Holy Smokes! Bucket-List Barbecue in Every State

Holy Smokes

Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ/yelp

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Holy Smokes
Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ/yelp

Holy Smokes

While the South is known as the place for exceptional barbecue and countless regional styles of smoked meats, superb barbecue can be found all around the United States. Many smoke shacks and pitmasters in states without a storied barbecue history have created their own styles and unique adaptations that are just as good as the classics. Next time you're on a road trip, plan to stop at some of these fantastic, bucket list-worthy barbecue joints that have received top marks from customers and critics.

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Big Daddy's BarB-Q
Daniel K./Yelp

Alaska: Big Daddy's BarB-Q


Featured on Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives," this barbecue stop's Arkansas baby back ribs are one of its most popular dishes. The tender pork loin ribs come in your choice of a half or full rack smoked slow over hickory. They're served with your choice of two sides and thick slices of Texas toast.

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Arizona: Little Miss BBQ
ittle Miss BBQ/Yelp

Arizona: Little Miss BBQ

At Little Miss BBQ, Central Texas-style barbecue is smoked up on pecan and oak wood. It's gotten "best of" nods from plenty of local and national media outlets for its sliced brisket, jalapeño cheddar grits, and smoked pecan pie. 

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Smokin' Buns in Jacksonville, Arkansas
James K./Yelp

Arkansas: Smokin' Buns

Who knew that fried catfish and barbecue make such good companions? At Smokin' Buns, get The Hoss sandwich, a massive creation of Texas toast, smoked pork, baked beans, slaw, onion rings, and smoked ribs. If you're with company, ask them to grab the cornmeal-battered fried catfish and hushpuppies, and share all the dishes for a winning meal.

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Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine, California
Pillin L./Yelp

California: Copper Top BBQ

Big Pine
On the side of the highway in the small town of Big Pine is family-owned and run Copper Top. Order the tri-tip steak, which is smoked in open pits to a pink medium. Fire-roasted chili with beans makes for a complementary side. 

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Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que in Denver, Colorado
Kevin W./Yelp

Colorado: Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que

If there was such a thing as Colorado-style barbecue, Roaming Buffalo would be it. It specializes in smoking local lamb and bison along with the usual favorites. Pulled lamb shoulder, lamb shank, bison ribs, and bison green chile sausage all go well with the restaurant's smoked poblano cheddar Mac.

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Connecticut: Taino Smokehouse
Michael C./Yelp

Connecticut: Taino Smokehouse

Taino Smokehouse is a tiny storefront with only seven tables, but in the summer, the owners open up the patio, which can seat an additional 250 people. People line up for smoked corned beef turned into an amazing Reuben sandwich. There's also a Thai twist on barbecue with drunken noodles made with chopped smoked meat and Thai basil.

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Russell's Quality Food in Wilmington, Delaware
Jennifer D./Yelp

Delaware: Russell's Quality Food

If a barbecue spot sells out of smoked meat daily by 5 p.m., you know it's going to be good. Russell's Quality Food sells its goodies from a shack in a parking lot. Pulled pork, ribs, smoked chicken, and jerk chicken are all favorites, and are ridiculously inexpensive. A sweet, tomato-based barbecue sauce accompanies it all, and mashed sweet potatoes are a must-get side order.

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Florida: Woodpecker's Backyard BBQ

Florida: Woodpeckers Backyard BBQ

St. Augustine
True to its name, Woodpeckers Backyard BBQ has a large yard where you can hang out and enjoy some smoked meat while you throw a Frisbee around. It serves up barbecued turkey, brisket, pork, ribs, and sausage with four sauces, including Alabama white sauce and a spicy version with datil peppers grown in St. Augustine.

