The 25 Best Places for Barbecue in the U.S.

Sunset Smokehouse, Haleiwa, HI
Photo: Thomas Obungen / Frolic Hawaii

The Oxford Dictionary defines barbecue as “a meal or gathering at which meat, fish, or other food is cooked out of doors on a rack over an open fire or on a special appliance.” But Oxford is in England, and any self-respecting Southerner knows that the definition of barbecue isn't as straightforward as cooking meat outdoors. In the U.S., and especially in the South, barbecue is a staple, and it’s all about cooking meat ‘low and slow’ so the end result is tender, melt-in-your mouth meat filled with flavor. Barbecue aficionados are on the same page when it comes to the meal’s importance to America’s culinary scene, but that’s where the agreement ends. From state to state, and even within, regional variations mean fierce competition for who claims rights to the best type of barbecue, and more than one state lays claim to being the birthplace as well. There’s pulled pork, brisket, pork ribs, chicken, beef ribs, pork shoulder, and a whole lot more. The list of seasonings is just as long, with dry rubs, vinegars, mustards, and hot sauces. And sure, they’re not barbecue, but you’ll want to indulge in the side dishes, too. Think potato salad, mac’n’cheese, coleslaw, cornbread, and baked beans. Humans have been cooking over open flames since they lived in caves, but today’s style of barbecue likely originated during the colonization of the U.S. (If you’re still imitating the caveman’s style of grilling, you’re doing it wrong. Turn down the heat, leave the meat covered and smoke it, slowly.) The word barbecue likely comes from the Arawak word for a wooden frame, barbacoa, which was sometimes used as a structure to cook meat. Pork became popular with British colonizers because pigs gave them a lot of bang for their buck: they were easy to keep, and the meat from one pig went a long way. When it came time to cook, the community would get together for the feast, and the modern-day barbecue as a social event was born. Barbecue got a foothold in American culture during those colonial times, and has been around ever since. George Washington wrote in his diaries about barbecuing, and Andrew Jackson rose to power during a time when barbecues were getting political. In the early 1800s, the gatherings were a popular way for politicians to wrangle a crowd. Not everyone was a fan. One particular fellow who dubbed himself Barbecuensis went on a crusade to try to end the trend, which he thought was sloppy and distracted voters from the real issues. He clearly failed to alter the course of barbecue history, given that even modern day presidents make a point to eat at local joints when they’re on tour — remember when Obama reportedly became the first ever person to skip the hours-long line at Austin’s Franklin Barbecue? We can’t help you cut the queue — pun intended — but we’ve saved you some time with this list, compiled by Yelp, of the best 25 places to enjoy barbecue across the U.S. “Best” is based on Yelp's algorithm that looks at both the number of reviews as well as the star rating. Large chains were excluded, and there are no more than two establishments from each state to ensure geographic diversity.

01 of 25

25. Jesse's Barbecue & Local Market

Jesse's Barbecue & Local Market, Souderton, PA
Courtesy of Jesse's Barbecue & Local Market

Souderton, Pennsylvania

02 of 25

24. Meat Boss

Meat Boss, Mobile, AL
Courtesy of Meat Boss

Mobile, Alabama

03 of 25

23. Haywood Smokehouse

Haywood Smokehouse, Waynesville, NC
Courtesy of Haywood Smokehouse

Waynesville, North Carolina

04 of 25

22. Joe's Kansas City BBQ

Joe's Kansas City BBQ, Kansas City, KS
Courtesy of Joe's Kansas City BBQ

Kansas City, Kansas

05 of 25

21. JK's House Of Ribs

JK's House of Ribs, Manning, SC
Lee K. via Yelp; Evita R. via Yelp

Manning, South Carolina

06 of 25

20. Scott's Kitchen

Scott's Kitchen, Kansas City, MO
Courtesy of Scott's Kitchen

Kansas City, Missouri

07 of 25

19. Hate Mondays Tavern

Hate Mondays Tavern, Miami, FL
Courtesy of Hate Mondays Tavern

Miami, Florida

08 of 25

18. His And Hers BBQ

His and Hers BBQ
Courtesy of His and Hers BBQ

Dardenne Prairie, Missouri

09 of 25

17. Midwest Bbq & Creamery

Midwest BBQ and Creamery
Melissa H. via Yelp; Aaron S. via Yelp

Camp Dennison, Ohio

10 of 25

16. Coal Creek Smokehouse

Coal Creek Smokehouse, Rocky Top, TN
Kim F. via Yelp

Rocky Top, Tennessee

11 of 25

15. Spicy Mike's Bar-B-Q Haven

Spicy Mike's Bar-B-Q Haven, Amarillo, TX
John B. via Yelp; Jim M. via Yelp

Amarillo, Texas

12 of 25

14. Kat's Barbecue

Kat's Barbecue, Santa Fe, TX
Kristen M. via Yelp; Celeste P. via Yelp

Santa Fe, Texas

13 of 25

13. Watson's BBQ

Watson's BBQ, Tucumcari, NM
Jake G. via Yelp; Amy O. via Yelp

Tucumcari, New Mexico

14 of 25

12. Lunch Box Deli & BBQ

Lunch Box Deli & BBQ
Heidi R. via Yelp; Mark H. via Yelp

Lewiston, Idaho

15 of 25

11. Fox Smokehouse Bbq

Fox Smokehouse BBQ, Boulder City, NV
Christie L. via Yelp; Carla R. via Yelp

Boulder City, Nevada

16 of 25

10. Sunset Smokehouse

Sunset Smokehouse, Haleiwa, HI
Thomas Obungen / Frolic Hawaii

Haleiwa, Hawaii

17 of 25

9. Country Boy's BBQ

Country Boys BBQ, Cashmere, WA
Courtesy of Country Boy's BBQ

Cashmere, Washington

18 of 25

8. Sam's Texas Sub Shop

Sam's Texas Sub Shop, Norfolk, VA
Richie S. via Yelp; Dave C. via Yelp

Norfolk, Virginia

19 of 25

7. Calhoun's Texas Barbeque

Calhoun's Texas Barbeque, Murrieta, CA
Halsey B. via Yelp; Jared H. via Yelp

Murrieta, California

20 of 25

6. Julia Belle's Restaurant

Julia Belle's Restaurant, Florence, SC
Courtesy of Julia Belle's Restaurant

Florence, South Carolina

21 of 25

5. Haywood Smokehouse

Haywood Smokehouse, Dillsboro, NC
Alan D. via Yelp; Shawn N. via Yelp

Dillsboro, North Carolina

22 of 25

4. Sparks and Smoke BBQ Takeout

Sparks and Smoke BBQ Takeout, Reno, NV
Darin B. via Yelp; Mike B. via Yelp

Reno, Nevada

23 of 25

3. Little Miss BBQ

Little Miss BBQ, Phoenix, AZ
Courtesy of Little Miss BBQ

Phoenix, Arizona

24 of 25

2. Delauders BBQ

Delauder's BBQ, Gatlinburg, TN
Clem M. via Yelp; Alison B. via Yelp

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

25 of 25

1. Prunedale Market

Prunedale Market, Salinas, CA
Courtesy of Prunedale Market

Salinas, California

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles