Smokin Yard’s BBQ – High Fives All Around

Our friend Thomas started talking about Smokin Yard’s at approximately 7 am Saturday morning, and didn’t stop until we visited the place on the way home from Keystone. He continuously described what sounded like the best BBQ in Colorado, not leaving out a single, juicy detail. Because of my family ties and our time spent in the South, he needed to know what we (Steven and I) thought about it.

After a fun day skiboarding (some of us ski and some of us board – “skiboard”, pronounced “skuh-board”, originated in the Michigander from some silly friends, and just stuck), we drove through Idaho Springs to find Smokin Yard’s BBQ.

[Thomas]: Yeah, yeah… just keep driving through town until you feel like you’ve gone too far… Then, when you feel like you must’ve missed it, it’ll be on the left hand side of the street.

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Steve (left) and Thomas (right) showing the Smokin Yard’s pig some lovin’. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Dec 2013

He was right – there it was!

Located at 2736 Colorado Blvd, Idaho Springs, Colorado 80452, Smokin Yard’s is right off of i70 – perfectly situated on the way home from a day out on the mountain. As soon as you walk in, you notice the friendly environment and the low-key, easy-going staff. The inside wasn’t crowded, but you could immediately tell that they have their base of loyal, repeat customers. The menu is posted on the wall right when you enter, consisting of faves like different cuts of brisket, styles of pulled pork, and other smoked meats.

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Catfish Po’ Boy at Smokin Yard’s in Idaho Springs – click on the link to check out the full menu! Credit: Steve Mercer, Dec 2013

Right away, Steven noticed they had a Catfish Po Boy, and had to try it out. Thomas ordered up the pulled chicken on bun while I opted for pulled pork without a bun (in order to have enough room for the important part!).

Also featured on the Smokin Yard’s menu is a list of comfort sides, like french fries, cole slaw, baked beans, and mashed potatoes with gravy. We each picked a different side to go along with our respective meals, and a beer to wash it all down.

Our friend definitely wasn’t lying; the smell of the food made my mouth water, and the taste brought back memories of my home down south. There was nothing fancy about any of the meals served- just genuine, authentic Southern BBQ, cooked with the customer’s happiness in mind. When our server (and other staff) came by and asked how it was, we provided a round of high-fives to show our appreciation and admiration for the incredible job well done. We may or may not have gotten a little creepy with our gushing compliments.

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Pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and Smokin Yard’s three original sauces. Check out their menu by clicking on the picture. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Dec 2013

Three sauces are placed on each table: a sweet, a bold, and a spicy, all of which created by the geniuses at Smokin Yard’s. I doused all of my tender, pulled pork I had ordered in the bold sauce and enjoyed every minute of it. I would have totally licked the paper tray it came in, but wanted to keep some sort of composure in the restaurant.

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Pulled chicken and fries, pre-doused in sauce. Click on the picture to check out Smokin Yard’s website. Credit: Steve Mercer, Dec 2013

To be honest, we had a brief conversation regarding not posting about Smokin Yard’s strictly because it is so awesome. Of course, the conversation, like I said, was brief; the whole point of DenverSpeax is to get the word out about these fantastic places and celebrate the great job they do.

Smokin Yard’s is a place we will drive for. Check out the reviews on their website as well as their Facebook page if you don’t believe us – not only do they understand how to do BBQ right, they understand how to treat their customers by showing they truly care. Stop in next time you’re on the way home from shredding the mountain, or hop in the car and take a quick road trip to Idaho Springs. You won’t be sorry!

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Tommyknocker Brewery – Colorado Mountain Town Craft Beer

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Tommyknocker brews: 5 oz samples of each beer on tap, for a $1.50 a pop. Try them out – click on the picture to be brought to Tommyknocker’s Facebook page. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, OCT 2013

Loveland Pass is a great place to bring your friends and family when visiting the Denver area; here’s another place that you can incorporate on the way to Loveland Pass! Tommyknocker Brewery is located in Idaho Springs, one of many small mining towns west of Denver. It’s about a 40 minute drive in decent traffic from North Colorado Blvd’s i70 ramp.

When our friend Chris was in town from Michigan, we didn’t get the chance to run up to the Pass, but we were able to bring him to Tommyknocker’s to show him more of Colorado’s awesome brews. Whenever we stop there, I always order the Nuts and Berries Salad and pair it with the Tundrabeary Ale. If a pairing isn’t notated on the menu, your server will be able to suggest a great brew to go along with any food ordered, whether it be a juicy burger or pub food, like their Homemade Bacon Jalapeño Poppers.

To give Chris an idea of what Tommyknockers is all about, we ordered one of each brew in a 5 oz. sampler size for $1.50 each – that’s only .30 cents an ounce! Also, we ordered up our favorite Beer-Battered Mushrooms (pictured below) drizzled with balsamic glaze, and the Bacon-wrapped Jalapeño Poppers (also pictured below). Both of the pub appetizers came out piping hot, and reasonably portioned. It was pub-food heaven with our apps and 50 oz of delicious, assorted beers.