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Fresh Air Bar-B-Que in Jackson, Georgia
Clay V./Yelp

Georgia: Fresh Air Bar-B-Que

The barbecue is simple and iconic at Fresh Air, a restaurant dating back to 1929. Chopped pork is about all you can get, though that's all you need when it's topped with Fresh Air's vinegar-based sauce and slapped on some white bread. Add a side of Brunswick stew, a regional specialty made with leftover bits of barbecued meat and vegetables.

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Guava Smoked in Honolulu, Hawaii
Lora C./Yelp

Hawaii: Guava Smoked

Guava Smoked puts a Hawaiian twist on traditional barbecue. The pitmasters here smoke their meats with guava wood, giving it a sweeter smoked flavor. Thanks to the Asian influences in Hawaii, this restaurant offers Korean kalbi smoked ribs, along with salmon belly and butterfish collars. Everything comes together with scoops of rice and macaroni salad, just like more traditional Hawaiian plate lunches. 

Idaho: Grandpa's Southern Bar-B-Q
Curtis G./Yelp

Idaho: Grandpa's Southern Bar-B-Q

Idaho Falls 
Don't bother stopping by Grandpa's for a photo of food worth Instagramming. The food isn't beautiful and the service is plain — but the barbecue is delicious, authentically Southern and never disappoints, and Lloyd and Loretta Westbrook and their kids are the most amiable of hosts. From the gumbo, slaw, and brisket to the buttermilk pie, this is barbecue for the taste buds. You can give the camera phone a rest.

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Lem's Bar-B-Q in Chicago, Illinois
Alan D./Yelp

Illinois: Lem's Bar-B-Q

Head to the south side of Chicago for a regional classic. Lem's has been fueling the area's love of rib tips and hot links since it opened in 1954. Buy the tips by the bucket to feed a crowd and order extra bright red barbecue sauce on the side. The tips and links are so popular you can order them in a combo and satisfy both cravings at once. 

Big Hoffa's in Indianapolis, Indiana

Indiana: Big Hoffa's

Indiana doesn't exactly have a famous style of barbecue, so the folks at Big Hoffa's like to take classics and put their own twist on them. Various woods are used for smoking meats depending on the season, and brisket and pork shoulder cook low and slow for more than 24 hours. Get their meats on anything from a "buccaneer sandwich" with fries and slaw on top to a "barbecue sundae," an ice-cream soda glass filled with baked beans and topped with smoked meat and sauce.

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Big's BBQ Brew Pub in Mount Vernon, Iowa

Iowa: Big's BBQ Brew Pub

Mount Vernon
All the meats at Big's BBQ are smoked with locally harvested cherry wood for a sweet flavor. You can grab the burnt ends, brisket, pork, and sausage by the pound, or something unique such as its "Iowa BBQ Pie" with Fritos, beans, and smoked meat. Top your selection with a raspberry sriracha or sweet mustard vinegar sauce.

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Biemer's BBQ in Lawrence, Kansas

Kansas: Biemer's BBQ

When it comes to barbecue in The Sunflower State, Kansas City gets a lot of attention. But there are plenty of other areas in the state with expertly smoked meat, including Biemer's in Lawrence. While the pork, brisket, and burnt ends are delightful, the smoked turkey is unique. Biemer's team slices it extra thin, making for fantastic sandwiches topped with one of their many barbecue sauces. 

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro, Kentucky
Gem S./Yelp

Kentucky: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn

In a small part of western Kentucky, there's a long tradition of barbecuing mutton, and you can try this unusual classic at the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn. You can get the shredded, rich meat on a platter with cornbread muffins and pickles, but if the buffet is in effect you should buy it and sample all kinds of Southern sides. The burgoo, a kind of regional stew, is also made with mutton, so don't pass it up.

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The Joint
Renee B./Yelp

Louisiana: The Joint

New Orleans
In a city where Cajun and Creole reign supreme, barbecue takes a back seat. But you can still find some worth lining up for in the Crescent City, including at The Joint. Specialties include locally made chaurice sausage (a Creole-style link) that's been smoked on-site, as well as brisket and pork ribs. Got room for dessert? There's key lime, pecan, and peanut butter pie.

