The Ten Best Barbecue Joints in Metro Denver — and What You Should Order
Brisket is king in Texas — but at Roaming Buffalo, it's just one of many good meats.
Today is National Barbecue Day, and if you’re like us, the mere mention of the word "barbecue" triggers drooling. Fortunately, Denver’s barbecue scene has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, so there’s a little something for everyone when you're hunting for smokehouse favorites. But there have been some shakeups in recent months, and we've had to say goodbye to some of our personal best: For starters, Owlbear Barbecue closed its original location at Finn’s Manor earlier this spring, but will almost certainly return to our list once it reopens at 2826 Larimer Street later this year. And Globe Hall changed ownership in February, losing its original pit master and driving force. With those changes in mind, here are the ten best barbecue spots in metro Denver (in alphabetical order), and what you should order when you get there.
Get saucy with barbecued pork at Boney's.
Boney's Smokehouse BBQ
1543 Champa Street
Boney's is one of the few joints that can do the culinary bus tour of the country's top barbecue regions without falling flat on any one item. Juicy pulled pork splashed with vinegar-based sauce brings North Carolina to mind, while ribs backed by something a little sweeter and more tomatoey veers in the direction of Memphis. The mix-and-match approach might frustrate purists, but the key is to sample the sauces first and then decide what suits your fancy. Whatever you order, though, the flavors of the meats definitely stand on their own, so going naked is always an option.
What you should order: The Pig-a-Dilly sandwich, with pulled pork, fried pickles and coleslaw. Ask for it "Whole Hog" style, which piles on slices of spicy hot link for an extra buck.
Burnt End brings respectable barbecue to the Denver Tech Center.
Burnt End BBQ
5332 DTC Boulevard, Greenwood Village
Natives of Kansas City take barbecue seriously, so when a new KC-style barbecue joint opens, aficionados notice. Burnt End first stoked its fires a year ago, just as a wave of new smokehouses was descending upon the city. The counter-service operation is the product of PB&J Restaurants, which also runs Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro, just up the road in the Tech Center. But while this Burnt End is not an original, it is a Kansas City (or, more accurately, Overland Park, Kansas) import, and the executive chef goes by the name Smokey (Stephen “Smokey” Schwartz), so that’s a plus. And as his name suggests, Schwartz’s recipes and techniques result in good, smoky meat.
What you should order: Burnt ends, of course — a Kansas City specialty served as addictive, charry chunks of beef brisket point, which cooks longer than the leaner flat.
Georgia Boys BBQ
237 Collyer Street, Longmont, 720-999-4099
141 Fifth Street, Frederick, 303-833-3140
Depending on where you live in the metro area, the two Georgia Boys locations can be either a quick jaunt or a full-on day trip. Consider, though, that many of the finest pit masters in the country ply their trade in rural areas; just think of it as a quest for something rare and wonderful – like unicorns, leprechauns or perfect brisket glistening with fat. The Southern charm at either location runs thick, as do the daily specials, so keep an eye out for occasional etouffee, sweet potato casserole and homey side dishes around the holidays.
What you should order: Georgia barbecue is big on pig, so you can’t go wrong with the pulled pork. But make sure you save some room for a side dish of a real Georgia specialty: Brunswick stew. It’s like a meaty cross between chili, succotash and leftover barbecue.
A perfect pork rib from the championship GQue team.
GQue Championship Barbecue
5160 120th Avenue, Westminster
GQue owner Jason Ganahl competed on the competitive barbecue circuit for years, earning the Rocky Mountain BBQ Association’s Team of the Year award and placing high in several of the top national competitions sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society. His recipes translate well to a restaurant setting, and his meats are among the most consistent across the board, whether ribs, brisket, wings, sausage or turkey. And sides are done right, too, with smoky beans, tangy slaw with a sweet hint of apple, and kettle chips meant for munching.
What you should order: Do yourself a favor and get a sampler platter of everything GQue smokes; your belt may complain, but you won't regret it. Ganahl's time on the competitive circuit taught him to aim for big flavors over regional specificity, so every bite is bold and beautiful.
Owner Dave Kilroy (L) in the kitchen with Denise Meny at Kitchen Table Cafe.
Kitchen Table BBQ & Comfort Food
1426 East 22nd Avenue
Dave Kilroy’s little kitchen that could keeps on chugging in its hidden location on East 22nd Avenue. Despite being off the beaten path, the Kitchen Table has gained a loyal cadre of Midwesterners and barbecue fans who keep the place busy, buying up every last scrap of meat – brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken and sausage — that comes out of the restaurant’s smoker. During the right time of year, you can even score a smoked brisket pot pie, and the sides alone are worth a stop.
What you should order: Kilroy’s output is consistent and even-handed, so you can’t go wrong with anything you order, but the burnt ends are somehow just a little homier, a little more Kansas, making each bite nostalgic as well as damned good.
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