50 States: the Best BBQ Across America
September 1, 2015
My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of the meaty. (Photo: iStock)
Herbivores be warned: You are entering a full-on meat zone.
We are about to conduct a lengthy discussion on the search for juicy pork and charred beef. To hear some folks tell it, good barbeque only exists in a handful of states in our fair country, but Yahoo Travel set out to disprove that thinking by finding the best place to get your fix of ‘que in each of the fifty states.
Let us first define our quest: “BBQ joint” includes shacks, trailers, lean-to’s, carts, and actual sit-down restaurants, either free-standing or in strip malls. A good joint may be at the end of a dirt road or smack in the middle of downtown. It will always smell of wood smoke. It may or may not serve ice-cold beer. And it will most always have a line out the front door (assuming of course, that there is a door).
A good joint will have at least one starchy side dish worthy of pairing with the meat—macaroni and cheese, potato salad, or hand-cut fries. And beans. There must be beans.
And finally, the very best joints throw any remaining kitchen love into heavy desserts like fruit cobblers or rich bread puddings.
Let’s dig into the list.
Archibald’s BBQ in Tuscaloosa is old school ‘que where the flavors come only from the hickory smoke. There’s no rub or seasoning, just quality pork smoked low and slow.
Yes, you can get good BBQ in Alaska – from a food truck, no less! (Photo: Andrew H./Yelp)
It’s hard to imagine finding good ‘que this far north, but AJ’s Ribs a Go Go in Anchorage proves that Southern barbeque cannot be limited by latitude.
Little Miss BBQ in Phoenix serves slabs of meat and fresh-made sausage on brown paper. You’re gonna get your fingers messy here.
At Sim’s Bar-B-Que in Little Rock it’s all about the ribs, but don’t forget some greens and cornbread on the side with a big glass of sweet tea to wash it down.
Coppertop BBQ in Big Pine has St. Louis-style ribs, but the big draw is the Santa Maria Tri-tip, charred to perfection, with a side of roasted green chile with beans.
For live music and great ribs, head to Front Range BBQ in Colorado Springs. (Photo: Front Range BBQ/Facebook)
Colorado is rising in the ranks of the country’s barbeque hotspots. Front Range Barbeque in Colorado Springs is just one example of the tasty meat available.
How do you find good ‘que in New England? Find someone born and raised in Kansas City to cook it for you. Jamie McDonald is the guy for the job at Bear’s Smokehouse in Hartford.
Related: Hill Country Barbecue Market | 17 Best BBQ Joints in the U.S.
Sometimes getting your fix of burnt meat requires thinking outside the smokebox. Don’t let the name of this joint throw you off, Philippine Smoked BBQ & Grill in Wilmington has rich smoky ribs and brisket that rival those found in some Southern-style smokehouses.
It’s hard to find a bad barbeque joint in Florida. Mad Jacks Barbeque Shack in Cape Canaveral actually manages to serve burgers and ‘que that are both tasty.
A new twist on an old favorite: folks go hog wild for Heirloom Market’s Spicy Korean BBQ Pork Sandwich. (Photo: Heirloom Market BBQ)
Where do you even begin your quest for the perfect plate of Georgia barbeque? Heirloom Market BBq in Atlanta is as good a start as any. Get a pulled-pork taco and try the Hotlanta mustard sauce and your search may be over.
Big Jake’s Island BBQ in Honaunau on the Big Island is where to go for Hawaiian-style ‘que. Aloha!
Bodacious Pig Barbeque in Eagle tosses salmon on the barbie, but we’ll forgive them because it’s Idaho. The menu also includes wine, but one taste of the charred tri-tip beef and you’ll get over the haughtiness of that barbeque joint overreach.
Fans of the television series MASH have long searched the streets of Chicago for the mythical Adam’s Rib barbeque joint that Alan Alda’s character Hawkeye longed for in a fit of homesickness. Smoque is not that place, but it’s a worthy stand-in.
