When I eat barbecue, I often skip the sauce so that the meat's smokiness can come through. But when I do squirt on sauce, I don't always want the sweet, thick version that's common in these parts. Colleen Van Tuyl, chef-owner of Ragin' Hog BBQ, understands this. "Colorado is a state of transplants," says this mom-turned-business owner, herself a transplant from Little Rock. "North Carolinians want something completely different than what people from Kansas City want." See also: A closer look at Kings BBQ
That's why at Van Tuyl's nearly year-old restaurant in Berkeley, which she runs like the friend's house where you always loved to hang out - greeting regulars by name, offering tastes of sides when you can't make up your mind, even throwing in a piece of buttermilk pie every now and then -- she makes five kinds of sauce, which she brings to the table in labeled squirt bottles.
There's the Sweet, a Kansas City-style concoction laced with molasses; the Hot; the Memphis, a thin tomato-and-vinegar-based version; the Carolina, with ketchup, red pepper flakes and plenty of vinegar; and my favorite, the mustard-heavy Georgia, which should be called the South Carolina, but she changed the name because she already had a Carolina sauce, and because she first tried the variation in the Peach State.
If you already know what style you like, dig in. Otherwise, use your plate like a palette, trying dots of each until you hit upon the one you want to add to your tasty pile of smoked chicken or pork.
Texas brisket-lovers, be warned that brisket is served only on Saturdays. Everyone else should note that the restaurant is open Thursday to Saturday from noon until Van Tuyl sells out. But in the next six months or so, she says, she hopes to expand her hours and her menu, adding Southern goodies such as chicken and waffles and fried chicken.
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Do your bit to help this business grow: Go to Ragin' Hog. As I note in this week's review of Kings BBQ, which is just a few minutes from Ragin' Hog, Denver doesn't have enough good barbecue places. And although Ragin' Hog won't edge out Boney's as my favorite in town, it's still a great spot to get sauced.