In January 2016, Alex Barbosa began the first iteration of Barbosa’s Barbeque in Baton Rouge. That August — a mere four days after quitting his comfortable job as a physical therapy technician to pursue the project full-time — the historic flood that devastated large swathes of the Louisiana capital struck. He adapted, and continued perfecting his Texas-style cue for over two successful years before moving to Denver in December 2019. In March 2020, he reopened the business here as the Coronavirus pandemic struck the US. Now operating out of a trailer, he currently serves three different menus for curbside pickup during a few short windows across the week. No stranger to having to make quick adjustments, Barbosa has been rolling with the punches, bringing to the city an exciting menu even in trying times.
Barbosa started making barbecue regularly in 2015 after realizing there were no good Texas-style offerings to be found in Baton Rouge. “Eating barbecue was just part of growing up,” grinned the chef. After becoming a staple at house parties and backyard cookouts he decided to give it a go professionally, beginning with a brewery circuit and a series of Sunday night popups at Overpass Merchant.
After the flood hit, Barbosa sprang into action. “There was no time to panic. Once it flooded people needed hot meals,” he said. The very next day the new business was serving mostly donated meat at a fundraiser, a pattern that would continue until things settled into some kind of normalcy. “People weren’t doing anything, they were helping each other bust out walls and tear out floors,” remembered the pitmaster of the devastation and the incredible community response. “Then football season kicks and things slowly start getting back to normal. LSU is a huge economic engine,” he continued. After several months of helping his community with hot meals and donated time, Barbosa started doing tailgates. Things gradually returned to business as usual.
After moving to Denver, Barbosa, a lifelong musician, began playing mandolin and lead guitar with local bluegrass outfit Shad Buxman and the Graveyard Shift. Most of January was spent rehearsing and recording an album. In February he bought the trailer and built it out himself. Barbosa’s has served cue at the Baton Rouge Blues Fest from 2016-2019 and Telluride’s Ride Fest in 2018. In hopes of helping fellow musicians, Barbosa is offering 20% off of meals for anyone in the music industry by using the code MUSICSAVES.
The three menus — currently being served outside of Banded Oak Brewery — include a selection of classic cue during lunch on Saturday, Vietnamese dinner offerings on Sunday and a Tex-Mex dinner on Tuesday. “How do we do anything with a barbecue base?” is the first question Barbosa asks when creating the offshoot lists. Standards like the USDA Prime beef brisket ($23) — smoked over either oak or pecan — arrive as tender as should be expected from a Texas native. The show-stealing Creole smashed potatoes ($8) — with horseradish, smoked andouille sausage, sour cream, creole mustard, salt and pepper — do the unthinkable, nearly upstaging their meat counterparts. The Saturday family meal ($49.99) comes with 1 1/2 lbs of either pork shoulder, turkey breast, chopped chicken or brisket, a pint of pickled red onion slaw, a pint of smashed potatoes, four large sandwich buns, a cup of house barbecue sauce, pickles and four salted chocolate chip cookies. Barbosa’s girlfriend and unofficial CEO Cay Wittenberg is in charge of the desserts, with the Vietnamese iced coffee cheesecake ($7) — a Sunday exclusive — stealing the show.
Opening during the outbreak has forced the chef to find creative alternatives. “Catering is out the door, festivals are out the door, packed breweries are out the door,” he said. Initially hoping that the trailer would serve primarily as the marketing arm for a more robust catering business, Barbosa is confident that the cue will endear itself to customers in time for things to pick up. In order to minimize interaction, food will only be available through online pre-orders.
Barbosa’s Barbecue will be serving to-go orders outside of Banded Oak Brewery at 470 Broadway, Denver. It will be open Saturday 12 – 3 p.m., and Sunday and Tuesday 4 – 7 p.m.
All photography by Adrienne Thomas.