Summer is approaching, and that means that BBQ season is almost upon us. Not to mention, May is National Barbecue Month, so this is the perfect time to start looking into the best BBQ joints to enjoy a plate of prime ribs or a grilled steak kabob. Chef's Pencil has done the work for us, by analyzing over 2,000 BBQ restaurants across the country to find the best spots. Here are all of the best BBQ cities in America!
The topic of how to BBQ or where to go for the best barbecue can lead to some heated debates, as everyone as a strong opinion on the topic. Opinions are often based on where you're raised, since each part of the country has its own style of barbecue, and its fans are
typically as loyal as they come. The results from Chef's Pencil's research are from an analysis of the country's 75 largest cities, raking each city based on the average of TripAdvisor ratings. Because of this, the map may have missed some of the barbecue restaurants in small towns or off the beaten track.
However, results are based on reviews by barbecue lovers around the country, so we can say with confidence that you can head to any of the top cities and find a delicious brisket or fall-off-the-bone pork ribs!
Best Cities in America for BBQ
Based on these findings, New Orleans takes the number one spot! Oklahoma City is close behind, with Charlotte, Wichita, and Virginia Beach tying for third. It's no surprise that Southern states like North Carolina and Louisiana have some of the best barbecue cities in the country since American bar-b-que originated in the South.
According to the map, some other places to enjoy a tasty BBQ are Seattle WA, Columbus OH, Miami FL, and Newark NJ. However, some of the worst cities in America for BBQ were found to be Anchorage, Plano, and Boston. Along with this, San Antonio, Houston, and Memphis have the most low-rated barbecue joints, according to TripAdvisor ratings. This doesn't mean that all BBQ will be bad in these cities, just that you should do your research beforehand to make sure you hit up one of the well-rated joints for some Memphis-style BBQ!
All of the BBQ
If you're looking to try as many BBQ spots as possible, you might want to head to Orlando, St. Louis, or Honolulu, since these cities were found to have the most bar-b-q restaurants per capita. Interestingly, St. Louis was also found to consume the most barbecue sauce in the country, so you can expect to enjoy an indulgent helping of BBQ sauce.
Another notable discovery is that although they didn't have the highest average ratings, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Austin have the highest number of top-rated BBQ joints. Along with this, the best BBQ restaurant in the country was found to be Blue Door Smokehouse in Lexington, Kentucky, as it is the most reviewed 5-star barbeque restaurant. Close behind are Konan's BBQ in Tampa, FL and then Niwa Japanese BB! in Dallas, TX.
Where to Go for The Best BBQ Based On Your Favorite Style
Another factor to consider when getting your barbecue fix is what barbecue-style you prefer. The four main styles are named after their place of origin; Memphis, North Carolina, Kansas City, and Texas. Tennessee is arguably known as the BBQ state of the country, despite these TripAdvisor findings. Memphis is known for pulled pork sandwiches made with pulled pork-shoulder or ribs and doused in a sweet tomato-based sauce. Memphis-style barbecue is traditionally cooked in a pit, and the ribs are either "dry," seasoned with a dry rub, or "wet," which involves a BBQ sauce brushed on liberally during cooking.
As for North Carolina, this is the place to go for a whole hog in a tangy vinegar-based sauce. This style of barbecue is one of the most traditional methods, and it involves basting the meat in a sauce flavored with sugar, and red pepper. This sauce is also served during the meal so you can dip as you please. Kansas City is another famous spot for BBQ, featuring sweet, thick sauces that bring an entirely unique flavor to the meal that you likely won't find in Memphis or North Carolina. These sauces are typically made with tomato, molasses, and maybe some brown sugar for extra sweetness. Spare ribs cooked in dry rub are the specialty of Kansas City, Missouri
When it comes to Texas-style BBQ, this depends on the region, and it can be anything from the pulled-pork popular in Tennessee to the "cowboy-style" beef brisket in Western Texas. Texas barbecue is usually smoked meats, like beef brisket, pork ribs and sausage. Then again, if you find yourself in Alabama, you'll likely get to try the Alabama BBQ white sauce, which is a tasty combo of vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, and hot sauce.
The next time you have a craving for some burnt ends, hickory-smoked chicken, or old-school beef brisket with a side dish of coleslaw or mac n cheese, think twice before heading down the street to your favorite BBQ joint. There's a whole world out there of finger-lickin' good BBQ spots just waiting for you to grab a rib!
Editor's Note: Products featured on Wide Open Eats are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
This post was originally published on October 21, 2021.