The best BBQ joints in the United States

With regional styles as diverse as the country itself

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

Known for its barbecue white sauce

Photo: © Courtesy of Claus Peuckert

In North Alabama, and at Big Bob Gibson’s in particular, the barbecue pork shoulder tends to be cooked low and slow, over hickory, until the poor pig gives up the ghost.

But it’s the chicken – spatchcocked, grilled, and “baptized,” as the grandson of the restaurant’s namesake puts it, with the white barbecue sauce Gibson himself invented back in the 1920s – that steals the spotlight here.

In the intervening years, that white sauce has become standard across the region, but there’s nothing like the original.

Franklin Barbecue – Austin, Texas

Pork ribs, smoked turkey, sausage, and brisket

Photo: © Courtesy of Wyatt McSpadden

Launched by co-owners Aaron and Stacy Franklin as a roadside trailer in 2009, Austin’s buzziest barbecue joint had humble beginnings, but when former president Barack Obama stopped by for a $300 meal, it took things to a whole ‘nother level.

The line here forms early, and the top-notch brisket regularly sells out by mid-afternoon.

Homegrown Smoker – Portland, Oregon

Vegan barbecue – macnocheese, collards, tempeh ribs, and smoked soy curls

Photo: © Courtesy of Clara Ridabock

Barbecue restaurants don’t tend to be safe havens for non-meat-eaters, but Portland’s Homegrown Smoker gives vegans a taste of the magic.

The menu offers plant-based takes on traditional comfort food, from “buff thwings” and smoked soy curls to tempeh ribs and "macnocheese."

Hometown Bar-B-Que – Brooklyn, New York

A beef rib from Brooklyn

Photo: © Hometown Bar-B-Que

New York City has been a barbecue boomtown for the past decade or so, and the best of the new crop is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

It’s not the most convenient location, but since Hometown opened in 2013, the crowds have swarmed for pitmaster Billy Durney’s fusion-heavy ‘cue – think Caribbean jerk ribs, lamb-belly banh mi, and a righteous pastrami sandwich, not to mention the most delectable brisket this side of Texas.

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn: Owensboro, Kentucky

Been in operation since 1949

Photo: © Courtesy of Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn

Barbecue snobs often turn up their noses at chicken, and indeed, more people probably think of Kalua pig, wrapped in ti or banana leaves and cooked underground, when Hawaiian barbecue comes to mind.

But that’s likely because they’re not familiar with huli huli chicken.

Roasted rotisserie-style over kiawe wood and seasoned with sea salt, the rendition at Mike’s Huli Kitchen on O'ahu gives the oft-maligned fowl a well-deserved makeover.

Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ – Charleston, South Carolina

Pitmaster Rodney Scott has been cooking whole-hog barbecue since he was 11 years old

Photo: © Courtesy of Rodney Scott’s BBQ

A specialty of the southeastern US, whole-hog barbecue – slow-cooked over wood coals and mopped with a vinegar-based sauce – requires precision born of experience, and lucky for Charleston diners, pitmaster Rodney Scott has been honing his craft since he was a kid.

He opened his own place in 2017 and a second in 2019, turning his pulled pork into an instant classic.

Snow’s BBQ – Lexington, Texas

Snow's BBQ is a Texas favorite

Photo: © Courtesy of Clay Cowgill / Snow's BBQ

It may not have the nationwide name recognition of Texas’s more famous joints, but for those in the know, Snow’s BBQ can’t be beat.

Octogenarian legend Tootsie Tomanetz has been helming the fires since 2003, churning out the chicken, brisket, and pork steak that earned the restaurant top honors from Texas Monthly’s readers and editors alike.

10 More BBQ Places

Ny Lonely Planet Author MAYA STANTON

I’ve got an awful case of wanderlust, and I like to write about it. Based in Brooklyn when I’m not on the road.

Watch Next