The Ten Best Cities for BBQ in the United States

Love BBQ? Everyone does. But not everyone has had truly good barbecue. So check out these 10 cities for the best barbecue in the entire United States!

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Jessica Wei
Hopper Editor

The practice of smoking meat over an open fire has been around for as long as people have known how to summon the flames and needed to eat meat, but almost certainly, it was the good old United States of America that perfected it – and continue to perfect it. It’s an art – anything that is marinated and slow-cooked for anywhere between three to 14 hours has got to be an art, there is color and delicateness and an ecstasy involved in the process and consumption. There are centuries in the making, and recipes handed down from generation to generation, and it’s so good it very often doesn’t even need to be packaged, because it is truly of the people. Welcome to America, here are ten fantastic barbecue cities for you to salivate over.

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10. Brooklyn, New York City


Photo by Cheo70/Flickr.

Nobody should be surprised that Brooklyn is on this list. Say what you want about hipsters, but they are thorough in their processes, innovative to carve their own way and very into small batch. What sets Brooklyn apart from their Southern barbecue buddies is that Brooklyn has a very specific mandate towards supporting a sustainable environment and forming partnerships with local farms. They also have a lot more money and a younger clientele. In Brooklyn, one can find all-natural St. Louis ribs at Fletcher’s, and Memphis style dry-rubbed ribs at Fette Sau in Williamsburg.

See three of Brooklyn's best BBQ restaurants:

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Fletcher's Brooklyn Barbecue
Gowanus, Gowanus and Red Hook District
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"Dry-Rubbed Babyback Ribs and Pork Belly with My Red Hook Red Sauce" - Backyard Chef
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Briskettown
Williamsburg, Williamsburg District
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"Very tasty and great sauce, with pickled red Onions." - Leon

9. Atlanta, Georgia

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Fat Matt's Rib Shack, Atlanta – photo by tokyohamster

In Atlanta, big city slickers can have their fill of the smoked stuff too. Every year around August, about 50 teams from backyard barbies to professional restaurants gather at Atlantic Station and compete for the title of Atlanta’s Best BBQ. Atlanta might not have its own style, but their chefs come from all over the South to hack it in this large metropolis. A consistent winner, Fox Bros. have specialty sandwiches like their Fox Bros. “Burger,” a toasted sesame seed bun wrapped around chopped brisket, bacon, tomato, red onion, pickles, melted pimento cheese and jalapeño mayo; as well as massive plates with any kind of meat you want – the “Everything Plate” is heaping with pulled pork, beef brisket, a quarter chicken and wings. Fat Matt’s, an electric and unpretentious blues and barbecue joint specializes in ribs, from sandwich to slab, and a long list of special sides. Nightly live acts, a slab of award-winning ribs and a sweet potato pie – what could make a Southern night more special?

Find more info on Atlanta's three best barbecue joints:

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Fat Matt's Rib Shack
Atlanta, Metro Atlanta
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"It’s officially on my “must visit list” any time I go to Atlanta…" - Tiffany MacIsaac
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Heirloom Market Bbq
Metro Atlanta, Georgia
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"What we received was less than impressive in terms of quantity, and to some extent, quality." - The Dudes of Food
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Fox Brothers Bar-b-q
Atlanta, Metro Atlanta
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"Needless to say, we went a little nuts at Fox Bro's." - Court

8. Nashville, Tennessee

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Edley's Bar-B-Que, Nashville – photo by nashvillenourriture

Music and meat – that’s what you get in Nashville. Lesser known as a barbecue spot, there are a ton of diverse grill spots serving up everything from hand-pulled chicken topped with white BBQ sauce (from Hog Heaven, a reincarnated state for the pigs they’ve smoked and plated and divine experience for the diners chowing down on them) to smoked Boston turkey, St. Louis ribs and Tennessee pork shoulder (from the jack of all trades, Jacks Barbecue downtown). For a totally Nashville experience, check out Edley’s airy, friendly barbecue joint, which slow-smokes all their meat over local White Oak wood and offers up to ten southern-style side dishes made from scratch, served in the Nashville style of Meat and three with sweet tea style.

Travelers flying to Nashville on a Friday can save up to $114! See other fare-saving tips from Hopper Flights.

