Prepare yourself for a savory, smokey tour across the United States as we reveal the top BBQ cities that are a must-visit for every meat lover. These locations are gastronomic havens for barbecue fans, offering everything from the acidic enticement of Carolina pulled pork to the slow-cooked perfection of Texas brisket. Come us as we explore the diverse geography of American barbecue culture, where every community has its own take on this cherished custom. These locations offer a finger-licking good time, whether you’re a casual diner looking to enjoy scrumptious bites or a connoisseur searching for the perfect ribs. Get ready to satisfy your senses as you learn why any true foodie must visit these BBQ cities.
Kansas City Missouri
Kansas City barbecue is in a league of its own. This Midwestern city is the home to some of the best pit-cooked barbecues in the country. The barbecue is so delicious in Kansas City that Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has found himself in culinary heaven. This city’s barbecue tradition began in the 1900s and has never let loose its stranglehold on residents entranced by the Pied Piper-esque smells of smoke and cooked pork. When in Kansas City, you want the best barbecue money can buy. It is hard to look further than Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue. Opened in 1906, this legendary barbecue restaurant is so valued in the BBQ community that it has its own Wikipedia page. The Internet aside, there are dozens of other BBQ restaurants in Kansas City to make anyone want to stop and smell the pork.
The Cradle of Country Music, Memphis, Tennessee, is also world-famous for its barbecue. Memphis is another city with a unique style of BBQ dry rub and an obsession with pork. In particular, visitors should stop for ribs or pulled pork in Memphis. Central BBQ should be one of your first stops in Memphis. With pork shoulder and ribs, dry-rub wings, and smoked sausage, Central BBQ is a mouth-watering delight of a restaurant sure to fill anyone up with pork. Payne’s Original Bar-B-Q is another Memphis classic in the BBQ community. Since 1972, Payne’s has served one of Memphis’ best-chopped pork sandwiches.
We cannot list the best cities for barbecue without putting on a cowboy hat, saying “Yeehaw,” and making a bee-line to the Lone Star State. Texas gets some serious love on this list, so get ready to stay a while in Austin and taste the city’s best BBQ. Texas barbecue is unique in its own right, with a focus on brisket. That focus has brought food lovers from all over the country to Texas in search of the best brisket sandwich. Franklin Barbecue, for example, is already famous thanks to pitmaster Aaron Franklin. Franklin’s brisket cooking method is so well-known that he sells lessons on how to cook brisket on Masterclass. There is also Interstellar BBQ. Yes, the food is out of this world, so we can get that joke out of the way. Texas Monthly recently crowned this joint the second-best barbecue restaurant in the state, so get ready for your appetite to reach for the stars.
Here is a town many of you may not have ever heard of when it comes to barbecue restaurants. Well, it is in Texas, so we can pull out the GPS to get us to Lockhart. While the average person may not know much about Lockhart, the Texas Legislature did crown the town just 35 miles outside of Austin as the Barbecue Capital of Texas. We will start with a stop at Kreuz Market, where we hope you have packed your patience. Lines outside the door may put some hesitation into many, but not us. This monster-sized restaurant will fill you up with enough ribs and brisket to put you to sleep. Then you have Black’s Barbecue, where a third-generation pitmaster labors to live up to his family’s namesake. Open since 1932, Black’s boasts that it is one of the oldest barbecue restaurants in Texas. Lockhart’s reputation as a barbecue town precedes itself.
The “Jewel of the South” lives up to its reputation as one of the seats of commerce in the Southeast. Atlanta, Georgia, may have been home to the 1996 Summer Olympics, but it is also home to some of the best soul food-inspired barbecue in the U.S. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is one of those restaurants. Started by a pair of brothers, Fox Bros. quickly became the place in Atlanta for Texas-inspired barbecue. You might come for the brisket, but you will want to stay for the jumbo wings. While Texas and Missouri have plenty to say about barbecue, what would you say if we told you Atlanta is home to one of the best Korean BBQ joints in America? Heirloom Market is the place to be if you are seeking Korean-inspired barbecue.
