The 50 Best Barbecue Joints In America

March 14, 2021

Barbecue is an iconic American tradition, with plenty of regional variations. Whether it's whole hog in South Carolina, mesquite smoked brisket in southern Texas or smoked pulled pork in Memphis, all of the barbecue joints on our list have one thing in common; bags and bags of flavor.

Some of the names on our list keep things beautifully simple with a light rub and not a lot else, while some focus on great quality sauce and sides. Some keep things true to the traditions of the region and some mix it up, combining the best of barbecue from multiple cities.

Whatever your preference, you're sure to find something you love.

Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas

Franklin Barbecue, Austin

Aaron and Stacey Franklin setup a barbecue trailer in Austin back in 2009, and the business has not stopped growing. Aaron Franklin is by far the best-known pit master in the US, and has inspored countless others to try their hand at barbecue. As well as winning a range of awards, including Best BBQ joint in Texas and Best Barbecue in America, Aaron is also co-author of 'Franklin Barbecue, A Meat-Smoking Manifesto', a New York Times best seller. As if that wasn’t enough, Franklin also features in a web series ‘BBQ with Franklin’ produced by KLRU-TV. You can even buy your own Franklin Barbecue pit and try and replicate the flavours at home, or order meats from Franklin for shipping throughout the US.

On to the food. Texas Monthly described Franklins as ‘Serving the best barbecue in the known universe’, and their customers agree, with dining on site or kerb side pickup (you’ll need to pre-order). Brisket is the most popular item, or choose from turkey, ribs, pork or sausage. You can also go for a whole unsliced 5lb hot brisket to take home, slice, and enjoy.

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City, Kansas

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City, Kansas

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que began life in 1990, when Jeff and Joy Stehney attended their first barbecue contest. From there they bought a smoker and began competing themselves. Over the next few years, their team, ‘The Slaughterhouse Five’ that they formed with friends won a raft of competitions, including the American Royal Open and the American Royal Invitational. After meeting Joe Don Davidson, founder and owner of the Oklahoma Joe's Smoker Company, the pair opened their first restaurant in 1996 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The brand now operates 3 restaurants as well as an events space, and they ship their meats nationwide.

The menu features smokehouse classics, such as pulled pork and smoked brisket, as well as full rib dinners, sandwiches, smoked meat sandwiches and meat sold by the pound.

The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint, Ocean Springs, Mississippi

The Shed is a fun, community spirited barbecue joint where families come to eat great barbecue, sit around the campfire, and listen to live music.

They serve 7 slow smoked meats, all sold by the pound, as well as jumbo plates of ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and sausage. For a lighter option, a range of sandwiches are available, and customers rave about Mama Mia’s Mac Salad sold by the pint or quart. The Shed hosts the BBQ Dual steak showdown in April, where 200 teams compete to produce the best BBQ.

SLOWS Bar-B-Q, Michigan

SLOWS Bar-B-Q, Michigan

Slows opened in Detroit in 2005, providing a gourmet take on barbecue food, before expanding in 2013 to keep up with demand, adding additional floor space. They now operate locations in Midtown, Corktown and Grand Rapids, as well as a food truck and concessions in Ford Field.

Slows has appeared on Man Vs Food, where Adam Richman tried the Triple Threat Pork. Their pulled chicken sandwich was featured on Adam Richman's Best Sandwich in America, being declared the best sandwich in the Great Lakes. Richman described wating at Slows as “a truly life-changing experience”. What more can we say!

4 Rivers Smokehouse, Orlando, Florida

4 Rivers Smokehouse, Orlando, Florida

John Rivers spent 20 years perfecting the signature dry rub before opening 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Winter Park in 2009. As well as perfect smoked meat, 4 rivers work hard to ensure top quality sides and freshly bakes its own bread to complement the meat. 4 Rivers has grown to 13 locations across Florida, as well as shipping nationwide.

