Barbecue is one of the South’s most beloved art forms. The pitmaster is the artist, smoke is the paintbrush, and meat is the masterpiece. We may disagree on our favorite styles and flavors depending on the state or region from which we hail, but at least we can all agree on our love for its tender, sticky, saucy, or dry-rubbed goodness—it’s in our blood. So from old-school classics to up-and-coming hot spots, here’s a few joints doing barbecue right.
1. CENTRAL BBQ
One-of-a-kind smoking methods, friendly faces, and tender meat are the heart and soul at Central BBQ—and only the best cuts are good enough for their guests. Maybe that’s why they’ve had to expand, opening four different locations in the same city just to keep up with demand. But don’t let that make you lazy—you’ll still have to compete with the crowds to get a taste.
2. SAW’S BBQ
Locations in Birmingham, Alabama
White sauce is a must-try when you’re in the mood for barbecue in the great state of Alabama, and Saw’s is one of the best places to get your fix. As you’d expect, the menu includes favorites such as chicken and ribs, but the Pork N’ Greens (smoked pulled pork served over greens and cheese grits topped with a mountain of crispy onion rings) is the dish we can’t get enough of.
3. PIERCE’S PITT BAR-B-QUE
A Virginia tradition since 1971, Pierce’s long and delicious history sets it apart from the rest. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or hundredth visit, you’re always greeted with a warm welcome, homey atmosphere, and comforting aroma wafting from the kitchen.
Step up to the counter and order from their plentiful selection of plates and specials, including the Smokehouse Special, our top pick.
4. LITTLE RICHARD’S BBQ
Locations in North Carolina
Family owned and operated for more than 20 years, Little Richard’s now serves up their famous secret family recipes at each of their soon-to-be five locations across the state. You can expect classic, North Carolina-style barbecue with all the fixings, but the juicy pork shoulder—hickory smoked each day for 16 hours—is a must. Be sure to ask for extra Lexington dip.
5. DEM 2 BROTHERS & A GRILL
Charleston, West Virginia
From selling his scrumptious barbecue and famous sauce on the side of the road to owning two brick-and-mortar locations plus a food truck, Chef Adrian Wright’s success and superior flavors speak for themselves. This unassuming, laid-back local hangout has quickly become one of Charleston’s hottest commodities, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down any time soon.
6. HOME TEAM BBQ
Locations in South Carolina
After renovating a historic Charleston filling station, Chef Aaron Siegel and his team have taken the Lowcountry barbecue scene by storm with fun and inviting neighborhood joints that fuse tasty traditions with famed Southern hospitality. Experimentation drives what they do, and the menu is constantly showcasing new and delicious options like the BBQ Burrito and Smoked Shrimp tacos that’ll make any true barbecue-lover swoon.
7. FRANKLIN BARBECUE
Pull up a chair and prepare your taste buds for a mouthwatering ride through some of the best ’cue Texas has to offer. Owner, cookbook author, and James Beard Foundation Award-winner Aaron Franklin knows a thing or two about satisfying the masses. His smoked brisket has sold out every day since the restaurant opened, so remember to get in line early for your chance to grab a plate.
8. TWO BROS. BBQ MARKET
San Antonio, Texas
Custom-made smoke pits, a secret dry rub recipe, and family-friendly flair are the key to Jason and Jake Dady’s success in San Antonio. This year they celebrate their first decade of service while continuing to pride themselves on their ability to combine classic Texas barbecue with a unique “down-home market twist.” Give the Cherry Glazed Baby Back Ribs a try the next time you’re in town—you’ll be happy you did.
9. THE SHED BBQ
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
First impressions can be deceiving when it comes to The Shed’s shack-style setup, but the award-winning food and eclectic décor are the true embodiment of a classic joint. There’s plenty on the menu to satisfy any barbecue cravings, but our sights are set on the Original Shed Combo, loaded with two choices of slow-cooked meats and two sides. Try to get a table with a view of the stage to watch the live entertainment while you enjoy your meal.
10. FOX BROS. BAR-B-Q
This Atlanta institution’s roots actually trace back to The Lone Star State. Twin brothers Jonathan and Justin Fox decided to bring a little taste of the Texas-style barbecue they grew up on along with them after relocating to Georgia. Now the Fox brothers are two of the city’s most notable names in barbecue, attracting crowds of hungry fans into their locations each and every night.