Memorial Day is all about barbecues: in the backyard, at the park and in the woods, near the pee tree, if you're so inclined. But if you don't feel like throwing wood chips on the grill this year, there are plenty of barbecue barns in and around Denver that can feed your brisket, hot link, ribs and chicken yearnings.
That's our que to fire up ten of our favorites:
Q Worldly Barbecue, 2817 East Third Avenue, 303-399-7227 The Q Worldly Barbecue understands the vital intersection between proper 'cue and blues and jazz, even though it's in the heart of Cherry Creek -- just about the least sexy, passionate, sinful or dangerous neighborhood in town. And it gets that barbecue is an international thing, that there are other ways to enjoy your smoky pig bits than naked, fresh out of the smoker and eaten while contemplating the weekend's evil and Sunday's sweet salvation. That's why it's called Worldly Barbecue, and offers more than a dozen internationally inspired sauces.
Cabin Creek Smokehouse Barbecue, 25997 Conifer Road, 303-838-0375 Cabin Creek is the first stable, solid location for owners John and Christi Patrick, barbecue veterans who got their start in catering. While Cabin Creek still does a tremendous amount of catering (including whole pigs for luaus), a lot of cars screech to a halt here for a fast hit of barbecue. The meats are slow-smoked on the premises over oak and hickory, and paired with excellent sauces. Two don't-miss menu items: the barbecue burritos and barbecue mashers (pork barbecue over mashed potatoes with cheese and sour cream).
Big Hoss Bar-B-Q, 3961 Tennyson Street, 720-855-3061 This is the kind of neighborhood joint that everyone ought to have in his neighborhood, a place that's both casually friendly and aggressively social, that serves both PBR on tap and super-call whiskey, and that offers the menus of both a champion barbecue restaurant and a decent locals-only steakhouse. Carolina pork shoulder, closed-pit Texas brisket, fried cheese and half-chickens in Alabama white sauce -- what are you waiting for? Big Hoss Bar-B-Q is one of the best all-around spots in town.
Boney's Smokehouse Pit Barbecue, 1555 Champa Street, 303-825-9900 Nothing more profoundly scents a room than the char of smoke-impregnated animal flesh -- especially when that flesh has been smoked low and slow over hickory, which is the wood of choice at Boney's Smokehouse, Lamont and Trina Lynch's downtown, down-home temple of barbecue. From long before noon to long into the afternoon, pit worshipers pile in to stuff themselves with deliciously fatty, black-crusted brisket that pulls apart easily; potently spicy sausage links; beautifully seasoned ribs that are quickly stripped clean; and pulled pork, usually slapped between a soft bun and served Carolina style. And such side dishes as the baked beans and the creamy potato salad are solid sidekicks.
Sae Jong Kwan, 2680 South Havana Street, 303-752-1338 Though Sae Jong Kwan (aka House of Korean BBQ) focuses partly on the tabletop barbecue dishes that most fans of American Korean food are familiar with, the real delights of this long, super-traditional menu are the very authentic Korean soups, stews and entrees that forego the flash of the bbq grill and aim for a rare, ethnic sort of comfort. The soups are particularly good, with almost every one offering surprises in flavor and texture: oxtail in a creamy lemongrass broth, crab soup that tastes like liquid kimchi.
M & D's Cafe, 2000 East 28th Avenue, 303-296-1760 One million dollars -- that's what it cost to bring the new-and-improved M&D's Cafe to life. And it was worth every penny. M&D's barbecue flavor is particular and strong, layered with all those elements that make up the smell of the place on a good night. A naked piece of pork rib, sans sauce, is still dark and heavy with the tang of hickory and mesquite, sharp with black pepper, infused with a bittersweet saltiness all the way to the bone. The kitchen also does decent sides, great desserts and the city's best fried fish
Yazoo Barbecue Company, 2150 Broadway, 303-296-3334 Yazoo owner Don Hines brings a little of the Deep South to the heart of downtown Denver. All of his barbecue meats are done dry, with sauce offered on the side. The pulled pork is amazingly redolent of powerful pecan and hickory smoke, and Hines uses only a dry rub to add flavor during the long, low and slow cooking process. There's a trick to getting good grub at Yazoo, though, and that's to come early: When the kitchen is empty, Yazoo closes for the night.
Tin Star Cafe & Donuts, 28025 Main Street, Evergreen, 303-679-1155 Tin Star is a small storefront cafe mixed in among all the other small storefront cafes, bars, art galleries and purveyors of knickknackery that shoulder up along Evergreen's high street. It's a nondescript space -- but it happens to house the perfect restaurant concept. Because Tin Star serves only two things: barbecue and doughnuts, both excellent. Go for the pork shoulder and giant apple fritters, two great tastes that go great together.
Jabo's Bar-Be-Q, 9682 East Arapahoe Road, 303-799-4432 Barbecue emperor Jabo Lawson's take on Texas barbecue means smoking his meats -- perfect brisket, spicy Polish sausage, excellent pork shoulder and deeply smoky pork ribs -- over hickory-smoked wood trucked in from Kansas City. Lawson, who got his start with a cart in a Greenwood Village parking lot before fans pleaded with him to open a bona fide barbecue shack, is also the king of meat-glossing sauces, of which there are endless possibilities, including sauces spiked with habanero peppers, fresh fruit and whatever else sounds good. His sweet potato fries are spud crack, and his scones, smeared with soft butter redolent with honey, will make you just as high.
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L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, 14221 East Cedar Avenue, 303-340-8824 L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is a Big Island phenomenon, a locals-only Honolulu hangout gone franchise. Lunches and dinners are done plate-style, resulting in a mountain of Pacific Rim picnic grub: chicken katsu with macaroni salad and sushi rice, roast pork, huge Spam handrolls called musubi. Lovers of cheap, fun fare -- be there. Aloha.