The 50 Absolute Best BBQ Restaurants In The US

Correction 4/26: A previous version of this article stated that Sam Jones BBQ was started by Pete Jones. 

They're three seemingly insignificant letters strung together in a way that instantly conjures up dreamy images: B-B-Q means glistening brisket slow-roasting over a charcoal fire, glazed pork chops dripping with melt-in-your-mouth flavors, and racks on racks of fatty ribs basted in sauces so bold they'll punch you right in your tastebuds and keep you coming back for more. There are few other kinds of cuisines that offer such intimidatingly mountainous options of meat. The best barbecue restaurants are built on the dreams of carnivores everywhere, and once your nostrils take in a huge whiff of that pungent smoke, it's hard to imagine finding true culinary bliss anywhere else.

There are a ton of barbecue spots in America, and even though many people immediately think of the American South when they hear the word, the truth is there are plenty of great spots all over the country. Sure, the South does have somewhat of a stranglehold on the barbecue game, but that doesn't mean your travel for great barbecue you should solely go through the southernmost part of the United States. Pack your appetites, slap your meat-eating caps on, and take a mouth-watering road trip to the 50 best barbecue joints in America.

City Butcher and Barbecue — Springfield, Missouri

If you're looking for either a quick bite to eat or a massive amount of barbecued meats, City Butcher and Barbecue in Springfield, Missouri, has you covered tenfold. City Butcher does full-on, Texas-style cooking. While MasterClass points out that "Texas-style" could mean the restaurant uses one of several different cooking techniques, one thing is sure: This spot has flavor. Take some of their specials, like the On Point Gobbler (a marriage of burnt ends and smoked turkey) for example. Stop by one of their two locations for regular menu items, like a hearty pork sandwich called the Pig on Pig on Pig (pork belly, pulled pork, and smoked ham), or load up with meats like brisket, ribs, and sausage all served in sizes that you can bring home to help prepare for your next huge party.

Heirloom Market BBQ — Atlanta

When Chef Cody Taylor and Chef Jiyeon Lee first came up with the idea of opening a restaurant, they had only one question in their minds. It centered around finding the foods they could cook with passion for decades to come. Well, it's at the helm of Atlanta's Heirloom Market where that question is answered. Taylor comes from an American South barbecue tradition. Chef Jiyeon grew up eating fresh South Korean barbecue. Heirloom Market is where the flavors meet. Regional touches like Korean sweet potato chips and spicy pork sandwiches topped with kimchi slaw (and an optional onion ring) are available on the menu, as well as other succulent options for brisket or spare ribs dry rubbed with gochujang seasonings.

Smoque BBQ — Chicago

People can be specific about their barbecue. Take, for example, the fact that Texas Monthly has a specialized position of BBQ Editor within their publication — a role that calls for some particularness, no doubt. And, when this food editor says that despite an aversion to eating brisket outside of Texas, Smoque BBQ of Chicago has what it takes to change his opinion ... You know the spot's smoked meat game is top-notch. In fact, with their restaurant nestled into a new-age food hall, the chefs behind Smoque decided they'd rather build a BBQ pit 20 stories in the air than transport their meats from an off-site location (via Fooditor). With a selection of sandwiches, carnivore-focused platters, rib dinners, and specials like BBQ gumbo or brisket taco kits, it's no wonder barbecue fans the world over are raving about this place.  

J.R.'s Roadhouse BBQ Pit — Summerset, South Dakota

When it comes to smoking meats, luxury trappings aren't needed. Straightforward quality is what customers should hope for when it comes to great barbecue, and that's exactly what JR's Roadhouse BBQ Pit in South Dakota offers to everyone who comes. Here, you can rest easy knowing you're about to visit a spot that focuses on simple things like tasty food, attentive service, and cold beer. Hearty sandwiches like the Fat Stack (hot link sausage with chopped brisket or pulled pork) and the one-pound Josey Wales (hot link, brisket, turkey, and pulled pork) are just two of the delicious reasons people love Chef Justin Rhodes — and all his tasty meats. However, even the side dishes (like the Green Chili Jack Mac) are popping with flavor too.

Gates Bar-B-Q — Multiple locations

A mascot is a great way to establish brand identity, especially when an industry is saturated with too many options to choose from. That's why Gates Bar-B-Q, a barbecue chain founded in 1949 (then called Gates Ol' Kentucky), chose a dapper fellow dressed in a tuxedo and named, "Struttin' Man" to help with their brand recognition. Well, Struttin' Man — along with great service and delicious cuisine — accomplished just that. With a slew of sandwich choices, meats by the pound, and entrée meals that include mutton as an option, this is a family-owned, regional chain that's here to stay. 

