Barbecue is a powerful thing. Nearly impossible to master, differing from region to region, and worthy of endless praise when just the right amount of smoke, sauce, and meat come together, BBQ is pretty much a national treasure for Americans.
No matter if you’re from the north, south, or anywhere in between, craving something sweet or something meaty, Spoon has you covered, taking you on a digital tour of the United States powered by dreams of finding the best barbecue America can possibly offer up.
Alabama: Dreamland Bar-B-Que
Winning a spot in USA Today’s Best Southern BBQ list is Dreamland Bar-B-Que. Founded in 1958 by John Bishop (who said that God told him to open the little cafe), the cozy, down-to-earth atmosphere and recipe for their award-winning ribs have been the same since the day they opened, people keep coming back to Alabama’s Dreamland Bar-B-Que locations to get the old-fashioned BBQ and Southern hospitality that Dreamland (and Alabama) is famous for.
#SpoonTip: Try the banana pudding. Just do it.
Alaska: Big Daddy’s Barbeque
This award-winning BBQ is the furthest north in the entirety of the USA, which is enough to make it a noteworthy stop in my opinion. If that doesn’t entice you in itself, how about southern style barbecue (IN ALASKA PEOPLE), a great selection of Alaskan beer (check out Alaska, as well as the rest of America’s, signature drinks here), and $1 rib Tuesdays? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Located in downtown Anchorage, this spot has been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and is a great place for locals and tourists alike to grab some down-home cooking in the most northern state.
Arizona: Little Miss BBQ
Starting off as a competitive BBQ team, Little Miss serves up Texas-style barbecued meats of all varieties. Although there is almost always an hour-plus wait in line to get some of the fall-off-the-bone smokey goodness, you get free water bottles while waiting, and pretty much everyone can vouch that the food you get is mind-blowing enough to cancel out the wait. If you’re looking for something after-hours, check this out.
#SpoonTip: The brisket at Little Miss has won all sorts of awards for good reason, so do yourself a favor and get there early so you can try it.
Arkansas: Whole Hog Café
These BBQ masters have won top honors at world-wide competitions, making Whole Hog BBQ some of the top smoked meat in the world. While their restaurant fare is a little different from what you’ll get at competitions, it’s still delectable, and comes with a choice of 6 different, famous sauces, served on table so you can choose your saucy fate. The atmosphere is laid-back and super comfortable, so you can feel free to kick-back and let your inner barbecue monster out. If you wanna try out Arkansas’s best milkshake, take a peek at this article.
#SpoonTip: The potato salad will get you hooked from first bite–don’t skip out on this delicious side.
California: Sandra Dee’s BBQ and Seafood
A unique combination of soul food, seafood, and barbecue, Sacramento’s Sandra Dee’s is a west-coast foodie’s haven. With fall-off-the-bone ribs, mouth-watering collard greens, a variety of seafood, and delicious desserts, this place is the whole package and more. If you’re looking for something cool and sweet for the coastal heat, find your new fave Cali ice cream with the help of this article.
#SpoonTip: Make reservations, if possible–it’s not uncommon to wait in a line out the door for Sandra Dee’s.
Colorado: Roaming Buffalo BBQ
This restaurant is heralded for their unique meat selection, including bison and lamb, homemade sides (cilantro lime coleslaw and smoked poblano mac and cheese, anyone?), and their highly sought after strawberry jalapeno jam. In a state not known for it’s BBQ, Roaming Buffalo is the perfect place for those in need of smoky satisfaction in the mountains of Denver. If you want to try a diffrent kind of sanwich and happen to be in Boulder, take a look-see here to find what tickles your pickle.
#SpoonTip: Snag a jar of the strawberry jalapeno jam, or you’ll regret it.
Connecticut: Uncle Willie’s BBQ
Hailed for their tender baby back ribs as well as their sublime sauces, Uncle Willie’s is the best you can get in Connecticut. With old-fashioned BBQ joint style decor and an accessible spot right off the highway, this is the perfect stop to get all your barbecue cravings filled. For more food we can thank Connecticut for, check this article.
#SpoonTip: The lower floor of Uncle Willie’s sells homemade pie, sauce, tee shirts, and more, making it the perfect spot to peruse post-meal.
Delaware: Phillippine Smoked BBQ Grill
A family cook-out turned restaurant, Phillipine is serving up the most delicious mix of barbecue and filipino dishes that Delaware has to offer. With everything made fresh and ingredients sourced locally, this is the perfect place to eat if you’re looking for BBQ with a unique twist. As an added bonus, the portions are HUGE, making this an incredible value for college students. If you’re searching for more meat after your Phillipine encounter, find Delaware’s best burger here and get to it!
