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10 Chefs on the Best Barbecue in Colorado

The DO Chef Panel spills its Q secrets

Owlbear barbecue

Owlbear is a favorite of two of our chefs (Photo by Owlbear)

May is National Barbecue Month, and it also kicks off a whole season of glorious Q consumed at festivals and in backyards. While Denver may not be a renowned barbecue town, more and more authentic joints are popping up around the state, steered by Southern transplants and other experts.

We asked the DO Chef Panel to let us in on their favorite local spots for the smokiest, tenderest, sauciest barbecue. Here are their favorite barbecue joints in Denver, Boulder, and beyond.

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“Hands down, Owlbear Barbecue. The mad man’s name is Carl-something and he’s trained by Aaron Franklin [of Franklin Barbecue in Austin]. It’s the best brisket I’ve had outside of Texas.” —Adam Branz, Bistro Vendôme

Owlbear is permanently located behind Finn’s Manor in RiNo.

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Owlbear behind Finn’s Manor. The meat is responsibly raised and smoked in local wood. The ribs are my first choice, but each item on the menu is divine.” —Nadine Donovan, Secret Sauce F&B

[DO Chef Panel Shares Their Secret Dinner Spots]

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Piggin’ Out in Lakewood right off Morrison Road. It’s quick service and authentic. You pick it up and take it home, or go to a park and dig in. I always get the half slab of ribs, half a chicken, cornbread, and mac and cheese. It is killer.” —Efren Velasquez, La Loma
Smokin yards barbecue ribs

Too legit to quit (Photo by Smokin Yards)

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“I might be jumping a little out of the Denver/Boulder area, but both these places are 30-45 minutes at most from Denver. Smokin Yards in Idaho Springs is the go-to spot after a day up in the mountains. The Hot Links, Smoked Chuck Burger, or Burnt Ends are all solid choices. Mac ‘n’ cheese, beans, and some boiled peanuts on the side. Wash it down with a cold beer.

My other favorite spot is Georgia Boys BBQ in Longmont or Frederick. The Frederick location is a bit closer to Denver and totally worth the drive. Get the Burnt End Philly Sandwich—it’s absolutely as good as it sounds. And the ribs and mac ‘n’ cheese are ‘don’t miss’ items as well.” —Brandon Foster, Vesta Dipping Grill

[Denver’s Best Barbecue]

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Wayne’s Smoke Shack in Superior. The place sells out daily by 3 or 4pm and it’s hidden away among a bunch of retail stores … that’s saying something! It’s the type of place you would and should travel to. I’ve never met Wayne, but from what I hear, he trained at Franklin BBQ in Austin, which is a mecca for some of the best barbecue in the country. I love the deli-style counter where you order meats by the pound. Every time I’m there, I have to get the brisket, pork shoulder, and a few ribs. I also don’t mind the various sauces on the tables to mess around with, not that the meat needs them.” —Nick Swanson, Under the Sun Eatery and Pizzeria

The sauce situation at Georgia Boys

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“I love Georgia Boys up in Longmont, which has the best grasp of deep South barbecue. They use the right amount of smoke and do not overcook their meat. It seems simple, but they are the only ones in my opinion that have it right around here. I never miss the pulled pork, sliced brisket, mac ‘n’ cheese, barbecue beans, and cornbread.” —Dan Kane, Del Frisco’s Grille

Dan is a Memphis native, so he considers himself a lifelong barbecue consumer, producer, and, most of all, eater. He’s even judged a few barbecue contests.

[Ghost BBQ Opens in Boulder]

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“I love a good Korean barbecue joint, and Dae Gee does a great job. You know it’s good Korean barbecue if when you leave the restaurant, your clothes smell!” —Bradford Kim, Cherry Hills Sushi Co.

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GQue Championship BBQ is the real deal—Jason has learned his craft the old fashioned way. All the meats rocks—especially the brisket—and his beans are rich and flavorful from cooking underneath the pork. Why is it the best? It’s not an assembly line production. It’s real food, done real slow until it’s just right. I order the brisket, the beans, and whatever else catches my whimsy because I know it will be good.” —Paul Stockhausen, The Exchange Tavern

[5 Top Boulder BBQ Joints]

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Smokin Yard’s BBQ in Idaho Springs. Any self-respecting skier/snowboarder needs a damn good food plan if they are going to brave the I-70 corridor to shred some gnar-pow (or go hiking, biking, climbing, whatever). Whenever I go, my first question is: Are the burnt ends available? This is the best part of brisket. They’re super caramelized, a bit crunchy, and totally saturated with insanely good, smoky, barbecue flavor. Pile a bunch of those bad boys on a bun, add a little bit of preferred sauce, and rock out. The plain ‘ol brisket is an acceptable back-up order. Bonus: help yourself to warm boiled peanuts while you wait for the goods.” —Dakota Soifer, Cafe Aion

The DiningOut (DO) Chef Panel serves as the voice of culinary talent in Denver, Boulder, and beyond. These 70-plus chefs answer our burning questions about the local dining scene, cooking, and food trends on a monthly basis.