A rodeo cowboy cooks up good grub in Silt
Citizen Telegram Contributor
SILT – Like the trail cowboys of the Old West who retired to the chuck wagon when their bodies wore out, rodeo cowboy Joe Whitman retired to the barbecue.
In this case, Cowboy Joe’s & The BBQ Bandits in Silt, where Whitman cooks up a wide variety of lunch and dinner menu items, including smoked beef brisket, pork, chicken, ribs, cowboy-style burgers, Italian sausage, bratwurst, corned beef, steak, stuffed potatoes and more. Dessert items include freshly-made apple, cherry and blackberry pie, cheese cake or peach cobbler.
“Ninety five percent of everything we make is from scratch,” said Whitman, a Silt native and partner in the business with his fiancée, Briana Bingham. “We even make the noodles for our chicken noodle soup.”
The “Cowboy” in Cowboy Joe’s comes naturally for Whitman, since he was one most of his life. Now 35, Whitman rode bulls on the rodeo circuit until he was 32. He was good at his trade, and at one time was on the Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association, Pro Bull Riders Association and Colorado Pro Rodeo Association circuits at the same time. However, that much riding eventually took a toll on his body.
While recovering from a back injury when a bull landed on top of him, Whitman was undergoing physical therapy in Denver and staying at an uncle’s home. Knowing that Whitman’s bull riding career was about over, his uncle one day asked him “what’s next?” and suggested he would be a good chef.
Whitman graduated from culinary school in 2008 and launched a catering business. At the same time, he also traveled throughout Colorado, entering barbecue competitions. Along the way, Whitman met Bingham.
To make good barbecue, Whitman stresses the meat must be “slow smoked.” For brisket, that means 12 to 14 hours in the smoker. But, well smoked meat is only half of the taste. The other half is the sauce, which is also made from scratch. Aside from the standard sweet and spicy sauce normally found at most barbecue restaurants, Whitman likes to offer specialties such as strawberry jalapeño and apple flavors “when apples are in season.”
“We’re always trying new things,” he said.
Bingham, 32, was born in Paonia and raised in Seattle, Wash. Home is where the heart is, and Bingham said she always knew she wanted to return to Colorado’s Western Slope.
“This is where I wanted to settle and raise a family,” she said. “Seattle was too much of a city.”
Like many couples of the modern age, Whitman and Bingham met online. At first, she admits she wanted nothing to do with Whitman, but Bingham finally went out with him. Now, the couple plans to tie the knot on July 19. Neither Bingham nor Whitman have been married before.
“We both waited for the right person and it was worth it,” she said.
They literally opened the restaurant on a wing and a prayer in September 2013.
“We had no printed menus, a credit card machine, nothing,” said Bingham.
The couple jumped at the chance to open Cowboy Joe’s when they heard the building, just west of the Silt roundabout, was available. It was set up for their specialty, since it once was the home of the Red Brick Bar-B-Q. They spent two months remodeling the building before they opened the doors, adding new carpet and paint and making the atmosphere more welcoming.
Since then, they have added more of the necessities, paying for needed items as the money came in. One of the things still on their wish list is a nice sign. Right now, a banner hangs out front and it lists their business and catering service.
“People think it’s a catering service and it’s really a restaurant,” said Bingham.
Cowboy Joe’s & The BBQ Bandits, 820 Main St., is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call 876-7102.
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