45 Top Barbecue Spots from Coast to Coast

For the best brisket, burnt ends, brined meats and all-around awesome ’cue throughout the country, consult this list of top contenders and get ready to get messy.

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Photo By: John Nolcox

Heirloom Market BBQ in Atlanta

If you’re in Atlanta and have a hankering for some barbecue that goes beyond the usual, head over to Heirloom Market, where you’ll find "Seoul" signature items made with Korean spices. This is no fast food — these dishes are smoked and cooked slow, and prepared carefully step by step. Case in point: the Spicy Korean Pork Sandwich. The cooks debone a pork shoulder and cut it down into half-inch-thick fillets, before marinating them in gochujang and smoking them. Then they chop the pork into cubes, apply Korean BBQ sauce, and pile it on a potato bun from a local bakery. Finally, they add the finishing touches: kimchi slaw, pickles, and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and sliced scallions. The result is a winner.

R&R BBQ in Salt Lake City

The founders of R&R Barbeque — twins Rod and Roger Livingston — got into barbecue as a hobby a few years ago and decided to turn pro after rising to the top of Utah’s competitive circuit and winning such contests as the Jack Daniels World BBQ Championship, the American Royal and Sam’s National Championship. In partnership with Four Foods Group, they now have four locations in the state, with three more on the way, plus an outpost for hungry basketball fans in Salt Lake City’s Vivint Smart Home Arena. Menu highlights include the brisket tacos, the hearty mac and cheese, and the delectable peach cobbler topped with homemade whipped cream, but the brothers’ claim to fame is The Caveman burger: a patty composed of one-third of a pound of Angus beef with smoked andouille, stacked high with seasoned pulled pork, topped with fried jalapenos and melted Jack cheese, and served drowning in housemade sweet BBQ sauce on a kaiser bun.

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama

"It’s all in the sauce" at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, where locals have flocked since 1925, when Big Bob himself would serve barbecue from a table of oak planks nailed to a sycamore tree in his backyard. The menu’s star is the pulled pork shoulder, regarded as the best in town and far beyond: The recipe has earned 10 world championship titles. Other signature dishes include the chicken with white BBQ sauce and the renowned lemon icebox pie.

Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue in Richmond, Virginia

This Richmond BBQ institution has been in business since 1992, dishing out award-winning spareribs made from a recipe that’s been around a lot longer — over 150 years, according to company lore. The ribs have gained Buz and Ned’s exposure on hit shows like Man vs. Food and Throwdown With Bobby Flay, but they’re not the only standouts here. Also noteworthy are apps and extras like crispy fried okra with Cajun seasoning and ranch dressing, charcoal-grilled bacon-wrapped shrimp and Buz’s Chili, a seasonal dish that’s made thick, with six varieties of peppers, four meats and two kinds of beans.

Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous in Memphis, Tennessee

At this landmark founded in 1948, you’ll find delectable Memphis-style pork ribs infused with a distinctive blend of Cajun and Greek seasonings. What you won’t find here is a smoker — at Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, the ribs are cooked by hand over charcoal, while being basted with a vinegar-based wash. Then they’re sprinkled with that signature seasoning blend just prior to serving. The ribs are legendary, but they’re not the only options here: Beef brisket, charcoal-grilled chicken or lamb, red beans and rice, and Mama’s Greek salad round out the menu. You can enjoy it all while grooving to a soundtrack of Memphis soul and Delta blues in this spot tucked away in an alley across from the Peabody Hotel.

Pecos Pit Bar-B-Que in Seattle

Ron and Debra Wise have been serving up slow-roasted, alder-smoked beef and pork to diners in their original Pecos Pit location since 1980 and recently branched out with outposts in West Seattle and Sodo. Their justly famed meats can be enjoyed in any of a number of presentations, including sandwiches (offered in three sizes: classic, mini and slider), wraps, salads, meat-topped spuds, and bowls of mac and four cheeses. There’s just one barbecue sauce here — aptly named The Only Sauce — but it comes in mild, medium and hot levels of intensity.

