The South’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints 2019
These Joints Took the Top Spots
50. Old Brick Pit Barbeque
4805 Peachtree Rd., oldbrickpitbbq.com
You can find a lot of good barbecue in Atlanta these days, but most of it follows styles imported from somewhere else. That’s not the case at Old Brick Pit, which hews closely to traditional Georgia conventions. Chopped pork, ribs, and chicken are cooked in a hickory-fired brick pit and dressed with a peppery tomato-and-vinegar sauce. Try a combo plate with creamy white coleslaw and plain white bread wrapped in waxed paper and be sure to order some Brunswick stew. Thick, rich, and dotted with kernels of shoepeg corn, it’s a standout version of Georgia’s classic barbecue side.
49. Miss Myra's Pit Bar-B-Q
Vestavia Hills, AL
3278 Cahaba Heights Rd., missmyras.com
A big brick pit extends along the entire left wall of Miss Myra’s, filling the dining room with the tempting aroma of hickory smoke. In classic Alabama style, there’s a broad range of meats—pork, beef, ribs, sausage—but the real star of the show is the pit-cooked chicken. Enrobed in a mahogany jacket of smoke-bathed skin, the dark meat underneath is tender and juicy, and it’s complemented perfectly by a generous drizzle of thin, tangy white sauce. The ribs are no slouch, either, and Miss Myra’s sweet, gooey banana pudding is deservedly famous.
48. Two Bros. BBQ Market
San Antonio, TX
12656 West Ave., twobrosbbqmarket.com
As Texas barbecue joints go, Two Bros. is but a toddler, having opened its doors just a decade ago. But the setting is great: a homey yellow building with a spacious side yard filled with picnic tables and a playground for the kids. You can smell the smoke from two old-school brick and mortar pits inside the screened-in smokehouse and four more offset smokers under an adjoining shed. Those pits are overseen by Laura Loomis, one of Texas’s few female pitmasters, and they put out some impressive barbecue. The standout items include succulent brisket with a generous fat cap and firm, juicy sausage with a delightfully smoky bite.
47. Bar-B-Q Shop Restaurant
1782 Madison Ave., thebar-b-qshop.com
The Bar-B-Q Shop is the home of barbecue spaghetti, Memphis’s eccentric but delicious contribution to Southern barbecue sides. The Vernon family uses the original (and highly-secret) recipe created by Brady Vincent, the restaurant’s original owner. Thick, soft noodles and shreds of pork are tossed with a blend of tomato and barbecue sauce that’s been slow-simmered for hours in the pit. It’s the perfect accompaniment for a platter of half-and-half ribs, dry rubbed on one end and mopped with sauce on the other, a delicious compromise uniting the city’s competing wet and dry styles. From the stylish neon outside to the punched tin ceiling over the dining room, the Bar-B-Q Shop has classic style.
46. Swig & Swine
1217 Savannah Hwy., swigandswinebbq.com
The first Swig & Swine opened in 2014, and in just five short years the restaurant has expanded to four locations in the greater Charleston area. Along the way, it’s helped lead the city’s rapid rise as a Southern barbecue destination. Owner/pitmaster Anthony DiBernardo, a former Navy submarine cook, is serious about all-wood barbecue, and his broad menu ranges from pulled pork and ribs to turkey and chicken wings. The thick-sliced brisket is always a solid choice, but the under-the-radar winners are the silky, smoke-tinged pork belly and DiBernardo’s tangy take on South Carolina’s signature side dish, hash and rice—especially if you stir in a few squirts of yellow mustard sauce.
45. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
1238 DeKalb Avenue Northeast, foxbrosbbq.com
No one leaves Fox Bros. hungry. Brisket and ribs are the foundation of the menu, reflecting owners Jonathan and Justin Fox’s Texas roots, but there are plenty of other tempting options. The hickory-smoked chicken wings shouldn’t be missed, and you can get foxy with creative combinations that span the South’s regional barbecue styles—“Texas fries” loaded up with chopped brisket, chicken-fried ribs with Alabama white sauce, tater tots smothered with a layer of Brunswick stew. If that’s not enough, there are always daily specials like house-made bologna and Montreal smoked meat on rye. Did I mention that no one leaves Fox Bros. hungry?
44. Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn
2830 West Parrish Ave., moonlite.com
Moonlite Inn is famous for barbecued mutton, a Kentucky specialty found only in a few counties in the northwest part of the state. Since 1963 the Bosley family has been cooking it along with beef, pork, and chicken on custom-designed metal smokers. Those smokers are fired up and cooking around the clock, seven days a week, for Moonlite is a big-time operation. Spacious dining rooms seat 350 guests at a time, and you can serve yourself from two long buffets brimming with mac n’ cheese, stewed apples, sweet corn muffins, and more. The restaurant’s signature mutton is pulled into long, tender strands with a subtle but delicious savory bite. Be sure to order a bowl of tangy burgoo to go alongside. Warm and filling with a rich mutton bite and peppery finish, it’s a star shining amid the moonlight.
43. The Ridgewood Barbecue
Bluff City, TN
900 Elizabethton Hwy., ridgewoodbbq.com
Barbecue joints are rare in the mountains of east Tennessee, but the Ridgewood is a classic destination with its own unique style. The long, narrow yellow building is nestled along the side of a narrow mountain highway just south of Bluff City. Start things off with tangy blue cheese dip, served in a little white bowl encircled by saltine crackers, then move on to the main attraction: a platter of thin-sliced pork dressed in a sweet brown sauce and beside a mound of thick, delicious hand-cut fries. That pork is from hams, not shoulders, and it’s cooked over hickory wood in two smoke-blackened sheds next to the main building. Be sure to add a side order of Mrs. Profitt’s sweet, smoky barbecue beans. Served in tiny brown ceramic pots, they’re an essential part of the Ridgewood experience.
42. Gates Bar-B-Q
Kansas City, MO
3205 Main St., gatesbbq.com
Gates Bar-B-Q traces its lineage back to pioneer pitmaster Henry Perry, and it’s a stalwart example of Kansas City’s unique barbecue style. At any of the half-dozen locations scattered around the city, sweet, savory smoke hangs thick in the air from the black metal doored pits behind the counter, and you’ll be greeted by the cashiers’ insistent refrain of “Hi, may I help you?” That means it’s time to shout out your order. Ask for a mixed plate of ribs, beef, and ham (That’s right, ham. In Kansas City, they’ll put just about anything on a barbecue pit.) The tender folds of meat are slathered in the city’s distinctive orangish-brown sauce, which is sweet but spicy, and finished with a big handful of french fries piled on top.
41. Jenkins Quality Barbecue
830 N Pearl St., jenkinsqualitybarbecue.com
Melton and Willie Mae Jenkins open their first barbecue restaurant in 1957, and their unique mustard-based sauce has been keeping Jacksonville’s tongues tingling ever since. There are now three outposts of this small family-run chain, and at all three they cook half-chickens and slabs of ribs on oak-fired open brick pits. The finished meat is served over slices of white bread and smothered in that bright yellow mustard sauce. If you’re feeling brave, opt for the hot version of the sauce: it’ll put sweat on your brown and tears in your eyes, but, man, is it delicious.
40. Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous
52 S 2nd St., hogsfly.com
It’s worth visiting Rendezvous just for the experience of entering the restaurant. You walk under a stylish red and green awning, down a steep flight of stairs, and into a basement dining room with red-checked tablecloths and photograph-lined walls. It gets even better once you order a basket of ribs. Back in the 1940s, Charlie Vergos took a few racks, rubbed them down with a spice blend borrowed from his father’s Greek chili recipe, and cooked them hot and fast over charcoal in a pit fashioned from an old coal chute. The Rendezvous has been the home of Memphis-style dry rubbed ribs ever since. Throw in a starter platter of ham, cheese, and salami and a pitcher of cold draft and you’ll have a barbecue experience found only in Memphis.
39. Micklethwait Craft Meats
1309 Rosewood Ave., craftmeatsaustin.com
Micklethwait Craft Meats is a splendid distillation of the vibrant, bohemian vibe that drives Austin’s barbecue scene. It’s a sort of semi-permanent encampment just east of downtown Austin, where pitmaster Tom Micklethwait’s big offset smokers occupy an improvised pit room atop an old flatbed trailer. Parked alongside is a tan camper that’s been converted into a take-out barbecue stand, and you eat at long wooden picnic tables under a white canopy tent. The offering blends tradition and novelty, with Texas mainstays like brisket, sausage, and ribs joined by pulled lamb and goat barbacoa. The side dishes—chili-studded jalapeno cheese grits, smoky campfire chili beans—are superb, too.