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Spring Creek Bar B-Q in Monson, Maine
Jennifer C./Yelp

Maine: Spring Creek Bar-B-Q

Spring Creek, a barbecue shack in the little town of Monson, has become a pilgrimage destination for many since Anthony Bourdain visited during one of his shows. The restaurant is as casual as you can get, and the meats are Texas-style and spicy. The ever-changing menu is written in chalk on the wall, so just order whatever sounds best that day, from in-demand ribs to mac and cheese. 

Chaps Pit Beef in Baltimore, Maryland
Karena J./Yelp

Maryland: Chaps Pit Beef

A Baltimore tradition for decades, pit beef is a lightly smoked and thinly sliced beef sandwich. You can get one of the best versions at Chaps, where the team there will top it with creamy horseradish sauce if you'd like. If you're really hungry, get a combination sandwich with beef, corned beef, turkey, sausage, and cheese all on one roll.

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Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington, Massachusetts
Winette V./Yelp

Massachusetts: Blue Ribbon BBQ

Blue Ribbon BBQ has been serving up various styles of Southern barbecue since 1995. The North Carolina-style pork is the way to go here, as it goes exceptionally well with the vinegar-based barbecue sauce available at the sauce bar. A big slab of cornbread and fluffy mashed potatoes are great accompaniments. Orders are available for pickup or delivery.

Michigan: Slows BBQ

Michigan: Slows BBQ

Slows BBQ is the mainstay of busy Michigan Avenue in Detroit, and serves up a variety of smoked meats, from huge beef ribs with a salt and pepper rub to smoked meatloaf. Pulled chicken glazed with apple barbecue sauce is a standout, especially for those who like their barbecue on the sweeter side. Most meats are served dry, though, allowing you to sauce as you like with their six varieties.

Ted Cook's 19th Hole BBQ in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Matt G./Yelp

Minnesota: Ted Cook's 19th Hole BBQ

Ted Cook's has changed hands only twice since it was founded in 1968. The original owner was an avid golfer and member of the Twin Cities Golf Club, hence the restaurant's name. All of this joint's meats are smoked over hickory and cherry wood, including the juicy beef hot links and beef ribs. For a side, get the jojo potatoes, a homemade cross between a potato chip and french fry that's perfect for mopping up its thick barbecue sauce. This eatery has always been takeout only, so prepare to get food to go. 

Abe’s Bar-B-Q Clarksdale, Mississippi

Mississippi: Abe’s Bar-B-Q

Abraham Davis started cooking in 1924 before moving his eatery to the crossroads where blues singer Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil — so you can't get any more Southern. Though Garden & Gun advises getting the pork plate with some hot tamales on the side, Abe's specializes in sandwiches topped with “come back sauce.” (Because “Once you’ve eaten our sandwich, you have to come back for more.”) 

Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, Missouri
John K./Yelp

Missouri: Arthur Bryant's

Kansas City
Arthur Bryant's is one of the most famous barbecue joints in the country, and is often credited with creating the Kansas City style of barbecue and sauce. Order either pork ribs or burnt ends, and top them with one of three sauces, including a sweet heat or a rich and spicy version of the original classic. Orders come served on paper on a cafeteria tray, making for a casual dining experience.

The Notorious P.I.G. in Missoula, Montana
Victoria T./Yelp

Montana: The Notorious P.I.G.

The owner of Notorious P.I.G., Burke Holmes, is from Missouri, and it shows in his menu. Burnt ends are a popular menu item, and go well with the Kansas City-style barbecue sauce he calls "Sweet Cady's." Order the smoked pulled pork or turkey for a nice pairing with a bright yellow mustard-based sauce.