Smokey D's BBQ in Des Moines, Iowa

Since 2006 Smokey D’s has risen from its humble origins as a trailer in Darren and Sherry Warth’s driveway to its current spot as a beloved restaurant with three locations in Des Moines and a winner of over 75 state barbecue championships and over 800 local, regional and national barbecue awards. Some of the standouts on the menu include the pit ham, pulled chicken and burnt ends. All this barbecue goodness comes at affordable prices, too — the Smokey D’s special will set you back just nine bucks, and it comes with a chopped pork sandwich, BBQ beans, coleslaw and a fountain drink. Now that’s a deal.

Turnagain Arm Pit BBQ in Anchorage, Alaska

Salmon isn’t the only reason for food lovers to visit Alaska — there’s top-notch barbecue to be found here too. Acclaimed pitmaster Jack Goodsell apprenticed with Mike Mills of 17th St. BBQ, one of the biggest names in the ’cue game, and uses a classic low-and-slow technique that draws from Southern traditions. You can rest assured his meats and sides are up for the task of pleasing your palate. Try the popular smoked beans (six beans and three cuts of meat, finished in the smoker) and The Boar Tide sandwich, and wash them down with a local brew.

Skylight Inn BBQ in Ayden, North Carolina

The Jones family has been cooking whole hogs over wood in this location since Pete Jones built the restaurant in 1947, when he was just 17. Today Pete’s grandson Sam, who has been named one of the top 10 pitmasters in the South, carries on the tradition. The menu remains simple: chopped pork, BBQ chicken, and homemade flat old-fashioned cornbread and sweet coleslaw. For dessert, there’s three-layer chocolate or pineapple cake, also made from scratch. Why mess with a classic?

Owlbear Barbecue in Denver

Perhaps owner Karl Fallenius was prescient when he chose to name his BBQ truck after Dungeons & Dragons monsters that are "renowned for their voracious appetite for flesh": Denver diners’ insatiable craving for Owlbear’s St. Louis-Style Spareribs has forced him to expand into a brick-and-mortar location on Larimer Street. The mustard-slathered ribs are rubbed with salt and pepper, coffee grounds, brown sugar and chile powders, a flavorful blend that keeps the crowds coming back for more. Other menu standouts are the brisket, the mac and cheese, and the pastrami, which is a weekly special with a cult following.

Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington, Vermont

A day on the slopes in Burlington is the perfect way to work up an appetite for a big BBQ meal. At Bluebird you can warm up and refuel with hearty dishes like poutine with pulled pork, barbecue seitan on a brioche bun or a Nashville Hot sandwich (fried chicken with Nashville hot sauce, pickles and ranch dressing that comes in your choice of spicy or not). Wash it all down with a Vermont beer or cider before you move on to the s'more-like chocolate pie with graham cracker crumble. Don’t count the calories; you can ski them off the next day.

Blister's BBQ in Rexburg, Idaho

Blister’s slogan, "bold flavor, no frills," neatly sums up the appeal of this southeast Idaho barbecue joint. The owners serve up a full menu of hearty meats — pulled pork, beef brisket, tri-tip, ribs, turkey, cheesesteak and chicken quarters — from both their main location inside a gas station and a food truck they take to local events and rodeos. These sons of a potato farmer also cook up fries that are freshly cut from Russet Burbank potatoes grown just up the hill from the restaurant.

Twin Anchors Restaurant in Chicago

Looking for old-school barbecue in Chicago? Just about any local you ask will steer you to this tavern, which opened in 1932 and operated as a speakeasy called Tante Lee Soft Drinks during Prohibition. The baby back ribs are slow-cooked for seven hours, then served with sauce in your preferred style: the sweet and spicy Prohibition, the tangy Zesty or Twin Anchors’ original mild sauce. Over the years the ribs have won many fans, including Frank Sinatra, who would have them shipped to him (with coleslaw) while he was on the road.

Fat Rick’s BBQ in Wilmington, Delaware

Fat Rick’s place at the top of local and national best-barbecue lists proves that owner Rick Betz’s claim "Nobody beats MY meat!" is no idle boast. Betz offers classic barbecue fare like Carolina pulled pork, Texas beef brisket, Memphis-style dry rubbed ribs and honey BBQ chicken, plus coleslaw, for takeout from his brick-and-mortar location in Wilmington. And if you dream of hosting a BBQ bash in your very own backyard, look no further — Fat Rick’s is the only barbecue-focused mobile catering company in the area.

