Smokin’ Dave’s Tasty Barbecue

Smokin’ Dave puts out rockin’ good barbecue in two Front Range towns.

I grew up in New England, so barbecue is not part of my heritage, and I’m therefore hardly a purist. In fact, I’m more into taste than authenticity (and yes, I know that there are great regional variations to what qualifies as “authentic”). If the meat is tender, the sauce flavorful and the cole slaw crisp, I’m happy. In Boulder, The Rib House and and KT’s Barbecue are to my liking. Much as I wanted to enjoy Daddy Bruce’s, I have a hard time with the often tough brisket, vinegary sauce and slice of squooshy white bread — which means I’m not really a fan of Carolina barbecue.

I’ve had my eye on Smokin’ Dave’s for some time en route to or from Rocky Mountain National Park. The lower-elevation, eastern branch is in downtown Lyons, while the higher-elevation, western branch is on the outskirts of Estes Park. Earlier this year, we tried to get into the Estes Park restaurant, but there was always a wait. We recently ate at Dave’s in Lyons in the late afternoon with no wait.

View from the dining room into the bar/taphouse. Dave’s doesn’t brew beer but pours an imposing selection of microbrews.
Four 100% natural sauces out of their Corona sixpack holder: Papa’s Spicy, Carolina mustard, Texas Tangy and 7522′ Original (the elevation of the Estes Park location).

The Dave who launched Smokin’ Dave’s in 2007, the Year of the Pig, is Dave “The Boss Hog” Oehlman from the L.A. area, so he didn’t grow up with a barbecue tradition either. (I don’t know where his wife Cat “The Spare Rib” Oehlman hails from, but she might be the real-deal BBQueen.) In any case, veteran restaurateur Dave tasted and adapted barbecue from various regions, and that might be the reason I liked it. The Lyons restaurant has a real informal elbows-on-the-table atmosphere with such requisite accessories as a newsprint menu, a roll of paper towel on each table, condiments (in this case the four of his own sauces) in a six-pack holder. Old license plates serve as wall sconces, and other nostalgia touches abound.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich served in a basket lined with checkered flag-print paper with lettuce, tomato, onion and thin sweet potato fries.
Smokin’ Meatloaf, made with ground pork, sweet Italian sausage and Porter beer and cheddar cheese, that is baked and then sliced and grilled. It comes with , portabella cream sauce. corn bread and a choice of two sides (here smashed potatoes and BBQ baked beans).

Price check: Appetizers, $6.95-$10.95; “Salads & Things,” $4.25-$9.95; entrees (called Favorites, Smokin’ Platters or Ribs! Ribs! Ribs!), $11.95-$27.95 (the most expensive being a large portion oof 7 Kobe beef ribs); sandwiches and burgers, $7.95-$11.95; sides, 75¢-$2.25; desserts, $5.25-$6.95. Also family platters serving up to six people.

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