The Ten Best Barbecue Joints in Denver

Brooks Smokehouse's mobile trailer.
Brooks Smokehouse's mobile trailer.
Mark Antonation

Denver doesn't have much of a reputation as a barbecue city -- which makes sense, since the distinct styles of American barbecue evolved in other states; any methods or meat cuts specific to Colorado (lamb or bison, for example) disappeared decades ago. Slow cooking over hardwood coals is a skill acquired over many years -- a skill that few have the patience to master unless they're in a family business or are just crazy-passionate about pork and beef and smoke. But this city's restaurant scene has been growing exponentially in recent years, and the number of barbecue joints has risen at a similar rate. Which means that while just three years ago we could only come up with five favorites, we're now confident that it will take two hands to tally the places we really, really like.

See also: Author and Barbecue Judge Adrian Miller Shares His Rib Tips

The key is knowing what to order at each restaurant. "My main quibble with many of Denver's barbecue joints is that they often present an eclectic barbecue menu that picks and chooses items from different regions in the country," says Adrian Miller, author, Southern-food expert and certified barbecue judge. Many of Denver's best smokehouse dishes come from restaurants that offer preparations and sauces not just from Kansas City, but from St. Louis, Memphis, the Carolinas and Texas. But even at these jack-of-all-trades setups, great barbecue can still be found. And at those regional specialists, there's almost always something worth going back for. Here's our list of the ten best barbecue joints in the Denver area, presented in no particular order.

Moe's owes its flavor to Alabama origins.
Moe's owes its flavor to Alabama origins.

10) Moe's Original Barbecue 530 Broadway, 303-630-1980 2727 South Parker Road, Aurora, 720-306-6979 3295 South Broadway, Englewood, 303-781-0414 Moe's first hit Denver in 2008, after years of building a following in Vail. Owners Mike Fernandez, Ben Gilbert and Jeff Kennedy learned their 'cue craft while in college in Alabama, so the style doesn't stray far from its Deep South origins. Fruit wood is the secret to the smoky flavors at the three Denver outposts of the chain that's grown beyond Colorado borders. While you can't go wrong with the pulled pork or ribs, Moe's does one thing that singles it out among the BBQ crowd: smoked tofu.

Jabo's customizes the heat level and flavor of your barbecue sauce.
Jabo's customizes the heat level and flavor of your barbecue sauce.

9) Jabo's Bar-Be-Q 9682 East Arapahoe Road, Englewood, 303-799-4432 Jabo Lawson -- a veteran of the Denver barbecue scene -- dazzles with sauces customized to your liking, with five heat levels and flavors like smoky cherry and hickory mustard. If you're a first-time customer, Lawson will offer you an ice-cube tray filled with sauce samples. Still, as at all barbecue joints, the meat comes first. Jabo's ribs are the eatery's calling card, but the pulled pork -- by the pound or on a sandwich -- offers juicy shreds of porky goodness without much interference from heavy rubs or marinades.

Keep reading for eight more of the best barbecue joints...



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