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Swine Dining in Omaha, Nebraska
Garret T./Yelp

Nebraska: Swine Dining

With two locations in the Omaha area, Swine Dining is one of the most popular barbecue joints in Nebraska. The Omaha World-Herald called Swine Dining's pulled pork the best in Omaha. Try it on a giant sandwich called the "All in the Pool," made with pork, brisket, and smoked sausage. Apple crisp topped with oats makes for a sweet side. Order ahead for curbside pickup. 

Fox Smokehouse BBQ in Boulder City, Nevada
Nitin B./Yelp

Nevada: Fox Smokehouse BBQ

Boulder City
Fox Smokehouse is the restaurant from a barbecue competition team that goes by the name of "BBQ Junkie on the Circuit." That same team name is emblazoned on the competition trophies it's won, which adorn the walls of the dining area. Beef and pork ribs, sliced chicken, pulled pork, and brisket are solid options, as well as a Midwest-influenced smoked bratwurst. 

Gabi's Smoke Shack in Londonderry, New Hampshire
Gabi's Smoke Shack/Yelp

New Hampshire: Smoke Shack Cafe

It'll be obvious Smoke Shack Cafe serves up Texas-style barbecue when you walk in: There's a Texas flag as you walk in, and Texas license plates adorning the front counter. You'd do yourself a favor by ordering the brisket, either sliced or chopped. It's also available in tacos and as beef brisket chili during the winter months.

Henri's Hotts Barbeque in Hammonton, New Jersey
Olivia M./Yelp

New Jersey: Henri's Hotts Barbeque

Henri's Hotts started as a food truck serving at festivals and events throughout New Jersey before its owner opened up a permanent location in 2009. This joint serves Texas-style barbecue along with Southern sides. Jerked smoked chicken and baby back ribs are standouts, but the main attraction comes on weekends with its buffet, which features a variety of smoked meats, black-eyed peas, whipped sweet potatoes, corn pudding, and peach cobbler. 

Mad Jack's Mountaintop Barbecue in Cloudcroft, New Mexico
Tammy Bahtina-Fox N./Yelp

New Mexico: Mad Jack's Mountaintop Barbecue

What could make barbecue uniquely New Mexican? Adding Hatch green chiles, of course. The finely chopped central Texas-style brisket at Mad Jack's Mountaintop Barbecue is topped with them on its "Chile the Kid" sandwich, bringing together Texas and New Mexican traditions. If you're more of a brisket purist but still want some of that New Mexican spice, you can order green chile stew on the side.

Mighty Quinn's in New York City, New York
Mighty Quinn's Barbeque/Yelp

New York: Mighty Quinn's

New York 
The folks at Mighty Quinn's in the East Village have created their own style by bringing together the barbecue traditions of many regions. Brisket is a go-to, and you can get your fill with burnt end baked beans or dirty fries, which are smothered in burnt ends and chile-lime sauce. Chicken wings are smoked and deep fried to re-crisp the skin. 

Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden, North Carolina
Seymour S./Yelp

North Carolina: Skylight Inn BBQ

There are two styles of barbecue in North Carolina, and Skylight Inn is a follower of the Eastern style. Whole hog is king here. It's smoked overnight in brick pits, then chopped and seasoned with hot sauce and cider vinegar before the crisp cracklings are added to the mix. It's served no-frills with a slab of thin, dense cornbread and a pile of coleslaw. It's simple and classic. 

North Dakota: Bones BBQ Smokehouse & Grill
Ryan R./Yelp

North Dakota: Bone's BBQ Smokehouse & Grill

Bone's BBQ Smokehouse & Grill is slick in a fast-casual way, but the restaurant is locally owned and the food is the real deal, with everything cut, ground, smoked and made fresh and in-house. Fans praise the ribs, pulled pork, and tender, flavorful brisket, as well as the portion size — and recommend sampling the sauces.