B.T.'s Smokehouse — Sturbridge, Massachusetts

For people who love barbecue, half of the enjoyment comes from picturing the succulent, tender meats in your head before you taste them. Chef Brian Treitman of B.T.'s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, knows this. It's the image he's trying to recreate when he cooks; finger-licking plates of ribs that slide off the bone, juicy drippings, all with complex seasoning that balances salt, sweet, spice, and smoke. Along with the staple meats like brisket and pulled pork, Chef Treitman offers specialty items that don't often share a menu. Customers keep coming back to get more of the catfish po'boys, bison burgers, and brisket Rueben sandwich.

The Shaved Duck — St. Louis

Establishing a super unique name is a great way to stick out in the minds of potential customers, and The Shaved Duck, a St. Louis, Missouri, barbecue joint, is definitely a name that nestles itself into people's thoughts and then eventually their stomachs. Dishes like duck confit with a juniper berry sauce and pulled pork nachos are two pre-entrée options that fanatics love to eat. They prep a diner's palate for a slew of savory mains courses, like the Cast Iron Brisket Point Burger, Smoky Bourbon Meatloaf, or piles of ultra-crispy catfish. Food isn't the only indication that owner and Pitmaster Ally Nisbet is serious about the craft. The Shaved Duck also offers barbecue classes to anyone interested in honing their pit skills.

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que — Austin

It's no surprise Texas looms large as one of the great spots in the nation for an immaculate barbecue feast. According to the Texas Historical Commission, the first people in the region to likely use pit cooking methods are the Caddo Nation. As it's known today, Texas barbecue has roots in the 1800s and has become hugely popular with the rest of America (via Texas Monthly). Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que stands out as one of the best in the Lone Star State. This super popular Austin spot is home to the "World Famous Big Chop," which Wide Open Eats writes is over 2 inches thick.

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que menu is straight and to the point, though you will find an even more comprehensive selection of meat offerings like pork loin, jerky, beef ribeye, and even goat. What makes this place even better is the space. Cooper's has a gorgeous rooftop garden, a spacious oak-shaded patio in the back, and a live music stage so you can jam out while you eat!

Dreamland Barbecue — Multiple locations

When your taste buds have a craving to be hit with the juicy sensation of smoked meats and they drag your mind into a spiraling tornado of flavorful daydreams, you know it's time to find some good cue'. Enter Dreamland Bar-B-Que, where fantasies go to eat. According to Dreamland lore, God visited founder John "Big Daddy" Bishop in a dream and told him to open a restaurant, so he founded the first Dreamland Bar-B-Que in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Since then, several more locations have been conceived throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The menu serves up visionary slabs of smothered ribs, wings tossed in savory, sweet, and spicy sauces, and hearty bowls of pork, chicken, and veggie stew. As all the best BBQ spots do, Dreamland also offers their diners banana pudding for dessert.

Black's Barbecue — Multiple locations

When a restaurant is popular enough to sell a line of products with its name stamped boldly on them, you know it's worth visiting. Black's Barbecue, a classic Texas spot founded in 1932, has a variety of sauces, rubs, and branded merchandise you can purchase after (or before) you visit one of their two locations in Austin or Lockhart, Texas. After ordering some great grub, you're going to want to take something home to remember the moment. Third-generation Pitmaster Kent Black still employs the same techniques his grandfather used in the 1930s to slow smoke beef brisket, pork spare ribs, pork shoulder, and homemade cheddar jalapeño sausages. 

4 Rivers Smokehouse — Orlando

Orlando, Florida, is one of the country's hot spots for tourist attractions. The city brought in over 75 million people in pre-pandemic times (via the Orlando Sentinel). So, where do all these hungry folks go to eat after a long day of schlepping around Disneyworld? If barbecue is your thing (it is), then you head straight to 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Any and all amusement-park appetites are immediately put to bed here. 4 Rivers Smokehouse is like a magic kingdom made from food, and there are rides of every size. A huge menu consists of barbacoa bowls, glistening cuts of Angus brisket, and a variety of sandwiches, like the Burnt Ends Melt (provolone, cheddar cheese, caramelized onions). According to the Tampa Bay Times, cattle farming owes its beginnings to Florida, the nation's first ranching state starting in 1521. Today, Orlando's 4 Rivers Smokehouse is the perfect ending to a fun-filled afternoon.