And here are the three best BBQ restaurants in Nashville:

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Jack's Bar-b-que
Nashville, Middle Tennessee
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"Jack’s Bar-B-Que in Nashville has a line down the block during all hours of the day." - peanutbutterandonions
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Edley's Bar-B-Que
Nashville, Middle Tennessee
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"Edley's Bar-B-Que" - askmissa
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Hog Heaven
Nashville, Middle Tennessee
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"There were large chunks of pulled pork in this sandwich which were awesome." - bartonsbites

7. Dallas, Texas

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Pecan Lodge, Dallas – photo by Gary Jacobson

Dallas’ rough and tumble nature lends itself very well to its barbecue style, which sees beef and pork smoked over hickory, savagely cut and thrown on a bun with a tomatoey sauce. That’s just tradition, but as these things go, each restaurant throws in something new. Try the totally unpretentious Lockhart Smokehouse in the Dallas area, which serves up magnificent brisket and shoulder clod in lean, fatty, extra bark, or others of your choice, forego the plates and just hand you butcher paper. Or, for the more adventurous palate, the slightly out-of-the-way Angelo’s in Fort Worth is about as real as it gets: family founded and run since 1956, this nationally known barbecue joint looks like a hunting lodge and specializes only in fine East Texas barbecue and ice cold beer.

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Do not miss these barbecue restaurants when you come to Dallas:

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Pecan Lodge
Downtown Dallas, Dallas
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"It’s an experience you won’t forget." - kevinsbbqjoints
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Lockhart Smokehouse
Oak Cliff, Dallas
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"Pork shoulder from the whole hog they served that day," - Drew Thornley
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Angelo's Barbecue
Fort Worth, Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
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"The building is no frills and we walked in smelling something fantastic!" - Melissa Good Taste

6. St. Louis, Missouri

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Bogart's Smokehouse, St. Louis – photo by mjohn143

St. Louis has carved a name for itself in the world of barbecue – as far as American smoking styles go, their pork ribs are close to the holy grail and deep smoked pig snout (or a “crispy snoot”) is just regional standard fare. Pappy’s Smokehouse is nationally renowned for their dry-rubbed ribs slowly smoked over apple and cherry wood as well as their truly unique Frito Pie diner’s choice of barbecue with baked beans, cheddar cheese and onion heaped over a mount of Fritos. Like many other BBQ places across the country with equal fame, Pappy’s sells out fast and draws lines out the door. For the snoot experience, Roper’s Ribs offers up great combos and deliciously grills the heck out of pig parts most people wouldn't think about eating.

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See what diners have to say about the three best barbecue restaurants in St. Louis:

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Roper's Ribs
St. Louis Area , Missouri
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"Roper's Ribs baby back ribs are the culinary standard for ribs." - artbracket
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Bogart's Smokehouse
Soulard, St. Louis
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"it was really good." - Miranda
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Pappy's Smokehouse
Midtown Saint Louis, St. Louis
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"If you ever get to St. Louis, you need to stop here." - Walter "Skipp" Conlan SJ

5. Austin, Texas

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Franklin Barbecue, Austin – photo by Chris Wilkins

Best known for music and barbecue, Austin is a can’t-miss on the barbecue trail. From fine-dining to truck stop, every smoker adds their own spin and style to the traditional sweet and tangy tomato-based sauce. Franklin Barbecue, a major BBQ force on the scene since 2009, opens their shop to a lineup that snakes around the block and doles out pounds of brisket until it sells out – sometimes it takes as little as an hour and a half. Stubb’s, an American institution, has been jamming out and smoking beef since their first location opened in Lubbock, 1968, where musicians like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Muddy Waters, John lee Hooker, Willie Nelson and others would sing for their delicious, fall-off-the-bone suppers. Having since relocated to Austin in 1985, Stubb’s is still the place where musicians go and jam out while diners bliss out on the down home atmosphere and time-honored barbecue.

Right now travelers are finding great deals on tickets to Austin using the flight feed on Hopper Flights.

When we say these are the best barbecue joints in Austin, that means something:

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The Salt Lick
Austin and the Hill Country, Texas
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"Burnt ends were flavourful and succulent." - kentiong
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Franklin Barbecue
Austin, Austin and the Hill Country
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"Moist and tender with a rich beefy flavor." - Obsessive Compulsive Barbecue
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Stubb's
Downtown Austin, Austin
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"It is the place for good BBQ, good beer, and good music." - craftedincarhartt

4. Lexington, North Carolina

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Barbecue Center, North Carolina – photo by thebarbecuebus

Pork is the game in Lexington, a small town just an hour’s drive northeast of Charlotte, where a regional favorite is the wood-smoked pork shoulder, coarsely chopped and topped by a mostly vinegar based sauce – those who know their way around a Lexington grill often order it with some outside brown, which means more flavorful extra bark from the meat) and sometimes extra dip, which is just the word for the thinner sauce. Another Lexington trademark is the Red Slaw, coleslaw that’s swapped out the mayo for BBQ sauce. There’s a lot to the Lexington scene, which is why the city throws an annual Barbecue Festival to celebrate it. For the regular season, Lexington Barbecue #1, established in 1962 and better known by locals as the Honeymonk, is the quintessential Lexington joint, widely hailed as the best in the business, always happy to help a diner out with a big plate of pork and some Cheerwine.

