Colorado has recently gone through something of a barbecue boom. Sure, there are places like M&D's that have been around since forever, but over the past five years, Colorado in general (and Denver in particular) has seen a surge in joints that exist for the greater worship of the smoker and the pig.
Cabin Creek Smokehouse is one of my favorites. I like it for several reasons: because of its location (in the middle of chain-restaurant nowhere, right there whenever I'm going up or coming down from the mountains); because of its space (a whole lot more kitchen than dining room, and really just a counter across which all entreaties to the gods of pork are made); because of the awards it has won (both from me and from other right-thinking Americans); and because of the pulled pork that is, if not the best in the state, then certainly up in the top five.
But my real, secret and slightly guilty reason for loving Cabin Creek? A plate seemingly designed for the Irish barbecue aficionado: the BBQ Masher. This wondrous invention is, essentially, a big pile of mashed red-skin potatoes topped with a full order of excellent, smoky, tender and juicy pulled pork, then topped again with shredded cheese, and again with sour cream, and then again, if you're feeling frisky and have no one to impress, with barbecued cowboy beans. It is a massive gut-punch of a meal, the sort of thing that can keep a man fed for two days, easy. And it's also what I order every time I find myself in the area and suffering from a pork deficiency — something that seems to happen an awful lot these days, and did once again just this past weekend.
Cabin Creek Smokehouse
25997 Conifer Road, Aspen Park
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In addition to getting myself not one, but two BBQ Masher plates (one with beans, one without) and a side of pulled pork to wash it all down, I also discovered that Cabin Creek has gotten into the breakfast business — going from a solid lunch-and-dinner destination to a neighborhood three-a-day offering breakfast burritos and eggs and biscuits and smoothies. And while it's unlikely that I'll find myself eating breakfast at Cabin Creek very often (unless, of course, the kitchen figures out a way to make pulled-pork smoothies), that's good news for all those 285 commuters who are looking for a McMuffin alternative or a way to fit one more BBQ-based meal into their already busy days.