned to add Daddy Bruce’s in Boulder to our “Places we Like to Visit” section.
To my surprise and regret I recently discovered that Bruce Jr. sold the property and closed the restaurant in December 2012. Maybe we should start a “We wish you could have been there” section. Daddy Bruce’s Bar-B-Que was a piece of Barbecue Heaven.
Ardie Davis is an iconic figure in the barbecue community. He founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS’s Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on numerous food shows and writes for a variety of barbecue-related publications. He is also the author of a number of barbecue books, His most recent release book is “America’s Best BBQ Homestyle: What Champions Cook in Their Own Backyards.”