Squealers in Indianapolis

You’ll find award-winning Southern-style barbecue at Squealers’ three locations in central Indiana. The pitmasters here invest serious time in their work, smoking the meats for 14 hours over a blend of cherry and hickory woods. The labor-intensive brisket is rubbed 24 hours before going on the smoker and sprayed every 45 minutes with apple juice, then cooked at 180 degrees and wrapped to finish at 202 degrees. Among the other fan favorites are the Barbeque Nachos and Jan's Spud (named after the founder’s mother), which is an extra-large loaded baked potato stuffed with pulled pork or chicken or smoked turkey.

The Shed in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

The Shed is truly a family affair. Brad Orrison and his sister Brooke Lewis built the takeout BBQ and blues joint themselves (with a pile of odds and ends Brad stashed away from his college days dumpster diving) in 2001, and then set to work perfecting their barbecue technique. Brother Brett, a sound engineer who had worked at House of Blues in New Orleans, brought his music-industry expertise to the venture. Mom Linda does the marketing, "G-Maw" staffs the beer bar and "Daddy O" Craig is the "Saucerer," making BBQ sauce for The Shed’s two takeout locations and its online shop. It’s no surprise that family recipes like G-Maw’s Famous Beans and Daddy O’s Creamy Cole Slaw are on the menu along with pecan wood-smoked ribs, chicken and sausage.

Rodney Scott's BBQ in Charleston, South Carolina

Pitmaster Rodney Scott set out on the road to BBQ fame when he cooked his first whole hog at the ripe old age of 11, and today he is widely celebrated for his Lowcountry-style slow-smoked pulled pork, chicken and ribs. When in Charleston, try the Ribeye Sandwich, his barbecue spin on a cheesesteak (Scott was born in Philly and grew up in South Carolina); the slow-smoked spareribs covered in a special rub and slathered in his signature sauce; or the chef’s personal favorite, Chicken Perlo, a chicken, sausage and rice dish. All the sides, including hush puppies, fresh-cut fries and baked mac 'n' cheese with a crispy breadcrumb topping, are homemade, as is the banana pudding inspired by Scott’s childhood memories. This is Southern comfort food at its best.

Joe's Kansas City Barbecue in Kansas City, Kansas

Sure, the menu at Joe’s includes all the barbecue standards. But its real claim to fame is the Z-Man Sandwich — a one-of-a-kind creation that features sliced smoked brisket, smoked provolone cheese, a couple of onion rings and a bit of barbecue sauce, all stuffed into a kaiser roll. It’s named for local radio host Mike Zarrick, aka The Z-Man, who ordered the sandwich and raved about it on the air. His listeners began streaming into Joe’s asking for "the Z-Man," and the rest is barbecue sandwich history. If you can’t get to Kansas City, you’re not out of luck — Joe’s will ship Z-Man chicken, brisket and pulled pork DIY kits directly to your door.

Russell Street Bar-B-Que in Portland, Oregon

Fresh, local and naturally raised ingredients are par for the course in Portland, Oregon — even when it comes to barbecue. The chefs at Russell Street use nearby purveyors like Scratch Farms for their chicken, Sheridan Fruits for their produce, Carlton Farms for their pork, and Oregon Fuel & Firewood for the white oak that fills their smoker. The BBQ portion of the menu holds all the standards, like brisket, pulled pork, ribs and chicken, as well as rarities like smoked meatloaf and smoked, grilled tofu. There’s even a fish dish: pan-fried cod with housemade tartar sauce.

Sugarfire Smoke House in St. Louis

Here’s a fun fact: With six locations (and counting), Sugarfire Smoke House goes through a whopping 6 tons of meat per day! But this place is about quality as well as quantity: Sugarfire consistently tops the lists of best barbecue in St. Louis, thanks to its succulent brisket, pulled pork and ribs, signature sandwiches and sides. Its chefs have competed in just about every major food event and been featured on shows like Burgers, Brew & ’Que and Beat Bobby Flay. They also take pride in going beyond the traditional BBQ menu to offer inventive dishes like smoked fried artichokes with lemon aioli and pork belly hush puppies with jalapeno jelly.

