Best BBQ Restaurants in the USA (2022)

Barbecue is an age-old American tradition, whether abbreviated, hyphenated (Bar-B-Cue) or spelled (barbecue) – isn’t the English language awe-inspiring! The way meat is prepared and cooked from place to place is as varied as its spellings, perhaps more.

These barbecue “regions” are all great in their own way: Memphis is known for its slow-cooked, slow-cooked pork ribs with dry seasoning or a nice sauce; Kansas City sweetens the deal with a heavy dose of brown sugar in their rubs and sauces; The Texans let the natural flavors do the talking, serving only smoked meat, no sauce.

This list of our readers’ favorite barbecue joints will hopefully inspire you for your next meal, and maybe even a trip or two to one of these beautiful barbecue towns. Grab some napkins because your mouth is about to start salivating!

Courtesy of Cackle & Oink BBQ

1. Cackle & Oink BBQ (Winner)

Sherman, TX

You will find BBQ Cackling and Growling in Sherman, Texas, just over an hour northeast of Dallas. As their website proudly states, Cackle & Oink is “Cookin’ Butt & Takin’ Names!” Our readers have certainly their name, voting them this year’s winner of the best trip for the favorite barbecue restaurant in the United States

Their meats are seasoned with dry marinades and homemade marinades. Aaron, the resident “Pitmaster”, has studied the techniques of other great barbecue masters from all the top barbecue regions. His unique blend of styles creates a truly distinct flavor combination for his diners. The back ribs are award winning, but honestly you can’t go wrong with any of their fine selections. Add jalapeño cornbread to your order and you’ll be glad you made it.

What to order:

  • House Specialty Baby Back Ribs
  • Jalapeño Cornbread
City of New Braunfels, Texas (Photo credit: Regan Bender / Shutterstock.com)

2. Black BBQ

New Braunfels, TX

The black barbecue is family owned and opened in Lockhart, TX in 1932. They have expanded to three additional locations in the area: Austin, San Marcos and, notably for this list, New Braunfels. All three outposts are within 45 minutes of the original.

Dark meats are coated in a gluten-free sauce and wood-smoked to perfection. While most seasonings are naturally gluten-free, prepackaged “rubs” may contain fillers that may not. Choose from beef brisket, ribs, turkey and chicken with any of their amazing sides, including Norma Jean’s Pinto Beans and Creamed Corn.

What to order:

  • Giant beef ribs – one pound per rib!
  • House sausage — hand-stuffed and slow-smoked

Editor’s Note: Although the rub used is gluten-free, their homemade sausage does contain gluten and should be avoided by anyone with an allergy or intolerance.

The Z-Man sandwich from Joe's in Kansas City.
Joe’s Z-Man Sandwich (Photo Credit: Wise Scott)

3. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

Kansas City, Kansas

From the competition circuit to their first physical location attached to a local service station, Joe’s Kansas City was as slow cooked as their delicious meats. Owners Jeff and Joy Stehney didn’t want to rush anything, and their patience and perseverance paid off.

You have to try their specialty: the burnt tips. These tasty bites come from the thinner ends of the brisket that are removed before slicing for sandwiches, as the thinner “ends” of the brisket simply cook faster than the rest of the meat, “scorching” them. Beef brisket lovers quickly realized just how delicious these “leftovers” were on their own, leading to high demand. Then Joe perfected the process by creating his signature dish – buy it before it runs out! Or try their brisket sandwich, nicknamed the Z-Man, which is topped with provolone and onion rings.

What to order:

  • Burnt Ends – while they last!
  • The Z-Man Sandwich
Slice the breast
Slice the brisket at Franklin Barbecue (Photo credit: Wyatt McSpadden)

4. Franklin Barbeque

Austin, TX

Franklin Grill has become a staple of the Austin community. From humble beginnings selling beef brisket from a roadside trailer in 2009, the husband-wife team honed their craft, with Aaron (the husband) eventually winning the coveted James Beard Award for Best Chef. Both president obama and the end Antoine Bourdain – as well as the regular lines outside – have shown that this lunchtime restaurant is a must visit.

Beef brisket is by far Aaron’s specialty, so be sure to order a good portion to share. But make room for their pulled pork, ribs, and jalapeño cheddar sausage, too. Wash it all down with a local beer and follow it up with bourbon banana pie. Arrive early because once they’re out for the day, they’re out!

What to order:

  • Brisket
  • Cheddar Jalapeño Sausage
  • Bourbon Banana Pie

Pro tip: Learn from the master Aaron Franklin himself as he leads a MasterClass on how to make her mouth watering chest in your own home.

