A meaty spread at Owlbear Barbecue. Photo by Adrian Miller
to eat and drink
In honor of National Barbecue Month, Adrian Miller, author of Black Smoke: African American and the United States of Barbecue, serves dishes in his favorite spots for fire-kissed dishes.
• May 18, 2021
Denver is fortunate to have its own soul food scholar. Adrian Miller. And if he’s not going across the country researching black food history and culture, there’s a good chance he’s stuck in a grill plate.
Miller, a James Beard Award-winning food writer, historian, and lawyer, was born and raised in Denver. That’s why he has eaten his whole share of the barbecue at restaurants across Colorado. His latest book also revolves around the longstanding cooking method. That spring he published Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States by Barbecuethat tells the story of our nation’s black pit masters and restaurateurs.
In honor of National Barbecue Month this May, we asked Miller to share his favorite Centennial State BBQ spots. Before we get down to the list, however, there are a few things you should know about his taste testing credentials and his approach to scoring newcomer-home restaurants.
Denver-born and award-winning writer Adrian E. Miller. Photo courtesy Lorenzo Chavez
Miller has been barbecuing since childhood. Growing up, his family cooked spare ribs, chicken, and hotlinked sausages all summer on holidays and weekends. His very first job was at an Aurora grill place that later burned down (a fate all too common in restaurants that deal primarily with smoke and fire). He is also a certified grill judge.
Nowadays, when Miller visits a grill restaurant for the first time, he almost always orders the pork spare ribs first when they’re on the menu. Then he usually tries the pulled pork and maybe some brisket. Miller often builds his own sampler records in restaurants that sell their smoked meat for a pound. “I’m a spare ribs guy, so that’s my touchstone,” he says. “I watch how they are made, how they taste. For me this is always a sign of the good things to come. “
He’s a fan of Kansas City-style and North Carolina-style sauces, but he really tries to follow each chef’s lead when it comes to sauce. “I just think of sauce like a cook, they say, ‘This is part of it’ and I try to enjoy the whole seamless experience instead of separating them,” he says.
Miller, who usually grills about once a week – twice a week during the pandemic – to support small businesses, is a fan of potato salad and coleslaw for side dishes, but notes that he doesn’t like coleslaw with raisins. “To me, the sides are secondary – they certainly complement each other, but I focus more on the meat and the sauce,” he says.
A dish he hasn’t found in Colorado yet? Good smoked chicken. “I’m still looking for a good smoked chicken,” he says. “I just can’t imagine anyone who is immediately unforgettable. I haven’t found what I’m looking for. “
And now, without further ado, here are Miller’s favorite grilling spots across the state – and what he likes to order from everyone.
Locations in Westminster, Lone Tree and Mile High Stadium
What Miller ordered: “I love their smoked wings and their ribs are really good,” he says.
Hanks Texas Barbecue
5410 E. Colfax Ave.
What Miller ordered: Hotlink sausages and frito pie. “You can add brisket [the Frito pie],” he says.
2826 Larimer St.
What Miller ordered: Brisket and pulled pork. “The interesting thing about their pulled pork is the unusual North Carolina style. I didn’t expect that, ”he says. “I also love their burgers. They do burger nights regularly and they are really good. “
Roaming Buffalo BBQ
2387 S. Downing St .; 17121 S. Golden Rd. C100, golden
What Miller ordered: Bison ribs and pulled lamb. “Bison ribs are lean and have a slightly playful taste, but they are more reminiscent of beef than pork,” he says. “There are BBQ Sammies on the weekends and they’re pretty tasty too.”
Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-BQ
315 South 31st St., Colorado Springs
What Miller ordered: Prime rib and pork spare ribs.
Post Oak Barbecue
4000 Tennyson St.
What Miller ordered: Pork spare ribs and pork belly. “Man, they have so many good things there,” he says.
Serious Texas Bar BQ
Locations in Durango, Loveland, Fort Collins
What Miller ordered: Brisket and Elgin Texas sausages, plus a selection of their seasonal sauces. “It’s a very special sausage that can be found specifically in central Texas,” he says. “In central Texas, it’s often referred to as“ hot guts ”. Imagine a sausage that is coarsely ground but feels almost fluffy. “
3330 Brighton Blvd. (in the Source Market Hall & Hotel); New locations are coming to Denver and Fort Collins soon
What Miller ordered: “I like their burnt ends and their smoked ones Jalapeno-cheddar sausage, “he says. “And whenever you make your fish special, that’s really good.”
Wayne’s Smoke Shack
406 Center Dr., Superior
What Miller ordered: Brisket and smoked catfish.