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Thursday, March 27,2014

Barbecue-topia at KT’s Hickory Pit

By Josh Gross
Susan France

Most places, barbecue is unabashedly redneck, just red meat doused in sugar-water and cooked in a manner that actively contributes to climate change. Vegetables are about as popular in this process as Stalin.

But here in Boulder, where kale is a main course, barbecue is straight-up punk rock, a middle finger waved at your cholesterol from the top of the Flatirons. And all it took was a single look at the menu at KT’s BBQ to know they were devout followers of the Johnny Rotten school of culinary thought. Other than the cole slaw and a token salad, it was nothing but artery-clogging goodness: brisket, pulled pork and ribs, with a variety of starchy sides.

Meat came on a bun, or piled up like a parfait. Just think of that, a chicken sundae.

I went for Mike’s Basket ($9.80), a standard slab of dead cow/dead chicken/dead pig, with two sides and a drink. Pro-tip: The cashier let me swap out the drink for an extra side, so I got a half hot link to go with my brisket, mac and cheese and mashed red potatoes. That means that in addition to the extra side, I got a really sweet nap after lunch. Bonus.

The order counter also doubled as a prep-station, with the menu items waiting to be served on a steam table. That made for a lightning-quick order. I was seated with a mouth full of brisket less than five minutes after entering.

There are four KT’s locations. The East Boulder spot I visited is a converted house on 74th and Arapahoe, decorated with Elvis memorabilia, including a copy of the only cookbook this reporter owns hanging on the wall, Are You Hungry Tonight?: Elvis’s Favorite Recipes. The clean, simple wood counters and tables and the large picture windows looking out across the neutral zone between Boulder and the rest of East County made for excellent atmosphere.

It didn’t hurt that the brisket was done up right, with a rich, lean flavor and a balanced texture.

But fact is, barbecue is nothing without the sauce, and KT’s knows how to do it right, with squeeze bottles of three different heat levels out on every table. The hottest, Double Diamond, is a perfect balance with a strong bite, but not a lot of lingering heat. The middle level also has a nice touch of heat, but with a thinner Lousiana-style structure. Tricia’s Texas Sauce, the mainstay at KT’s, is thick with the taste of smoke and molasses, a great all-around sauce.

But the best of the bunch is the Carolina mustard, a bright and brassy baste with the bite of mustard and a strong vinegar tang. I dipped everything in it. Brisket. Hot links. Mashers. Mac and cheese. I almost squirted some of it into my glass of water, but that would have been a little weird. In a perfect world, the Carolina mustard would be bottled on the tables as well. But I had to ask for a ramekin of it to be poured on the side.

In that perfect world, KT’s also might include collard greens or roasted corn on the menu, just to marginally offset the meat, but in the world of broke things in need of fixing, that’s somewhere on par with the world’s need for a rebooted version of Casablanca starring Gilbert Gotfried.

I finished things off with a cup of key lime pie, all creamy goodness atop a luscious crumbled crust.

And at prices around $2-$3 less than other local comparable barbecue joints, it’s hard to find much to critique with KT’s, besides the fact that it would be obscenely unhealthy to eat there as often as I’d like.

Oi oi, Boulder.†

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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