#SpoonTip: If you’re a fan of vinegar-based coleslaw, try the UAUA–a pile of pulled pork topped with a generous helping of vinegary coleslaw on top of a pillowy-soft bun.
Florida: 4 Rivers Smokehouse
Started in a garage by healthcare industry mogul turned brisket fanatic John Rivers, this unique chain has several locations all over Florida (a state worthy of praise on its own) to satisfy any BBQ lover, but beware, there is almost always a line out the door full of people waiting to get their tender, smoky fix.
#SpoonTip: Check out the Sweet Spot at 4R if you have room left for dessert–you won’t be disappointed.
Georgia: Fat Matt’s Rib Shack
A great place for southern barbecue is the tiny, fast-service joint Fat Matt’s. Don’t doubt the limited menu of ribs or chicken, a food which can be served about a million different ways–the menu is small because it’s perfect the way it is and there’s no need for more. Matt’s has a perfectly buttery, nutmeggy sweet potato pie to finish the meal off if you’re in for some authentically southern ‘que.
Hawaii: Me’s BBQ
If you’re looking for some astounding Korean BBQ, well, more astounding than what you can make with this recipe, look no further than Me’s. Conveniently located on the Waikiki strip, this KBBQ will leave even those with the largest appetites satisfied, and wanting to come back another day. While it may seem like a hole in the wall to just pass over, Me’s gives amazing flavor, portions, and quality for the price, and is the perfect spot for lunch and dinner after some time at the beach.
#SpoonTip: Me’s only accepts cash, so hit up the ATM before you get your BBQ on.
VEGAN FRIENDS, LISTEN UP: It’s hard being vegan, and there’s finally a restaurant where you can have all the goodness of BBQ without any of the animals/animal products associated with barbecue, and it’s BBQ4LIFE. This unique restaurant serves both vegan and non-vegan BBQ, and even omnivores can appreciate how delicious the vegan BBQ offerings are.
Illinois: Blackwood BBQ
A growing group of restaurants in the Illinois BBQ scene, Blackwood barbecue is nothing short of stellar. Counter service joints serving pretty much everything BUT ribs, you’ll find an amazing array of sauces and welcoming staff who make you feel at home right from the moment you step in. With housemade pickles, mac and cheese cooked individually for four hours, which is something good enough to rival this recipe, and cornbread with real corn in it, Blackwood is the place to be when you’re in the mood for a truly satisfying meal.
Indiana: Hank’s Smoked Briskets
Whether in Indiana or in the districts of Panem, IU Spoonies know BBQ. So of course we know that if you’re a brisket lover, you’re in the right place when you come to Hank’s. Let the folks at Hank’s know it’s your first time and you’ll get a sampling of their absurdly good meat that’ll leave you begging for more. Whether you prefer your BBQ simple, with just spice rub, or with sauce, you’ll fall in love with the barbecue at Hank’s and it’ll be no time until you’re back again.
#SpoonTip: Don’t skimp on dessert–cobblers and pies made in-house by Brenda are simply too good to pass up.
Iowa: Woody’s Smoke Shack
Okay so first thing’s first–free cornbread at the door, and it only gets better from there. Gluten free BBQ (shout out to all our gluten-free babes–it ain’t easy, but you make it look good
Kansas: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Photo courtesy of Jesse L. on yelp.com
Formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s, Spoon member Hannah Bettis, Anthony Bourdain (who is pretty much one of the best people ever), and Giada all recommend this gas station turned BBQ joint, and wisely so. Holding many awards, features in local papers, and national magazines for their BBQ, this joint is no stranger to winning awards for their quality smoked meats. They’ve even been named one of Bourdain’s Thirteen Places to Eat Before You Die.
#SpoonTip: Get to Joe’s early for lunch on Saturdays and Mondays and for Dinner on Wednesday to get some of their sought-after burnt ends before they’re gone.
Kentucky: Smoketown, USA
At the intersection of smoky, flavorful, and tender, you’ll find Smoketown, USA. The pork ribs are a game-changer, falling off the bone and melting into your mouth covered in smoky, saucy flavor (with a secret ingredient that’s probably love and happiness), and the corn bread, which is pretty much the best thing next to ice cream bread, is good enough to eat as a whole meal in itself. With smoke in the air and love in the food, Smoketown is sure to satisfy.
Louisiana: The Joint
The Joint is a NOLA favorite featured on Triple D with Guy Fieri for their spectacular ribs, pulled pork, homemade sauces, and extraordinary sides. If you’re searching for BBQ in a city that isn’t known for it, The Joint will have you feeling accomplished as soon as you take your first bite. If you need a bit of refinement after your down-and-dirty venture with New Orleans BBQ, may I suggest eating at a palace?
