While there have been some setbacks — last year saw the end of Owlbear, and after May 27, Plates by the Pound will say goodbye as owner Aaron Gonerway makes the move to Texas — plenty of other pitmasters are making the Mile High smokin' hot. We're limiting our list of the best barbecue joints to brick-and-mortar spots, but you should definitely track down Barbosa's Barbecue, a food truck, this summer.
In the meantime, here are the ten best places for barbecue in metro Denver, from newcomers who are making names for themselves to spots we've been frequenting for years, in alphabetical order:
AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q2180 South Delaware Street
pitbarbq.com Chef Jared Leonard made a name for himself in Chicago with hot chicken sandwiches and Texas-style barbecue before taking aim at Denver, opening concepts that include Campfire locations in Evergreen and Lakewood. Located in an industrial neighborhood across from the railroad tracks, AJ's serves Texas-style pit-smoked meats, including brisket, pastrami, burnt ends, pork ribs and more, paired with such sides as custard-filled cornbread and smoky pork green chile. Take your loaded tray to one of the long tables in the dining room, where you'll find a variety of sauces. AJ's also has plenty of cold beer and a full bar.
GQue Championship BarbequeMultiple locations
gquebbq.com GQue owner Jason Ganahl (yes, he's the husband of former gubernatorial candidate Heidi) 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. Even now, with four GQue locations, his meats are among the most consistent across the board, no matter which part of town you're ordering in. While the smoked wings are incredible, a sampler is the best place to start; everything from the ribs to the brisket, sausage and turkey are done right. Add on some smoky pit beans, tangy slaw with a sweet hint of apple, and housemade kettle chips for a real feast.
Piggin' Out Smokehouse
9987 Morrison Road, Lakewood
pigginout.com"This way to heaven," reads a sign covered in flying pigs outside the country-style shack that houses Piggin' Out Smokehouse in almost-rural Lakewood. Along with straight-up smoked meats (the best bets are the pulled pork, pork ribs, chopped brisket, sausage and hot links), the huge menu includes salads, sides (four types of mac and cheese!), bowls and loaded sandwiches like the Backyard Tango, with pulled chicken, pork, or sliced turkey and blue cheese, candied bacon, seasonal fruit and chipotle raspberry glaze.
Pit Fiend Barbecue2826 Larimer Street
pitfiendbbq.com When Owlbear closed in January 2022, it left a brisket-sized hole in the hearts of Denver barbecue lovers, but two former employees along with another friend came together to carry on its live-fire cooking legacy in the same Larimer Street location. At Pit Fiend, which is open Friday through Sunday, the menu includes Owlbear's brisket and mac and cheese, which are as delicious as ever. Owners Michael Graunke and Juan Pablo Llano have made the place their own, though, adding globally inspired items such as mojo pulled pork, Yucatán-style pulled jackfruit and Colombian-style pinto beans (a recipe from Gallardo's mom). Also new: a slew of sauces and even more Dungeons & Dragons references.
Post Oak Barbecue
4000 Tennyson Street
postoakdenver.com In 2019, Fort Worth native Nick Prince opened Post Oak Barbecue after years of mastering his smoking skills at backyard cookouts and barbecue contests. This joint uses only post oak delivered from Austin and 100 percent wood-fire cooking to nail the flavor of Texas-style ’cue. The prime Angus brisket is a must, but you can also load your choice of smoked meat onto tacos, baked potatoes or jalapeño bacon mac and cheese. Finish up with gooey butter cake for the kind of meal that necessitates a nap.
Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que2387 South Downing Street
17121 South Golden Road, Golden
roamingbuffalobbq.com While many local barbecue joints specialize in Texas-style ’cue, when it opened in 2015, Roaming Buffalo quickly became a standout as one that roots itself firmly in Colorado culinary history, with pulled lamb, huge bison ribs and venison sausage. It also serves more traditional meats such as pork ribs and brisket, which are available by the pound, heaped onto sandwiches or on plates, with sides like smoked poblano cheddar mac and Southwest potato salad. Get the goods from 11 a.m. until they sell out. Both the original and a second location in Golden are home to one of the best barbecue deals around: $3 sammies made with a mix of leftover meats smothered in barbecue sauce on a hamburger bun, available Saturday and Sunday at the Downing Street location and Wednesday through Sunday in Golden.
Smok3330 Brighton Boulevard
327 East Foothills Parkway, Fort Collins
denversmok.com Drawing from his childhood memories growing up in Kansas City and Austin, and adding his experience as a professional chef at high-end restaurants, Smok owner Bill Espiricueta turns out deeply smoked brisket, rich pork belly and spare ribs good enough to suck the bones dry, along with a wide array of other smoky options such as brisket red chili and smoked jalapeño poppers. The sides here are some of the best in town, especially the elote-inspired creamed corn and rich mac and cheese made with spiral noodles. And yes, you definitely want to add on the housemade pickles.
Smokin' Yards BBQ900 West First Avenue
smokinyards.com At Smokin Yard's BBQ, the Yard family (which also runs the original Smokin' Yards in Idaho Springs) cranks up the Ole Hickory smoker for a taste of Southern goodness that doesn't necessarily conform to any one region. The Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwich is mounded with juicy hunks of pork, spicy coleslaw and mustard-based sauce, while the burnt-ends sandwich is served unadorned, letting the smoky, black-edged brisket speak for itself. You can reach for one of three barbecue sauces or add sliced purple onions, pickles and jalapeños from the condiment bar to doctor up your picks — though these meats don't need much of a supporting cast. For a real Southern treat, grab a serving of the complimentary boiled peanuts.
26220 CO-74 Frontage, Kittredge
Head to the foothills for this spot that slings barbecue Thursday through Sunday only, from 11 a.m. until it sells out. Your jaunt will be rewarded with specialties like Switchback's Montreal-style brisket, which is cured with spices before being smoked. Other surprises await on the menu, too, like rich duck breast, housemade bacon, chicken legs and smoked salmon. Buy them by the pound, butcher shop-style, or try one of the generously stacked sandwiches. You won't regret the drive.
Wayne's Smoke Shack406 Center Drive, Superior
waynessmokeshack.com On December 30, 2021, the Marshall Fire swept through Boulder County, causing massive destruction. Wayne and Sam Shelnutt, the husband-and-wife owners of Wayne's Smoke Shack, lost their home; they lost a car, too. And while the building that held the business they had been running for nine years still stood, it suffered severe smoke damage. Just over a year later, Wayne's finally reopened, welcomed by its many fans, who continue to line up on Fridays and Saturdays for a taste of Texas-style ’cue. The relaunched joint also has an expanded market, where you can stock up on grab-and-go options, including frozen barbecue for easy at-home meals.