Slow-smoked, Memphis dry rubs and a dose of haunted history are the draw at JKQ BBQ in Central City. Owners Joseph and Kara Tinucci shaped their barbecue legacy in Las Vegas, operating an award-winning food truck there before Joseph’s work in the casino industry brought the family to Gilpin County eight years ago.

The couple opened JKQ BBQ in the Face Bar of the Teller House last year much to the pleasure of locals seeking lunch and dinner space sans flashing and ringing slot machines. The Face Bar is named for the 1936 painting of a woman’s face on the barroom floor, one of the many spirits rumored to appear in whispers and after-dark window silhouettes.

Some Central City guests wander in solely to snap a selfie with the solemn face on the floor, daring to step down the eerie stairs to the bathrooms where the air is thick with supernatural energy. Others are in town and heading to the neighboring Central City Opera House—the fifth-oldest opera house in the country renowned for its world-class productions and month-long summer festival. Most are lured in by the smell of Tinucci’s smoker rolling out back.

JKQ BBQ is gaining status as a community hub, offering live music on Friday nights and stellar barbecue. Regulars rave about the 14-hour brisket, smoked pulled lamb with homemade taziki, smoked salmon BLT, and pig wings (hefty pork shanks on the bone). Low-key sides and apps include gooey green chile mac-and-cheese and pulled-pork-loaded tots. The smoky chili, packed with 30-plus ingredients, including a fall-apart brisket, is a true cool-weather treat. Sit at the historic bar for some mountain hospitality with a serving of ghost stories—most of the staff have had spooky encounters in the Teller House.

Visit JKQ on the way to the famous Central City Opera House, after an autumn tour along the Peak to Peak Highway, or before a high-stakes night on the town. You’ll be glad you did.

If you go: JKQ BBQ is open Thursday–Sunday 11:30 a.m.–7:30 p.m. (call ahead to confirm fall and winter hours); 120 Eureka St., Central City, 303-582-0600.

Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake
Lisa Blake is a freelance writer and children's book author living in Breckenridge. When she's not writing about food and mountain adventures, she can be found on the river with her son, pug and husband.