As well as perfect slow smoked brisket, the restaurant specialises in an Orlando classic, Santa Maria tri-tip, with a crisp outer and tender pink middle. They also offer plant-based options, including Beyond Burnt Ends sandwiches, roasted in a vegan barbecue sauce. 4 Rivers has won a host of awards, including the South’s best barbecue joint 2020 by Southern Living.

Puckett's Grocery, Franklin, Tennessee

Puckett's Grocery, Franklin, Tennessee

The Puckett’s brand history stretches back to the 1950’s, though it was the early 2000’s before Andy Marshall began smoking in the Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork. They are famed for offering not just great southern barbecue, but quality live music to match. In 2004 they expanded do downtown Franklin, and Puckett’s now operates 7 locations across Tennessee.

The extensive menu starts with hearty breakfast dishes, including a smoked brisket hash, and fried chicken with apple jacks, through to omelettes, pancakes, and of course the classic steamed meats, served with 1, 2, or 3 sides. You can also get shrimp and grits, burgers, and some amazing sharer deserts.

Pappy's Smokehouse, St. Louis, Missouri

Pappy's Smokehouse, St. Louis, Missouri

The Food Network have named Pappy’s the best ribs in America, the meats are smoked over 24 hours, always fresh and never reheated. They served over 3 million people in their first 10 years, and they get top marks from locals and visitors. They operate 2 locations in St Louis and St Peters, as well as a food truck, Pappy's Rollin’ Smoke.

B.T.'s Smokehouse, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

B.T.'s Smokehouse, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

B’T’s smoke their dry rubbed meats for 14 hours, using local apple and hickory wood. Starting from a trailer and expanding to locations in Sturbridge and Worcester as well as a mobile food truck. Proprietor Brian Treitman likes to cook tender, succulent meat with sweet, spiced sauce.

Black's Barbecue, Lockhart, Texas

Black's Barbecue, Lockhart, Texas

Black’s is the oldest smokehouse in Texas, the same family has owned and operated the smokehouse since 1932. They are now in 4 locations and they offer outside event catering. They use local Post Oak Wood and just a little dry rub to get the same flavour and texture today as they did 90 years ago. Choose from a classic meat selection, as well as home made sausage, sandwiches, and sides.

Snow’s BBQ, Lexington, Texas

Snow’s BBQ, Lexington, Texas

Saturday barbecue has been a tradition in Lexington for as long as anyone can remember. Snow’s began in 2002 and quickly gained a huge local following, when owner Kerry Bexley teamed up with pit master Tootsie Tomantez. They were named best barbecue in Texas by Texas Monthly in 2008 and have continually produced the best quality barbecue in the state. They only open on Saturday, starting at 8am and carrying on until it’s all sold out. When it’s gone, it’s gone!

Dreamland Bar-B-Que Ribs, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Dreamland Bar-B-Que Ribs, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Dreamland began in 1958, when John ‘Big Daddy’ Bishop opened the original Dreamland in Tuscaloosa. Soon, people flocked from across Alabama to try the hickory smoked ribs. The ribs are grilled over a hickory wood fired pit and basted with signature barbecue sauce. They operate 9 locations across Alabama, Florida & Georgia, but they keep still keep things simple, and cook the same way they did 6 decades ago.

La Barbecue, Austin, Texas

La Barbecue, Austin, Texas

La Barbecue is owned by LeAnn Mueller, cooking up savoury recipes honoring her German heritage. The meat is cooked over Texas post oak for 16 hours, with grass fed, hormone free beef sourced from a local ranch.

Hoodoo Brown, Connecticut

Hoodoo Brown, Connecticut

Hoodoo Brown was a bank robber, cattle herder, moonshiner and cook. Started by Cody Sperry, Hoodoo Brown was inspired after a trip to Austin, and opened Hoodoo Brown in May 2015. The menu features all the great barbecue you’d expect, as well as some awesome alternatives, like the Texas Poutine, with hand cut fries, gravy brisket debris and cheese curds, BBQ Nachos, and blackened Catfish.