Uncle Beth's BBQ in North Lewisberg, Ohio
Rich M./Yelp

Ohio: Uncle Beth's BBQ

North Lewisberg
The St. Louis-style ribs at Uncle Beth's are served wet; these chunks of meat are mopped with the restaurant's sweet barbecue sauce, though you can get a spicy sauce on request. Pulled pork, served either on a bun or on top of a baked potato with cheese, are the stars here. Brisket is available on Saturdays and goes well with the joint's spiced apples and jalapeño cornbread pudding on the side. 

Earl's Rib Palace in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Earl's Rib Palace/Yelp

Oklahoma: Earl's Rib Palace

Oklahoma City
Ribs are king at Oklahoma's Earl's Rib Palace, though the state's proximity to Texas means brisket is also a priority. Try the Earl's binge dinner for a full platter of ribs and brisket, plus hot links and smoked bologna for variety. Cornmeal-dusted fried okra and a scattering of grilled jalapeño strips are good additions.

Matt's BBQ in Portland, Oregon
Mikayla C./Yelp

Oregon: Matt's BBQ

Once a roving food truck but now housed permanently in a parking lot, Matt's BBQ brings Texas-style barbecue to Portlanders. The usual beef brisket, pulled pork, and pork ribs are all great, but there's also pork belly and jalapeño cheddar sausage to choose from. To make choosing even harder, there are enticing tacos with your choice of meat and topped with guacamole. If you get to Matt's too late in the day, your choice might be made for you — it sells out every day.

Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Christopher H./Yelp

Pennsylvania: Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse

Memphis-style baby back ribs and chopped brisket are always a great standby at Sweet Lucy's, but the hickory-smoked hot chicken wings and Friday-special smoked salmon are delicious. Spicy braised collard greens go well with everything, especially if you put it right on top of a pulled pork sandwich. A self-serve condiment and fixins bar has everything from hot sauce to pickles and onions.

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Rhode Island: Becky's BBQ
Ray P./Yelp

Rhode Island: Becky's BBQ


At Becky's BBQ, every piece of meat goes into the Smoker Pit, where it gets cooked over hickory wood. The ribs come hand-rubbed in a signature blend of spices before getting barbecued for hours over the hickory pit. While the ribs are delicious on their own, both the sweet Kansas City sauce and the vinegary North Carolina sauce are worth tasting. Diners say the sides are just as good, from the moist cornbread to the potato salad.

South Carolina: Sweatman's BBQ
Andrea N./Yelp

South Carolina: Sweatman's BBQ

Holly Hill
Since Sweatman's is open only two days a week, it's worth planning ahead and figuring out when to stop by for its whole-hog barbecue. Top it with the joint's yellow mustard-based sauce and some of the crispy skin that was removed from the hog and roasted again separately. Also be sure to try Sweatman's barbecue hash, which is really unlike any breakfast hash you're used to. The hyper-regional dish here is texturally more like a sauce, made from leftover bits of the hog and usually poured over rice. Going strong since 1959, this eatery is a must-visit for barbecue aficionados.

Big Rig BBQ in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Shawn H./Yelp

South Dakota: Big Rig BBQ

Sioux Falls
Big Rig BBQ, which started as a food truck, has team members smoke meats and make all sides from scratch daily. Sliced brisket, pulled pork, and ribs are the restaurant's bestsellers, but prime rib and pork loin make appearances as well. Meats are served unsauced, letting the flavor of the smoke and rub shine.

Charlie Vergos Rendezvous in Memphis, Tennessee

Tennessee: Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous

The well-known, Memphis-style pork rib likely got its start at Rendezvous in downtown Memphis. Ribs are cooked just 18 inches from the fire and mopped with vinegar, not barbecue sauce, then finished with a thick layer of dry rub that's heavy on the paprika. Bright yellow chopped slaw and baked beans are this spot's classic accompaniments.

