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Say what you will about Texas transplants, but we welcome any Lone Star State pitmaster who brings his or her from-the-heart goodness to the Mile High City. That includes Christopher Nicki, owner of five-month-old Hank’s Texas Barbecue on East Colfax Avenue, who hails from Spring, north of Houston. A former cook at Old Major in LoHi, Nicki opened his temple of smoke and meat in the space that was occupied by Solera until longtime Denver chef Goose Sorensen shuttered it in 2018. Now, Hank’s is an airy fast-casual joint where you can watch Nicki and his team carve their glistening fare—everything from dry-rubbed brisket to smoked turkey breast to hot links and sausages from local River Bear American Meats—and pile trays high with protein by the pound, loaded baked potatoes, and scratch-made sides like creamy mac and cheese. Inventive sandwiches also grace the menu; our favorite is the Tejas, in which a soft potato roll and a mountain of juicy brisket (ask for a mix of fatty and lean slices) are offset by peppery arugula, red onion, tomato, and tangy blue cheese crumbles. It’s an unorthodox pairing Nicki imported from a friend’s spot, called Tejas Chocolate and Barbecue, in Tomball, Texas—and it’s scrumptious enough to silence any naysayers with functioning taste buds