Memorial Day weekend in Denver: Our favorite grilling recipes and more

With Memorial Day comes the summer, and with summer comes grilling outside as much as possible.

As folks all around the city dust off their grills, smokers and barbecue stations, and stock up on propane, charcoal and wood chips, it’s time to start thinking about what succulent cuts of meat to kiss with fire, as well as the seasonal vegetables to accompany the main course.

We reached out to some of the top butchers and meat purveyors in the area to find out what they will be grilling, and what the most popular cuts are that Denverites are demanding. There’s also a hearty dose of vegetable pros to help with green side of grilling for those who may want to enjoy the pasttime without animal products (veggies rock, too).

The meats

With so many choices, it’s easy to get lost when choosing the perfect cuts for Memorial Day grilling. Lucky us, there aren’t a lot of wrong choices, as demonstrated by the following meat experts.

The Local Butcher: Owner Justin Herd knows his meat, and during Memorial Day he gets an influx of customers looking for burgers, sausages and kabobs.

“Memorial Day really is the gateway to summertime, and people are shaking off the rust from not cooking out as much over the winter, so they stick to more basic and easier items,” said Herd. “I tell a lot of our customers if you want to truly know what differentiates us from our competitors, buy our ground beef or hamburgers and you’ll smell and taste the difference immediately.”

As for what he’s grilling on the long weekend, hands down it’s tri-tip for the butcher, who opened The Local Butcher in 2016.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer since there aren’t a lot of cuts of meat that are as versatile as tri-tip,” added Herd. “It can be the center of the plate protein, and goes well with almost any side, or is phenomenal on a sandwich.”

Stock up on ground beef, sausage, tri-tip and kabobs from The Local Butcher at either of its two Denver locations: Oneida Park (2242 Oneida St.) or Denver Central Market (2669 Larimer St.).

Lazy J: Head to the farmers market this weekend and pick out some prime cuts of pork from John Scaggs, owner of Lazy J, a farrow-to-market ranch located in Longmont.

“Chops and brats are the most sought-after items during the summer,” said Scaggs, while showcasing his heritage pork products at City Park Farmers Market on a recent Saturday morning. “From a bountiful backyard barbeque to a remote rustic campsite, these cuts really sizzle.”

For the butcher-farmer, his favorite thing to prepare for summer gatherings is a mixed grill platter featuring pork chops, sausages and heaps of grilled veggies all served on a large platter.

“The key to pork chops for me is to keep it simple and season them thoroughly with salt and pepper and grill them on a hot grill, taking care not to let the actual flames touch the meat,” he added. “For bratwurst, I like to par-boil them before grilling because this method reduces the chances of a link erupting and releasing a grease geyser on your grill that will cause flames to jump up and char the links, which again, is where carcinogenic compounds are formed.”

He suggested using a meat thermometer to ensure the perfect cook time, with an internal temp of 145 degrees for whole muscle cuts like chops, and 165 degrees for sausages and ground meat. After all, he added, it’s a crime to overcook expensive meats, put things back on the grill or make someone sick.

Look for Lazy-J and the Hungarian Mangalitsa pork products all summer at the Saturday City Park Farmers Market (City Park Esplanade at East Colfax and Columbine St.), South Pearl Street Farmers Market (1527 S. Pearl St.), and Highland Square Farmers Market (West 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard).

Locavore Delivery: Craig Taber launched his delivery-only operation in 2013, and since then he has worked to bring mostly local, but always top-quality chicken, beef, lamb, salmon and pork to the residents of Denver and Boulder. For him, grilling with charcoal is king, and for Memorial Day he likes to throw chicken wings on his Weber 22-inch grill. First, though, he tosses them in the Midnight Toker spice blend, sourced from a local company, The Spice Guy.

Another favorite of his, which he knows other people are also grilling, is steak. Specifically, the sirloin flap steaks from Longmont-based operation Buckner Family Farm. Add some salt and pepper and a little chimichurri he said, and that makes for the perfect protein for holiday grilling.

Oliver’s Meat Market: When your family has been butchering meat for a century, there can be no contest to the knowledge that Jim Oliver has when it comes to grilling. In fact, the fifth-generation butcher brimmed with excitement when asked to share his and his customer’s favorite cuts.

“Since we are turning 100 years old this year, I think it’s safe to say we have been a part of quite a few people’s summer holiday cookouts,” said Oliver. “Starting with pork, one could choose ribs, either baby backs or St. Louis style, and another favorite is pork butt for pulled pork sandwiches.”

Sausage, too, proves popular, he added, and the Denver-based Oliver’s Meat Market makes 40 different varieties from an array of proteins including lamb, duck, bison, turkey, salmon and pork. On the beef side, the butcher finds customers gravitate toward ribeyes, New York strip steaks, filets and tomahawks, those giant steaks with a long bone that feed at least two people. But that’s not all: Oliver also suggests grilling a butterflied leg of lamb, loin lamb chops and seafood such as salmon, ruby red trout fillets and scallops.

While it’s easy to pop into this storied meat market to chat with the family about what to grill and pick up the products, for some cuts customers need to order ahead of time. Visit Oliver’s Meat Market at 1718 E. Sixth Ave., or call the butchers at 303-733-4629.

The vegetables

Man cannot live on meat alone (or shouldn’t). Another hot item to get on the grill are vegetables, and some of the best grilling varieties happen to be in season right now. Overall, look for hearty items that can hold up to a little heat and won’t fall through the grate and into the fire.

