The 12 Best BBQ Restaurants in America Photo by: amanderson2 via Flickr

The 12 Best BBQ Restaurants in America

With the possible exception of College Football, nothing is more debated between cities than who has the best barbecue. In the last several years barbecue has moved from the backyard to Main Street with televised barbecue cook offs, cooking shows dedicated to the “smoked meat” and barbecue pit masters becoming celebrities. If you put 10 people from different parts of the United States in a room and ask where the best barbecued meal can be had, you will get 10 different answers. Old school establishments grab you when you enter, where the smell of well-seasoned wood paneled walls and brick bear the years of being bathed in smoke, to the chain restaurants that have sprung up in every major city to satisfy the need for the ‘cue. Whether it is served on plates with silverware or butcher paper with plastic utensils barbecue is a mainstay of the American food landscape. We hereby present our list of the best BBQ restaurants in America for you to enjoy and debate.

12. The Joint -New Orleans, Louisiana

Since 2004 owners Pete and Jenny Breen have been serving up some of the best barbecue in New Orleans. Along the way, The Joint has gotten a national reputation for consistently good food and service. Smoked brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken and locally made Cajun sausage are on the menu. The pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw are a favorite along with the brisket. Regulars will tell you it is all good so you might need several trips to zero in on your favorite dish. Desserts in include Pecan Pie, key Lime pie and their very special Peanut Butter Pie.

11. Pecos Pit BBQ -Seattle, Washington

When you think of great places for barbecue, Seattle isn’t usually the first place you think of. Having said that, for over 30 years owners Ron and Debra Wise have been serving up barbecue to the residents of Seattle. In a town where coffee bars and smoked salmon are the reigning champs, Pecos Pit has consistently satisfied the barbecue needy. Brisket, chicken and hot links are served up in sandwiches and on plates with proper side dishes such as beans, potato salad and coleslaw. Big, messy and tasty pulled pork sandwiches are a favorite. Don’t expect fancy plates or silverware this is a true BBQ joint with quality barbecued food.

10. Smoque BBQ -Chicago, Illinois

What do a bunch of guys that love barbecue do when they can’t find a good restaurant? Well one quits his job and travels the country to learn all he can about the various styles and upon returning they all go into business creating the best barbecue in Chicago. Settling on “Texas Style”, where the meat is the start, not the sauce, and cooked “low and slow”, Smoque puts out top notch ‘cue. In less than 10 years Smoque has been featured on Food Network shows, radio, magazines and newspapers and has received top honors by Zagat. Not many barbecue places publish their barbecue manifesto on their website. These guys take barbecuing seriously. Ribs, brisket, chicken pulled pork and sausage are served up with all the fixings and for dessert have some peach cobbler.

9. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que -Syracuse, New York

Starting out in 1983 with a 55- gallon drum made into a smoker, owner John Stage and a couple of partners started selling barbecue meals at motorcycle rallies, fairs and festivals. In 1985 a place in downtown Syracuse was opened where John could serve up his high quality southern style barbecue. Since opening the original Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, seven additional locations throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have been built. There is even a Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Manhattan. Featured on Good Morning Today, various Food Network and Travel Channel shows, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que stays true to their calling, delivering consistently good barbecue. Side dishes like collard greens, black beans and rice or carrot raisin salad, compliments of the great Bar-B-Que.

8. Snow's BBQ -Lexington, Texas

Fifty miles Northeast of Austin, Texas lies the town of Lexington, population around 1,200. This is where you find Snow's BBQ, named best in Texas in 2008 by Texas Monthly annual BBQ rankings. In 2003 Owner Kerry Bexley along with Miss Tootsie Tomanetz as pit boss opened the doors and things in Lexington haven’t been the same since. Featured on various food shows, Snow’s is open only on Saturday from 8 am until the meat sells out. On any given day you can find regulars who make the one hour trip from Austin, while people from all over the US and even from other countries all come to Snow’s to get Miss Tootsie's BBQ. Although Miss Tootsie is 80 years old she works five days a week at the local school before smoking up brisket, chicken, ribs and sausage.

