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.
Big Papa's BBQ
Big Papa's BBQ
6265 East Evans Avenue
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.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.