Little Miss BBQ in Phoenix

No place in Phoenix does combo platters — an indecisive orderer’s wish come true — better than Little Miss BBQ. Meats like brisket, turkey, sausage and pork ribs are smoked in Arizona oak and pecan wood and served by the pound on a tray lined with butcher paper, accompanied by onions, pickles, jalapenos and white bread. Co-owner Bekke Holmes’ smoked pecan pie is the only dessert on the menu...and delicious enough to deserve that distinction.

Mabel's BBQ in Cleveland, Ohio

Among the newest styles of barbecue is one employing a mustard-based sauce, Eastern European spices and applewood-smoked meat. It’s a style innovated by Michael Symon and practiced masterfully at his restaurant Mabel’s BBQ. This is a casual, laid-back place with industrial lighting, exposed brick and communal picnic tables with folding chairs — the perfect setting to chow down on "pig parts," sandwiches with burnt ends, or a plate of kielbasa and spare ribs with housemade kraut, accompanied by a craft beer or bourbon from Mabel’s impressive selection. For a local treat, be sure to order the Polish Girl, Chef Symon’s version of the classic Polish Boy sausage sandwich native to Cleveland.

McClure's in New Orleans

When you’re in the heart of the Big Easy, stop by McClure’s for one of their standout sandwiches. Top picks include the Barbecue Banh Mi, owner Neil McClure’s smoky twist on the Vietnamese classic, and the Barbecue Ribwich, an upgrade of a fast-casual favorite that features slow-smoked rib meat with pickles and onions on brioche. If you’re not in a sandwich mood, some of the other solid options are the classic wings, the BBQ poutine or the fried boudin balls made with Irish Channel Stout.

Big Bad Wolf's House of Barbeque in Baltimore

Big Bad Wolf’s, in the little yellow brick house at 5713 Harford Road, serves all the standard barbecue selections — pork or beef ribs, Eastern Shore chicken (with Old Bay, of course), and grilled catfish, salmon or tilapia steak sandwiches. But it’s the sauces that are the real stars here. There’s sharp, peppery Carolina Mustard and red-hot Carolina Vinegar; smoky-sweet Kansas City Sweet and bolder, hotter Kansas City Spicy; spicy-sweet, tomato-based Texas Pit; mild Sweet Honey; and XXX, hot enough to blow the house down. Load up on barbecue, but don’t miss the sides: Candied sweet potatoes, Mom-style macaroni and cheese, and tarragon potato salad are just a few of the finest.

Zeke’s Rock 'n' Roll BBQ in Ferndale, Michigan

Rock 'n' roll and barbecue make a winning pair, just like Zeke’s Four Horsemen (brisket, burnt ends, pulled pork, bacon and Monterey Jack topped with sriracha aioli) and a good draft beer. You can enjoy it all at this boisterous tavern that has a patio to showcase live rock 'n' roll bands. The menu features classic BBQ and burgers, and favorites include the Overkill (two half-pound burgers topped with American, Swiss and cheddar cheeses plus pulled pork, ham, brisket, bacon gravy and fresh jalapenos) and the Warpig (a hoagie bun filled with bacon-jalapeno popper dip, homemade sausage, bacon, pulled pork and Monterey Jack, all topped with sriracha slaw). It’s a safe bet that you won’t leave hungry.

The Notorious P.I.G. in Missoula, Montana

The pitmasters at The Notorious P.I.G. are on a mission to produce food that is sustainable as well as delicious; after opening the kitchen every morning at 4 a.m., they cook only enough to get them through the day. You’ll find the BBQ classics (ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket) at this counter-serve eatery, as well as a few items you probably won’t find anywhere else, like smoked cranberry-cayenne chicken wings. Because the chefs believe so strongly in their expert barbecue technique and in the rubs they use on the meat, they serve all sauces on the side. If you do opt for one, try the Zootang (tangy with a smooth burn).

LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue in Austin, Texas

Chef Evan LeRoy and manager Sawyer Lewis have brought fine-dining trends like nose-to-tail, stem-to-root cooking and seasonal and locally sourced ingredients to the food truck realm, making their truck a can’t-miss stop for any barbecue lover visiting Austin. The rotating selection may include brisket, burgers or pulled pork as well as featuring alternative cuts like beef cheeks, porchetta, clod, lamb neck and more, all sourced from Texas ranches. LeRoy, the founding pitmaster and former executive chef of Freedmen’s, also serves up imaginative entrees like BBQ fried rice and mac-and-cheese-stuffed quail.

Hamilton Pork in Jersey City, New Jersey

When you’re in Jersey City and looking to enjoy epic food and drinks in rustic digs, head over to Hamilton Pork. The Kung POW Wings are smoked for two hours and then fried and tossed in the restaurant’s secret Kung POW sauce (an almost 10-year-old recipe), and the Philly Taco is composed of brisket smoked for 17 hours, pickled jalapeno, sauteed onion, and the same cheese sauce that stars in the mac and cheese found elsewhere on the menu. Besides doing tacos right (especially the Brussels sprout and pescado varieties), the chefs here know what’s up with Mexican street corn — it’s cut off the cob, tossed in an adobo chile aioli and topped with Cotija cheese and paprika. The dessert choices are limited, but all you need to know is to order the addictively delicious Churro Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich. The moment you sink your teeth into a homemade churro batter waffle tossed in cinnamon sugar and filled with salted caramel ice cream made by from neighborhood ice cream parlor Milk Sugar Love, you’ll know you’re going to go for seconds.

Whole Hog in Santa Fe, New Mexico

Ask in-the-know locals where to find good ’cue and they’re likely to mention Whole Hog — no surprise, since this joint has been serving New Mexicans award-winning Memphis-style eats since 2006. Its founders, Mike "Sarge" Davis and Ron Blasingame, perfected the dry rubs and recipes that now are prepared daily at Whole Hog back in their days competing as "The Southern Gentlemen’s Culinary Society" throughout the South and Southwest. The menu also offers seven devastatingly good sauces to complement the pecan-smoked meats. The standout side dish is the loaded baked potato with butter, sour cream, cheese and chives, which can be topped with pulled pork, beef brisket or pulled chicken.

Hometown Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn

The question of which New York barbecue joint is the best inspires heated debate, but Hometown, in Red Hook, Brooklyn, usually grabs the gold. Ribs, brisket, pulled pork, lamb belly and turkey are smoked in a pit over oak wood and served at a walk-up counter on a first-come, first-served basis until the day’s offerings run out. An added attraction is Hometown’s list of craft beers and its wide range of American whiskeys, seasonal cocktails and locally produced wines.

Mandan, North Dakota: Taylor Made BBQ

Getting into the ’cue game was quite a detour for Adam and Kendra Taylor: Previously, he was an aerial application pilot (aka crop duster), and she was preparing for a career as a physician assistant. Their decision to pursue their long-held dream of opening a restaurant was a boon for the town of Mandan, North Dakota. Today, Adam mans the smoker while Kendra turns out sides and sauces as well as desserts. Some of their best dishes include fall-off-the-bone ribs, smothered green beans and creamy cinnamon apple-nut salad. Make sure you arrive here on the early side, because lunch starts at 11 a.m. and ends when everything is sold out.

Becky’s BBQ in Middletown, Rhode Island

Even though it’s located in the smallest state, this quaint country-style eatery caters to big appetites. Since its doors opened in 1998, the folks at Becky’s have been committed to bringing a taste of the South to the Northeast. They achieve their goal with their authentic low-and-slow cooking process, barbecuing their meats over hickory wood for many hours — 18 for the pulled pork and beef, which are served with your choice of sauce in Kansas City or North Carolina style, or au naturel. Whether you order a lunch or a dinner plate to eat in or take out, definitely try the Ritz Pecan Pie for dessert.

