Pit masters have been smoking brisket, ribs, and sausages in Colorado for decades, and a recent spate of Texas transplants have brought their renditions of smokey goodness to the Front Range to feed Coloradans’ seemingly endless hunger for ’cue. Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 of our go-to spots.
AJ’s Pit Bar-B-Q | 2180 S Deleware St., Overland
Est. January 2019
For his extraordinary pastrami, Chicago native and owner Jared Leonard, who trained in the Lone Star State, brines wagyu brisket, sourced from Idaho’s famed Snake River Farms, for a week before rubbing it with a mix of coriander and black and green peppercorns. Then it goes into AJ’s Bewley offset smoker for 15 hours over smoldering post oak until succulent and juicy. Pair it with custardy cornbread and never-mushy collard greens, cooked the traditional Texas way with smoked ham hock and seasoned with a splash of apple cider vinegar.
Barbosa’s Barbeque | Various Denver breweries
Est. March 2020
Born and raised in Victoria, Texas, Alex Barbosa began professionally smoking the South Texas way—in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he ran a popular pop-up—in 2016. Since launching his Colorado-based trailer in mid-March, however, he’s been garnering a Denver following with chicken, pork ribs, and brisket smoked over local oak and fruit woods. Don’t miss his special Vietnamese menu: Smoked meats go into banh mi and vermicelli bowls, and his girlfriend, Cay Wittenberg, makes decadent iced-coffee cheesecake for dessert.
Boney’s Barbeque | 1543 Champa St., Denver
Air Force veterans Lamont and Trina Lynch continue to make our taste buds soar some 15 years after opening their Memphis-style barbecue joint in an underground location on Champa Street, just off of the iconic 16th Street Mall. We love their hickory-smoked pork spareribs, beef brisket (chopped or sliced), and the smoked-then-flash-fried chicken wings. Team Lynch also offers soulful side dishes like potato salad and velvety collard greens. Of the couples’ seasonal desserts, the peach cobbler is a standout. You may choose to wash your ’cue down with an adult beverage from their full-service bar, but we recommend swigging the sweet (but not cloying) tea. Take one bite of their succulent barbecue and you’ll be thanking them for their service to the U.S. and to Barbecue Nation.
G-Que Barbeque | 5160 W. 120th Ave, Westminster; 8433 Park Meadows Center Drive, Lone Tree; Empower Field at Denver’s Mile High Stadium
After winning several trophies on the competitive national barbecue circuit, G-Que owner Jason Ganahl opened up his original retail spot in a Westminster shopping plaza, where he’s cultivated a loyal following for his tasty fare. His sandwiches are especially tempting, as each puts a creative spin on the typical smoked meat-and-topping format. Our favorite is “the Meltdown,” featuring a pile of rich brisket topped with crispy onion rings and American and cheddar cheeses. Round out your meal with some of the tart apple coleslaw and pit-smoked beans laced with pulled pork.
Hank’s Texas Barbecue | 5410 E Colfax Ave, Hale
Est. February 2019
Pit boss Christopher Nicki’s loaded smoked potatoes have turned us into Hank’s regulars. A native of Spring, Texas, he oils and salts the biggest russets he can get before wrapping each in foil for its journey into a post-oak-fueled smoker. Once they’re “squishy,” Nicki tops each spud with butter, extra-sharp cheddar, and your choice of meat; his favorites are chopped fatty brisket and the Sunday-only smoked prime rib. A drizzle of house barbecue sauce (the not-so-secret ingredient is Dr. Pepper), a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of scallions finish the masterpiece.
Owlbear Barbecue | 2826 Larimer St., RiNo
Karl Fallenius, who apprenticed under legendary Texas pitmaster Aaron Franklin, opened Owlbear’s original Finn’s Manor food truck in 2015, but his Larimer Street brick-and-mortar shop began smoking with oak in May 2019—and local brisket lovers rejoiced. The object of their affection is seasoned with brown sugar, coffee grounds, black pepper, granulated garlic and onion, celery seeds, and salt and then smoked for 12 hours. It’s best with Owlbear’s penne mac and cheese, a gooey symphony of mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and fontina.
Post Oak Barbecue | 4000 Tennyson St., Berkeley
Est. June 2019
Time and love are the keys to what owner Nick Prince calls his “Texas trinity of barbecue”: slow-smoked brisket, sausage links, and pork ribs cooked over the restaurant’s namesake wood. For the last, Prince rubs St. Louis–style spareribs with a blend of black pepper, garlic and onion powders, and turbinado sugar before smoking them for five hours to butter-tender perfection. The ideal side dish? Deconstructed elote, or blistered off-the-cob corn with Cotija, cilantro-lime sauce, and roasted poblanos.
Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que | 2387 S Downing St., Denver; 17121 S. Golden Road, Golden
Chef Coy Webb and his wife Rachael have carved out an unexpected niche from their original homey restaurant just west of the University of Denver campus: Colorado barbecue. A century ago, the Centennial State was known for its bison and lamb barbecue, but those smoked proteins faded in popularity by the 1950s in lieu of the standards like beef, chicken, and pork. The Webbs have gloriously revived those local traditions, in addition to serving classic Texas barbecue dishes and venison sausage. We recommend the beef brisket, bison ribs, and pulled lamb for your main dish, and the vinegar-spiked collard greens and creamy andouille sausage grits to go alongside. House-made agave lemonade or a Big Red soda are ideal for washing it all down.
Rolling Smoke Bar-B-Que | 2501 Dallas St. (inside Stanley Marketplace), Aurora; 7470 S. University Blvd., Centennial
Tulsa, Oklahoma native and pit master Terry Walsh first entered Denver’s barbecue scene in 2013 with a food truck. In early 2017, a chance conversation with a stranger—who happened to be the lawyer handling the leases at the just-opened Stanley Marketplace in Aurora—led to Walsh fulfilling his longtime goal of opening a brick-and-mortar location in that food hall; he opened another Rolling Smoke location in Centennial later that same year. Walsh uses a twelve-foot barrel smoker filled with a mix of hickory and pecan woods to smoke his meats—and even his side dishes, always served in generous portions—which give the end results nutty, subtly sweet flavor. We can’t help but always order the moist beef burnt ends and tender pork spareribs with smoked mac and cheese and bacon-studded, smoked collard greens on the side.
Smōk | The Source Hotel & Market Hall, 3330 Brighton Blvd., #202, Denver
When Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn came to town in 2019, he loved just about everything that Smōk chef-owner Bill Espiricueta put before him. Austin-born and Kansas-City-trained, Espiricueta has created a pan-regional menu with a gentle Tex-Mex vibe, thanks to items like brisket nachos and pulled pork tacos. We’re particular fans of his meaty pork spareribs and juicy smoked salmon, paired with mustard-and-bacon potato salad or sweet potato tater tots. Smōk also serves up a bit of the unusual with spicy “Nashville Hot” chicharrones (pork rinds) and a vegetarian-friendly smoked portobello mushroom. And if you see seasonal fruit-filled hand pies on the menu for dessert, don’t miss them; Espiricueta knows his way around a flaky pie crust the same way he’s mastered his Southern Pride smoker.