Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs: Jim Pittenger on Jensen Cummings, Frank Bonanno and Others
With a made-for-TV backstory (he grew up in Alaska and was once a repo man), a larger-than-life personality and a knack for the wacky, Jim Pittenger was bound to build a cult following on the back of a hot-dog cart. Now he has two, as well as a thriving brick-and-mortar joint in Ballpark, all of which have earned him coverage by Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern and countless other media figures over the years. Yet amid all the attention, he’s never himself lost focus on the sausages that generated it. From reindeer and rattlesnake to elk and boar, toppings like Malaysian curry jam and cactus or spinach and Parmesan, and specials inspired by beef Wellington or Thanksgiving turducken, Pittenger’s creations are simply inimitable, and everyone knows it.
In his own words: “There’s so much cool stuff going on Old Major; I just love Justin Brunson and what he’s doing. Everything’s from scratch and it’s all so good. I feel the same about Lon Symensma at ChoLon; his food is so technically correct. There may be some dishes that aren’t my cup of tea, but whatever he makes, he makes it better than anyone else - and it’s so pretty too.
I fell in love with Jensen Cummings [of Slotted Spoon Meatball Eatery, pictured below] the last year he was at Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar, during Restaurant Week. Restaurant owners kinda love Restaurant Week; chefs kinda hate it. But he was so brilliant - he did an Americana-style menu, but with proteins that nobody was used to: alligator baby-back ribs, buffalo-fried frog’s legs, stuff like that. People had no idea what they were in for; he was going to challenge them, and I just love that kind of mentality.
Then there’s Aaron Wagner of Elevation Gourmet; sure, it’s just ketchup he’s making, but he’s doing such a great grassroots campaign that we’re all going to be flying to Paris on the Elevation jet someday soon. Finally, Frank Bonanno just keeps coming with up new restaurants, and somehow he’s got different concepts for each of them. Of Denver’s iconic chefs, he’s up there.”
Two to try: Biker Jim's pheasant Cordon Bleu, ChoLon's signature Kaya toast with coconut jam and egg cloud
Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs: 2148 Larimer St.; 720-746-9355
ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro: 1555 Blake St., Suite 101; 303-353-5223