38. Big T Bar-B-Q
2520 Congaree Road, bigtbbq.com
There are two satellite Big T locations in the suburbs of Columbia, but it's worth a trip out to Gadsden to check out "the mothership." That’s where Larry “Big T” Brown cooks the barbecue and hash for all three restaurants. This is old school South Carolina-style barbecue, with logs reduced to coals in a warped metal burn box and carried by shovel into the pit room, where they are scattered beneath the pork shoulders cooking on open metal pits. Brown makes his hash the old school way, too, with liver adding wonderful dark, earthy notes to the thick, savory stew. In addition to the splendid mustard-based barbecue, there's a full slate of soul food options like fried pork chops and fried whiting with plenty of delicious sides.
37. Cozy Corner
726 North Parkway, cozycornerbbq.com
After being forced to move to temporary digs after a fire, this Memphis legend is back in business in its old North Parkway location. The ribs burst with intense wood-smoke flavor beneath a sweet, tangy glaze of sauce, and the meat is pleasantly firm and chewy. The brown sauce comes in mild, medium, or hot, but beware: even the medium will leave your lips tingling. In an unusual twist, the sandwiches tuck thin-sliced pork or beef inside long sesame-topped sub rolls with plenty of bright yellow slaw.
36. Peg Leg Porker
903 Gleaves St., peglegporker.com
Six years after its founding, Peg Leg Porker remains a top Nashville dining destination, and each year brings new innovations. First it was the restaurant’s private-labeled Peg Leg Porker bourbon, then a second-floor addition with an event space and a roof-top bar. Now owner/pitmaster Carey Bringle has added a South Side Chicago-style aquarium pit out on the patio, complete with clear glass sides and a wood-burning firebox. Dry rubbed ribs and pulled pork are still the specialties of the house, but the Yardbird—tender, juicy smoked chicken rubbed with the same secret blend as the ribs—is worth notice, too. The side dishes—shells and cheese enrobed in a creamy sauce, smoked green beans studded with onion and pork—are all top notch.
35. Home Team BBQ
126 Williman St., hometeambbq.com
Home Team is a rising South Carolina barbecue empire, with three restaurants in Charleston, one up the road in Columbia, and one way out in Aspen, Colorado. Smack dab in the heart of the Charleston peninsula, the Williman Street location, with its large dining room and big outdoor patio, it’s the ideal place to sample Home Team’s inventive blend of old and new. Founder Aaron Siegel and executive chef Taylor Garrigan came to barbecue from fine dining kitchens, and they apply classical culinary technique to traditional wood-cooked barbecue. That means pork, beef, chicken, and more cooked on Lang and Oyler pits fired with red oak. Those smoked meats are sliced and served on traditional platters with housemade pickles but are also incorporated into more modern creations, like pit-cooked pastrami sandwiches and ramen with smoked shrimp. Home Team’s smoked chicken wings, topped with a tangy Alabama-style white sauce, are some of the best anywhere.
34. Bar-B-Q Center
900 N Main St., (336) 248-4633
The town of Lexington is the birthplace of the Piedmont North Carolina style, and it’s so barbecue-dense that you can eat at one Top 50 joint and drive just five minutes and eat at another. Among the town’s many contenders, Bar-B-Q Center stands out near the head of the pack. Their pit-cooked pork shoulder comes chopped, coarse chopped, or sliced, and you can order it on a sandwich, in a cardboard tray with red slaw and hushpuppies or rolls, or on a plate with french fries. The restaurant offers an outstanding example the region’s signature “red slaw” (a.k.a. “barbecue slaw”)—finely chopped cabbage dressed with the same combination of vinegar and tomato that defines the barbecue sauce. Save a little room for the famous banana split, a towering concoction big enough for an entire family. It’s a nod to the restaurant’s roots, since it opened in 1955 as the Dairy Center before hickory-cooked pork stole the show.
33. LC’s Bar-B-Que
Kansas City, MO
5800 Blue Parkway, lcsbarbq.com
Burnt ends—the crisp, smoky bits trimmed off the end of briskets—are one of Kansas City’s signature dishes, and the best version in the city are found at LC’s. They’re drenched in sauce and are deliciously chewy, with a delightful salty, smoky bark on the outside. Follow them up with a combo sandwich: tender beef and slightly salty ham piled between two slices of white bread. With each bite, the soft bread, smoky meat, and tangy sauce meld together into a delightful whole. LC’s is a small place with just a handful of tables crammed into the small dining area, but the big warming pit behind the counter, with tall metal doors blackened from years of smoke and grease, holds plenty of barbecue treasures.
