If there's one style of cuisine that is the polar opposite of vegan eating, it’s barbecue. Pit masters often pride themselves on meat and meat alone, from pork ribs to beef brisket to whole chickens. But the elements that make barbecue great — that deep smoke flavor, a tangy sauce and flavorful spices — can also be applied to meatless options. Here are eight restaurants doing at least one vegan barbecue dish in Denver:
2826 Larimer Street
Owlbear opened in Denver to much anticipation in May, after a short stint at Finn's Manor followed by two years of occasional pop-ups. While the spot may be best known for smoked meats, the veg-friendly options are on point. Choose between a smoked jackfruit sandwich or a smoked mushroom sandwich, both vegan when you opt for the egg- and dairy-free bun. Coleslaw and cucumber salad on the side are vegan, too.
Brothers BBQ has seven location throughout Denver. Vegan options include a smoked tofu sandwich, the meatless Impossible Burger and salads. Tofu is flash-fried and then grilled to a slight char and topped with sweet barbecue sauce. That same tofu is also featured in the vegan Southern salad along with mixed greens, croutons, sliced tomatoes and Italian vinaigrette.
Hank's Texas Barbecue
5410 East Colfax Avenue
Hank’s Texas Barbecue opens every Wednesday through Sunday at 11 a.m. and serves up flavorful barbecue until sold out. “Low and slow” is the motto, which also applies to smoked portobello mushrooms and jackfruit. Both vegan options can be purchased by the pound or served in tacos. The watermelon salad has cucumbers, mint, pickled red onions and citrus vinaigrette — just order it without cheese.
Moe's Original Bar-B-Que
The menu at Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que is loaded with ribs, platters and sandwiches. Among the sandwiches is a plant-based delight: Tofu is smoked, topped with sauce and served on a roll. The vinegar-based slaw is also vegan, as are the side salad and crunchy potato chips.
4910 Nautilus Court, Boulder
The taproom at Avery Brewing may not be strictly barbecue, but the kitchen staff takes its smoke game seriously. The menu changes often, but there is regularly a smoked vegan item. Some recent rotating options have included a smoked seitan barbecue sandwich, a smoked jackfruit Reuben on rye bread, and a fried sambal-marinated tofu sandwich. To go along with it, the Buddha bowl is filled with roasted veggies, greens, cauliflower, beets, pickled vegetables, quinoa, avocado and coconut dressing.
7950 East Mississippi Avenue
Meta Burger is an affordable, completely vegan fast-food spot. Burgers and dogs are the star of the show, but there are several barbecue favorites here, too. The Texan burger is topped with "chopped barbecue" (a plant-based blend), pickles, coleslaw and a tangy barbecue sauce. Add barbecue sauce, coleslaw, mac and cheese, pickled jalapeños and bacon to any burger. The barbecue mac and cheese bowl is tossed with chopped barbecue and ranch dressing.
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837 East 17th Avenue
Watercourse is known for Southern-inspired comfort food with an entirely plant-based menu, so it makes sense that barbecue is here, too. While you won't find big smokers billowing smoke out back, both the cauliflower and the seitan wings can be smothered in a Memphis-style barbecue sauce. The barbecue pulled-jackfruit sandwich is topped with housemade barbecue sauce, slaw and pickles, and mac and cheese can be tossed with tempeh chorizo or tofu bacon.
City, O’ City
206 East 13th Avenue
The barbecue bowl at City O’ City tops mac and cheese with barbecue tofu, mustard glazed greens, creamy coleslaw and crispy onions. The BBQ wrap comes with either barbecue seitan or tofu, mac and cheese, house pickles, crispy onions and coleslaw packed into a tortilla.