Television food star Mike Johnson checks out food scene in 2 small towns in Northwest Colorado

John F. Russell
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Mike Johnson has appeared on the Food Network shows “Beat Bobby Flay” and “BBQ, Brews & Que,” as well as “BBQ Pitmasters” on Destination America. He's visiting two small towns in Northwest Colorado this week.
Brian Ray/Courtesy photo

Mike Johnson — who has built his own restaurant empire with Sugarfire Smoke House and bested food icon Bobby Flay on national television — is coming to Northwest Colorado this week to see what Oak Creek and Hayden have to offer.

“He follows us on social and stuff like that, so we talk a lot and he’s a bit of a mentor for me,” said Anthony Franciosi, co-owner of Franciosi Brothers Pizza. “He’s coming out for a couple days, and we’re going do the ‘World’s Best Burger’ at the Hayden location, and we’re going to do Sugarfire Smoke House pulled pork pizza in Oak Creek.”

Franciosi is an Oak Creek entrepreneur who opened Franciosi Brothers Pizza with his brother in Oak Creek in June 2020 and another location in Hayden in 2022, and he holds the keys to the Antlers Café and Bar in Yampa. Franciosi met Johnson when he was on vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Johnson has appeared on the Food Network shows “Beat Bobby Flay” and “BBQ, Brews & Que,” as well as “BBQ Pitmasters” on Destination America. Johnson also owns Sugarfire Smoke House (which has 10 locations in Missouri, one in Illinois, one in Iowa and one in Westminster) as well as Hi-Pointe Drive-In.

Sugarfire Smoke House is known for succulent brisket, pulled pork, ribs, signature sandwiches and over-the-top specials, while Hi-Pointe Drive-In has been acclaimed as one of St. Louis’ best new restaurants and received national attention for its smash patty burgers.

Johnson stepped into the national spotlight after beating Bobby Flay on the Food Network in season 10 of “Beat Bobby Flay” and won the world’s best burger contest in Dallas in 2021.

Johnson is in Routt County this week to learn a little about what it takes to make a great pizza.

“He’s going to be bringing some brisket from Sugarfire Smoke House in Denver, and some of his proprietary barbecue sauce,” Franciosi said. “We’re going to do a brisket barbecue pizza special, and then we’re going to do the ‘World’s Best Burger.'”

Franciosi said his restaurant in Hayden is making the “World’s Best Burger” this week’s special, and Johnson plans to visit with Sean Yeats to learn about what the chef creates in the Franciosi Brothers’ pizza ovens.

“Mike’s going to visit up there with our chef, Sean Yeats,” Franciosi said. “He’s really here to learn a little bit about how we make pizza.”

Franciosi said Johnson will be at both restaurants at some point Wednesday, and Johnson is also expected to make a stop at the Oak Creek Tavern. Things should ramp up starting at 5 p.m. with Eric Delaney taking the stage at Franciosi Brothers later in the evening.

“I’m really excited that he’s going to come and just be around our people,” Franciosi said. “He has that television personality for sure, and he is pretty charismatic guy.”

This story is from

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.