You might be surprised to know that a modern Chinese restaurant makes some of the tastiest chile-rubbed ribs in Denver. Or that Colorado bison rib meat is oh-so tender and practically falls off the bone. Did you know there’s a new pastrami rib in town? And that it’s served with spicy mustard inside a Lower Downtown cocktail bar?
The more rib knowledge you rack up, the more you’ll learn about important questions, like, “But where are my ribs located on their rack?”
“I first experienced this at M&D’s Barbecue and Fish Palace, a now-closed restaurant in Denver,” wrote Adrian Miller in his 2021 book, Black Smoke. “I was intrigued by what the menu called ‘the small end’ (of a rack of pork spareribs). … When looking at an intact set of spareribs, these were the smaller bones at the opposite end of the larger, meatier bones. M&D’s menu described them as ‘the filet mignon of ribs.’ ”
From fine filets to cola-sprayed, here are some really excellent and interesting ribs to try this weekend and all summer long.
Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que
Colorado Bison Back Ribs are the draw at this local-as-they-come barbecue joint founded by husband-and-wife team Coy and Rachael Webb on Denver’s South Downing Street. The bison comes from Rock River Ranches in Commerce City, and as chef Adam Oglesby describes it, the meat is rich in iron with a taste similar to steak on the bone. Here, the ribs receive a house rub as well as a Coca-Cola spray halfway through their 4-hour smoke time. Bison meat is also scored ahead of smoking because it’s so lean, with lots of tendons, Oglesby explained. But that’s not a bad thing: Connective tissue breaking down makes these ribs even more tender. ($3.25 single, $13 half-rack, $21 full)
2387 S. Downing St., roamingbuffalobbq.com
This Blake Street bar’s new chef, JV Hernandez, is spicing up a casual dinner menu with dishes like striped bass crudo and sweet corn beignets, which are delicious in their own right. But the biggest stars of the show (a little surprisingly) are these pastrami pork ribs. According to Hernandez, they start with a two-day brine in molasses, brown sugar, pickling spice and honey. Then they’re cooked sous-vide style for six hours “until super tender. We give them a quick fry then toss in pastrami spice and serve with spicy beer mustard.” Kind of like a deli sandwich, only better. ($13)
1526 Blake St., brasstacksdinebar.com
Chef Christopher Lin’s Shacha BBQ Spareribs might catch your eye on his Taiwanese menu of Beef Tongue and Tripe, wok-fried Cheung Fun and Shanghai Bok Choy. In this context, the ribs are coated in chopped peanuts, fried garlic, chilies and chives, and served atop a savory sauce featuring similar ingredients. The name of this dish comes from that sauce, which is commonly used in Taiwan and translated in the West (quite loosely) to Chinese BBQ. But shacha is made using soybean oil, garlic, shallots, chilies, brill fish and dried shrimp (or similar combinations), giving it a complex and distinctly spicy taste. ($25)
3421 E. Colfax Ave., qhousedenver.com
Post Oak Barbecue
For your traditional, Texas-style pork ribs, Post Oak’s are hard to beat. Owner Nick Prince starts with a St. Louis-cut heritage rack and layers on kosher salt plus garlic, black pepper, paprika and sugar (his house pork seasoning). He smokes the ribs for about three hours over Texas post oak wood, exclusively. Then comes a thin coat of “rib juice” made with barbecue sauce, Dr. Pepper “and other tasty ingredients.” The ribs cook wrapped inside foil for one more hour before they’re ready to be cut, served and eaten. ($3.50 single, $18 half rack, $29 full rack)
4000 Tennyson St., postoakdenver.com
And one to watch: Plates by the Pound BBQ
I haven’t yet sampled any meats from Aaron Gonerway’s weekend barbecue sales, but his ribs come highly recommended. The up-and-coming pitmaster is one of 13 recipients of Kingsford’s 2021 Preserve the Pit fellowship, which works to preserve Black barbecue traditions in America. Gonerway first learned about barbecue from his uncle Glen, who smoked “everything” back when he was growing up in Clarksville, Texas. Now based in Denver, Gonerway is offering catering through his website and selling plates of smoked meats by the pound most weekends. You’ll find him next on July 10, but you’ll have to check social media for pre-orders.
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