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20 Best Barbecue Restaurants in the US

Barbecue is one of the quintessential Southern American foods. Many BBQ chains in the US serve incredibly delicious barbecue, including regional variations like North Carolina, Kansas City, Memphis, and Texas.

With so many kinds of barbecue to try, you will want to get started immediately!

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the best BBQ chains in America, serving different regional variations of BBQ and tons of meat and sides.

Whether you’re a BBQ enthusiast or novice, you’re sure to find a barbecue restaurant on our list that will satisfy your craving.

20. Old Carolina Barbecue Company

Old Carolina Barbecue Company is a BBQ chain specializing in Carolina-style roadside barbecue.

There are 9 Old Carolina Barbecue Company locations, most of which are in Ohio, but one is in Pennsylvania.

Best friends and native Ohioans Brian Bailey and Tim Hug opened the first Old Carolina Barbecue Company in 2006.

Bailey and Hug developed their passion for Carolina-style barbecue during a road trip to North and South Carolina, where they visited the states’ iconic barbecue smokehouses, pits, and shacks.

Old Carolina Barbecue Company’s menu centers around Carolina-style barbecue, characterized by a low-and-slow cooking method and a vinegar-based barbecue sauce.

They serve pulled pork, chopped and sliced brisket, smoked ribs, and smoked chicken.

Old Carolina Barbecue Company also offers many delicious sides, including baked beans, mashed potatoes, hush puppies, coleslaw, green beans, fries, mac ‘n cheese, and cornbread muffins.

For the best variety, order the Ultimate Sampler, a massive platter with ribs, pulled pork, sliced brisket, pulled chicken, smokehouse wings, two sides, and two servings of cornbread.

19. Billy Sims BBQ

Billy Sims BBQ is a barbecue chain founded by and named after former Detroit Lions NFL player Billy Sims.

There are nearly 40 Billy Sims BBQ locations in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.

After NFL player Billy Sims retired from football, he met entrepreneur Jeff Jackson, with whom he shared a passion for barbecue.

In 2004, Sims and Jackson opened the first Billy Sims BBQ in Tulsa, Oklahoma, serving barbecue inspired by the regional variations of Kansas City and Texas.

The Billy Sims BBQ menu is extensive, featuring everything from ribs to brisket to pulled pork to sausage.

Billy Sims BBQ also offers a ton of sides, including baked beans, green beans, potato salad, coleslaw, mac n cheese, and Texas toast.

For a delicious, hearty lunch, we recommend one of Billy Sims BBQ’s smoked BBQ sandwiches, which can be made with brisket, pulled pork, sausage, chicken, turkey, or bologna.

Plus, each smoked BBQ sandwich comes with one side, a pickle, pepper, and onion.

18. Famous Dave’s BBQ

Famous Dave’s BBQ is a Midwestern BBQ chain that serves a wide array of signature barbecue varieties and meats.

There are almost 200 Famous Dave’s BBQ locations in 32 states.

The first Famous Dave’s BBQ was opened by Dave Anderson in Hayward, Wisconsin, in 1994.

Anderson spent over fifty years studying the art of barbecue from the greatest pitmasters in the American South and has brought all of this expertise to the menu of Famous Dave’s BBQ.

The Famous Dave’s BBQ menu offers a wide variety of meats, including St. Louis-style ribs, Texas-style brisket, Georgia-style pork, burnt ends, jalapeno cheddar sausage, roasted chicken, and catfish.

Famous Dave’s BBQ also offers a ton of delicious sides, including beans, sweet corn, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, fries, mac & cheese, chili, and cornbread muffins.

One of the best menu items at Famous Dave’s BBQ is their “Que Combos,” which allow you to pick one, two, or three types of meat and combine them with two sides of your choice and a cornbread muffin.

17. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is a combination of a BBQ restaurant, biker bar, and blues venue chain.

There are 7 Dinosaur Bar-B-Que locations in New York and New Jersey.

The first Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was a mobile concession stand at the 1983 Harley Rendezvous, a biker convention near Albany, New York.

Five years later, founder John Stage opened a permanent storefront in Syracuse, New York, serving as a quick-service lunch and dinner barbecue restaurant.

The Dinosaur Bar-B-Que menu offers various barbecued meats, including pulled pork, St. Louis-style ribs, brisket, jalapeno cheddar sausage, pork belly, and Alabama-style white chicken.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que’s combo plates allow you to combine two or three of your favorite barbecued meats with two sides and cornbread.

In addition, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is one of the few barbecue restaurants with options for vegetarians, like their BBQ Mushroom Reuben and Impossible Bar-B-Que Burger.

Lastly, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que offers a ton of delicious sides to enjoy alongside your entrees, like beans, fries, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, corn, simmered greens, BBQ fried rice, coleslaw, potato salad, and cucumber salad.

16. Red Hot & Blue

Red Hot & Blue is a BBQ chain specializing in Memphis-style barbecue.

