by Jake Jabbour
Patrick Brillo is a broad man, heavy set with a wiry tuft of red hair. At 51, he’s equal parts man and myth. During the 48 hours I spent at Meat N’ Greet, his cafe in Longmont, CO, he ate sixteen times. Yet Brillo was not devouring his restaurant’s signature dish — his award-winning three dollar a twice grilled cheese with caramelized onions, a thick slice of bacon, and a cup of tomato basil soup with a squirt of lemon. Instead he was satisfying his appetite with dishes from the back page of his menu, where the top reads “human.”
Brillo’s taste for the rare and illegal cuisine of his fellow man started before he opened up his cafe, when he was working at an Annie’s Pretzel at Denver International Airport; a job that highlighted how insignificant people saw each other. Everyone was in a rush, and presumed an air of superiority to the people around them. It made Patrick sick. He never saw anyone give up anything for anyone else. The selfishness tormented him. He lost sleep over it and would just watch late night movies.
It was at that time that he saw a B-movie knock-off I’m Eating Gilbert Grape. Patrick was intrigued, and satiated. He set out that night in his Nissan Pathfinder, looking for answers. To this day, Patrick can’t say what he thought he was going to find. After driving around for 45 minutes, he pulled into a parking lot near some tennis courts. Staring off into the middle distance, Patrick noticed some rustling. He got out of his car to get a better look, and that’s when he noticed crows circling over head.
“I’d remembered a cartoon from the early 70s where an animal died and birds circled the carcass.”
A little worried, Patrick grabbed his phone, a flashlight, and a long two prong fork he had in his car from a BBQ and headed into the woods.
There in the dark, he found four coyotes feasting on the flesh of a deceased homeless man.
“At first I didn’t know he was dead. I mean, I guess I did, because of the crows and the coyotes, but when you see a body your first thought isn’t that it’s dead.”
Patrick bravely fended off the coyotes with his flashlight and fork and examined the body.
“There wasn’t much left. Some rib meat and some tenderloin around the arms.”
Patrick poked at the body, confirming what he already knew. The man was dead. When Patrick attempted to pull the fork away, it got caught on some of man’s loose fat. Patrick tugged and tugged and finally the fork came loose, tossing with it a sliver of meat. Miraculously the meat flew directly into Patrick’s mouth, and the fork, having been used at a BBQ earlier that week flavored the meat with some sauce residue.
“That was it. The moment that morsel hit my mouth, I had an awakening,” says Brillo. “Eating people gives purpose and appreciation to one another. And since I had worked a long day and been pestered by a fat man from Des Moines, I don’t know, his face popped into my head, and psychologically I convinced myself I was eating that slob. It was retribution and utilitarianism at the same time. From that moment on, I knew I would commit to the idea of creating the fantasy of eating people, but not really eating people, because legally speaking, right now at least, that’s super illegal.”
That story is on every menu in Mr. Brillo’s small wooden shanty, not much bigger than a Lincoln Expedition, and I didn’t meet a person who didn’t know it by heart. “Sure it’s a skin crawling tale to read during a meal,” says Carol Wenwricky, a local resident, “But almost everyone will tell you it’s a small price to pay for a great grilled cheese.” She takes a bite of the legendary sandwich and smiles. “Also,” says Wenwricky, ”most people think Patrick killed that drifter and ate him.”
“I’m not an idiot,” Brillo says. “I know people like cheese and bacon, and to keep my doors open, I will happily cook sandwiches, but what I really love, what I hope in my heart of hearts, is that my faux-flesh menu will take off.”
Faux-flesh is the brainchild cuisine of Brillo. It’s food designed to taste like a human. His “Cyborg-er” is a ham steak almost uncooked with a salted crispy ciabatta soaked in pig’s blood, and topped with hair-thin cold noodles. “Well, it almost doesn’t sell at all,” says Brillo, “but it looks and feels remarkably fleshy. Sometimes, if I close my eyes, it’s almost like the real thing.”
Another infamous item is his “brHead Pudding.” It’s a bread pudding toasted on the outside, creamy on the inside, with pockets of tapioca, and lightly soaked in pig’s blood.
“I pretty much add pig’s blood to all of it. People underestimate the almost hypnotic effect of a warm spread of pig blood. Plus, sweet human blood is illegal to buy.”
Patrick isn’t insane. In fact, he’s captivating, and given the right podium, his ideas might just gain traction.
“Look, I get it. It’s off-putting, sure. But once you consider that no person actually died to make this meal, once you get beyond that, you can fantasize that you’re biting into your intellectual equal. People don’t like the idea of imagining who their ‘Androidoulle Sausage’ was, but I say, ‘imagine away!’” Patrick Brillo admits on a purely sensory basis, the food is not particularly appetizing, but on a psychological level, “there’s nothing better than the feeling of devouring your biological equal.” ✦