By: Brad Cohen
May 18, 2016
There’s nothing more American than BBQ, except perhaps arguing over BBQ – how it should be cooked, how it should be cut, what type of rub or sauce it should have, where it originated, who makes the best. Well, we’re not here to settle any of those disputes. Foursquare users have already done that for us.
And according to Foursquare users, the best pitmasters in The United States of BBQ reside in Texas (particularly Austin), Atlanta, Kansas City, St. Louis and…New York? To be fair, while those other destinations have more history, The Big Apple has established a burgeoning BBQ scene in recent years.
Of Foursquare’s top 50 BBQ joints, we listed 21 of the best, in no particular order (we only included one location of restaurants that had multiple locations make the list). Get ready to salivate, and don’t kill the messenger.
Hometown Bar-B-Que: This rustic restaurant at the far west edge of Brooklyn is well worth the trip for a taste of Texas-style pit-smoked perfection.
- What to eat: lamb belly, beef ribs, Vietnamese hot wings
Fette Sau: Epitomizing hipster Brooklyn in both location and ambience,Fette Sau – German for “fat pig” – serves up a rotating menu of succulent flesh ranging from classics like pulled pork to occasional rarities like goat ribs.
- What to eat: ribs, pork belly, whiskey flights
Mighty Quinn’s BBQ: In just a few short years, this Texas-Carolina hybrid grew out of its stand at Brooklyn’s outdoor foodie market Smorgasburg to become a mini-chain of eight quick-service restaurants throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey.
- What to eat: brontosaurus ribs, brisket, burnt end baked beans
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que: They’ve come a long way since their humble beginnings as a mobile establishment hawking meat to motorcycle enthusiasts throughout the Northeast. Dinosaur opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1988, followed by Harlem years later, and has since expanded to 10 locations as far as Baltimore and Chicago.
- What to eat: St. Louis ribs; all the classics; spice-rubbed, pit-smoked, grill-finished chicken wings
Pecan Lodge: Just a few short years ago, Pecan Lodge was a stand being forced out of Dallas’ farmers market for redevelopment. It’s amazing what a few years can do. Now it’s quite possibly the most venerated BBQ joint north of Austin.
- What to eat: brisket; “hot mess” (jumbo sea salt-crusted sweet potato, shredded brisket with southwestern seasoning, chipotle cream, cheese, butter & green onions); “Pitmaster” sandwich (brisket, pulled pork and sausage, topped with slaw, bbq sauce & fresh sliced jalapeños)
The Salt Lick: Faithful pilgrims from all over the world make the trip to The Salt Lick, a revered Texas barbecue mecca in Driftwood – about 30 minutes outside of Austin – to feast from the open pit smoker that serves as much as a meat altar as it does a cooking device. And they wait in epic lines for a taste.
- What to eat: The Texas classics, cobbler, BYOB
Franklin Barbecue: The line at this food-trailer-turned-restaurant borders on legend – stories range from Kanye West trying to unsuccessfully cut in line, to the queue serving as a meeting place of now-married couples, to a middle schooler who made “in the five figures” sitting in line for others. But for many, eating what’s been called the best brisket on earth is worth it.
- What to eat: The brisket (obviously), which has sold out every day since Franklin opened in 2009
La Barbecue: Opened in 2012 to much fanfare, the praise for this trailerand its selection of six meats and 10 sandwiches hasn’t died down. Unfortunately the lines haven’t died down either, but live music and free beer help ease the pain.
- What to eat: pork ribs; 1.5-pound (!) beef ribs; El Sancho Loco sandwich (sausage, pulled pork and chopped beef topped with red pickled onions)
Hard Eight BBQ: For more than a decade, Hard Eight has been dishing out authentic Texas smoked meats straight from the pit to customers’ plates, and in that time, the restaurant has expanded from its original location in Coppell to four spots in the area.
- What to eat: brisket, 16-oz ribeye, prime rib (weekends only)
Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q: The original Rudy’s location in Leon Springs, Texas opened in 1989 inside of a one-stop gas station, garage and grocery store. In the 27 years that followed, Rudy’s became famous for its smoked brisket and grew into a BBQ empire with more than three dozen locations stretching across Texas and the American Southwest.