Asparagus has literally popped up on farms and can be found gracing many stands in the local farmers markets. Kiowa Valley Organics grows some of the best, and sells the thick, juicy stalks that prove perfect for grilling. For David Rippe, the farmer behind the greens, he likes to simply spice asparagus with salt, pepper and a little olive oil to let the natural flavor of the plant shine through.

Find Kiowa Valley Organics at farmers markets around town, including City Park Farmers Market, Boulder Farmers Market on Saturdays and Wednesdays (13th Street between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder), and the Longmont Farmers Market (9595 Nelson Road, Longmont). Also find the asparagus at select Whole Foods.

Mushrooms: Some of the meatiest mushrooms prove perfect for the grill, and right now they are easy to find at farmers markets and grocery stores. Look for large king trumpet or lion’s mane. Both can be sliced into half-inch slabs, drenched in olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper right before kissing with fire. The cook time isn’t long, about four to five minutes on each side.

Smaller mushrooms cook up nicely on the grill too, though it’s best to use a grill basket so they don’t fall through the grates. It takes only 5 to 8 minutes to finish with a few tosses in between.

Radish: Most people don’t think about cooking radishes; the vegetable is, after all, quite pleasing raw. But the heat breaks down some of that spiciness and gives the crunchy red and white orbs a slight sweetness. Large radishes can be sliced and thrown right on the grill, and smaller ones should be put in a grill basket for cooking. Like the other veggies, keep the spices light, use a little olive oil, and consider having a fresh chimichurri or some sort of creamy dip on the side.


Try out something new this Memorial Day with recipes from local chefs and restaurants. (We’ve even provided a dessert recipe that uses the grill for a seasonal and flavorful sweet treat.)

The Fort’s Famous Gonzales Steak

From “The Fort Restaurant Cookbook: New Foods of the Old West from the Landmark Colorado Restaurant,” by Holly Arnold Kinney (TwoDot Publishers). Serves 1.


  • 3 green Anaheim chiles, roasted and peeled (canned will do but fresh are best)
  • Salt
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • Pinch of dried Mexican leaf oregano
  • 10- to 12-ounce thick cut New York strip, top sirloin, or tenderloin of beef or bison steak
  • 1/2 teaspoon canola oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon butter (optional)


1. Slit chiles and remove seeds. Chop two of the chiles into fine dice and mix with the salt, garlic, and oregano. Pro tip: New Mexicans traditionally like to leave a few seeds in the dish. The seeds give it life, they say.

2. With a very sharp knife, cut a horizontal pocket into the steak. Stuff the chopped chiles into the pocket. Brush the meat and the remaining chile with canola oil.

3. Grill the steak on both sides to desired doneness. If using bison, watch carefully so as not to overcook the meat because it contains less fat than beef and cooks much faster. Recommended temp for bison is medium-rare. Salt and pepper the finished meat.

4. Grill the remaining whole-roasted chili to get a nice grid of grill pattern on it. Lay it across the steak for garnish.

Pro tip: A teaspoon of butter on the steak as a special treat is heaven, if desired. To make brown butter, simply place the butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat and allow to melt and turn golden brown.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

By chef Barry Strand of Toro in Cherry Creek. Serves 4. Pro tip: You can grill the whole steak or cut into four 6-inch pieces


  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds beef skirt steak
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste


1. Season steaks with salt and pepper. If using a gas grill, pre-heat for at least 30 minutes before grilling. If using charcoal grill, place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals and cover.

2. Cook to desired temperature: 7 to 12 minutes on charcoal grill,  8 to 12 over medium heat on a preheated gas grill.

3. Turn steaks occasionally until they reach desired level of doneness. (Cook temps: 145 degrees for medium rare, 160 degrees for medium.)

4. Carve steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Season with salt as desired.

5. Serve with chimichurri (recipe below) on the side or drizzled on top.



  • 3/4 cup parsley, fine chiffonade
  • 3/4 cup cilantro, fine chiffonade
  • 3 teaspoons red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 9 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 3 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground


1. Combine dry ingredients together in one bowl.

2. Slowly add oil, whisking it well to combine all the ingredients together.

3. Taste to adjust seasonings to your liking, and finish with black pepper.

Charred Strawberry and Jalapeno Vanilla Yogurt Parfait

From Paul C. Reilly, chef and co-owner of Apple Blossom and Coperta, Denver. It’s great to plan ahead for dessert on the grill with a simple cobbler or crisp. However, if you don’t have the time and your grill is still hot after cooking dinner, this dessert is a cinch and hits that bite of sweetness you crave when you’ve been outside all evening and are perhaps a tad buzzed from a grill session. The light touch of spice from the jalapeno is a welcome surprise to the sweetness. Serves 4.


  • 2 pounds strawberries, halved or quartered if large
  • 1 jalapeno, halved and seeded
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces torn basil leaves
  • 1 16-ounce container whole milk vanilla bean yogurt (Noosa recommended)
  • sliced almonds for garnish, optional


1. With your grill still hot from dinner, dry the strawberries and jalapenos and place in a grill basket, cooking until well charred and slightly starting to melt.

2. Remove from grill and add to a food processor with sugar, citrus juice, salt, and vanilla. Pulse until chunky.

3. Allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, fold in torn basil leaves.

4. Grab four clear glasses (like pint glasses). Spoon in some of the strawberry-jalapeno compote and alternate layers of compote and yogurt in the pint glasses. Build three layers compote and two layers of yogurt per glass. Serve well chilled. Garnish with almonds and basil leaves.

Pro tip: Let sit for about 25 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Will keep for about three days in the fridge.

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