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New restaurant openings take place every week. As Denver’s culinary scene continues to grow after the pandemic, its national recognition as a food town is getting back on track. In this special edition of our First Look series, we’re checking out the latest big name show to put Denver on the must-see city list: Fresh, Fried & Crispy.
What: Fresh, Fried & Crispy, Season 1, Episode 6 Episode
When: The series debuted on June 9th
What We Saw: On a wave of notoriety that began in 2012 with a viral YouTube review of Five Guys, energetic host Daymon Scott “Daym” Patterson tours the country in search of all that is fried. Episode six of the first season takes Patterson to Denver, where he visited four restaurants in the summer of 2020.
Back then, restaurants were only 25 percent full, which made it easy to close for the day of shooting, explains “Biker Jim” Pittenger, whose biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs at 2148 Larimer Street was one of the featured locations. “We were allowed six people in the restaurant [as camera-ready ‘guests’] while filming, “says Pittenger,” and everyone there got an instant COVID test. “
Biker Jim is no stranger to television films. His exotic sausage restaurant first appeared on the small screen in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations in 2010 and has since been a frequent stop for food shows visiting Mile High. But “Netflix definitely has a big budget,” he notes, which made the filming process smooth and smooth. “Also, Daym was a great time,” he adds. “This guy’s a riot and he’s breaking the fourth wall all the time.”
Adobo’s green chilli fries are featured in the series.
In contrast, a television shoot for Blaine Baggao, who owns the Adobo food truck and the First Draft stationary location at 1309 26th Street, which he opened in 2020, was completely new. “The first couple of interactions were kind of weird,” he says, “but I can’t stress enough how impressed I was with the production team.”
Not only did the crew members help Baggao feel comfortable on screen, they also jumped into creative mode when Baggao mentioned the team helping him roll his fried egg roles. The production quickly branded the “egg roll team” and created t-shirts that Baggao and his team still wear today. “I just mentioned it and they just walked with it,” he says. “They were just downstairs, every one of them.”
What does it mean for a restaurant to be featured in a Netflix food series? “We’re probably twice as busy,” explains Baggao, “and about 80 percent of the people who walk through the door mention they saw us on the show. I’ve had people asking for selfies but haven’t yet Autographs, “he adds, laughing.
Also highlighted in the episode: the iconic Denver restaurant Buckhorn Exchange on 1000 Osage Street, which served its most famous menu item (tip: host Daym went in with the ruse that this deep-fried product came from the sea … anyway) and Westminster Seafood spot Big Mac & Little Lu’s.
What surprised us: two things.
First, Big Mac & Little Lu’s, which opened at 2851 West 120th Avenue in Westminster in 2013. That year Gretchen Kurtz checked out the seafood restaurant and found that she had found a new favorite there: pork fish. The restaurant hasn’t received much media attention since then, but now the same hogfish is highlighted by Fresh, Fried & Crispy. And it looks good “daym”. If Daym’s reaction – which you must see below – is any clue, we should all head to this under-the-radar place ASAP to try her signature dish and long-running bestseller: almond crust pork fish.
Second, the Baggao backstory. Adobo won our Best of Denver Award in 2019 for the best food truck with Baggao’s ability to combine new Mexican and Filipino influences into super delicious food. But in Fresh, Fried & Crispy, Baggao talks about how a near-death experience changed his life.
With an open stationary location, the Adobo Food Truck is now used for private and business events.
“I was really good at finance,” he says. “I thought I was going to be a millionaire in three years.” Raised by a single mother, Baggao motivated a career that would help him be financially stable, but when his mother died he took a break from school and worked in the culinary world. Encouraged by a few supportive mentors at Jill’s Restaurant at the St Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder, Baggao eventually returned to school, graduated and embarked on a lucrative career in finance. “But I was really unhappy,” he says.
Then, in 2012, Baggao had a head-on collision with the motorcycle. “I woke up in the hospital three days later and was basically a drooling, repetitive voice box,” he says. “It took everything from me. I lost all of what I was.” Baggao was no longer able to do the math he was used to, and with new physical limitations, Baggao began to rethink his life.
Four years later, he introduced the Adobo Food Truck, a concept he started to honor his mother and build a life that would allow him to spend more time with his daughter, who currently lives out of state. “I work harder than everyone else because I do it for them,” he explains.
Baggao still has some more big projects on the horizon in 2021, but right now you can find it on 26th and Larimer Streets, serving up spring rolls and more – something to try on your own deep fried tour of Denver.
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Molly Martin is the editor of Westword Food & Drink. She has been writing about the Denver dining scene since 2013 and has eaten her way around town long before that, enjoying long walks to the nearest burrito place and spending the nights with cocktails on Colfax.