Hometown Bar-B-Que — Brooklyn

In 2013, Red Hook, Brooklyn, saw the arrival of Hometown Bar-B-Que. It quickly became a hot spot for awesome meats and live music. Hometown pays homage to barbecue's roots in the global south, but the business refers to its cooking style as Brooklyn barbecue. Pitmasters prepare food over a 100% oak wood fire, and the menu offers a lot of unique flavors inspired by the array of cultures that both thrive around Brooklyn and contribute to the art of barbecue. Staples from the American South, like brisket, chili, and standard cuts of pork are always a hit, but multicultural flavors are where Hometown really takes off. Menu offerings like Vietnamese hot wings, lamb banh mi, and Korean pork ribs make this place a must-visit for anyone who loves barbecue in all its forms.

Mighty Quinn's Barbecue — Multiple locations

On their website, Mighty Quinn's Barbecue states a simple and effective approach to the food they serve. For the chain, it starts by filling the kitchen with the highest grade ingredients available. Then, the Pitmasters at Mighty Quinn's do their best to get out of the way and let those components shine. Their approach to barbecue has been successful. There are several locations scattered around New York City and New Jersey, and Pitmaster Hugh Mangum ensures every one of them is chock-full of flavor. Customers can create their own two or three-meat platters with options like brisket, burnt ends, and pulled pork. Or, if they're feeling extra bold, they can order something called the Brontosaurus Rib. Goldbelly describes this as a three-piece, on-the-bone, 18-hour smoked short rib. Dinosaurs may be extinct, but good barbecue lives forever.

Franklin Barbecue — Austin

When Texas Monthly says your establishment "serves the best barbecue in the known universe," you know you've got something special cooking (quite literally). In 2009, husband-and-wife team Aaron and Stacy Franklin opened Franklin Barbecue, and it took off like a rocket. Jimmy Kimmel, Anthony Bourdain, and even Barack Obama have paid a visit to enjoy Franklin food. The couple also sells a line of Franklin Barbecue products, as well as a Franklin branded grill so you can barbecue like a boss! But, in the event you're eating your meal on-site at Franklin, you should know there's more than salty meats to fill up on. The four styles of dessert pies on offer might just be the best post-BBQ treat in this galaxy.

17th Street Barbecue — Multiple locations

"Life is too short for a half-rack." That clever barbecue lover's quote was spoken by Pitmaster Mike Mills, a man known in the world of cooked meats simply as "The Legend," according to the 17th Street Barbecue joint in Illinois. Until his passing in 2020, Mike Mills ran the pits at both 17th Street Barbecue locations. Today, his passion is still felt in every bite of food a customer takes, whether from a heaping slab of baby back ribs or a chopped pork shoulder. When visiting, consider ordering up the Lotta Bull sandwich, which features chopped beef brisket, peppers, onions, horseradish, cheddar cheese, pickles, and a fried egg. With food like this, the memory of Mike Mills lives on the tastebuds of every guest.

Beast Craft BBQ Co. — Belleville, Illinois

Barbecue is the perfect type of cuisine when you have a beast of an appetite, which makes the name Beast Craft BBQ Co. so appealing. But, there are many more reasons than just a perfect name to visit this Belleville, Illinois, spot. Of course, one of those reasons is that they have amazing food. The website proudly states that Pitmaster David Sandusky makes nothing but good stuff on the daily. Along with unique smoked meats like kielbasa, jerk sausage, and snoot (pig nose minus the nostrils), the menu also is stacked with heavy-hitting sandwiches. There's the Pig Mac, with double-stacked pulled pork and slaw, or the S&S Turkey Melt which sees candied bacon jam, smoked tomato mayo, gruyere cheese, and house-pickled jalapeños paired with the namesake protein.

Bludso's Bar & Que — Los Angeles

Pitmaster Kevin "Big Kev" Bludso knows his way around smoked meats. Not only did he start Bludso's Bar & Que in 2008, but, among other things, he's a judge on the Netflix barbecue competition show "The American BBQ Showdown" and has graced the screen on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" several times (via Food Network). During lunch hours, customers have five meat-stacked sandwiches to choose from, and during both lunch and dinner, they can order up family-style meats like pork and beef ribs, chicken links, and buffalo-style rib tips. Big ol' barbecue party trays are also available if someone's throwing a carnivorous fiesta. According to Food Network, it was Bludso's spicy sauce that grabbed Guy Fieri's attention, so be sure not to miss out on that.