7. Interstate Barbecue -Memphis, Tennessee

In 1979 Jim Neely bought on an old grocery store in a rundown part of town and started his journey to becoming a nationally known barbecue master. Using a specially built barbecue pit that uses a combination of natural gas and hickory wood, Interstate Barbecue can cook 500 slabs of ribs at a time. Starting from scratch, Neely spoke to old timers and over time developed his special BBQ sauce that has helped him in being recognized by publications like People, Vogue and USA today and has him being featured on the Travel Channel. While ribs are the specialty you might want to sample the Bar-B-Q Spaghetti, Bar-B-Q pork, spices and sauce mixed in with spaghetti pasta. A local favorite.

6. Arthur Bryant’s BBQ -Kansas City, Missouri

Arthur Bryant’s BBQ began in in 1930 and has served Presidents, celebrities and common folks. Presidents Truman and Carter both stopped in and so have celebrities such as Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson and a slew of sports greats. After Arthur passed away in 1982 Gary Berbiglia and Bill Rauschelbach bought the restaurant keeping it true to tradition and maintain the Arthur Bryant quality. Ribs, pulled pork, sausage, chicken, brisket and their famous burnt ends have people standing in line to get in the door. The food is so good that New Yorker columnist Calvin Trillin once called it “the best restaurant in the world”.

5. Gates BBQ -Kansas City, Missouri

George Gates opened the doors of this family run dynasty in 1946 and now Gates has six barbecue restaurants in the Kansas City area. Gates says their reason for success has been their BBQ sauce. Originally manufactured for barbecue restaurants, demand quickly grew and soon the sauce was being sold in stores the area. From the minute you step in the door and are greeted by the trademark saucy smell, you know you are in barbecue paradise. From sandwiches to plates and party trays, Gates puts out consistent, high quality barbecue.

4. Louie Mueller BBQ -Taylor, Texas

Not many barbecue joints can boast a James Beard Award, but Louie Mueller’s can. Honored in 2006 with the America's Classics Award, Louie Mueller uses salt and pepper to spice only and slow smokes the brisket for up to six hours in 50 year old pits. Opened in 1949 and now run by son Bobby Mueller, the restaurant has been a location in three films such as The Rookie, two documentaries and also the Food Network show Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. Served on butcher paper the slow smoked brisket, sausage and ribs have won fans from all over Texas. Get the BBQ sauce on the side, because it’s all about the meat here, while pinto beans, potato salad and coleslaw make up the additional sides. Homemade peach cobbler with a scoop of vanilla ice cream make for a great finish.

3. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q -Decatur, Alabama

In 1925 Bob Gibson began serving barbecue from a makeshift pit in his backyard. Coworkers at the railroad told him “Your future is not in the railroad, but in Bar-B-Q”. With that the 6’4”, 300 pound Bob Gibson began on a path that would endure for over 80 years and four generations. With pulled pork, chicken, ribs, brisket and turkey on the menu, Big Bob Gibson’s has established itself as the barbecue place around Decatur, Alabama. A competition cooking team was put together and has since won numerous BBQ contests. Save room for a slice of homemade pie when you’re finished.

2. Skylight Inn BBQ -Ayden, North Carolina

Since 1947 the Skylight Inn has being cooking whole hogs over open pits. The BBQ at Skylight Inn has been enjoyed by Presidents and politicians, featured in several magazines and the restaurant is a 2003 James Beard “America's Classics” winner. The restaurant has also been featured on the Food Network, Travel Channel and History Channel. The restaurant is now run by the founder, Pete Jones, son Bruce, Pete’s grandson Sam and nephew Jeff. Bruce is carrying on the legacy that Pete left serving up whole hog BBQ and chicken along with cornbread and slaw. You get a choice of pork on a bun with or without coleslaw or in a paper tray with cornbread.

1. Franklin Barbecue -Austin, Texas

James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef in the Southwest, BBQ cookbook author, publications, television shows and a host on the BBQ Pitmasters television show. All this since 2009 when Aaron Franklin began selling barbecue out of a trailer in Austin. Today the trailer is gone, but not the legendary lines that show up Tuesday through Sunday from 11 am until the food is sold out. With a policy of no one cutting in line, people wait for two hours or more to get a taste of Franklin’s slow cooked brisket, sausage, ribs, pork and turkey. You can even say Franklins has inspired at least one budding entrepreneur, a 13 year old middle schooler has opened a business called BBQ Fast Pass where he will wait in line for you. For $50.00 he takes on one client per day and is fully booked a month in advance.

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