When it comes to satisfying BBQ food, Austin and Kansas City may be two of the first cities that come to mind. But meat lovers take note: there are several other cities across our big nation that should also be lauded for the way they prepare those juicy ribs and brisket. When planning a foodie trip, keep these underrated BBQ cities in mind.
The windy city knows all about top-notch BBQ food. It’s hard to look past Lem’s, which has been serving BBQ food in the south side of Chicago since the 50s. This no-frills spot is known for its rib tips and hot links. Another longtime staple is Twin Anchors, which is known for its barbequed baby-back ribs and being a favorite of Frank Sinatra. Locals will also point tourists to some newer gems like Smoque BBQ. Opened in 2006 by five BBQ lovers, the restaurant cooks up Texas-style dishes with favorites that include St. Louis style ribs and a brisket sandwich. The restaurant, which opened a second location in 2016, has even won several Bib Gourmand awards. The tastiness continues with Lillie’s Q, a BBQ joint opened in 2010 with a reputation for shrimp & grits, fried pickles and beloved banana pudding.
Our capital has gained praise for its robust dining scene. In the midst of sightseeing and snapping photos outside the White House, foodies can indulge in delectable BBQ options. First up is DCity Smokehouse, a traditional BBQ joint known for its $10 sandwiches like the brisket champ made with sliced smoked brisket, pickles, crispy onions and house bbq sauce. Equally as satisfying are the sandwiches at Fat Pete’s, a place known for its smoking meats and vegetables. The list goes on with Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company and the rustic chic Hill Country Barbecue Market, which the Washington Post placed at No. 1 on its list of best barbecue joints in the D.C. area.
Of course Nashville is known for its music scene—country’s biggest stars have long been calling it home. Taking in the sounds are even better when food cravings are answered. And this buzzing city is paying homage to the south with several beloved BBQ spots. Make a stop at Edley’s Bar-B-Que where choosing a favorite may just be too darn difficult. Customers rave about BBQ nachos, the tuck special (smoked brisket, house made spicy pimento cheese, over easy egg, red and white sauce and pickles) and the four wings options (classic Edley’s wings, the hot walking bird, BBQ and white BBQ). Then there’s Peg Leg Porker, an old-school BBQ spot with an A-plus pulled pork sandwich. Not looking to go to the same place twice? There are more options for the rest of the week (if you’re stomach can handle it) with Jack Cawthon’s Bar-B-Que, Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint, Tex’s World Famous Bar-B-Q and more.
Fresh local ingredients and creative chefs have made Portland a force in the culinary world. There’s originality in this city that has translated to BBQ food in recent years. Step inside the beloved Podnah’s BBQ run by Chef Rodney Muirhead whose Texan roots have made this place special. The high quality meat is smoked in the pit daily with honest oak hardwood in the firebox. The ribs here are so good, they don’t even need sauce. Portland’s scene continues with several more options. Matt’s BBQ, a casual eatery opened in 2015, is praised for Texas ribs and sandwiches like the Hotmess made with 1/4 pound chopped brisket, sausage, pickled jalapeños and slaw. There’s also The People’s Pig that mixes laid-back vibes with delicious smoked meat sandwiches like the smoked fried chicken made with spicy mayo, jalapeño jelly and greens.
Bordering Texas, it’s only right for Oklahoma City’s chefs to whip up some tasty BBQ food. Oklahoma City, which CNN Money named one of the fastest growing cities in America, has several options that will satisfy any BBQ craving. Dig into Back Door Barbecue, an innovative spot run by Chef Kathryn Mathis who relocated from Austin where she ran a gourmet catering company. Ribs and brisket are of course on the menu, but unexpected meats like smoked duck and lamb are also available. Old traditions have their place at Bedlam Bar-B-Q where meats are prepared by curing and dry-rub applications and family recipes have diners coming back. Since 2002, locals have also been enjoying dishes at Iron Star where smokehouse flavor and a lengthy menu have foodies in BBQ heaven.
Southerners know a thing or two about good BBQ food and that shouldn’t exclude Floridians. Tampa makes a bang with tons of restaurants mastering the favorites. And some of these spots have been around for decades. There’s Big John’s Alabama BBQ, a family-owned spot that’s been serving open-pit-style barbecue meats since the late 60s. Some have even dubbed it the best BBQ they’ve ever eaten. It goes on with another family gem around since 1978, Kojak’s House of Ribs, where slow cooked BBQ ribs, pork and sausage are heavy hitters. Grab some Tennessee-style BBQ at Al’s Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que, a mix of pork favorites at Holy Hog Barbecue or some smoked meats with a side of truffle mac and cheese at The Smoke Shack BBQ.
A city known for its scenic beauty and historic sites, Charleston is also a place where good BBQ is easy to find. After doing some sightseeing, grab a bite at the hip Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ where variety is a guarantee. Since 2006, diners have especially been returning for the wings and brisket. Opt for all-wood smoked barbecue at Swig & Swine with a glass of bourbon on the side. Or get Texas-style grub at Lewis Barbecue where the industrial decor is just as intriguing as the menu options. Either way, meat lovers won’t be disappointed in this charming city.