Meet the BBQ King of Denver | Aaron Gonerway


Hi Aaron! What’s your backstory leading up to starting Plates by the Pound BBQ in Aurora?

My roots are from Clarksville Texas , but home and heart are in Colorado! Growing up in Denver, I got to experience many different cultures and flavors. Before embarking on my culinary journey I worked for Charles Schwab for 10 years and other investments firms, carpentry/construction management and government. I’ve been cooking all my life and learned from my mom, aunts, grandparents and friends moms growing up. My inspiration comes from my uncle Glen who introduced me to barbecue as a child in Clarksville, Texas. Also my family! My wife sherrita is my biggest supporter and my three kiddos keep me going!
During COVID, I got the push from my wife to start selling my barbecue on the weekends which I was sooo against doing. This led to me leaving my job as a operations supervisor at Arapahoe County Fairgrounds to go all in on Plates by the Pound BBQ. Four months later, in September of 2021, I opened a store-front and haven’t looked back.

What are some of your most popular dishes you make?

Some of my most popular dishes are my ribs which helped build my name! Also my favorite to cook and my brisket. I cook with a 850 gallon propane tank welding into an offset smoker using wood only. No gas, electric! It’s how I learned to cook barbecue and my preferred method of cooking. To me you get better bark and smoke flavor.

I started selling bbq out of my house November 2020, the start of the pandemic. It really taught me to be resourceful and to take risks/advantage of any and every opportunity. I was against selling my bbq, because during that time there was soo many people selling any and everything from plates, booze, homemade sanitizer, mask.. it was nuts and didn’t want to be apart of the madness.

It’s more than feeding wood into your firebox, you have to watch your smoke stack, train your eyes and hands and really manage the pit/firebox.. it’s definitely a labor of love.

Going into the restaurant, it was an easy transition cause I already had a following from selling food out my house. I was doing restaurant numbers out my home and that gave me confidence during the pandemic.

Are you from Colorado? What Neighborhood did you decide to call home, and why?

I’m originally from Texas, but grew up in Denver. We live in Green valley ranch and for no particular reason, just like the area.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Since opening I’ve been featured in:

  •  Westword
  • 303 Magazine
  • 5280 Magazine
  • Ones to Watch in the Denver Post
  •  StarChefs Magazine
  • Top Taco festival (placed 2nd)
  • Top 8 Restaurants to Eat in Aurora
  • Mentioned by Adrian Miller James Beard Award winner
  • Won Westword best of 2022
  • and Kingsford Charcoal Preserve the Pit 2020 Grant Winner (selected 1 of 13 grant winners out of 1000 applicants).
  • Featured  in Eater Denver:  “Hottest New Restaurant” in March and December 2021. 
  • And Launched my BBQ Sauce

How would you describe the Personality or “Vibe” of Denver?

There’s a lot of transplants which makes the food scene unique. Traditional is to me is a thing of the past and the vibe is trendy and fine dining. Call me old school sometimes I just want some fried chicken minus all the sauces some places toss it in , or a pizza with simple toppings . You wanna be unique and stand out, but like me I’m soo simple and don’t wanna get lost in the menu.

Even with barbecue people here like it vs back home they love it! eat, sleep barbecue.. line up at 4am wait hours to get it.  Denver will never be a bbq destination, but there’s plenty of good bbq restaurants here doing some awesome stuff.

Outside of barbecue my wife and I have a farm we own in DeKalb,Texas. Right now we have cattle (Brahman and angus) which my cousins back home help oversee. Biggest thing for us is generational wealth, land is wealth. I spent a lot of my childhood on a farm and I want to give my children that space! Some of the best memories and experiences and every kid should get to experience some kind of farm life.

I’m living proof that anything is possible if you believe and push yourself! Surround yourself with people who believe in you. I went from selling food out of my house on weekends to owning my own restaurant.. still feels surreal.

If people want to eat your delicious food- how can they learn more? 

My business is located at 11601 E. Montview Boulevard in Aurora, Colorado.
Also you can send inquiries through my website I’m very active on instagram @platesbythepoundbbq.

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