32. Corkscrew BBQ
26608 Keith St, corkscrewbbq.com
There is no shortage of Texas joints where you can line up to order fresh-sliced barbecue by the pound, but Corkscrew stands out from most because of the quality of its meats as well as its comfortable setting. Just north of Houston in Spring, you can enjoy a big platter of brisket and ribs at a picnic table out in the big grassy yard while freight trains rumble slowly past across the street. The brisket is prime grade, and it’s slow-smoked over red oak, as are the pork, turkey, sausage and ribs. The barbecue needs no further accompaniment than the complimentary tray of sliced onions, pickles, and jalapenos, but it wouldn’t hurt to sample some creamy mac-and-cheese and smoky BBQ beans while you’re at it.
31. B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque
12409 White Bluff Rd, bscracklinbbq.com
The short history of B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque can only be described as a roller coaster ride. Back in March, owner/pitmaster Bryan Furman was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Southeast Award. A week later his Atlanta restaurant burned to the ground. It’s not the first time he and his wife Nikki have had to rebuild, for their original Savannah restaurant was destroyed by fire in 2015, less than a year after it opened. The Furmans have been keeping things going in Atlanta with a series of pop-ups at local breweries, and they are currently working to secure a new permanent location on the West Side. In the meantime, the rebuilt Savannah restaurant is still going strong, serving wood-cooked barbecue with few distinctive twists. B’s heritage-breed whole hog is served, in a nod to Bryan’s South Carolina roots, with a tangy mustard-based sauce laced with peaches. The thick-sliced brisket has an impressive bark and a firm but juicy texture, but the real standouts are the ribs, which have a splendidly rich, smoky flavor that lingers after each bite.
30. Old Hickory Barbecue
338 Washington Ave., oldhickorybar-b-q.com
Barbecued mutton and burgoo are two delicacies unique to Kentucky, and Old Hickory has the best in the state. Starting in 1918, six generations of the Foreman family have perfected the art, slow-cooking mutton (and pork, chicken, beef, and turkey, too) over hickory coals on big cinderblock pits with sliding metal doors. The burgoo—a slow simmered stew made from mutton, pork, chicken, and vegetables—is tangy and satisfying, while the long, tender strands of smoked mutton, after good soaking in thin Worcestershire-laced “dip” (that is, sauce) is chewy, smoky, and sublimely delicious.
29. Kreuz Market
619 North Colorado St., kreuzmarket.com
There’s nothing quite like ordering barbecue in the cavernous pit room at Kreuz Market. Amid a hanging cloud of fragrant smoke, the countermen pull giant hunks of brisket and shoulder clod from the old brick pits and slice them on a round wooden carving table right in front of you. No sauce or forks are needed. That rich, smoky beef and juicy hot link sausages have more than enough flavor on their own, and it’s just proper etiquette in Texas to eat barbecue with your fingers. (Two years ago, the restaurant caved to the demands of out-of-towners and put plastic forks and squeeze bottles of thick brown sauce in the dining room, but no one has to use them). Amid all this beef, the surprise sleeper is Kreuz’s pork chop. Carved to order from a whole bone-in loin, it’s tender, smoky, and delicious—a Central Texas masterpiece.
28. Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog Barbecue
1011 King St., rodneyscottsbbq.com
Rodney Scott spent two decades cooking whole hogs at his family’s famed barbecue restaurant in Hemingway, South Carolina, before moving down to Charleston to open a place of his own. Since our last Top 50 list was published, he’s opened a second location in Birmingham, bringing South Carolina-style burn barrel barbecue to Alabama. Though he had to make a few adjustments within his new urban settings, like using metal pits instead of cinderblock ones, the fundamentals remain the same: burn oak down to coals, fire the pits, and cook whole hogs for 12 hours before finishing them with a fiery vinegar-pepper mop. Scott added a few options for his city customers, too, like craft beer on tap, tasty fried catfish, and a truly remarkable ribeye sandwich. It’s made from marinated steak slow-smoked on the pit then sliced thin and piled high on a soft roll—a sloppy, smoky, and utterly delicious creation that by itself is reason enough to pay Rodney Scott’s a visit.
27. Hite’s Bar-B-Que
West Columbia, SC
240 Dreher Rd., hitesbbq.com
Since 1957, Hite’s Bar-B-Que has been supplying the Midlands of South Carolina with exceptional mustard-based barbecue. More meat market than restaurant, it’s a take-out operation with limited hours—just Fridays and Saturdays—and they don’t cut any corners. In the screened-in room out back, David Hite and crew cook whole hogs, ribs, and chickens on open pits, using cords of oak and hickory wood in the process. You can taste that wood in every smoky bite. Load up on the bright yellow mustard sauce and grab a bag of skins if they have any left (they go fast). These aren’t deep fried pork rinds but something even more delicious: the skin from the slow-smoked whole hog that’s been crisped up on the pit and chopped into addictive little smoky squares.