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Bacon-wrapped Jalapeño Poppers – these were a big hit, and might actually take over the number spot for me as fave appetizer at Tommyknocker’s! Click on the picture to head over to Tommyknockers menu. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, OCT 2013

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Beer-Battered Mushrooms with a balsamic glaze drizzle. The mushrooms are actually HUGE and super juicy – they aren’t your 2 am, drunken bar food mushroom, no sir! Click on the photo to check out Tommyknocker Brewery’s menu. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, OCT 2013

Not only did we order these kick-ass appetizers, of course we had to try out some mains! Steven had a giant reuben with sweet-potato tots, while Chris had a few brots with kraut and fries. Let me take a minute to describe the fries Chris received; smothered in buffalo sauce and blue cheese, the fries definitely made a good impression at our table. The pairing of buffalo sauce and blue cheese atop golden french fries is genius!

I was content with my Nuts and Berries salad – the produce and apples are always fresh, and the caramelized walnuts are to die for. Again, this paired with the Tundrabeary Ale guarantees satisfaction. Adding broiled chicken adds $2, but is well worth it. The salad is so ridiculously large -I’m never able to finish it. Hooray for lunch the next day!

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Check out the Reuben Steven ordered stacked with juicy, corned-beef. Are you seeing a pattern with the serving portions? They’re huge! Thanks, Tommyknocker’s. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Oct 2013

Everything is decently priced and beyond reasonably portioned – the plate sizes are huge! If you’re passing through and just want to try the brews and get a snack, split the Motherload Nachos – “A heaping platter of freshly fried tortilla chips, topped with chili con queso, cheddar cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, cilantro, and sour cream. Served with a side of salsa” (Credit: Tommyknocker Brewery menu). When they say a heaping platter, don’t take this statement lightly – these nachos are massive. Also, you can add some protein – chicken or buffalo; add guac as well, if you so dare.

Aside form the food and the brews, Tommyknocker’s venue is fantastic. You can see the beer being brewed while sitting in the brewery / pub area; it’s really incredible to watch the brewmasters go to work and do what they do best – brew outstanding beer! There is an additional room for restaurant seating as well. They also have a small shop, located right at the entrance, with a cooler full of their beer and rootbeer (that they ALSO brew themselves!), t-shirts, beer coozies, and other Tommyknocker gear.

Check out our glorious dinner!

nut and berry salad

Check out this salad: apples, fresh greens, red onions, dried cranberries, feta cheese, caramelized walnuts, and a side of raspberry vinaigrette. I opted to add the chicken for an extra $2. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Oct 2013

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Check out that homemade ‘kraut! Strictly delicious. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Oct 2013

Check out the Tommyknocker Brewery website and see what specials and events they have going on down at the Brewery.

If you find yourself heading west, take a break and check it out. They have a great menu, appropriate for all ages with good comfort-classics. The wait staff and bartenders are friendly, and the venue is incredible. Watching Tommyknockers brew staff actually brew the beer while you eat, drink, and maybe watch a football game or two creates such a cool environment to take your out-of-town guests.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

Continental Divide – Loveland Pass, Colorado

Continental Divide - Loveland Pass

What do you do when you have visitors? Running out of things to see, or tired of going to the same spots with each out-of-towner? Here’s one spot that never gets old – take 70 West out of Denver to Loveland Pass and drive up to the Continental Divide. From there, you can take long or short hikes to various peaks. Bringing visiting friends to the Continental Divide is sort of a tradition now – our friends brought us here when we first moved to Denver, and now we all continue to bring our friends and family there to see the incredible sights. Try it out! You won’t be disappointed. Also, you might be able to throw a snowball or two.

Mount Evans Scenic Byway- The Road to the Clouds

Based 35 miles outside of Denver, CO, Mt. Evans rests at an elevation of 14,264′. The Scenic Byway climbs more than 7,000′ in approximately 28 miles, according to CDOT, and provides spectacular views of the land, mountain ranges, wildlife, and plantlife.

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It’s lonesome at the top, right? Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Aug 2013

The road to the summit of Mt. Evans is a scary one – lots of cliff-hanger views a foot outside of the car. Our good friend Michael drove us to the top while we all laughed nervously and inched toward the middle of the car. Well, all of us except our Moguls (the little dog), and our good friend Sarah, who was visiting from Michigan and has driven Highway 1 in California.

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Sarah getting a little puppy love from an excited Moguls on the way to summit. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Aug 2013

Once arriving at the summit, the small hike to the top took about 15 minutes. The four of us were able to stand the 45-degree weather for about 10 minutes before we descended; also, a storm was about to roll in. Be sure when planning a trip to Mt. Evans you check the current weather status and be prepared for the possibility of snow, lightning, high winds, hail, and heavy rain year-round.

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Sarah and Moguls heading to the top of Mt. Evans. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Aug 2013

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Steven and Moguls hiking up. You can see the road below as well as get an idea of some of the life-changing sites on this trail. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Aug 2013

Just to be clear – we did not do the entire 14er hike that is available. We drove to the summit, as previously noted. Of course, we hope to do a 14er in the future, but understand that it takes a lot of energy, experience, and physical awesomeness. Things we will continue to work on.

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“The Abyss”. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Aug 2013

Check out the pictures from our Mt. Evans ride and hike here, and more on DenverSpeax’s Facebook page. While you’re there, like us!

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Michael looking out into the clouds. Pictured is where cars are parked at summit. The hike to the very top takes approximately another 15 minutes. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Aug 2013

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Another view from the short hike to the top of Mt. Evans. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Aug 2013

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Driving up to the top was a bit nerve-racking at times! Still beautiful, nonetheless. Credit: Kirsten Ebey, Aug 2013