Best BBQ in Denver and Beyond | Westword

The Ten Best Barbecue Joints in Metro Denver

From Texas-style brisket to Colorado-inspired bison ribs, bring on the meat sweats at these spots.
Don't skip the sides at AJ's.
Don't skip the sides at AJ's. AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q/Instagram
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There was a time, not so long ago, when it was tough to even name ten barbecue joints in Denver. But as more people moved to the Mile High from ’cue hotspots, including Texas, the slow-smoked scene in this town grew. Now anyone craving a bout of the meat sweats can find great brisket, pulled pork and burnt ends, as well as a smattering of stellar sides. Three local spots even recently landed on Yelp's nationwide Top 100 Barbecue Spots List.

Here are our picks for the ten best places for barbecue in metro Denver, listed in alphabetical order:

AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q
2180 South Delaware Street

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 tavern-style pizzeria Grabowski's in 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. In 2023, Leonard's ’cue joint was honored by Colorado's first Michelin guide when it was named one of nine Bib Gourmand picks in the state. In February, Leonard also introduced an offshoot to the concept, AJ's Pit Bar-B-Q Steakhouse, in Wash Park.
A loaded tray from GQue.
GQue BBQ/Instagram
GQue Championship Barbeque
Multiple locations
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 and outposts at Coors Field, Folsom Field and the CU Event Center, his meats are among the most consistent across the board, no matter which part of town you're 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.
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The Skinny Pig Sampler at Piggin' Out Smokehouse.
Danielle Lirette
Piggin' Out Smokehouse
9987 Morrison Road, Lakewood

"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 Hawaiian Huli stuffed with your choice of smoked pulled pork or chicken, teriyaki sauce, pineapple relish, candied bacon and pickled onions.
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Owlbear's brisket lives on at Pit Fiend.
Molly Martin
Pit Fiend Barbecue
2826 Larimer Street

When Owlbear closed in January 2022, it left a brisket-sized hole in the hearts of Denver barbecue lovers, but two former employees came together to carry on its live-fire cooking legacy in the same Larimer Street location. At the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired Pit Fiend, the menu includes Owlbear's brisket and mac and cheese, which are as delicious as ever. But owners Michael Graunke and Juan Pablo Llano have made the place their own, too, adding items such as pulled lamb, smoked jackfruit or mushrooms as vegetarian options, a slew of sauces and rotating, globally inspired specials.
click to enlarge a platter of barbecue meats and sides
Post Oak is a favorite of Westword readers.
Post Oak Barbecue/Instagram
Post Oak Barbecue
4000 Tennyson Street

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, which was our 2024 Best of Denver Readers' Choice pick for Best Barbecue Restaurant, 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 is serving up Colorado-style barbecue.
Danielle Lirette
Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
2387 South Downing Street

While many local barbecue joints specialize in Texas-style ’cue, when it opened in 2015, Roaming Buffalo quickly became a standout as a spot rooted firmly rooted in Colorado culinary history, with options such as lamb shoulder, huge bison ribs and venison sausage. It also serves more traditional meats, including pork ribs and brisket that 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 and don't miss the weekend special, which is one of the best deals in town: $3 sammies made with a mix of leftover meats smothered in barbecue sauce on a hamburger bun, available on Saturdays and Sundays only.
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Brisket and pork belly from Smok.
Molly Martin
3330 Brighton Boulevard
327 East Foothills Parkway, Fort Collins

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 chile and smoked hot wings. 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.
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Smokin' Yards BBQ was founded in Idaho Springs, and its Denver outpost opened in 2017.
Danielle Lirette
Smokin' Yards BBQ
900 West First Avenue

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, or skip the smoke and opt for one of its other Southern-style hits, chicken-fried steak.
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Mark Antonation
Switchback Smokehouse
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.
a close up of sliced smoked brisket
Wayne's Smoke Shack is known for its Texas-style barbecue.
Wayne's Smoke Shack/Instagram
Wayne's Smoke Shack
406 Center Drive, Superior

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.
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