#SpoonTip: For the sweet tea loving spoonies, this joint (get it?) offers free refills on their sweet tea, served in Mason jars.
A northeast twist on southern BBQ can be experienced at Salvage, Maine’s home for barbecue. With a slight hipster feel, Salvage caters to those who want to stray from the beaten path, eat their BBQ (finished in a steam oven, because, why not?) on wooden picnic tables, and drink all the craft beer their hearts can handle. Get a big group of friends together (food is served family-style) and head over to Salvage for a true Maine barbecue experience, because there’s so much more to this state than just seafood.
Maryland: Blue Pit BBQ & Whiskey Bar
If you’re looking for BBQ comfort food, you’ve found the right place. Winner of best BBQ, best bourbon cocktail (don’t worry, bourbon-haters, we have some DIYs to make sure you aren’t missing out), and best outdoor seating in Baltimore, Blue Pit has a relaxed and effortlessly welcoming yet simultaneously cool atmosphere as well as food that fills your heart and your stomach, making it the place to be if you’re looking for comfort and Insta-worthy pics with your dinner.
Massachusetts: Wow Barbecue Food Truck
Serving up authentic Chinese BBQ (on a stick!) is the two food truck and one restaurant combo of Wow, a powerful one-two punch of completely foreign BBQ to the Boston area. If you find their striking red food truck and are in the mood for something delicious and different, give their skewers a trip and take your taste buds on a food expedition, because everyone knows that food trucks are pretty much the most unique food experiences out there.
Michigan: Slow’s Bar Bq
This is the place to be if you’re in Detroit and in the mood for smoky goodness. Although Michigan may be more famous for it’s burgers than it’s BBQ, Slow’s will turn you into a believer. Slow’s is famous in Michigan for their BBQ, and famous cross-country for their Yardbird sandwich (smoked, pulled chicken with Yardbird sauce, topped with sauteed mushrooms, bacon, and cheddar cheese), which has won the award for best sandwich in America on Adam Richman’s show. With five famous sauces, a great selection of sandwiches, and BBQ famous across the country, Slow’s is the number one choice for barbecue in Michigan.
Minnesota: Big Daddy’s Old Fashioned BBQ
Formed when three friends realized their barbecue cook-offs could make something special, Big Daddy’s is BBQ with love for smoked meat, their community, and their customers. Although faced with tremendous challenges due Light Rails being constructed pretty much on top of their storefront, the tiny shop has kept doing what they do best: providing Minnesota with the best ribs that money can buy.
Mississippi: The Pig & Pint
Looking like a gas station turned BBQ pit, this joint may not stick out at first, but it’s definitely not something you want to pass over. Rated best BBQ in Jackson in 2016, The Pig is great for those looking for meat smoked for days and a good beer in a not-so-typical restaurant.
#SpoonTip: Give them a rate on yelp.com and receive a 15% discount on your order!
Missouri: City Butcher and Barbeque
A Springfield treasure, City Butcher and Barbeque is a customer favorite with brisket scrumptious enough to bring you to tears and even more where that came from. With a Texas flair, superb rubs, and incredibly moist cuts of meat, you’ll be more than happy you decided on this Missouri mainstay for your meal.
#SpoonTip: Check out City’s selection of craft brewed and local sodas to round out your meal with a sweet kick.
Montana: Blue’s BBQ
A little side note to a gas station convenience store, Blue’s is the tiny hole-in-a-wall you’re likely to miss but will be sorry you did. With ribs and brisket so flavorful that sauce (while delicious) isn’t even needed, Blue’s serves up quality BBQ covered in secret rubs and sauces to leave your mouth watering and your tastebuds in need for more. For friendly staff, quick service, and delicious food, look no further than Blue’s.
Nebraska: Hartland Bar-B-Que
A locally-owned restaurant where everything is made in-house and from scratch, with pit-smoked meats, Hartland is a deliciously rare anomaly in Nebraska that’s worthy of more than one meal in your life. Hartland has some of the kindest staff around, a family-friendly atmosphere, and they cater parties of all sizes, making them all-around perfect for any situation where you find yourself in need of some barbecue.
Nevada: Rollin Smoke Barbeque
Huge, tender, moist–all things that describe Rollin Smoke’s famous ribs. Better than anything you’ll find in the rest of Nevada and rivaling top barbecue places in the likes of Texas and Tennessee, Rollin Smoke is definitely the place to go if you’re looking for something different (read: not a chain/bar food) in Vegas.