Behold: The Hoffanator!!! It’s a truly sinful combo of french fries topped with mac and cheese, baked beans, pulled pork, ranch dressing, and bbq sauce. (Photo: Big Hoffa’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que/Facebook)
Big Hoffa’s BBQ in Westfield can be forgiven for their somewhat pretentious menu because the meat is worthy of any good joint with a simpler menu.
Pulled pork and honey butter cornbread. Bet you didn’t think you’d find that in Iowa. Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack in Iowa City can transport you to the Deep South with one bite.
You can’t get bad barbeque in Kansas City. Can’t be done. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Quein Kansas City is the best of the best. We like the original location in the gas station on 47th Street.
Though it is practically surrounded by states with luscious barbeque, it is surprisingly difficult to find mouth-watering smoked meat in Kentucky. Smoketown U.S.A. in Louisville fits the bill with ribs that fall off the bone.
BBQ connoisseurs know the good stuff by its pink smoke ring, and this brisket’s got it in spades. (Photo: Thuy L./Yelp)
NOLA Smokehouse in New Orleans is a prime example of the incredible barbeque joints tucked away in hidden corners of the city if you take the time to seek them out, proving you can have your ‘que and your Cajun too.
Oh my! Who’d have thought a genuine ‘que joint could be found this far north? Salvage BBQ in Portland has menu choices appropriately named “Meat Coma” and “Meat Fatality.” Need we say more?
Big Bad Wolf’s House of Barbeque in Baltimore proves you don’t need a bloated choices to attract ‘que people. Ribs. Chicken. Brisket. Seven sauces and some sides.
The proprietors of Sweet Cheeks Q in Boston turned to Texas for inspiration, but managed to create a menu that encompasses everything a good barbeque joint should be wherever it is located—crusty meat served in a welcoming atmosphere. Of course that butterscotch pudding doesn’t hurt either.
Related: The People Have Spoken: Best Barbecue Chains in America
Union Woodshop: where delicious bbq and yummy pizza live peacefully together. (Photo: Union Woodshop/Facebook)
Union Woodshop in Clarkston qualifies as a barbeque joint even with pizza on the menu because the meat is just that good.
Smoke in the Pit in Minneapolis has ribs, macaroni and cheese, and peach cobbler. It’s enough to make you think you’ve died and gone to Texas.
Crossroads Rib Shack in Tupelo is all about the ribs, and has been for the better part of two decades. This is Mississippi ‘que at its best.
Take a break from the standard BBQ fare and try Q39′s house-made chipotle sausage. (Photo: Q39/Facebook)
Q39 in Kansas City has house-made chipotle sausage that will make you think twice about everything you’ve always believed KC barbeque was supposed to be. But never fear. They’ve got ribs to go along with.
Blue’s Barbeque in Billings is in a gas station, proving that good ‘que is not restrained by the type or location of its building.
In a state not known for its barbeque expertise, Phat Jack’s BBQ in Lincoln draws from its neighbor to the south for inspiration and comes up a winner serving KC-style barbeque by the slab.
At Rollin Smoke BBQ in Las Vegas the plating is a little prettier than at most joints, but the meat is rich with smoke flavor and topped with Arkansas-style sauces.
Great KC BBQ in NH. (Photo: Elsa/Foursquare)
KC’s Rib Shack in Manchester is a case of Southern barbeque moving north. It even brought the pecan pie along for the ride. The menu is more extensive than most joints, but maybe that’s necessary in New Hampshire.
Nobody ever said that North America has a lock on good ‘que. McWhorter BBQ in Newark is proof that Portuguese barbeque fits the bill nicely when there’s not a Texas or KC joint in town.
Let’s start by saying that there’s not a huge demand for barbeque in New Mexico. To find it you must follow the Texans. Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue in Cloudcroft caters to the hordes of border crossers that flock to the mountains in the southeastern corner of the state, and it does it quite admirably.
Hill Country Barbecue Market in NYC finds its inspiration in Texas meat and music. Go for the burnt ends followed by the nanna pudding.