Buxton Hall Barbecue — Asheville, North Carolina

Chef Elliot Moss grew up around great food, with fond early memories of helping family members serve barbecue to his community. So, when the opportunity came to open his own place in Asheville, North Carolina, he pounced on it. Now, at his restaurant Buxton Hall BBQ, Chef Elliot offers eccentric dishes like Buxton BBQ Mussels alongside delicious standard appetizers like hushpuppies, all before moving on to heartier fare like the complex layers of a Smoky Fried Catfish Plate and or a cheesesteak with chopped brisket. Chef Moss is also known for his buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, which was named "Fried Chicken Sandwich of the Year" by bon appétit in 2016.

Cattleack Barbecue — Dallas

It's no coincidence that the "Cattleack" in Cattleack Barbecue sounds exactly like the high-quality car, Cadillac. Founder Todd David wanted people to think of a top-notch product when they heard the name of his BBQ spot. According to the restaurant's website, David turned his lifelong barbecue hobby into a professional obsession to serve the best food in the world. Many people who visit the Dallas, Texas staple would say he's right on track. Diners are treated to various meats by the pound, sampler platters, and three kinds of sausage (mild, hatch chili and cheese, or the Spicy Texan). There's also a sandwich known as The Toddfather, which comes with brisket, pulled pork, sausage, homemade slaw, and barbecue sauce. Be warned: This barbecue is so good that Cattleack is only open regularly on Thursdays and Fridays (and the odd lucky Saturdays when they're throwing a whole hog roast).

Central BBQ — Multiple locations

Craig Blondis and Roger Sapp met on the competitive barbecue circuit in the mid-1980s, during the May's World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest in Memphis, Tennessee. A few decades later, they put competition aside to join meaty forces and found Central BBQ in 2002. Memphis is one of the barbecue capitals of the world, but with their combined chops, Blondis and Sapp grew the business into a regional mainstay. Now, with multiple locations around Tennessee, Central BBQ slings a variety of comfort food like hot wings, barbecue nachos, sandwiches teeming with smoked meats (or a grilled portabello for the veggie-heads out there), and barbecue bologna. Despite all that, slabs of slow-smoked, Memphis-style ribs are still the highlight.

Fette Sau — Brooklyn

You're probably guessing what in the world the name "Fette Sau" means for a restaurant. Is this going to be some fancy form of cue'? According to the website, the two words simply translate to "fat pig," which actually makes a ton of sense. Founder Joe Carroll opened the Brooklyn-based barbecue spot, Fette Sau, in 2007. He prices his meat by half-pound, and the upscale name isn't the only refined thing here. Carroll founded his restaurant focusing on small-batch American spirits and heritage breed animals. Customers can pile high Black Angus Beef Brisket, pork belly sourced from Berkshire hogs, Duroc pork ribs, and chicken wings from local Cascun Farm. When it comes to barbecue, everyone wants a "fette" pile of meat.

Heim Barbecue — Ft. Worth

According to the Heim Barbecue website, their house is the "original home of bacon burnt ends." Bacon burnt ends sound like the stuff of dreams for barbecue lovers, but it's a big mistake to think that these are the only reason to visit this fantastic Texas restaurant. The menu is awesome, with plenty of locally-raised meats served by the plateful (or by the pound, depending on your hankering) and a fully-fleshed selection of burgers and sandwiches. There is also a cozy bar food menu with an especially appetizing corn dog. And, of course, bacon burnt ends are served by the quarter pound. Arrive early enough on weekdays, and Heim even has breakfast tacos or biscuits so you can start your day the barbecue way!

Jones Bar-B-Q — Kansas City, Kansas

The Jones sisters spent their childhoods watching closely as their dad tended to the meat-filled pit in Kansas City, Kansas, that kept their community and family fed. Now, Mary and Deborah operate Jones Bar-B-Q after taking the reins from their father. Although known as "Little" and "Shorty," respectively, there's nothing small about the flavors of this BBQ stand. The sisters poured their adoration into the establishment when they took over, and now they serve genuine, love-filled food that proves it. Towering platters full of sausage, rib tips, beef, ham, and turkey roll from the Jones pit. Sausage links and slabs of ribs are too good to pass up. And, make sure you purchase a bottle of the homemade Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce before leaving.