New Hampshire: KC’s Rib Shack Barbeque
Dubbed the place “where pigs go to die,” KC’s is the place to be if you’re looking for some great pork BBQ. With a great reputation as both a catering establishment and a restaurant, KC’s never disappoints, giving you BBQ delicious enough to rival what you’ll find in the south while rivaling what your notions of BBQ are with their delicious sauces and unique rubs that put a great twist on everything you can order.
New Jersey: Elm St. Barbeque II
Famous in the Ironbound portion of New Jersey for their chicken and ribs, Elm St. is the best place to go if you want a mouth-watering bang for your buck. With extremely cheap prices and ridiculously delicious BBQ, the meal you’ll be eating will make up for how sparse parking is in the area. Elm St. also has delicious sea food, if you’re craving a mountain of a meal but want something a little less turf and a little more surf.
New Mexico: Pepper’s Ole Fashion BBQ
If you’re looking for a meal so good you can’t stop eating, you’ll want to go to Pepper’s. Famous for their unique sides (like dirty rice with sausage in it and the best fried okra EVER), Pepper’s also has amazing ribs with just the right hint of smoke and bite resistance, along with a truly Texas-style barbecue feel. Stopping in at Pepper’s feels like going down the road to a friend’s house for dinner, welcoming you in for a hearty meal that will leave you happier than before you walked in the doors.
New York: Mighty Quinn’s
Using simply good ingredients, woodfire smoke, and a secret blend of spices, Quinn’s says their approach is simple, and that’s the way they (and their adoring fans) like it. Quinn’s is the place to be if you want a simple meal where the flavors of the food speak for themselves, enhanced by some simple seasonings and homemade BBQ, to allow you to appreciate the beauty and art that goes into making truly spectacular BBQ.
North Carolina: Allen & Sons Bar-B-Que
If you’re in the mood for authentic Eastern-style BBQ (bar-b-que which uses pretty much all of the hog to make something delicious), Allen & Sons is your stop. Moist, flavorful food with an old-fashioned feel, this is the place to be if you want a true Carolina experience.
#SpoonTip: Tea-lovers should try out the Sun Tea if they’re in the mood for a unique but comforting drink.
North Dakota: Wild Hog Smokehouse
The Wild Hog keeps BBQ real at their little restaurant in Grand Forks. With house made sauces that dress up the main attraction (brisket
Ohio: Eli’s BBQ
A small Cinci favorite is the tried-and-true Eli’s BBQ. Eli’s two small locations are perfect for those who are looking for an intimate atmosphere, or would rather sit outside and enjoy live music in the spring, summer, and fall. Spoonie Becca Berland recommends this unique location, and for good reason: Eli’s has amazing food for a great value, beloved by Cinci-dwellers and outsiders alike.
#SpoonTip: Eli’s is BYOB, but they do have Ale8 and bottled soda. Save some cash and bring your own drink instead!
Oklahoma: Van’s Pig Stand
The oldest single-family owned BBQ restaurant in Oklahoma, Van’s has perfected the art, and it shows. Barbecuing for the public since the 1930’s, Van’s specializes in deliciously tender and moist ribs and brisket, as well as sausage (it is a pig stand, after all).
Oregon: Podnah’s Pit Barbecue
You may not expect to find good barbecue in Portland, but the city really does have a little bit of everything. Turning even the most standoffish into barbecue believers, Podnah’s is a fantastic choice for those looking for southern-style comfort food in the northwest region of America. Featured on many “best of” lists and shows about BBQ, Podnah’s will quickly become one of your favorite restaurants in Portland after you visit.
Pennsylvania: Percy Street Barbecue
A southern, picnic-style joint with a great beer selection and a friendly atmosphere that will make you want to stay for seconds (like, second helpings, not time seconds). Percy Street says their mission is to bring the feel of Texas BBQ to Pittsburgh, and the chef/co-owner Erin O’Shea (a badass lady boss) is doing an amazing job. Bringing something authenticity southern so far north and making it successful shows off her chops as one of the most acclaimed female pitmasters in the country, and there are no signs of her slowing down anytime soon. Come for the free-range meat, stay for the sauce, be back soon for more.
Rhode Island: Becky’s BBQ
Becky’s does one thing, BBQ, and they do it well. A small and simple dining room with absolutely no frills (like, paper plates, plastic utensils, and canned soda no frills), you’re coming here for the goodness that is hickory-smoked BBQ. Everything here is so good on it’s own that it doesn’t even come sauced–that job is up to you (and the meat is so good that it doesn’t even really need it).