- What to eat: brisket, spicy chop, jalapeno sausage
Pappy’s Smokehouse: This St. Louis BBQ joint has a no-frills ambience, which is part of the charm. Pappy’s goes through more than 1,000 pounds of Memphis-style BBQ smoked meat every single day.
- What to eat: St. Louis ribs, frito pie, fried corn on the cob
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que: The list of accolades bestowed uponJoe’s is too long to fit in this article, so we’ll just say that praise has rained down on Joe’s since owners and BBQ champions Jeff and Joy Stehney started serving classic Kansas City BBQ out of an old gas station more than 20 years ago.
- What to eat: ribs; burnt ends; Z man sandwich (a Kaiser roll piled with sliced smoked brisket, smoked provolone, onion rings and barbecue sauce)
Q39: This eatery has the kind of sleek, faux-rustic design and meticulous plating you’d expect from a classically trained chef. And that’s because chef Rob Magee is classically trained, but he’s also an award-winning competition pitmaster, and while the food is beautifully presented, it’s still – for the most part – good old fashioned KC barbecue.
- What to eat: certified Black Angus beef brisket; housemade chipotle sausage; burnt end burger (brisket, spicy pickle slaw, classic sauce topped with sliced burnt ends)
Central BBQ: In Memphis, a city famed for BBQ, Central might just be the best around. Central’s meats are dry rubbed, marinated for 24 hours, slow cooked for 14, and served with four varieties of BBQ sauce: mild, hot, vinegar and mustard.
- What to eat: ribs, brisket, smoked hot wings, BBQ nachos
The Joint: This is the type of roadside BBQ shack that all your gluttonous dreams are made of. There’s nothing fancy about this tiny slice of heavenin New Orleans – food is served in plastic baskets and drinks come in plastic cups – but that’s all part of the charm.
- What to eat: ribs, chaurice (fresh Cajun sausage), pulled pork, brisket
Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q: Started by a pair of identical twins from the Lonestar State with no professional training, Fox Bros. now serves up heaping portions of traditional Texas BBQ in a simple space in Candler Park.
- What to eat: The Texas classics; Brunswick stew; the “burger” (chopped brisket topped with bacon, veggies, pimento cheese and jalapeno mayo)
Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack: It ain’t fancy, but this tiny place has character – and live blues music. Fatt Matt’s keeps the menu small, with not much more than ribs, chopped pork, chicken and a few sides, but there’s not a weak link on this reasonably priced menu.
- What to eat: The better question is what not to eat
Heirloom Market: This is one BBQ joint that has skirted tradition, and it’s paid off big time. Yes, you can find ribs and pulled pork at this Atlantafavorite, but it’s the spicy Korean pork sandwich and Korean-inspired sides that bring the hungry hordes to this BBQ shack every day.
- What to eat: spicy Korean pork, smoked wings, all the sides
Slows Bar-B-Q: They might be famous for their St. Louis and baby back ribs slow cooked to tender perfection, but this urban rustic BBQ joint is also known as the restaurant that helped revive the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit.
- What to eat: ribs; “surf & turf” (blackened catfish, beef brisket and jambalaya on a plate); “triple threat pork” sandwich (applewood bacon, pulled pork and ham piled high)
Smoque: For the last decade, this Chicago establishment has been offering everything from Texas sausage to pulled pork, but the clear favorite is the brisket sandwich, complete with a heaping pile of slow-smoked, spice-rubbed brisket smothered with Texas-style BBQ sauce.
- What to eat: brisket sandwich, St. Louis ribs
Phil’s BBQ: It might not be much to look at, but what Phil’s lacks in aesthetics and character, it makes up for with barbecue delicious enough to warrant lines that wrap around the restaurant. The original Phil’s has expanded into a mini chain with four locations across the San Diego area.
- What to eat: mesquite-smoked beef ribs; baby back ribs; El Toro sandwich (chargrilled, deli-sliced tri-tip smothered in BBQ sauce)