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South Denver has a new vegan comfort food destination, thanks to the arrival of JackBeQue. The takeout- or delivery-only spot, which opened inside the Hilton Denver Inverness in February, is the brainchild of Atlanta native Ross Pullen.
Pullen, who studied sustainability in college before attending culinary school at Colorado Mountain College in Summit County, transitioned to a vegan diet four years ago with the help of a 10-day fast. That experience opened his eyes to how much individuals overconsume on a daily basis and inspired him to open a Southern-style, vegan barbecue restaurant. “There’s so much room to create healthier options for Southern cuisine, but I saw a lack of that in the Denver area,” Pullen says.
At JackBeQue, Pullen offers dishes produced with whole-food ingredients like organic bread, daikon radish, and hemp seed, then tops them with homemade and locally sourced vegan sauces. As its name hints, one of the highlights of the menu is smoked jackfruit, a tropical fruit that’s native to South India. When the produce is cooked and shredded, it looks remarkably similar to pulled pork, making it a common ingredient in vegan barbecue. In fact, the striking resemblance often even fools diners. “I had a vegetarian guest at a catering event a few weeks ago who almost wouldn’t eat the barbecue because she didn’t believe it wasn’t meat,” Pullen chuckles.
Making JackBeQue’s signature smoked jackfruit requires a long process. First, Pullen mixes the jackfruit with some of his tangy, slightly sweet, homemade barbecue sauce. Then, it goes into the smoker for three days before it’s ready to be served in one of Pullen’s sandwiches, such as the JackBeQban, featuring barbecue jackfruit topped with vegan “cheeze,” smoked watermelon, pickles, and dijon mustard.
Another must-try menu item is Pullen’s bacon, which is made with daikon radish that’s pickled and smoked, resulting in a crunchy, savory accompaniment to dishes like Brandy-Braised Brussel Sprouts and the hearty BeanBePatty Melt. “I prefer whole-plant ingredients, and I avoid soy, so I started working with daikon radish to see what I could create,” Pullen says.
JackBeQue only uses natural ingredients, such as non-GMO rice bran oil for frying. Pullen’s commitment to using whole foods is tied to his passion for living a sustainable lifestyle. For example, after learning that a large amount of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is caused by a demand for soybean farming, Pullen aimed to cut soy out of his diet.
Crunchy favorites to try include the fried green chile mac—bites that are crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and served with a side of homemade barbecue sauce. Or order the hush puppies—one of Pullen’s favorite foods growing up. His variation is accompanied by a side of vegan maple butter (instead of the traditional honey butter), which complements the gentle spice of chipotle seasoning.
Craving dessert? Top off your meal with the peach blueberry cobbler, served with creamy, homemade hemp ice cream.
After only a few short months of business, JackBeQue is already expanding its hours and offerings. Stop by on the weekend to try their newly debuted brunch menu, featuring Belgian-style mac and cheese waffles, homefry style potatoes, and, of course, a healthy side of daikon bacon.
JackBeQue is open for takeout and delivery inside the Hilton Denver Inverness, Thursday–Friday, 11 a.m.–8 p.m., and Saturday–Sunday, 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; diners can also order via Uber Eats, Doordash, or Grubhub; 200 Inverness Dr. W., Englewood