And the three best barbecue restaurants in Lexington, NC, are:

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Jimmy's Barbecue
Coastal Plain , North Carolina
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"I will say that the waitresses at Jimmy’s were the nicest we encountered all weekend." - goodiesfirst
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Barbecue Center
Piedmont , North Carolina
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"We also ordered hush puppies, which are just bizarre." - thestylebox
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Lexington Barbecue
Piedmont , North Carolina
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"Tending to the meat All in all, it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time." - Big Wayner

3. Kansas City, Missouri

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Arthur Bryant's, Kansas City – photo by Christa Rose

Saying that Kansas City, Missouri, is a pretty good BBQ destination is like calling Beethoven a pretty good composer from the Romantic period. The ‘cue may not have originated in Kansas City, but certainly the style changed irrevocably as soon as Arthur Bryant set up shop blocks away from the Kansas City Blues and started the tradition of slow-cooking pork and beef ends over a mix of hickory and oak before a splash of the signature sauces. That was about a hundred years ago, and it’s still the respected pioneer of KC Style, which uses more molasses in the sauces and hickory smoke. Diners who love the atmosphere of a quality corner BBQ counter as well as fans of the blues need only stop once at BB’s Lawnside BBQ before they’re hooked: inside the battered exterior of this 40-year-old diner is a warm and bustling blues joint filled with the aroma of hickory and tangy sauce.

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Read diner reviews on Kansas City's three best barbecue restaurants:

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Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue & Catering
Kansas City, Johnson County
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"Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue & Catering" - Rosie
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B.b.'s Lawnside Bbq
Kansas City, Kansas City Area
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"From top to bottom, a unique three-layered sundae should satisfy any BBQ lover’s craving." - travelandappetite
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Arthur Bryant's
Kansas City, Kansas City Area
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"Barbeque, apparently, is king around here." - Nominal Me

2. Memphis, Tennessee

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Central Bbq, Memphis – photo by meeshiesmom

Dry rubbed but never dry, Memphis has one of the most amenable while simultaneously distinct styles in American Barbecue. Sauce on the side, of varying bases (tomato, vinegar, or mustard depending on the place), ribs cut St. Louis style, nicely and neatly, mopped or thickly caked with rub, Memphis cooks to taste. Memphis newbies will get a real education in the art of the ribs and rub at Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous Charcoal Ribs, where they’ve been cooking his signature paprika-heavy ribs over charcoal since 1948. For a more contemporary view of the BBQ scene, Central BBQ has been on a scene for just over a decade and in that time, has amassed a loyal following. They slow-smoke their pork for over 14 hours, ribs overnight, and brisket for three. Diners happily chow down out on the snazzy outdoor patio and have their signature pork, ribs, or brisket plates delivered by servers in tie-dye shirts.

Check out this map from Hopper Flights to see great deals on flights to Memphis from across the country!

Don't miss these three excellent BBQ joints in Memphis:

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Corkys Ribs & Bbq
East Memphis, Memphis
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"Don't waste your time here." - BBQ Snob
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Central Bbq
Midtown, Memphis
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"These wings are GREAT." - livingloudinmidtown
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Charlie Vergos Rendezvous
Downtown Memphis, Memphis
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"Get the ribs. Try both sauces. Enjoy the atmosphere. You'll thank me later" - Amy

1. Lockhart, Texas

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Kreuz Market, Texas – photo by Sara Camp Arnold

Thirty miles south of Austin is the little town of Lockhart, with only four barbecue joints – but those four places pack a punch. Kreuz Market is known throughout the state and has served their well-cooked brisket and German-style sausage with no sauce since 1900. Another historic heavy hitter is Black’s Barbecue, owned by the same family since 1932, which uses the same recipe for brisket handed down from just as long. Seriously, no trip through Texas is complete without a stop in Lockhart.

Just look at the goodness that is Lockhart barbecue:

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Kreuz Market
Austin and the Hill Country, Prairies and Lakes
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"it was all meat, all the time." - Garrod
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Black's Barbecue
Austin and the Hill Country, Prairies and Lakes
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"For cuisine that is eaten with your fingers, the cleanliness was actually a bit incongruous." - Aaron
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Chisholm Trail Bar-b-q
Austin and the Hill Country, Prairies and Lakes
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"Today Chisholm Trail is said to be a favorite among locals" - BBQ Snob

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