Mardi Gras is just around the corner, and while the holiday is now mostly associated with drunken sorority girls showing their, um, assets for a strand of shiny beads in the French Quarter of New Orleans, the festival used to provide a reason to stuff yourself before forty days of fasting, giving up, most especially, meat.
We certainly don't halt our consumption of animal products for the Lenten season around here, but we'll happily take any excuse we can get to feast on what might very well be our favorite food group of all. And on that note, here are five great ways to satisfy a carnivorous craving.
Whole duck (or hog) at Hong Kong Barbecue Hong Kong Barbecue, which I review this week, is one of Denver's only spots for siu mei, Hong Kong-style roasted meats. And that means there are a number of dishes on the sizable menu that comprise nothing more than hunks of roasted duck or pork, tender and glistening in crispy skin, sided by a steamer of rice. Better yet, dig into a whole duck from the case in the corner or, if you've got a cadre of pork-loving friends you'd like to feed, you might consider going whole hog -- the restaurant sells whole roasted pigs for right around $250.
Cubano at Crave Real Burgers A number of local burger establishments top their meaty burgers with more meat, but none so aggressively as Crave, where patties come piled with bacon, beef brisket and myriad forms of pork. The most flagrantly carnivorous option of all, though, is the Cubano, a fat beefy burger piled high with ham, chorizo sausage, breaded pork and even a hot dog. With all of that animal protein, it's hard to taste the chipotle, avocado, jalapeños, egg, lettuce, tomato and onion that fills out the rest of the sandwich.
Sausage platter at Euclid Hall How do you make meat better? Grind it down, mix it with fat and pack it tightly into casing so that each bite is fatter, meatier and juicier than a pure cut of whatever animal it's made from. Some of the best sausages in the city are at Euclid Hall, where chef Jorel Pierce makes fat weisswurst from veal, decadent kielbasa from beef short ribs and a kick-ass boudin noir from pig blood. We recommend the sampler plate, which nets you four different sausages, with nothing -- other than an enhancing bite of mustard -- to get in the way of your carnivorous feast.
Barbecue at Country Time BBQ There's not much by way of ambiance, per se, at Country Time BBQ. The place looks like little more than a Sheridan shack, and amenities are sparse -- there aren't even tables. All the better, since that means Lawrence and Jennifer Barkers have a single-minded focus on meat. Lawrence pit-smokes brisket until it's velvety, pulled pork until it's rosy and throat-stinging, sausages until blistered and half chickens until the meat falls off the bone, selling all of them in massive portions. And since there's no pretense here, no one will judge you if you eat with your hands and messily bury your face in your 'cue while sitting in your car in the parking lot.
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Steak at Elway's Cherry Creek Meaty cravings are like primal instincts, and often, those are best sated in the messiest, cheapest way possible. But when we're after a more refined affair, we turn to a steakhouse, which has made classy the consumption of a big hunk of animal. One of the best is Elway's Cherry Creek, where the beef is top notch, the peppery rub is addictive and each steak comes off the grill properly charred and bleeding juice. Go big or go home with the 28-ounce porterhouse, or sink your teeth into a velvety strip. More meat, you say? Make it a surf-and-turf and add a buttery lobster tail.