Snow's BBQ — Lexington, Texas

Thanks to the stereotype of grilling dads, you probably don't associate the role of Pitmaster with women. Fortunately, the Jones sisters aren't nearly the only ones to break this mold. That backward idea is also completely kicked aside at Snow's BBQ, where Pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz absolutely crushes the barbecue game. According to Snow's website (and Tomanetz herself), not only is she breaking molds as a woman — she may be one of the oldest Pitmasters still smoking. Opened in 2003, the people of Lexington, Texas, quickly grew to love the joint, and for good reason. The menu is simple and paired down. It takes any stress or complications out of ordering. Meats are sold by the pound, and they include brisket, pork spare ribs, pork shoulder steak, turkey breast, chicken, and both original and jalapeño sausage. At Snow's BBQ, Tootsie makes life easy and delicious for barbecue fans from across the world.

Sweet Lew's BBQ — Charlotte, North Carolina

Apparently, at one point, there was a burning question that plagued Charlotte, North Carolina, and it centered around locals wondering where they could go to get authentic, true Carolina-style barbecue. Fortunately, Sweet Lew's BBQ holds the mouth-watering answer within their 450-square-foot smokehouse, where there's no gas or electricity used to cook your meat. Instead, a hickory, pecan, and peach wood fire is used to churn out all sorts of melt-in-your-mouth foods. Snag combo platters with smoked pork shoulder, 15-hour beef brisket, and jumbo fried wings. Or, order your proteins by the pound so you can take a little of Sweet Lew's home to savor later. While you're in the shop, be sure to snack on a particular Southern special: Boiled peanuts.

Truth BBQ — Houston

"The truth will set you free." At least, that's what people say. Leonardo Botello IV, who is the Pitmaster of Texas-founded Truth BBQ, wants nothing more than to use amazing cuisine to unburden your appetite from false flavors. Botello's commitment to making everything from scratch daily is why he has hosted dinners for organizations like The James Beard House, becoming renowned in the culinary world for his authentic yet inventive approach to the craft. 

From Tuesday to Sunday, Truth BBQ uses live fires to serve heaps of house-smoked meats that'll give you the meat sweats at first glance. Not only do they serve great food, but Botello also continually focuses on increasing his barbecue knowledge and offers instructional courses in the process. People yearn for the truth, and this barbecue spot delivers it as a glistening heap of meat, every time.

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner — Mariana, Arkansas

Some people might feel that an intricate menu outshines a basic one. But, when that basic menu is done right, it can far outshine one with an array of complex options. Take Jones Bar-B-Q Diner, for example. At this Arkansas staple, Pitmaster James Harold Jones serves one item: Pulled pork sandwiches on white Wonder bread. Customers can choose the sandwich with or without slaw, but nothing else. Despite being such a simple plate, this pork sandwich is slamming! Jones estimates he cranks out about 900 pounds of pork every week to customers who love his one-option establishment (via

La Barbecue — Austin

"In Bobby, we trust." Wait, who's Bobby? Pitmaster Bobby Mueller, of course! Mueller is the father of LeAnn Mueller, one of the two women who run La Barbecue in Austin, Texas. LeAnn and her wife Ali use inspiration from Bobby to create a stellar culinary experience for every customer who visits. Aside from selling an assortment of meats by the pound, they have a superb selection of sandwiches, too. Order up the la Frito Loco for a mouthful of pulled pork, chopped beef, chipotle slaw, beans, Fritos, cheese, and jalapeño on a squishy potato bun. Or, snag a Bobby Dawg, made from house-made jalapeño sausage topped with brisket or pulled pork, beans, cheese, onions, and yellow mustard.

Lem's Bar-B-Q — Chicago

In 1954, Bruce and Myles Lemons decided to get cooking on a shared dream. Their goal was to one day open a restaurant that would excite the appetites of the people of Chicago. Fortunately, their dream became a reality in the form of Lem's Bar-B-Q. The restaurant is known for its specialty rib tips and hot links, but that's not the only thing people can't get enough of. Lem's also serves a ton of golden fried chicken and crispy fried shrimp. They even have barbecue sauce you can buy by the gallon. How's that for exciting?

Lewis Barbecue — Charleston, South Carolina

When Pitmaster John Lewis turned 18, he received a birthday present every young Texan must dream of. Lewis's parents gifted him a New Braunfels smoker, and that's where his epic journey into the mouthwatering landscape of barbecue began. After some time honing his craft around Austin, Texas, he opened Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, South Carolina. Here, he took his teenage passion and turned it into a delicious profession. As a specialty, Lewis serves slices of prime beef brisket and Texas "hot guts" sausages (made with beef, pork, and tingling spice). Diners can add even more heat to their meal through an extra topping of pickled jalapeño or a dish of green chili cornbread pudding. Best of all, Lewis Barbecue ships nationwide.

