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Pigging out on baby back pork ribs

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I didn't order the ribs at the Berkshire for one simple reason: Ribs should be saved for a place that specializes in them. Baby back pork ribs, in particular -- which is where Big Papa's BBQ comes in.

When you get your baby backs here, you pull one bone free, feel the way it separates (not hard, but not meltingly easy, either), raise it up, smell the porky savor, the char from the grill top, the smoke of burnt flesh. Then you bite. The meat is crisp at the surface, tart with a light mop of thin sauce, tender at the bone. And the flavor is exactly what barbecue is supposed to taste like, what you always remember it tasting like even when you're eating some barbecue that's not so good.

Big Papa's does regular ribs. It does beef and bison "Colorado" ribs, chicken, pulled pork, catfish nuggets, rib tips and hot links, as well as bland potato salad and some decent sides and good desserts. It does everything a proper barbecue joint is supposed to do. But it does baby backs better than it does anything else – and does them better than just about any other barbecue joint in the area. They are fatty, sweet, savory and charred; crispy and soft at the same time, comforting like you wouldn't believe.

Info

Big Papa's BBQ

Big Papa's BBQ
6265 East Evans Avenue
303-300-4499
www.bbqdenver.com

The location is comforting, too. Big Papa's doesn't try to re-create some kind of historic, Deep South, Disneyfied concept, but instead plays Nine Inch Nails in the dining room, which is decorated with blown-up black-and-white photos from the Colorado Historical Society. As for the kitchen, I don't want to investigate too closely. I know that I can't smell the place coming, which generally means there are no outdoor smokers. And I have seen people behind the counters pulling out racks vac-sealed inside plastic, but I just can't bring myself to care. Because the baby backs here are so good that I could discover they're made from soy protein and Liquid Smoke and I would still go back tomorrow for another order and make a pig of myself.

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