South Carolina: Belly’s Southern Pride BBQ
Winner in many contests of the best ribs in South Carolina, Belly’s only comes up short in the fact that they don’t have a huge storefront to enjoy their delicious ‘que in. While they may seem a little…off, due to the charmingly shabby shack you can get the mouth-watering and famous smoked meats in, but you don’t want to question the magical pull of this barbecue; just dig in.
South Dakota: Rowdy Hog Smokin’ BBQ
Among South Dakota’s many motorcycle bars, you’ll find this gem, filled to the brim with award-winning ribs that have captured the hearts of many fans, far and wide. This family-owned restaurant smokes their meats in a special wood blend, covered in an amazing dry rub that makes you want to dig in right away, but don’t miss out on the BBQ sauce; Rowdy Hog has seven different house-made sauces that will leave you longing for more.
Tennessee: Whitt’s Barbecue
This drive-thru joint has a lot more to offer than first meets the eye. Barbecuing with rubs and smoked meats good enough to not need suace (don’t worry, it’s there if you want it), Whitt’s is a classic southeast chain that hasn’t changed much since they’ve opened, but that’s just fine; they’re delicious as ever, winning Best of Nashville over 20 times.
Texas: Franklin BBQ
Located in Austin, this award-winning restaurant is famed for its delicious smoked meats and being a frequent stop for those seeking to eat the best BBQ in America. With meat so delicious that people wait 4+ HOURS to get their hands (mouths?) on some, a Franklin BBQ experience is for barbecue die-hards. Bring a deck of cards, some good friends, and get ready for a mind-blowing meat extravaganza.
#SpoonTip: Try the brisket to experience tender, fatty,melt-in-your-mouth excellence.
Utah: R&R BBQ
Some say that this is the place where Frank Underwood would eat BBQ if he was, ya know, real. Great beer selections, a variety of sauces, and absolutely ah-mazing ribs and brisket make this a great choice for lunch or dinner, if you can find parking (which is a good thing–R&R is constantly loaded with people scrambling to get their hands on this ‘que).
Vermont: Bluebird Barbecue
A tried and true traditional BBQ, Bluebird keeps things real by making sure everything, even the smallest details like ketchup, is made in-house and fresh every day. Let’s be honest, meat smoked on location + an amazing selection of beers + five regional barbecue sauces = true happiness, am I right?
Virginia: Whitner’s Barbeque
Spoonie Meredith Ross recommends Whitner’s Barbeque, a family run restaurant that has been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives for their divine BBQ. With meat smoked in-house and scratch-made sides and sauces, this joint is Virginia’s end-all, be-all for those craving authentic, down home BBQ.
#SpoonTip: Check out Mr. Whitner’s turkey sandwich if you’re looking for something a little different–although not BBQ, this mini Thanksgiving treat is delish.
Washington: The Barbeque Pit
Not your typical hipster fare for Seattle (plz don’t hate me, Seattle-dwellers–I really am jealous), but the Pit has it goin’ on. Tony, the owner, is a total sweetheart and makes sure that everyone has the best experience possible while enjoying all of the offerings the Pit can possible give, and it isn’t hard to enjoy. Tony and his son, the main two in the joint, really understand the fine arts of both BBQ and customer service–quite the feat.
West Virginia: Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill
Simply put, this place is the best combo of BBQ and soul food you can find in West Virginia. Featured on Southern Fried Road Trip withe the Deen brothers, 2 Brothers sees more than each day at the establishment which serves up food that tastes the way home feels. Great food, great people, and a great story make this the kind of place you’ll wanna stick around in for awhile.
Wisconsin: Smoke Shack
Better than home cooking is Smoke Shack. Full of the sounds of live music and jovial celebration (due to the bar, duh), this place is where you want to be to feel happy no matter what has been going on in your life. You’ll definitely want to get your hands on some of the finest meat around, at the place dubbed the “protein power palace” of Wisconsin.
Wyoming: HQ Southern BBQ
Sauces made daily, a huge selection of BBQ smoked over a Hickory wood fire pit every morning, and a great assortment of sides make this the place to be for anyone in Casper, driving through Casper, or driving near Casper that want some mind-blowing BBQ. With everything homemade and delicious, you’ll want to bring your appetite (and maybe a few wet-naps, too). Although HQ may look like an abandoned gas station, once your curiosity over takes you and you step inside, you’ll be glad you took the risk on the journey to flavorland.
Now that you have a guide to where to find the most perfect food in every state, you might as well get out there and wage a delicious, meaty war on your waistline, expand your barbecue knowledge, and enjoy the smoky wonders of this country. Good luck and God speed you beautiful, brave, barbecue warriors.