You have to love the Roaming Buffalo in the University area of Denver a few miles south of downtown. As they say, it’s smoked low and slow with the sauce on the side — and Colorado craft beer.
The owners and staff are lovely people who really care about their work. They seem to make everything from scratch, including flavored potato chips (sea salt or green chile and white cheddar), and they have an unusual menu. They barbecue lamb — both shoulder and shank — and home-made cheese and jalapeño sausages, in addition to the more common brisket, pork and (it’s Colorado) buffalo.
We ordered a plate with lamb shoulder, pork and buffalo ribs (they were out of the jalapeño cheddar sausage, alas) with potato salad and cole slaw. A corn muffin came with the plate.
That’s the lamb in the foreground, the lighter pork in the back flanked by the chunky buffalo ribs.
The lamb was great. It had a soft smoky flavor and a good lamb taste. Like the brisket, it was moist and tender without being mushy. The pork suffered, as much pork suffers, from the failure to use hickory and the absence of a pit. The buffalo ribs were very lean, which is not what ribs should be. They have two sauces, one regular and one spicy, and a third home-made tabasco- or Texas Pete-type sauce. The spicy sauce was, in fact, too spicy for Nancy who has a strong tolerance for peppers, but I preferred it. Both sauces were good, however, and complemented the meats. The buffalo, being lean, really benefited from the sauce.
The potato salad was good and the cole slaw was very good, with parsley and sweet peppers. There also was strawberry-jalapeno jam on the table and a corn muffin to go with it. Pretty good, but I would have liked more jalapeño, or it could be reworked with cayenne. We split a banana pudding which was pretty good.
The only real limitation on the Roaming Buffalo is its method of cooking — the dread box smoker that seems to infest virtually all urban barbecue places outside the South.
The staff graciously demonstrated the smoker and explained the use of wood pellets – a mix of oak and pecan if I recall — that the smoker itself adds gradually. The benefit of a box smoker is that it is hard not to have moist meat, but that comes at the sacrifice of a proper char and problems with matching the wood to the meat; thus, no hickory for the pork, a least in the west. Compare, for example, the earlier posts on Bob Syke’s or Miss Myra’s, both in Alabama. (Search)
But, as I said, you have to love the Roaming Buffalo. Everything is at least good, and the lamb is worth a trip. And the enthusiasm of the owners for their product communicates itself to the staff and makes all around for a very pleasant and memorable meal. I definitely will go there on my next trip to Denver. I’ll order the lamb shank plate with a side of sausage, and probably try some of their chips.