Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs: Sausages and Skulls in Denver

Sausage Denver

Allison and I drove from Aspen to Denver International Airport, and along the way, we had time for one meal in or around Denver. But what would it be? The Oven, a pizza place in suburban Denver? The Buckhorn Exchange, a Denver institution known for game dishes? Both were tempting, but neither could match the pull of reindoor sausage from Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. As soon as we hit Denver’s LoDo (Lower Downtown) and spotted Jim Pittenger’s cart, with twin rainbow umbrellas and the sausage-and-skull logo, I knew we made the right choice.

According to his website, Biker Jim moved to Boulder from Alaska in 1987, repo’ing cars and studying journalism at the University of Colorado. He got “a bit burned out getting up at 2 every morning and driving 1500 miles a week.” He turned to an old Alaskan friend. According to Jim, “The sausage career started because of a friend of mine… His name is M.A. and he has been slinging dogs for 15 years… He gave me a little training ( 3 days at weenie U) and sent me on my way.”

Biker Jim arrived at Skyline Park through a combination of good timing and good fortune. According to Jim, “I bought my cart from a guy in Boise. And when I got back, then I started trying to find a spot to work. Well, I didn’t know that in order to get a right of way permit, my cart couldn’t be more than 18 square ft. Basically 6’X3’…I started freaking out a little and called Public Works trying to find a way around this little rule. The guy I spoke with…heard they had just finished remodeling Skyline Park and were looking for vendors. He then 3 way called me into the woman at Parks and Rec permitting…and tada! Had I called him 2 minutes earlier I probably would have gotten a secretary that would have told me I was out of luck. But no, I am a luck sumbitch.”

I was a little surprised to hear from a female employee that Biker Jim doesn’t make his own sausages, but he does have a group of “sausage senseis.” Biker Jim said, “I get my reindeer shipped down from Anchorage. And the rest comes from a couple of local guys.”

On Wednesdays, things get especially exotic. Biker Jim serves sausages made from yak and pheasant. Jim said, “I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for new fun sausages. Lately I’ve been using some yak I get from a guy out of Nebraska. He’s got some pretty fun recipes, and yak is just damn fine meat.” I wish I knew just how fine.

Biker Jim slices quarter-pound sausages down the middle and grills to order.

Our first selection: elk jalapeno cheddar sausage, “the biggest seller on the cart,” “hunted in Colorado and prepared locally, diced with jalapenos and cheddar cheese” ($3.75). Grilled onions made sense to add, but I was puzzled by the inclusion of cream cheese, until I tasted it. According to Biker Jim, “The cream cheese thing is actually a Seattle thing. They’ve been doing that for a while. I bought my cart from that guy in Boise, and he had this cream cheese caulking gun. It has proven to be quite popular. Especially good on the spicier things…I think anyway.” I agree, Jim. The cream cheese helped counterbalance the jalapeno’s fire.

Alaskan reindeer wasn’t gamy in the least.

Southwest buffalo utilized “locally raised buffalo meat spiced with green chili, chipotle peppers, a little cumin and other spices.” It was the spiciest of our three sausages, with a winning bite.

The condiment station at the end of the cart included horseradish, relish, shredded Cheddar and sliced jalapenos. Not that the sausages needed any additives.

I spotted this herd of “buffalo” along 16th Street, no doubt mourning the loss of their brethren. If it’s any consolation, Jim’s buffalo sausages proved they didn’t die in vein.

Biker Jim is a daily fixture at his sausage cart, but when we visited, he was across the way, “building a concession.” I’m happy to report that Biker Jim now has a standing concession stand, featuring the same great sausages, plus several other items that weren’t previously available. Foremost among Jim’s new offerings: cheesecake. Long before sausages, Biker Jim had a passion for baking cheesecakes. According to his website, Jim makes vanilla with a vanilla cookie crust and sour cream topping; one with ginger snap crust, limoncello filling and sour orange swirl; and peanut butter, caramel turtle cheesecake with triple chocolate filling. Biker Jim previously required two days notice. Fortunately, now that he’s got his concession stand up and running, he’s got a freezer and refrigerator instead of a cooler, so he can stock cheesecakes on site. According to Jim, “The cheesecake thing is sort of riding on the coat tails of my hot dog business. There are a couple of restaurants that use our cakes here in Denver. That is one of the best things about the concession stand. A great new venue for cheesecakes.”

Cheesecake isn’t the only addition the concession stand allows. “We have also found some outstanding ice cream. There’s a guy in Boulder with a company called Ice Cream Alchemy…his flavors are incredible…So good. And for coffee we’re using Kaladi Brothers coffee. Fresh roasted daily a few miles from our stand. The thing I like is, not only is the coffee great and the people nice as hell, the guy that started Kaladi Bro’s is from Anchorage. His wife’s family has ties to the same sausage company I get my reindeer from. A particular symmetry I find pleasing.”


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Leave a Comment