26. Big Bob Gibson
1715 6th Ave. SE (US Highway 31), bigbobgibson.com
Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q is the home of Alabama’s distinctive white mayo-based barbecue sauce, which was invented by Big Bob himself after he started cooking pork shoulders and chicken in his backyard in 1925. Pitmaster Chris Lilly, who married Big Bob’s great-granddaughter, carries on the family tradition today. The barbecue is cooked on long brick pits in the back room of the restaurant, with a blaze of hickory logs on one end and a tall chimney on the other so the heat and smoke are drawn across the meat as it cooks. Everything that comes off those old-school pits is delicious—pork shoulder, St. Louis-cut ribs, beef brisket, turkey—but the signature item is the tender barbecued chicken with its smoky, black pepper-studded skin—a splendid stage on which Big Bob Gibson’s legendary white sauce can shine. Finish things off with a slice of meringue-topped coconut cream pie—one of the best barbecue desserts in all of the South.
25. Buxton Hall Barbecue
32 Banks Ave., buxtonhall.com
Buxton Hall occupies a remarkable 1930s-era building that once housed a roller-skating club, and the dining room still has the original maple floorboards from the rink. Co-owner/pitmaster Elliott Moss brings a fine dining sensibility to traditional barbecue methods, and his big metal-lidded pits are on full display right behind the counter in the open kitchen. A blazing fire constantly renders oak down to coals, which Moss and team shovel under whole hogs as they cook. The “chef-driven, grandma-inspired” sides are excellent, especially the tangy green beans cooked “below the pig” on sheet pans so they catch the drippings from the hogs. Equally impressive is the fried catfish, which is salt- and sugar-cured, lightly smoked, then battered and fried golden brown. Finish things off with a slice of pastry chef Ashley Capps’ banana pudding pie, which has a crust of homemade vanilla wafers and toasted meringue on top—a splendidly creative twist on an old barbecue classic.
24. Sam Jones Barbecue
715 W Fire Tower Rd., samjonesbbq.com
Sam Jones, whose grandfather founded the world-famous Skylight Inn, now splits his time between his family’s restaurant in Ayden and his own place a few miles up the road in Winterville. It’s much larger, with a high-vaulted ceiling and plenty of booths and long tables, and Jones has embraced new-fangled innovations like selling draft beer and accepting credit cards. But there are no compromises when it comes to the pit house, though. The whole hog barbecue is a dead ringer for Skylight’s—cooked on open wood-fired pits, chopped to fine bits on a giant wooden block, and dressed with vinegar and Texas Pete, bits of crisp skin chopped right in for added crunch. The slaw and square-cut cornbread adhere to the family's original recipes, but Jones offers much more at his upscale incarnation, including fried catfish, ribs, and smoked chicken wings.
23. Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
200 E. Dixon Blvd., bridgesbbq.com
The big brick and metal sign outside reads Bridges Barbecue Lodge in looping white script, and that retro style carries through to the dining room inside, which has inlaid wood ceilings and turquoise-backed booths. It’s a classic destination for Piedmont North Carolina-style barbecue, which means sliced pork trays with red slaw and hushpuppies or chopped pork sandwiches with plenty of “outside brown” (the smoky, outer bits of the shoulder). The meat is cooked all night over hickory coals, and when tucked into a bun and toasted in a sandwich press it’s one of the best pork sandwiches anywhere—and a steal at only $4. That should leave you with enough change to try one of Mama B’s pimento cheese sandwiches. The ruby-studded cheese is slathered between two slices of white bread and toasted until the inside are melted and creamy—a delicious addition to any barbecue meal.
22. McCabe's Bar-B-Q
480 North Brooks Street, (803) 435-2833
After closing for a couple of years due to family illness, McCabe's Bar-B-Q is back and going strong, and South Carolinians couldn’t be luckier. Plenty of all-you-can-eat barbecue buffets can be found the state’s Midlands and Pee Dee regions, but none matches the consistent high quality of McCabe’s. Everything on the small steam table is top-notch: fried chicken, collards, stewed cabbage, hushpuppies, coleslaw. The real stars, though, are the wood-cooked pork, which is pulled into long strands and dressed with a peppery vinegar sauce, and the rich, savory hash and rice, South Carolina’s iconic barbecue side.