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que, Decatur, Alabama

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que, Decatur, Alabama

Champions of the 2017 world barbecue championship, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que is one of the oldest and most prestigious barbecue joints in the world. Founded in 1925, they have won 15 world championships across 5 generations of pit masters. Famous not just for the smoked meat, but also their BBQ white sauce, they have 2 locations, both in the same town they started.

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q, Georgia

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q, Georgia

After honing their skills at cookouts and pop-up barbecue stalls, twin brothers Jonathan and Justin Fox opened Fox Bros in Candler Park in 2007 along with their partner Beau Nolen. They have since been featured on ‘Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern’, the Today Show, and Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. They have outlets in the Mercedes Benz Stadium and SunTrust Park

Beast Craft Barbecue Belleville, Illinois

Beast Craft Barbecue Belleville, Illinois

Pit Master David Sandusky opened Beast Craft Barbecue in 2014, with a simple philosophy ‘All Killer. No Filler’. Beast Craft has won a host of awards for it’s ‘craft barbecue’, offering top quality St Louis style pork & ribs, as well as smoked meats in a sandwich, plated or by the lb.

Homegrown Smoker, Portland, Oregon

Homegrown Smoker, Portland, Oregon

Homegrown Smoker is somewhat unique in our list as it is 100% vegan. They offer the classic smoky barbecue flavours food you’d expect, just without the meat. Pork Ribs are substituted for Seitan rib tips, chicken wings become buffalo soy wings, as well as smoked and grilled veg. They have built up a very loyal following and while not what you might expect from a traditional barbecue restaurant, Homegrown Smoker offers a great vegetarian alternative.

Eli’s BBQ, Ohio

Eli’s BBQ, Ohio

Eli’s barbecue began in 2011 with Eli serving up hickory smoked pork sandwiches in Fountain Square, before opening up the first store in Cincinnati’s East End. They now have 5 locations in Cincinnati, Newport, and Liberty Township, offering the same pulled pork sandwiches, as well as a range of barbecue classics.

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn: Owensboro, Kentucky

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn: Owensboro, Kentucky

Catherine and Pappy Bosley bought Moonlite Bar-B-Q in 1963 and has grown over 60 years as a family business, to a 350-seat restaurant, as well as catering and wholesale operations. They’ve won a range of awards, including best barbecue in Kentucky and they offer online ordering ad nationwide delivery.

Jethro’s BBQ, Iowa

Jethro’s BBQ, Iowa

Jethro’s BBQ opened in 2008, gaining national fame almost instantly. They have featured on Man Vs Food, with the Adam Emmenecker Challenge, a sandwich created by former Drake basketball player, comprising entirely of his favourite items from the menu.

Little Miss BBQ, Phoenix, Arizona

Little Miss BBQ, Phoenix, Arizona

Little Miss BBQ started out life as a competitive barbecue team, before setting up in Phoenix, with locations in Sunnyslope and E. University Drive. They specialise in central Texas style barbecue, with meats smoked over Arizona white oak, pecan, pistachio, and mesquite firewood, in smokers designed and constructed with meticulous attention to detail. They source prime beef from a single ranch, so they can be sure of the quality, and they use a simple seasoning blend, so the main flavours come from the meat itself. Meat is served market style, order as much or as little as you like, along with sides, sauce, and desserts.

Lewis Barbecue, Charleston, South Carolina

Lewis Barbecue, Charleston, South Carolina

Pit master John Lewis has a cult like following and is seriously devoted to his tradecraft. Starting the day at 4am to prime his hand welded smokers, this is serious dedication and it’s no wonder people flock from across the state and beyond to queue to get a taste of the end product. Before starting Lewis Barbecue, john already had a history of successful smokehouse under his belt, helping Aaron Franklin to open Franklin Barbecue, and partnering with LeAnn Meuller to open LA Barbecue. He started Lewis Barbecue in 2016, and it has grown in a short space if time to be considered among the best in the country.