5. The Bar-BQ Shop

Memphis, TN

Are you ready for a new version of an old favourite? Well, make way for Spaghetti Bar-BQ! This specialty side was born in Memphis at The Bar-BQ shop and tastes great with any menu item. Enjoy their meat in a sandwich, on a plate or on a salad. Or enjoy good ribs near the slab.

If you enjoy the flavor of their meat, be sure to buy their signature Dancing pigs rub and sauces to enjoy at home. Their sauce comes in quirky and tangy varieties, which can be purchased separately, gift-wrapped with their rub, or at the checkout. Enjoy your lunch!

What to order:

Ribs with sweet potato fries and corn on the cob from Pappy's in St. Louis.
Photo credit: SW Louis

6. Pappy’s Smokehouse (tie)

St. Louis, Missouri

the original Pappy’s Smokehouse is located in the Midtown theater district of St. Louis. Before a show, take a stroll down the street to their flagship location on Olive Street. The Pappy’s family has expanded to another location, as well as five partner restaurants in the city, and even one in Nuremberg, Germany!

They became famous for their Memphis-style barbecue, gaining recognition for their famous dry-smoked, slow-smoked, low-temperature ribs for up to 24 hours. Choose between a sandwich or platter, each with your choice of two large sides.

What to order:

  • Dry rubbed ribs
  • Sweet Potato Fries

Pro tip: If it’s late in the day, be sure to call ahead to make sure there’s no shortage of stock, as this happens regularly.

Seasoned rib steak.
Photo courtesy of Rendez-vous

6. Charlie Vergos’ date (tie)

Memphis, TN

From a basement bar in a downtown alley serving beer and sandwiches to the go-to destination for Memphis-style ribs, Appointment is a Memphis landmark. You can still order a ham sandwich and a beer like the early patrons of Charlie Vergos’ basement retreat once did, but the big winner here is the pork chops. Seasoned with a mix of Greek and Cajun flavors, today’s recipe is the same as the original. Stop by on your next trip to Memphis.

What to order:

8. The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

If it weren’t for those folks out there who keep every piece of wood they come across – and hold every spare nail or screw that “still has potential” – the shed may never have been born. The original structure, built by Brad Orrison from trash he scavenged from dumpsters in college days, has been added over the years. It now welcomes nearly 600 guests between its large indoor and outdoor spaces. Take to the stage to listen to live music while enjoying a delicious meal.

Where the bayou meets the BBQ; enjoy a unique blend of barbecue staples with sides suitable for the Mississippi coast, including hush puppies and fried okra. Savor the savory baby back ribs and wash it all down with a cool, refreshing beer from the G-Maw Beer Bar. Follow it with a slice of peanut butter pie, and sit back and let the music take you away.

What to order:

  • Baby back ribs
  • Fried Okra And Hushpuppies
Severed chest.
Photo courtesy of 4 Rivers Smokehouse

9. The 4 rivers smokehouse

Orlando Florida

With locations scattered across the state of Florida, from Miami to Tallahassee, 4 rivers has strong popularity in the Sunshine State. There are five locations in and around the Orlando area, including their flagship spot in Winter Park. Enjoy everything from barbecue classics like brisket and burnt ends to specialty sandwiches and creative fusions like barbecue quesadilla and barbecue street tacos. Their menu is extensive, so check it out.

What to order:

  • Signature Angus Chest
  • BBQ Quesadilla
  • Crispy Cream Bread Pudding

Pro tip: Vegans can also enjoy barbecuing with 4 Rivers Vegan Burnt Ends which are made from a plant-based alternative and full of the same slow smoke flavor.

BBQ pork on coleslaw with sweet potato fries.
Amy Whidby, Creative Director – A. Marshall Hospitality

10. Puckett Grocery and Restaurant

Franklin, TN

If your mouth hasn’t started salivating yet, it’s about to. by Puckett the traditional barbecue is enough to titillate everyone’s taste buds. But have you tried the pulled pork covered in macaroni and cheese and crumbled cookies? Alternatively, head over to Puckett and order a Piggy Mac today. Or try a slice of their smoky meatloaf, blending the refined flavors of Memphis barbecue with true Southern-style comfort food.

What to order:

  • Memphis Style Pulled Pork
  • mac pig
  • Cinnamon roll pudding

Editor’s Note: Be on the lookout for what is affectionately nicknamed “Ms. Trolley Parton. This trolley-turned-food truck can be found at area festivals and can be rented for private parties.

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