Second Helpings

Brothers BBQ

There are two distinct kinds of barbecue: Barbecue that tastes like it was cooked by a master, and barbecue that tastes like it was cooked by your Uncle Larry at his annual Fourth of July backyard picnic.

Brothers' barbecue? That's Uncle Larry through and through. It's not that the stuff is bad — because really, so long as you're talking pulled pork and ribs, there isn't such a thing as bad barbecue. But it ain't good, either. Still, after suffering through several meals at Bono's Bar-B-Q, a Florida-based chain, I figured that it was time to return to an outlet of Brothers — a born-and-bred Colorado chain, founded by the British O'Sullivan brothers in 1998. Particularly since that time coincided with the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, an ideal time to sit down with a couple of colleagues, drink too many beers and eat ourselves stupid. But after several beers, a dozen ribs and a pound of pulled pork shoulder, I had to stand by my Uncle Larry theory: The meats at Brothers don't begin to stack up against those of Denver's best pits. They could come off of anyone's smoke-blackened and charry backyard grill, a mess of carbon and over-saucing, poorly cut, varying wildly in levels of smoke, levels of tenderness. The ribs were a mess of tradition and short-cuttery, grill-charred and wet with sauce, the pulled pork an unidentifiable mix of Carolina succulence and roadhouse sweat, spiked with a thin sauce and cooked both too little and at too low a heat.

But the sides were surprisingly good. I had a bucket of fine potato salad, perhaps a bit heavy on the mayo but filled with good, properly cooked potatoes and just a hint of relish and mustard. And the beans were excellent — big and fat, in a brown-sugar sauce studded with chunks of charred and chopped pork. Still, those sides weren't enough to make me go back — not when the ribs were done so poorly they required a mop of overpowering sauce just to rise to the level of edible.