Luling City Market in Houston, Texas
David R./Yelp

Texas: City Market

Home to Franklin Barbecue, Stillwater Barbeque, Freedman's, and La Barbecue, Texas is a smoked meat paradise. Even still, City Market is about as iconic a Texas barbecue joint as you can get. It's been around since 1958, and you can walk in the smoke room to get a peek yourself at what's coming to the menu. Brisket is the big draw, of course, but ribs and hot links are not to be missed. It's all served on butcher paper with sliced white bread, pickles, onions and crackers if you want them.

Smokin Bones Barbecue in Bountiful, Utah
Trevor J./Yelp

Utah: Smokin Bones Barbecue

Smokin Bones Barbecue does its take on a regional Southwest specialty: the Navajo taco. Instead of taco toppings, this restaurant tops a freshly fried Utah scone (aka fry bread) with cheese, baked beans, and a huge mound of chopped smoked brisket. Pork ribs are served dry and go well with its sweet, honey butter-topped cornbread. 

Top Of The Hill Grill in Brattleboro, Vermont
Jeremy F./Yelp

Vermont: Top of the Hill Grill

Perched on a hill at the meeting of two rivers, Top of the Hill Grill is a cozy seasonal smokehouse with a great view from its outdoor patio. Whimsical, colorful hand-drawn signs illustrate the menu at the window. Hickory-smoked, meaty burnt ends and apple-smoked turkey make for a good pair on the combo platter, which is served with cornbread, slaw, and baked beans. For a to-go option, get your barbecue stuffed in a tortilla wrap, like a burrito. 

Saucy's Walk-Up Bar.B.Q in Petersburg, Virginia
Andrew A./Yelp

Virginia: Saucy's Walk-up Bar.B.Q

Housed in a reclaimed shipping container with only outdoor seating, Saucy's Walk-Up has some of the best pulled pork sandwiches in the South, according to Southern Living. This place has gotten so popular it's since expanded to another location, called Saucy's Sit-down, on account of it being a full-service restaurant. Its deep-fried "cue balls" filled with bits of meat and its equally fried moon pies are worth saving room for.

Gabriel's Fire in Mountlake Terrace, Washington
John J O./Yelp

Washington: Gabriel's Fire

Mountlake Terrace
You can choose from a dozen barbecue sauces to slather on your brisket, spare ribs, pulled pork, and chicken at Gabriel's Fire. All are made from scratch and represent various regional styles, such as Carolina mustard and Kansas-City style. There are also Thai and teriyaki sauces, and a ghost chile version for brave customers.

Dem 2 Brothers And A Grill in Charleston, West Virginia
Gerry S./Yelp

West Virginia: Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill

Adrian Wright, a former NFL player, owns Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill. He started selling barbecue on a roadside stand, and it soon expanded to two restaurants and two food trucks. The well-charred ribs topped with hot or mild sauce are the stars here, along with its soul-food sides. Braised collard greens, dirty rice, and mashed sweet potato casserole are all exceptional. 

Wisconsin: Double B's BBQ
Steve D./Yelp

Wisconsin: Double B's BBQ

West Allis

While Double B's BBQ might still be considered a local secret, the low-and-slow hickory smoked barbecue is drawing in more and more diners who come to sample staples like the brisket and ribs. Pitmaster Mark Timber uses hickory smoke and a combination of sweet and savory spices to achieve meats best served naked, no sauce needed. The eatery offers both baby-back ribs and St. Louis-style butchered spare ribs, though the baby backs are the favorite. They're extra meaty and get a rub in the house blend before they're smoked over hickory, with a range of sauces that showcase the restaurant's combination of North and South Carolina, Texas, and Kansas City-style barbecue.

Bubba's BBQ in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Song Z./Yelp

Wyoming: Bubba's Bar-B-Que

Jackson Hole
Bubba's is a bit of a landmark in Jackson Hole; it's been open for business for 40-plus years, specializing in St. Louis-style ribs that have been spice-rubbed and smoked over applewood. You'll also find baby back ribs, brisket, and smoked turkey. There's a breakfast too, and its biscuits earn raves.

Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall BBQ Joints Across America