17th Street Barbecue, Murphysboro, Illinois

17th Street Barbecue, Murphysboro, Illinois

World Champion pitmaster Mike “The Legend Mills and his daughter, Amy, built the 17th Street Barbecue restaurant in Murphysboro, Illinois, and Amy continues to helm the powerhouse after Mike’s passing in 2020.

With a host of awards and championship prizes under their belts, including a Pioneer of Barbecue award, and a National Barbecue Association Award of Excellence. Mike was even been inducted into the barbecue hall of fame. 17th Street Barbecue offer a full menu from their locations in Murphysboro and Marion.

City Butcher and Barbecue, Springfield, Missouri

City Butcher and Barbecue, Springfield, Missouri

City butchers have 2 locations offering classic Texas style barbecue in the Springfield, offering meat by the pound, as well as sausages and sandwiches.

Red Bridges BBQ Lodge, North Carolina

Red Bridges BBQ Lodge, North Carolina

Red Bridges has been serving up award winning barbecue in Shelby, North Carolina since 1946. Meat is served by the pound, and they offer sandwiches and sides, as well as bulk deals for 4, 6, 10, or 20.

The Shaved Duck, St. Louis

The Shaved Duck, St. Louis

The Shaved Duck in, St. Louis offers up great barbecue along with southern specialities and an extensive selection of American craft beers. In a departure from traditional barbecue joints, The Shaved Duck offers a fine dining twist on classic southern barbecue, with slow smoked meats joining hand rolled flatbread, chili, and gumbo and from scratch barbecue sauces. They also offer barbecue classes, giving you the chance to learn how to cook up some great southern barbecue at home.

Smoque BBQ, Chicago

Smoque BBQ, Chicago

Smoque opened in Chicago in 2006, quickly becoming a firm local favorite. They have two locations in Chicago and offer outside catering.

Jones Bar-B-Q, Kansas City, Kansas

Jones Bar-B-Q, Kansas City, Kansas

Sisters Deborah and Mary Jones are carrying on a family tradition passed down from their father Leavy B. Jones Sr, producing great smoked meats and the family’s secret recipe barbecue sauce from their restaurant in Kansas City. All of the food is prepared fresh every day, never reheated and when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Gates Bar-B-Q, Kansas City, Missouri

Gates Bar-B-Q, Kansas City, Missouri

Gates began life as Gates Ol’ Kentucky in 1946. A second restaurant was opened in 1954, and they changed their name in 1956 to Gates & Son’s Bar-B-Q. More restaurants followed into the 70’s, and Gates BBQ sauce began appearing in supermarkets across Missouri. Today, Gates Bar-B-Q is still a family run business, with 6 locations and their barbecue sauces available throughout America and beyond. Customers can expect barbecue classics as well as specials including chili, party trays and of course, Gates original barbecue sauce.

The Joint, Louisiana

The Joint, Louisiana

The Joint opened in New Orleans in 2004 and gained national recognition when it featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives in 2008. Moving up the street in 2012, The Joint continues to serve great barbecue today.

Bombers BBQ, Indiana

Bombers BBQ, Indiana

Bombers BBQ in Munster, Indiana offers great quality barbecue, alongside fresh seafood, and craft beers. The meat is smoked for 16 hours, and the sides are cooked from scratch every day. They offer some great items on the menu that you won’t find in most barbecue joints, including brisket poutine, bang-bang shrimp, and bacon jalapeno bombs.

GQue Championship BBQ, Colorado

GQue Championship BBQ, Colorado

GQue BBQ are true BBQ champions, competing in competitive barbecue competitions across the country, and winning awards time after time. They are consistently rated among the best barbecue restaurants in the country, and they even have their own YouTube channel, offering up tips to replicate their award-winning barbecue flavours.

Skylight Inn BBQ, Ayden, North Carolina

Skylight Inn BBQ, Ayden, North Carolina

Skylight Inn is known locally as Pete Jones BBQ and has been cooking whole hogs since 1947. In 2003 they were given the James Beard ‘American Classics’ award. They still specialise in whole hog barbecue, offering it in a sandwich, by the plate of by the pound.