Terlingua in Portland, Maine

Owners Pliny and Melanie Reynolds spent a decade living in Austin before they came to Maine and opened this Texas-style barbecue restaurant. This place has serious ’cue cred and is known for its house-smoked meats, but Chef Wilson Rothschild also ventures outside the limits of the Lone Star State, incorporating Mexican, Caribbean and Southwestern flavors into his dishes. Terlingua has won praise for its ceviches and margaritas and for hosting the best brunch in town. A must-try specialty is the BBQ brisket burnt ends with coffee agave sauce.

McClard’s in Hot Springs, Arkansas

If you’re looking for some killer barbecue dished out in a spot with a colorful history, head to McClard’s, a hometown favorite since 1928. The story goes that the McClard family, who owned a hotel in the 1920s, accepted a top-secret BBQ sauce recipe as payment from a guy who didn’t have the cash to pay his $10 tab. That recipe was good enough to inspire the McClards to get out of the lodging business and into the restaurant game, and can be tasted today in their Hot Tamale Spread for two (which consists of tamales, Fritos, beans, chopped beef, barbecue sauce and onions). It’s still top-secret, too, and now resides in a safe-deposit box downtown.

Rowdy Hog Smokin' BBQ in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Better bring a bib when you dine at Rowdy Hog — the proprietors promise that their barbecue is mouthwatering and their sauce is "so tangy it’ll make you drool." This no-frills, family-owned joint specializes in good old-fashioned BBQ meals. Besides the championship-winning ribs, there are combo platters of juicy pulled pork, tender beef brisket or spicy Buffalo chicken, traditional sides like cornbread, coleslaw and mac 'n' cheese, and apps like mozzarella sticks, onion rings and jalapeno poppers.

Dem 2 Brothers & A Grill in Charleston, West Virginia

When Adrian Wright came to Charleston five years ago, it was just to attend his best friend’s wedding. But while he was in town, the former barbecue-joint manager set up a roadside stand selling his own delicious ribs, pulled pork and sauce. The locals’ response — with customers multiplying daily and lines stretching down the road — convinced him to put down roots in Charleston and start a barbecue business there. Today his restaurant, which has been featured on Southern Fried Road Trip, serves up a total of 700 pounds of pulled pork, 1,200 pounds of ribs and 350 pounds of chicken to patrons weekly. Wright’s sides, like mac 'n' cheese, collard greens and sweet potato casserole, include family recipes that have been passed down over the years.

Truck U Barbeque in Las Vegas

At Truck U, Chef Mike Minor dishes out barbecue with a Latin twist. Think pulled pork tortas with honey-chipotle cabbage slaw and duck-fat fries, slow-smoked brisket burritos with smoked Gouda and Monterey Jack, and BBQ fries with crispy burnt ends or short ribs plus caramelized onions and blue cheese. To add to your devouring pleasure, all this BBQ goodness is served out of a truck that’s covered with tattoo art and has a "rockabilly vibe."

Smoke Shack in Milwaukee

For fans of dry-rubbed, slow-smoked barbecue, Smoke Shack has bad news and good news. The bad news is that they don’t accept reservations and much of their menu sells out before the day is over. The good news is that they have three locations in the Milwaukee area: in the Historic Third Ward, in Wauwatosa at the Mayfair Collection and in the concession stands at Miller Park Stadium, where the Brewers play. Wherever you partake, consider two of their inventive menu options: Meaty Mac & 4-Cheese, a "Sammich" with cheesy macaroni and your choice of Texas pork or brisket; or The Kansas City Eggroll, made with premium Iowa pulled pork, Monterey Jack cheese, cabbage, honey mustard and Kansas City sauce. For a more traditional BBQ feast, the selection of locally sourced, certified humanely raised meats includes pulled chicken or pork, pork sausage, spareribs, baby back ribs and beef brisket. Can’t decide? Opt for the sampler that includes them all, plus fried corn, coleslaw, cornbread, Mac & 4-Cheese and sweet potato fries.