Yes, we are heading back to Texas. The Lone Star State has too much ground to cover with its barbecue stylings. With Dallas being a football town, the barbecue has to be good, right? Well, it is fantastic. Start at Hutchins, where you will find enough brisket, ribs, and baked beans to enjoy. You can also start your meal with Texas Twinkies, a jalapeno stuffed with cream cheese and brisket and wrapped in bacon. Are you craving a smoked turkey leg? Intrinsic Smokehouse Brewery + BBQ Catering can be your next stop. Be sure and come on down for breakfast to get a biscuit. Check out where to find the best BBQ in Dallas!
Lexington North Carolina
Lexington, North Carolina, is known as the BBQ Capital of the World due to The Barbecue Festival held every October. We do not have to tell you, but can you imagine the delicious smells in that city during the festival? Lexington is home to Carolina-style barbecue flavored with a vinegar-based sauce. While that might turn a few heads, that flavoring continues to have fans all over the U.S. There is no better place to indulge in that type of BBQ than at Lexington Barbecue. Cooked with wood and coal, Lexington cooks up legendary cuts of meat daily. Then there is Bar-B-Q Center, where locals love their hushpuppies and red coleslaw. The barbecue sides might be incredible, but the meat is the star of the show.
Nashville is the Country Music Capital of the World, so how is it also one of the best cities for barbecue? That thought is pretty easy to explain. Starting with Butchertown Hall, visitors to Music City can enjoy a German-style BBQ with a punch of Texas love with its brisket. Then there is Edley’s Bar-B-Que, where you can find yourself back in love with a meat and three sides dish. Do not shy away from the Nashville Hot Chicken, either!
New York, NY
Wait, did we add New York City to this list to cause a scene? Definitely not. While NYC is the ultimate culinary melting pot, we are not dismissing Big Apple barbecue. Barbecue isn’t just for the Southern food cities! While urban sprawl might stop many people from considering NYC as a top-tier BBQ city, the city can gladly stand among the BBQ giants. Hudson Smokehouse in the Bronx receives high praise here on the strength of its pork belly. Get the brisket on Saturday. Virgil’s Real BBQ is a Times Square staple with pulled pork, brisket, and barbecue beans on the bold menu. Check out the best barbecue food in The Big Apple!
St. Louis Missouri
We are back in Missouri! While Kansas City takes our crown, St. Louis is far from the BBQ little brother in this case. St. Louis comes in late on our list due to geography. With so many BBQ traditions surrounding this portion of the U.S., tourists can get a taste of any BBQ. Pappy’s Smokehouse, for example, gives you Memphis BBQ with pulled pork and smoked ribs. Sugarfire Smoke House is another St. Louis success story with six restaurants in the city and plans for further expansion. Trust us on the slaw-topped pulled pork sandwich here.
Asheville North Carolina
Oh, Asheville. What can we say about you that has not already been said about your culinary community? Asheville may have dozens of fine dining and fun restaurants to choose from if you are a tourist, but this city’s BBQ restaurants are worth your time and money. Bear’s Smokehouse is an Asheville landmark for BBQ. Come for the burnt ends, but stay for the smoked sausage. Luella’s BBQ is another classic BBQ restaurant in Asheville, serving up ribs, fried okra, pulled pork, and collards with a focus on family recipes.
Okay, one more Texas town. That is all. Houston is all about smoked meats. Some of the best BBQ restaurants in the world are in the Houston area. Tejas Chocolate & BBQ is a unique Houston BBQ restaurant that found a way to infuse chocolate into the mix. Then there is Corkscrew BBQ, where the brisket, pulled pork, link sausage, and turkey all share the flame-kissed spotlight.
Chicago might be home to some of the best hot dogs in America, but it can also lay claim to being the last on our list of best cities for barbecue. You may not realize it, but large metropolitan cities can have delicious BBQs. Soul & Smoke of Evanston brings Texas-style BBQ to the Chicago masses. Baby back ribs and brisket adorn the menu of this classic restaurant. We cannot leave Chicago without mentioning Earl’s BBQ. This little BBQ hamlet serves up smoked salmon and enough Polish sausage to feed the defensive line of the 1985 Chicago Bears.