Labor Day is upon us, and there’s no better way to celebrate than with some good old-fashioned barbecue. Join us here at Garden & Health as we embark on our third annual review of the best BBQ joints in America!
Most of us can agree that nothing beats sharing a beer with friends over a plate of juicy BBQ. Here is our list of five phenomenal BBQ places across the U.S. that are stars of their craft. We covered all the bases, from Texas-style ribs and Kansas City burnt ends to the simple southern-style smokehouses.
Green Street Smoked Meats (Chicago, IL)
Chicago is a city known primarily for its hotdogs and deep-dish pizza, but Green Street Smoked Meats is one of Chicago’s hidden barbeque gems. Tucked into an unassuming former warehouse in the city’s West Loop neighborhood, the rustic, industrial-style building is home to some of the best barbecue in the city. Specializing in smoky Texas-style fare, the restaurant offers plenty of backyard barbecue staples, including chicken, pastrami, beef short ribs, and pork belly, with generous side portions of cornbread, mac and cheese, and Frito pie. However, like any great Texas-style barbecue, their specialty is the brisket. They serve thick, tender cuts of their smoked meat with a flavorful peppery-char crust that is well worth the trip into the city.
Dem 2 Brothers and a Grill (Charleston, WV)
Started by a former NFL running back turned barbecue mastermind, Adrian “Bay” Wright, established a modest roadside barbecue spot, selling ribs while he was home for a friend’s wedding. His family and friends convinced him to stay and keep selling, and two years later, he found a storefront. Since then, Wright has been slinging his famous ribs with mustard mop sauce, pulled pork, and barbecue sauce at Dem 2 Brothers and a Grille, gaining the attention of the Food Network. The restaurant also consistently ranks on the top 10 lists for its homestyle barbecue and sides.
Herman’s Ribhouse (Fayetteville, AR)
This humble Arkansas spot is the epitome of good country-style barbecue. Founded by Fayetteville native Herman Tuck in 1964, the Northwest Arkansas staple has remained steeped in the same barbecue tradition for nearly 60 years. The menu features classics like barbecue chicken, steak, and burgers, but the reason to make the trek is the famous dry rub ribs. The small-town rib restaurant prepares its prime ribs differently than anyone else and finds its name on “best barbecue” lists across the country for years. Make the trip out and enjoy the barbecuing excellence that this southern-style restaurant embodies.
Kansas City Joe’s (Kansas City, KS)
Only in the barbecue world can one of the kings of Kansas City smoke serve long lines of customers out of the side of a gas station. BBQ legends Jeff and Joy Stehny have been doing that since they opened their flagship location on the corner of 46th and Mission in 1996. Before they opened their doors, they spent the better part of the early 90s making a name for themselves, grilling and smoking their way to multiple barbecue titles for their pork and brisket. However, over the years, KC Joe’s has made a name for itself, not for its traditional barbecue cuts but for its world-famous burnt ends.
These tender trimmings are the thin ends of meat that cook faster than the regular brisket. It’s no coincidence that burnt ends have become an essential part of Kansas City barbecue, and there’s no doubt that the folks at Kansas City Joe’s have played a role in their popularity.
Franklin BBQ (Austin, TX)
“Serving the best barbecue in the known universe” is the quote from the Texas Monthly that proudly adorns the homepage of Franklin BBQ’s website. Its high praise is impressive considering Texans are known for having a thing or two to say about barbecue. The restaurant’s superstar pitmaster, Aaron Franklin, has had his face plastered in culinary publications far and wide, winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef in 2015. He also gained the attention of the likes of the late Anthony Bourdain. Franklin BBQ, which he runs with his wife Stacy, commands lines around the corner of the Austin barbecue hub. People flock to the eatery for his world-famous brisket, although his pulled pork and ribs are just as special. The chefs cook everything on-site, and while technically it isn’t barbecue, the bourbon banana pie is worth standing in line. If you want a chance to snag some of Franklin’s world-renowned grille fare, get in line early — they sell out daily.