Lexington Barbecue — Lexington, North Carolina

In 1962, a young man named Wayne Monk bought himself a plot of land along the highway in Lexington, North Carolina, and built a barbecue restaurant he simply called Lexington Barbecue. To this day, the establishment stands on the same land and still slings amazing 'que to those in search of it. Between the towering plates of chopped meat and sides plates of pork skin, Lexington Barbecue shows that they have it all figured out. In fact, the only thing the restaurant smokes is pork shoulder, and it's exclusively done over hickory or oak coals. The menu offers more variety with other Southern favorites like hamburger steak, fried shrimp, and fish sandwiches. Don't forget to wash it down with a gulp of Cheerwine.

Little Miss BBQ — Phoenix

You'd never think that a name like Little Miss BBQ was inspired by a dog, but lo and behold, it was a pooch that helped launch the Phoenix, Arizona barbecue company. But, there's nothing little about the food that owners Scott and Bekke serve. The husband-wife duo slings massive amounts of meat hunks, spare ribs, and sausage through Little Miss — and that's not even the biggest reason to visit the stand. Little Miss BBQ is famed for serving red chile and green chile burritos. Customers get a one-pound, handheld, foil-wrapped vessel of tortillas that's been stuffed with smoked green chile, barbecue meat, ranch-style beans, and cheddar cheese.

Matt's BBQ — Portland, Oregon

Opened in 2015, Matt's BBQ serves great-tasting food from a fixed-location food truck in Portland, Oregon (there's a second location in the city of Beaverton also). The truck has a fantastic selection of barbecue, including pork belly burnt ends, armadillo eggs (jalapeño poppers wrapped in smoked sausage meat), and a decadent melted butter-dipped turkey breast. According to Texas Monthly, Matt's BBQ sparked a barbecue trend in Portland strong enough to compete anywhere outside Texas. Eager to serve more food, the minds behind Matt's ventured out from their pit (sort of). Now, Matt's BBQ fans can also visit Matt's BBQ Tacos food truck for flour tortillas stuffed with all sorts of breakfast and lunch ingredients.

Moonlite Bar-B-Q — Owensboro, Kentucky

It was a considerable risk when Catherine and Hugh "Pappy" Bosley purchased Moonlite Bar-B-Q from the previous owners in 1963. The shop had already been open for 14 years, but with no experience in the restaurant industry and a large family, the pair were truly venturing out on their own. However, hard work was ingrained in them. The Bosley couple grew their then-new establishment into what is now an old Kentucky tradition. Moonlite has plenty of dinner plate options, like barbecue pork, pork ribs, and chopped beef. However, the barbecue mutton sandwich is popular too. Diners can also pay for a buffet option, allowing them to tackle as many plates of delicious food as their stomachs can handle.

Pappy's Smokehouse — St. Louis

At Pappy's Smokehouse, a Memphis-style barbecue joint in Missouri, every customer is treated to the "Pappy's Experience." The experience includes three facets: Freshly prepared food, a low and slow cooking method, and a finishing touch of delicious sauce on the side. The menu has a wide array of sandwiches, combination meat platters, and slabs of ribs. They even have a special combination platter called The "Adam" Bomb, which honors Adam Richman, the former host of "Man vs. Food." This massive plate includes a Hot Link Frito Pie and the entire Big Ben combo platter (a full slab of ribs, a brisket, pork, and chicken sandwich, and four sides).

Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ — Multiple locations

Pitmaster Rodney Scott wants everyone at his self-named restaurant — workers and customers included — to feel like family when they visit. According to the pitmaster, no matter who arrives at Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ, they're welcome to a seat at the table. Scott cooked his first hog at age 11, and he was instantly hooked. With locations in Alabama, South Carolina, and Georgia, Rodney's crew is always busy serving barbecue, and they wouldn't have it any other way. The menu is gigantic, from chicken tenders to meat platters to catfish, but the biggest thing at Rodney Scott's is the amount of love that can be felt for the art of barbecue. 

