Design People & Places

15 Pit Stops Every Barbecue Enthusiast Should Make

We think of barbecue as an all-American cuisine, but it actually encompasses several different regional traditions, with four major styles originating in Kansas, Texas, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. We’ve scoured expert and customer reviews to find the top 15 barbecue stops in the country, with representatives from each tradition as well as a few outstanding outliers.

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Joe’s (Kansas City, Kansas) via jpellgen

The title “America’s Best BBQ Restaurant” might seem like hyperbole, but Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que takes the crown. Trusted restaurant guide Zagat gives the food at Joe’s an almost perfect 4.8 out of 5 stars. The fact that it’s located in a functioning gas station is only part of the charm.

The Salt Lick (Driftwood, Texas) via scmtngirl

If you find yourself in the Austin area, don’t miss The Salt Lick BBQ, where meat is slow-cooked over an open pit and served with a sweet-sour house sauce. This consistent winner, with four locations in Texas, made Southern Living’s 2019 List of the Best BBQ Joints.

Hutchins BBQ (McKinney, Texas) via jpellgen

When you’re in Dallas, head over to Hutchins BBQ in McKinney for a Texas Twinkie. To make these savory bombs, large jalapeños are stuffed with leftover brisket and cream cheese, then wrapped in bacon, smoked, brushed with sweet BBQ sauce, and grilled to perfection. There’s a second location in Frisco, Texas, also about an hour outside of Dallas.

Little Miss BBQ (Phoenix, Arizona)

Is it even possible to get a solid five stars from more than 2,000 customer reviews? According to Yelp, Little Miss BBQ in Phoenix, Arizona, is one of those rare restaurants. Diners call the food “FABULOUS” and highly recommend the brisket.

Smoque BBQ (Chicago, Illinois) via demeyer

Michelin-approved Smoque BBQ, a Chicago favorite, is on a quest to develop the region’s indigenous BBQ tradition. Though the restaurant opens at 11 a.m.,  you’ll want to arrive early—as with many of these BBQ joints, the line builds up quickly. Try their half-and-half sandwich, a tempting mix of pulled pork and brisket.

Hometown BBQ (Brooklyn) via wallyg

While you’re taking in the sights in NYC, carve out some time to visit Hometown BBQ in Brooklyn. This local joint is renowned for its oak-smoked meats and sauces that pull from the best of many traditions. Pitmaster Bill Durney’s restaurant tops many “best of” lists, including Michelin’s Best Barbecue Spots in NYC.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (New York City) via post406

Like the vibrant neighborhood surrounding it, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, located in Harlem, draws influences and flavors from many regions of the United States. Overwhelmed by choice? Thrillist reviewers cite the spice-rubbed, pit-smoked, char-grilled chicken wings as the “real standout.”

Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que (Denver, Colorado)

This homegrown star is becoming a destination for “Colorado craft BBQ.” Founded by chef Coy Webb, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, the Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que‘s menu includes less traditional entries like slow-cooked lamb and bison.

Burn Co. BBQ (Tulsa, Oklahoma)

At Burn Co. Barbeque, the atmosphere is welcoming and the food is handcrafted and delectably slow-cooked over an open fire. Founders Adam Myers and Nick Corcoran also donate their time and food to local causes, giving back to their community.

Rodney Scott’s BBQ (Charleston, South Carolina)

In 2018, Rodney Scott, owner of the eponymous BBQ restaurant, became the first pitmaster to earn the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast. Rodney Scott’s is known for “whole-hog BBQ,” slow-smoked all night long.

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge (Shelby, North Carolina)

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge was ranked number one in USA Today’s Readers’ Choice 2019 Awards. This North Carolina institution, which opened in 1946, is famous for its method of slow-cooking pork over hickory all night long.

Skylight Inn (Ayden, North Carolina) via melaniewong

A fire earlier this year didn’t even slow down the pitmasters at Skylight Inn. Founded by the Jones family in 1947, this famous smokehouse is now run by Sam Jones, a 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist. His authentic eastern North Carolina BBQ is delicious, with or without the sauce.

Central BBQ (Memphis, Tennessee) via seandavis

Memphis is the home of some of the greatest American BBQ, so how to decide which restaurant to choose? Central BBQ, which has four locations in the city, consistently ranks high and is USA Today’s No. 1 choice for Memphis BBQ. The secret is in the slow hardwood smoking process—and a very special dry rub.

Peg Leg Porker (Nashville, Tennessee) via jpellgen

Diners and food critics agree: You can get some of the best Memphis-style BBQ at Peg Leg Porker, which opened in 2013, making it a relatively new entry in this competitive category. The restaurant is dubbed “Nashville’s destination” for dry-rub ribs, and is famed for it signature tomato-based sauces and a focus on—what else?—pork.

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner (Marianna, Arkansas)

In 2012, the James Beard Foundation bestowed an America’s Classics award on Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Marianna, Arkansas. If you decide to stop by, arrive early and be sure to order the pulled pork sandwich, with the diner’s signature vinegary sauce.

Grab a Bite

Eating your way across the country sounds like the perfect pastime!