Smokestack Urban Barbecue in Worcester, Massachusetts

Visit Smokestack on a Thursday evening between 6 and 8 and you can get in on "bacon happy hour," when all patrons receive free candied applewood-smoked bacon. No matter when you arrive, though, the kitchen will be serving up hearty apps like smoked wings tossed in honey habanero, chipotle or Buffalo sauce; homemade BBQ chips served with bacon-blue cheese dip; and the aptly named Over the Top Fries, which are piled high with pork, brisket, chicken, BBQ sauce, cheese, jalapeno and sour cream. If you’re still hungry, try one of the killer po’ boys (shrimp, catfish or oyster) or the BBQ Kitchen Sink, composed of chopped pork, brisket and chicken topped with cheddar and bacon.

Smokeshow Barbeque in Concord, New Hampshire

Owner and pitmaster Matt Gfroerer, a New Hampshire native, learned his craft while living in Austin and describes Smokeshow as "a little bit of the South with a lot of New England attitude." His menu includes barbecue’s greatest hits — ribs, brisket, turkey and pulled pork —along with Southern sides like mac and cheese, collards and cornbread. Perhaps the best-known dish here, however, is the Finn Jack Frito Pie: Fritos and baked beans, plus brisket, turkey and pork chopped up and sauteed in a homemade sauce, all topped with cheese and sour cream. Can you handle it?

Guava Smoked in Honolulu

Woods like hickory, oak and pecan are staples in the smokers at most other 'cue joints, but this Honolulu establishment swears by strawberry guava wood. The wood, which comes from Brazil, has been used here since the '60s. It lends the house specialties — plates of duck, spicy pork and butterfish collars — a slight sweetness along with a smoky flavor.

The Cook & The Bear in West Hartford, Connecticut

Whether you’re a longtime barbecue lover or merely barbecue curious, you’ll feel at home here, where the motto is "BBQ for all." Chef Tyler Anderson of Millwright’s Restaurant and Jamie McDonald, owner of Bear's Smokehouse and former competitive eater, source their meats from the best farms and prepare them masterfully enough to satisfy barbecue aficionados. But new initiates won’t be overwhelmed by the portions and will find lots to love besides the meat, such as charred broccoli salad with sesame dressing and baked beans with greens. No matter what you order, try the Bloody Bear. This creative spin on the Bloody Mary is made with beets, maple chipotle and citrus, and garnished with house-cured beef jerky. Bet you can’t drink just one.

Old Hickory Bar-B-Que in Owensboro, Kentucky

Old Hickory opened in 1918. The secret of the restaurant’s longevity? Probably the fact that the cooking process here — slow cooking with hickory wood and a signature dip — has never changed. It might sound like an offbeat choice, but if you can order only one dish from the extensive menu of options, go for the mutton. "You don't hear much about mutton outside of Owensboro, but it’s our specialty," says owner John Foreman. "No one does it better." Little wonder, since it’s the meat that founder Charles "Pappy" Foreman first served when he entered the barbecue business in 1918.

Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ in Napa, California

What can turn a good barbecue meal into a great one? Wine, of course — something that the owners of Bounty Hunter obviously understand, judging by their location in Napa and their 18-page list of 400 bottles and 40 wines by the glass. For a delectable feast, pair one of those selections with one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, like the famed BH Beer Can Chicken, a Cajun-spiced whole free-range bird that you carve yourself (perhaps accompanied by the suggested Pinot Noir or Chardonnay) or the award-winning Smokin’ St. Louis-Cut Ribs (best complemented by the "Rib-Eatin' Reds" Flight).

Swine Southern Table & Bar in Coral Gables, Florida

If you’ve ever been to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, you might have heard of Swine but not had the chance to taste its grub — that’s how quickly it sells out. All the more reason to visit the restaurant’s home base in Coral Gables and get your full share of inventive spins on Southern cuisine. Swine, which bills itself as "the house of worship to the porcine pursuits," offers dishes that employ just about every part of the pig (including the head, in the Charleston Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka sauce). Pork of every persuasion permeates the menu; even the shrimp and grits arrive in a smoked bacon broth. There are also hearty Southern-style snacks like deviled eggs with redneck caviar, fried green tomatoes with smoked onion ranch dressing, and pimento cheese spread with bacon marmalade. And if you really want to embrace what this place is all about, swing by on Saturdays and Sundays for a "foot-stompin', soul-healin'" brunch and tell them we sent you.