In a state that takes their BBQ very seriously, Backyard BBQ is the reigning king. (Photo: Backyard BBQ Pit/Facebook)
It is a tall order to produce the best barbeque in this state, but Backyard BBQ Pit in Durham upholds the standards with sweet sauces and tender pork ribs. If you can pry your fingers off of those ribs for a few, try the fried pork chops. Holy pig’s feet! They are delicious.
This state presents one of the country’s biggest voids of barbeque. Spitfire Bar & Grill in West Fargo is a tad nicer than your average joint, but the meat is worthy.
Ray Ray’s Hog Pit in Columbus is a food truck joint with ribs that will keep you dreaming of your next visit.
If you can’t make it to Texas or Kansas City, the ‘que in Oklahoma is not a bad third choice. Leo’s Barbecue in Oklahoma City is a hidden gem in a state filled with good barbeque choices. And then there’s that strawberry banana cake.
The combo platter: because sometimes you just want all the ‘cue! (Photo: Podnah’s Pit Barbecue/Facebook)
It’s kind of weird that the Northwest is excelling at Southern meat cooking, but Podnah’s Pit Barbecue in Portland has the rack of ribs to prove that it can be done quite well.
Texas ‘que in Philly? Why the heck not! Percy Street Barbecue in Philadelphia gets it right including the potato salad. We might add that biscuits aren’t served in very many Texas barbeque joints, but who cares when they are this good?
Eddie’s BBQ in Narragansett started as a food truck operation, but moved up to a full-service joint due to popular demand. Go for the pulled pork and the house-cut fries.
Southern Belly specializes in gut-busting over-the-top BBQ sandwiches. If it ain’t messy, it ain’t right. (Photo: The Southern Belly/Facebook)
Southern Belly BBQ in Columbia has every imaginable barbeque sauce, including Alabama white, Carolina sweet mustard, and everything in between. Funny thing is that with meat this good, the sauce almost becomes an afterthought.
Would you eat ‘que from a truck in the Home Depot parking lot? You betcha! Big Rig BBQ in Sioux Falls is quite humbly the best ‘que in the state. Just bring your own tailgate.
Memphis and Nashville have been duking it out for the title of best ‘que for several years now. We call it a draw, but particularly like Elwood’s Shack in Memphis when pressed to pick a specific joint.
This stunning sandwich was clearly ready for its closeup. (Photo: Stephenville Hard Eight BBQ/Facebook)
There are two kinds of barbeque joints in Texas—the everyday kind where you grab a chopped beef sandwich or slab of ribs for lunch, and the kind you plan trips around. Hard Eight BBQ in Stephenville falls into the second category.You may as well not eat anything for twenty-four hours before you go. You’ll want as much room as possible for the meat. Try the two-inch thick pork chops and take your brisket home for another day.
Meat by the pound, hush puppies, and Shiner Bock — R&R Barbeque in Salt Lake City is most definitely a joint. They had us at “Garlic Smasher” potatoes and finished us off with chocolate bread pudding.
Yes, you can get Texas-style smoked Cabrito in Vermont at Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington. You can also get slow-smoked beef and pork.
Head to the Alamo for amazing BBQ you’ll want jalapeño face. (Photo: Julie B./Foursquare)
Texas-style smoked meats and Jalapeno macaroni and cheese is what you should expect at Alamo BBQ in Richmond. Yum!
The Barbeque Pit in Seattle is another case of great Southern slow food found in the Northwest. It’s hard to pin down the style of this ‘que, putting it in a class all its own.
Rollin Smoke BBQ in Charlestonhas perfectly smoked meat, hashbrown casserole, and blackberry cobbler. It just doesn’t get better than that.
Holy smokes! That’s some good lookin’ ‘cue! (Photo: Angela W./Foursquare)
Bob’s Bitchin’ BBQ in Dodgeville leads the pack of meat smokers that get it right. They have a few extras on the menu that work well with the barbeque, including fresh sugary donut holes.
Finding a good steak up here is easy. Finding a pulled pork sandwich, not so easy. HQ Southern BBQ in Evansville serves it up perfectly. It’s as if you never left South Carolina.