Review: Kings BBQ is pleased to meat you

Categories: Review

kingsBBQ.jpg
Danielle Lirette
Southern comfort: brisket, collard greens and mac and cheese. See more of what Kings BBQ has to offer in our slideshow.
Kings BBQ
4601 Harlan Street, Wheat Ridge

When I pulled up in front of Kings BBQ, I thought this might be it. You know, It. The place we've been looking for to raise barbecue in this town to smokin' new heights. And by "we," I mean not just me, a girl who grew up eating fine Oklahoma barbecue, but 'cue lovers of all stripes, including the hundred-plus commenters who offered meaty thoughts on Denver's sorry barbecue scene on Cafe Society last month.

See also: A Closer Look at Kings BBQ

_Y7A9573-01.jpg
Danielle Lirette
CJ Johnson parked his barbecue truck to open Kings.
The four-month-old Kings, which I learned of through a restaurant-industry veteran, had plenty of promise. It's not in trendy RiNo or Ballpark or Baker, but across from a Walmart on the backside of Lakeside -- a good sign, because the best barbecue has a way of taking you off your beaten path. It's not fancy -- a handful of tables lined up in a row, a couple of beer signs on the walls and windows, and rolls of paper towels with which to wipe your greasy hands when you push back the plates and call it quits. And the menu, written on a chalkboard above the counter where you order, is just brisket, chicken, pulled pork, wings and ribs (sadly, no rib tips and burnt ends), plus the usual sides.

But there's no denying the smells coming from the smoker, partially hidden behind weathered, rough-cut planks on one side of the small parking lot. As I made my way to Kings' glass door (the kind you'd find at a gas station or convenience store), I peeked through cracks in the fence and saw enough wood to heat a cabin -- piles and piles of smaller limbs and split fruit wood that look like any other logs...until they burn and infuse their aromatic magic.

"Have you been here before?" asked the girl at the counter, who was sporting jeans and a retro T-shirt. We shook our heads. "Then I'm going to tell you something that's not very helpful: Everything is good." When pressed, she singled out the brisket, so I started there. My husband added a half-pound of pulled pork, and then we turned our attention to sides, piling them onto our order with the snowballing enthusiasm of hungry people who didn't get enough lunch. Coleslaw. Beans. Collards. Steak fries. Doesn't the mac and cheese sound good? Let's try some. Do you have cornbread? It was burned today? How about a roll, then, with butter, please.

_Y7A9538-01.jpg
Danielle Lirette
Southern smoked St. Louis ribs.
Of course we over-ordered, but the smoky smells had us primed for a feast. Good thing Kings' prices are reasonable, because nothing puts the brakes on fun like a big-ticket tab. As it was, the only slowdown came in the way of drinks: A liquor license is pending, so we had to content ourselves with iced tea and lemonade (not the hard kind).
Walking past a dad and his daughter, several guys in boots and baseball caps, and a family whose table was as full of plates and red paper-lined baskets as ours soon would be, we found two red-vinyl-topped chairs and sat down to wait. A TV was on, but you could only see it from the counter. So we passed the time rehashing our day, until I realized that without even knowing it, I'd been tapping my fingers, grooving to KC and the Sunshine Band's "That's the Way (I Like It)." R&B hits followed -- loud, but not overly so, just enough to keep conversations private and augment the good-natured vibe in this no-frills space.

That vibe emanates from chef-owner CJ Johnson, a Texan with roots in Louisiana and Alabama. Unlike classic 'cue masters in Kansas City or North Carolina who took over the trade from their father or grandfather, Johnson is relatively new to the field, having worked in restaurants on and off but never in barbecue joints; he left a career as a radiologic technologist to launch a food truck. "It was a passion to follow my heart," he says. He parked the truck to open Kings, and when he's not walking around the place asking how things are, he's overseeing the kitchen. "It'll be just a minute," he promised as we waited. "We fire it all fresh."

Keep reading for more on Kings BBQ.


Location Info

Kings BBQ

4601 Harlan Street, Wheat Ridge, CO

Category: Restaurant


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
21 comments
HonkyTalk
HonkyTalk

The food looks disappointingly like it has since they opened. When you buy this place do you get the recipes from the previous BBQ places that didn't make it?

Shay1981
Shay1981

Through word of mouth this was the place to try. I came in from Nebraska was advised to try this place and I'm glad I stopped. I'm going back again before I leave!

Sammy River
Sammy River

Get a southern boy if you want it done right.

Mark Lawrey
Mark Lawrey

I thought it was just ok. That place has been through about half a dozen different owners trying to do BBQ.

stephlm
stephlm

Kings is the best BBQ I've had. The brisket is absolutely perfect and the ribs are huge and delicious! Great prices and wonderful service too. So glad they opened up a real BBQ place in Denver! Yum yum!

Nando Commando
Nando Commando

You can't be sincere AND be a Texan. Which is it?

Vic-Stevinson
Vic-Stevinson

I'm looking forward to visiting this place.

That said, trotting out OKLAHOMA as your culinary trump card in any situation is laughable.

Do you pooh-pooh Denver's seafood restaurants because you had some "fine Oklahoma FISH STICKS?"



Legen Dairy
Legen Dairy

They dont serve rib tips. Enough said

Ben Elich
Ben Elich

I am gonna have to agree with an earlier comment Jabo's is delicous I dont get it to much though since Its a long drive thier from thornton

GFTW
GFTW

om nom nom nom

Joshua Wilson
Joshua Wilson

Sad is when you live in a place that the freshest and best BBQ and Mexican food in town has to be flown in from Texas.

Mel Hayes
Mel Hayes

I actually went here just last weekend and the food was delicious! The owner was a pleasure to be around, very friendly and hospitable. My only complaint was their lemonade left something to desire. Check em out, yo!

Kristin Leigh Anderson
Kristin Leigh Anderson

Will someone please go to Jabo's already? Best BBQ in Denver and no one writes about it

Nando Commando
Nando Commando

They took up residence where Tennessee used to be. I'm anxious to go try this place out and the one you reviewed yesterday.

Gina Ortega
Gina Ortega

Damien Aragon Look! This is that place we went too before it was King's BBQ

Vic-Stevinson
Vic-Stevinson

I'm forever in search of Burnt Ends, any ideas?

Now Trending

From the Vault

 

Loading...