Hometown Bar-B-Que, Brooklyn, New York

Hometown Bar-B-Que, Brooklyn, New York

Hometown Bar-B-Que have two locations in Brooklyn and one in Miami. Created by restauranteur Billy Durney. They offer smoked meats, wings, and ribs, as well as tacos, sandwiched and a number of vegetarian options, including smoked cauliflower wings, mushroom tacos and vegetarian banh mi.

Louie Mueller Barbecue, Taylor, Texas

Louie Mueller Barbecue, Taylor, Texas

Louie Mueller Barbecue has been known as the ‘temple of smoke’ since opening its doors in 1949. Now operated by the third generation of the Mueller family, the restaurant still serves up the same great barbecue today as it did back in the forties.

Laughing Sun Brewing, North Dakota

Laughing Sun Ale & Smokehouse, North Dakota

Laughing Sun Brewing offers great barbecue, beer and live music in Bismarck, North Dakota. The smoked meat is accompanied by sandwiches and sides, as well as soups and chili. Entertainment ranges from Jazz, blues, rock, country, folk, and pop, (and everything else!). You cou can even try your hand at axe throwing!

MAD Jack’s, New Mexico

MAD Jack’s, New Mexico

Mad Jacks is open Thursday to Sunday from 11am until there’s nothing left. This is a true barbecue joint, offering southern classics, as well as homemade pies, sides, and cobblers.

Cattleack BBQ, Dallas, Texas

Cattleack BBQ, Dallas, Texas

Cattleack is open every Thursday & Friday from 10.30 am. Founded in 2010 by Todd David, the restaurants have gained a loyal local following, and the line usually starts well before 10.30. The first Saturday of the month is also ‘whole hog day’. As well as great quality barbecue classics, try ‘The Toddfather’, comprised of brisket, pulled pork, sausage, and homemade slaw, all topped off with barbecue sauce.

Smitty’s Market, Lockhart, Texas

Smitty’s Market, Lockhart, Texas

Smitty’s market was started in 148 by Edgar A. Schmidt, and the family still run the same firepit in the same location to this day. This is a true piece of Texas history, and somewhere you definitely need to try out if you’re stopping by Lockhart. As well as brisket, prime rib, and turkey, they also have a good selection of smoked sausage, and a fresh meat department so you can grab some to take home to cook.

Truth BBQ, Brenham, Texas

Truth BBQ, Brenham, Texas

Truth Barbecue was born in Brenham in 2015, in a small building beside highway 290. Truth has built up a loyal following over the years, and today people travel from all over Texas to enjoy the brisket, beef ribs and homemade sausage. Pit Master Leonard Botello is heavily influenced by Aaron Franklin and John Lewis, two legends of the barbecue scene, and his attention to detail is paying off with the rave reviews coming in thick and fast.

Heirloom Market BBQ, Atlanta, Georgia

Heirloom Market BBQ, Atlanta, Georgia

Heirloom Market was created by chefs Cody and Jiyeon, who wanted to create fresh, simple classic BBQ food. Jiyeon brings a wealth of culinary training, rooted with south east Asian influences, while Cody has lived and breathed classic southern barbecue his whole life. Heirloom market serves classic southern barbecue, sandwiches, platters, ribs, and wings, as well, as sides with a Korean influence, including kimchi slaw and Korean sweet potatoes.

Bogart's Smokehouse, St. Louis

Bogart's Smokehouse, St. Louis

Bogart’s opened in 2011 with an ambition to create great tasting barbecue. Part of the Pappy’s Smokehouse family, the restaurant serves the same great quality southern barbecue as the rest of the chain, with some unique menu additions, including smoked tri-tip sirloin, pastrami, and apricot glazed ribs.