Sam Jones BBQ — Greenville, North Carolina

Sam Jones BBQ was destined for success when it opened its doors in 2015. Jones mastered the art of Carolina 'cue while working for his grandfather Pete Jones, founder of the legendary Skylight Inn. That family pride comes in the form of the signature slow smoked chopped bbq pork. Other menu highlights include seasoned and smoked wings, pork skins, pimento cheese, crispy fried catfish, and spare ribs (among an assortment of other delectable meats). If you can't make it over to Greenville, get a taste of that whole hog magic at the restaurant's sister location in Raleigh.   

ZZQ — Richmond, Virginia

Love comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, it takes the form of a passion for barbecue. That was what happened when self-taught Pitmaster Chris Fultz met his Pitmistress, a meat-loving gal named Amex Graf. They fell in love with each other (and the practice of smoking meats together), and thus began ZZQ. Despite being in Richmond, Virginia, the pair translates a devotion to Texas craft barbecue to create one heck of an amazing menu. They serve the classic stuff like pulled pork shoulder and beef brisket, but they also have unique sandwiches like the Beef N Cheddar, which features white onion ceviche and a Shiner Bock beer cheese. Love is in the air and it tastes fantastic.

Archibald and Woodrow's BBQ — Tuscaloosa, Alabama

When George and Betty Archibald opened Archibald and Woodrow's BBQ in 1962, it was just a simple mom-and-pop shop trying to crank out some good grub for the locals. Decades later and it is now an Alabama favorite that has been in the same family for three generations (and counting). The Archibald family serves up classic ribs, pork butts, and chicken, along with house-special jumbo hot wings, catfish, and whiting (another type of fish). Like good barbecue, building a family is a low-and-slow process. The love of great food only seems to increase with each generation of Archibald, so hopefully, their barbecue will be around for many more years.

Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ — Anchorage

We know what you're probably thinking: "There's no way I'll ever eat at a place with 'arm pit' in the name." However, this is one armpit that doesn't stink. In fact, it smells delicious! Located in Anchorage, Alaska, Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ is run by Pitmaster Jack Goodsell. He's all about putting smiles on the faces of anyone who takes a chance on his armpit. This guy does his menu right, with savory brisket, Philly cheesesteaks towering with roast beef, pulled pork tacos, and a signature Boar Tide sandwich (a third of a pound of pulled pork with a hefty plank of bacon plopped on top). 

Moo's Craft Barbecue — Los Angeles

What started as a small barbecue pop-up spot in a Los Angeles backyard in 2017 eventually grew into the full-blown Moo's Craft Barbecue restaurant in Lincoln Heights people know and love today. Moo's puts forth an eccentric, LA-influenced cue' menu alongside the typical Texas-style barbecue fare. Take these offerings, for example. There are fatty, melty Korean glazed pork belly burnt ends, spicy poblano queso with Oaxacan sausage, and a special called the Rampart Thicc Chili Burger. This colossal sandwich is piled with smoked brisket and Texas chili, balanced between a potato bun, and bursting with real Southern flavor.

HooDoo Brown Barbecue — Ridgefield, Connecticut

In an effort to idolize Hoodoo Brown, a cattle herder and bank robber who epitomized life in the Wild West, Hoodoo Brown Barbecue owner Cody Sperry opened this Ridgefield, Connecticut spot in 2015. In doing so, he's brought some of the best possible Texas outlaw cuisines to the Northeast. Hoodoos slings staple meats like crackling pork belly, brisket, and crispy smoked chicken, but it's their sandwiches that truly run away with your tastebuds. For pork enthusiasts, there is the Hogzilla (shaved pork ribs, pulled pork, and pork belly topped with Hoodoo Voodoo sauce and fried green tomato). Those looking for a punch of sharp flavor should try the Bat Masterson (breaded buffalo chicken tenders with blue cheese slaw). And as the Northeast does, there's even brisket and cheese curd poutine on the menu.

Whatcha' Smokin BBQ and Brew — Luther, Iowa

When you visit a barbecue joint, there's really no reason to ask the rhetorical question, "Whatcha smokin'?" because the answer is always a resounding, "Meat, of course!" Well, that's exactly what's happening in droves at Whatcha' Smokin' BBQ and Brew in Luther, Iowa. They run specials every day except Monday, with menus that include tacos, brisket bacon burgers, and smothered breakfast burritos. You can also create your own sandwich with any one of their smoked meats or snag one of their signature sandwich creations like the Iowa Cheese Steak, which comes with a full butcher's counter of meat, sauteed onions, mushrooms, and peppers packed into a hoagie and draped with melted Swiss cheese.

Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill — Charleston, West Virginia

As their website states, if you want to make your way to the best-tasting barbecue on the planet, you should "follow the smoke" to Dem 2 Brother and a Grill in Charleston, West Virginia. Founded by a man named Adrian "Bay" Wright, who began his barbecue career selling food from a small roadside stand, Dem 2 Brothers now serves their fantastic cuisine in a simple menu format at a brick-and-mortar storefront location. Hungry eaters have their choice of three succulent sandwiches (chicken breast, pulled pork, or ribs), or they can order meat by the pound to bring home and enjoy. As a former NFL player, Adrian Wright brings big hits of flavor with his barbecue and contributes a large impact to his local community.

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q — Decatur, Alabama

"Big Bob Gibson" just sounds like the name of a guy who belongs in front of a pit, tending to a smoky array of delicious meat. Luckily, the Bob Gibson who this restaurant was named after loved tending to barbecue pits, even though he was a railroad worker. Located in Decatur, Alabama, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q doesn't have an enormous menu, but every item is mouth-wateringly delicious. The beef brisket is succulent, but the pulled pork is the true winner (a five-time grand victor at the May's World Championship BBQ Cook-Off in Memphis). Bob Gibson is also known for creating a unique white barbecue sauce full of tangy, peppery flavors.

Blood Bros. Texas Barbecue — Bellaire, Texas

The bond between the three founders of Blood Bros. Texas Barbecue is rock solid, which makes the joint so special. According to a profile in Smithsonian Magazine, the three men who run the shop were friends as kids before going seperate ways later in life. Destiny had other plans, and soon Terry Wong, Robin Wong, and Quy Hoang were brought together again. The three launched their renowned barbecue restaurant in Bellaire, Texas. Customers can order traditional Central Texas barbecue by the pound, but there's more to see here. Chinese, Vietnamese, and American flavors meet in fragrantly spicy and sweet ribs, jalapeño creamed corn, brisket fried rice, and a smoked turkey banh mi.

Blu's Barbecue — Dallas

If you're feeling blue, a great way to turn that frown upside down is a delicious meal. That's exactly what Blu's Barbecue, a savory Dallas, Texas spot does to anyone in need of satisfying an appetite (or a smile). Your stomach will sing praises once it gets a taste of smoked meats like Angus beef brisket and pork spare ribs. Or, treat your tummy to tacos! Blue's sells tortillas jammed full of burnt ends, cheeseburger fixings, or sausage. If it's a sandwich you crave, they also have you covered with choices like the Pork Fork, a sandwich of pulled pork, sausage, and mac & cheese. Add a jumbo stuffed baked potato and you'll find there's no reason to be down.

The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint — Ocean Springs, Mississippi

The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint is one of those places that's almost too cool to exist. It was started by a man named Brad Orrison. Orrison loves to accumulate unique pieces of junk from anywhere he can. At one point, he had so much stuff he decided to use it all to build a super funky-looking barbecue joint, and with the help of his sound engineer brother, he created a barbecue and blues shack (shed?) that cranks out killer tunes and amazing eats. Diners who visit this Ocean Springs, Mississippi spot are treated to many standard pit choices (pork, beef, ribs), with unique touches like whole birds on offer. 

The Salt Lick — Driftwood, Texas

The historic roots of The Salt Lick run deep. The original conception for the restaurant dates back to the mid-1800s and a couple named Bettie and James Howard. The current owner and great-grandchild of the couple, Scott Roberts, still uses the same cooking method as his ancestors. As a result, The Salt Lick in its current form has been serving genuine and outstanding cuisine to hungry Texas patrons weekly since 1967. Customers swarm to enjoy a triple chop sandwich with brisket, sausage, and ribs, or a fantastic combo plate with bison ribs, pulled pork, and half a bird. They also run Sunday specials that include prime rib, baby back ribs, and habanero chicken.

Smitty's Market — Lockhart, Texas

Keeping a business in the family for decades means pouring a lot of love into it, which is exactly what the Schmidt clan does at Smitty's Market. This wonderful family spot has an enormous barbecue pit that's been used to slowly turn out delicious meat in Lockhart, Texas, since 1924. Edgar "Smitty" Schmidt founded the market to supply eager guests with melt-in-your-mouth meat. Pork chops with crispy edges, savory smoked turkey breast, or piquant jalapeño sausage — this is one family that knows good eats and loves to spread their knowledge. If you don't feel like eating in, take some cold meats from Smitty's Market home to practice your own barbecue.