For Aaron Gonerway, the smell of a wood fire conjures memories of visiting family in Clarksville, Texas, where he learned the art of smoking meat from his late Uncle Glen. “My uncle had a rusty smoker with no thermometer,” he says, “but he made some awesome barbecue.” As an adult, Gonerway’s desire to replicate the flavors of his childhood inspired him to perfect his own backyard cooking methods. Then, the uncertainty of the pandemic gave the aspiring pitmaster the push he needed to quit his full-time gig as the operations supervisor at Arapahoe County Fairgrounds to start Plates by the Pound BBQ in November 2020.
Gonerway sold fire-kissed fare out of his home until September 2021, when he debuted a storefront in Aurora, which offers catering throughout the week but serves takeout on Saturdays. Get there by 10:30 a.m. (the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. and usually sells out by 1:30 p.m.) to order tender ribs, juicy pulled pork, and brisket-loaded baked spuds paired with sides such as creamy, dill-relish-laced potato salad and smoked-turkey-studded baked beans. Like his uncle, Gonerway is proud to offer simple, gently sweet sauces and refuses to give his barbecue a regional style label like Texas or Carolina. “To me, it’s just barbecue,” Gonerway says. “I cook what I like to eat. I cook what I grew up eating.”