Central BBQ, Memphis, Tennessee

Central BBQ, Memphis, Tennessee

Central BBQ was created in 2002 by Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp and is among the best in Memphis. Craig and Roger went from friends to business partners after competing in local barbecue competitions. Central use hickory and pecan wood, along with a flavoursome dry rub to create melt in the mouth meat that falls straight from the bone. They encourage guests to unwind and get messy. Central barbecue now has four locations in Memphis ad one in Nashville.

Ray’s BBQ Shack, Texas

Ray’s BBQ Shack, Texas

Ray’s is a real local favorite in Houston, as well a s great barbecue they serve burgers, soups, fish, and shrimp dinners. Pit master Ray S. Busch is at the heart of the operation, honing his skills from a food truck in the third ward, before taking the leap to a bricks and mortar location. Co-owners Maxine Davis and son Herb Taylor run the business and marketing side of the business, which grows in popularity week by week.

Buxton Hall Barbecue, Asheville, North Carolina

Buxton Hall Barbecue, Asheville, North Carolina

Elliott Moss and Meherwan Irani met in 2013, and opened Buxton Hall in 2015. Elliot was already a successful chef, opening the Admiral restaurant in 2007. Meherwan, also a successful chef and restauranteur, opened Chai Pani, an Indian street food joint in Asheville in 2009. The building they chose for Buxton hall was once a wood floored roller rink, as well as being a boat showroom and auto shop. Buxton Hall is a whole hog barbecue joint, cooking Eastern Carolina style. You can also pick up their cookbook if you want to try out, he recipes at home.

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, Llano, Texas

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, Llano, Texas

Coopers operate six locations cross Texas and is home of the ‘big chop’. Family owned and operated by the Wootan family; coopers is ‘all about the meat’. Opened by Tommy Cooper in 1962, they serve a range of classic barbecue dishes, and Ribeye’s are available after 5 Thurs – Sat. Coopers is different to other Texas barbecue joints. They don’t use post oak, instead opting for mesquite branches, mesquite burned to embers, with the meat placed directly on top. This method is called ‘cowboy style’ reflecting the style used on cattle drives in the past. The ‘big chop’ is seasoned simply with salt and pepper, before sitting over hit fire to sear for an hour, then slow cooking in a cooler part of the pit.

ZZQ Texas Craft Barbeque, Richmond, Virginia

ZZQ Texas Craft Barbeque, Richmond, Virginia

ZZQ combines the classic Texan flavors with influences from central Virginia, to produce and authentic barbecue experience. Pit masters Chris Fultz and Alex Graf founded ZZQ Texas Craft Barbeque in 2013. They open Wed – Sun from 11am and carry on until the meat is all gone.

Gatlin’s BBQ, Houston, Texas

Gatlin’s BBQ, Houston, Texas

Gatlin‘s BBQ is a family-owned BBQ joint, located in Oak Forest, Houston. They opened in 2010 and has quickly become a local favorite. As well as traditional barbecue, they serve breakfast from 7am, offering good hearty breakfast food, like shrimp and grits, wings and waffles, and chicken biscuits. The barbecue menu features meats by the pound as well as succulent beef ribs on Friday and Saturday.

Iron Grate BBQ, Wisconsin

Iron Grate BBQ, Wisconsin

Iron Grate serves Milwaukee Style BBQ, from their custom designed and built smoker. ‘Edna’. chef Aaron Patin opened Iron Grate in 2016. The restaurant seats 30 inside and more on the terrace. As well as great classic barbecue, the sides include smoked tomato macaroni and cheese, smothered greens and corn, and stone-ground grits. If you fancy something a bit different, the links and curds combine hot links, bake cheese curds SA Braai chutney and pickled onions.

Andy Nelson’s Southern Pit Barbecue, Maryland

Andy Nelson’s Southern Pit Barbecue, Maryland

Barbecue has been traditional in the Nelson family for over 100 years, so it’s no wonder Andy Nelson’s is considered the best barbecue in Maryland. They smoke the meat slow over hickory logs and simmer it down in their own signature heirloom sauce. Everything is made from scratch, by hand, producing the same great taste today as they did a century ago.

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