Oskar Blues debuts their new grill and brew location with an adjoining music venue, the Black Buzzard, on Friday, January 12, in downtown Denver. The placement in LoDo is approachable, right smack dab in the middle betwixt the dichotomous franchise row and clubby venues with a live/work building flying up directly across the street.
“The point has always been to be an everyday restaurant,” says Jason Rogers, restaurant director and partner of Oskar Blues Fooderies. “You can come in for birthdays, a weeknight, meetings or a date, so we’re falling right into that realm. But we’re also focused on doing elevated food.”
Matt Waterman, executive chef, comes up from Gulf Shores, Alabama, and is formerly responsible for shucking oysters at Jax Fish House in Denver in the early 2000’s. His background steers the direction of the menu and jives with Rogers’ style and love for Louisiana.
“To score Matt was pretty important in defining our identity and rounding out our two culinary sides,” says Rogers. “We dug in deep with the Creole, Cajun and Southern cuisine.”
The food dives into butchery, seafood and more traditional pub fare that Rogers says is about, “connecting the dots and creating a mash of creativity.”
“If you go all over the world you don’t see wings, smoked brisket, jambalaya, cheeseburgers, fresh cut fries, done well,” says Rogers. “That’s America. Red, white and blue. That’s us and that’s our Dale’s can.”
Dale Katechis, owner of Oskar Blues, is an alumni of Auburn University which further explains the company’s close affiliation with the cuisine and the decor. Fun signs adorn the walls and Mardi Gras beads are strewn about through every corner and crevice giving a nod to their community projects.
In Longmont, children and adults with mental disabilities are paid to put together festive necklaces known as “CAN bling” by punching a hole in empty cans and fastening on Mardi Gras beads. The garb is commonplace at Great American Beer Festival and other similar events.
“We’re creating a marketable thing and connecting to the community,” says Rogers. “We have thousands of pounds of beads, it’s part of our culture.”
The establishment has a hip, gritty vibe driven by the downstairs music venue which was once the well-known blues spot, Brendan’s Pub. Funky art instillations exhibit a ceiling full of gradient, neon lights that glow amongst suspended drum sticks and an extended light fixture made of cymbals embodies the soul of the space. The downstairs bar top is full of guitar picks that Rogers says categorically “had to be Fender” and a faint mural upstairs in the image of Jimi Hendrix gives a stained glass, electric church feel.
The Black Buzzard features events and entertainment seven nights a week with local and national touring acts, open mic nights, trivia with Geeks Who Drink, stand-up comedians and a blues jam. Their modern music acts range from banjoes without drum kits to alternative bands and scripted humor to follow on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Each floor houses the lineup of Oskar Blues craft brews with other guest taps to include sought after beers from Epic Brewing and Dogfish Head. Their new Moscow mule cans, which are comparable to a strong beer, have a refreshing, minty taste but we would probably throw a touch more booze on top and utilize them at home as a mixer. The drink that excites us more is their signature cocktail: The Black Buzzard, made with Ten Fidy imperial stout and bacon infused Maker’s Mark.
Oskar Blues releases their Deviant Dales IPA at end of January and currently has on a barrel aged Ten Fidy that weighs in at 12.9 percent ABV. Right now you can also try their seasonal Velvet Elvis, a sessionable smooth drinking stout.
Beyond the historical sentiment of the building and rock n’ roll undertones Rogers says that the Black Buzzard is special because, “it’s a whole new landscape with new ideas and new flavors inspired by the umami of things.”
“We just look at it like Cajun but that’s not what we are,” says Rogers. “It’s the Americana effect. A damn good burger, damn good nachos, we’re still a beer bar.”