There are 10 Red Hot & Blue locations in Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.

The first Red Hot & Blue was opened by Don Sundquist, Wendell Moore, Joel Wood, and Bob Friedman in Arlington, Virginia, in 1988.

The founders of Red Hot & Blue had established careers in politics and journalism but shared a passion for Memphis-style barbecue and blues music.

The Red Hot & Blue menu features a variety of hickory-smoked meats, including ribs, pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken, smoked sausage, smoked turkey breast, and caramelized burnt ends.

Red Hot & Blue also serves many sides, including coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans, fried okra, hushpuppies, collard greens, green beans, mac ‘n cheese, fries, and baked potatoes.

Red Hot & Blue’s BBQ plates allow you to combine your favorite hickory-smoked meat with two sides.

15. Calhoun’s

Calhoun’s is a BBQ restaurant specializing in Tennessee-style barbecue.

There are 9 Calhoun’s locations, all of which are in Tennessee.

The first Calhoun’s was opened in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1983.

That same year, the founders of Calhoun’s traveled to the National Rib Cook-Off in Cleveland, Ohio, where they won the prestigious “Best Ribs in America” grand prize.

The Calhoun’s menu revolves around traditional, hickory smoked meats, including their award-winning ribs, pork, hickory beef brisket, and chicken.

Calhoun’s also serves a variety of traditional Southern sides, like baked beans, baked cinnamon apples, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, and mac ‘n cheese.

Lastly, Calhoun’s serves their special hickory smoked prime rib each Friday and Saturday, also available in sandwich form.

14. Moe’s Original Bar B Que

Moe’s Original Bar B Que is a BBQ chain specializing in Alabama-style barbecue.

There are 50 Moe’s Original Bar B Que locations in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Moe’s Original Bar B Que was founded by three best friends, Ben Gilbert, Mike Fernandez, and Jeff Kennedy, who met at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

In 2001, Gilbert, Fernandez, and Kennedy opened the first Moe’s Original Bar B Que location in Minturn, Colorado.

The Moe’s Original Bar B Que menu offers a variety of meats, including pulled pork, smoked Angus beef brisket, smoked chicken, smoked turkey, smoked hot links, St. Louis-style spare ribs, fried catfish, fried shrimp, and even tofu, for those who don’t eat meat.

Moe’s Original Bar B Que also serves delicious sides, like baked beans, slaw, banana pudding, cornbread, potato salad, and daily specials that rotate each day.

You can enjoy your favorite barbecued meat in a sandwich with two sides or on a platter with two sides and a side of cornbread.

13. Jim N Nick’s BBQ

Jim N Nick’s BBQ is a chain specializing in Alabama-style barbecue.

There are nearly 40 Jim N Nick’s BBQ locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The first Jim N Nick’s BBQ was opened in 1985 in Birmingham, Alabama.

Jim N Nick’s BBQ was founded on a deep respect for slow-smoked meats and traditional barbecue pitmasters.

The Jim N Nick’s BBQ menu serves a variety of meats, including Carolina-style pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, bar-b-q chicken, smoked turkey breast, and fried catfish.

Jim N Nick’s BBQ also serves an array of delicious sides, or “trimmings,” like baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, mac & cheese, collard greens, onion rings, and brisket chili.

Jim N Nick’s barbecued meats are available as platters and as sandwiches.

12. City Barbeque

City Barbecue is a BBQ chain that serves different regional varieties.

There are over 50 City Barbecue locations in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The first City Barbecue was opened by Rick Malir in 1999.

Malir opened City Barbecue in the hopes of prioritizing the community values that characterize the spirit of barbecue.

The City Barbecue menu features a variety of smoked meats, including beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, smoked turkey, smoked sausage, and ribs.

City Barbecue also offers a ton of sides, including baked beans, banana pudding, collard greens, cornbread, corn pudding, coleslaw, cucumber salad, hush puppies, and mac & cheese.

You will want to try one of City Barbecue’s sample platters for the best variety.

Their “Pick Two Meats” menu item allows you to combine two types of meat, one side and a piece of cornbread or Texas toast.

11. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit is a Texas-based BBQ chain famous for its hickory-smoked barbecue.

There are nearly 550 Dickey’s Barbecue Pit locations in 41 states.

The first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit was founded by WWI veteran Travis Dickey in Dallas, Texas, in 1941.

At first, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit only served beef brisket, ham, barbecue beans, potato chips, soda, beer, and bottled milk and smoked all of its meats onsite.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit still smokes its meats onsite, but the menu is larger, including ribs, pulled pork, kielbasa, brisket, chicken, and turkey.

Dickey’s Barbecue Pit also offers a wide range of sides, like barbecue beans, creamed spinach, mac & cheese, slaw, potato salad, baked potato casserole, green beans, and fried okra.

If you’re feeling extra hungry, you might want to spring for one of Dickey’s combo plates, which combine anywhere from two to four meats with two sides and a dinner roll.

10. 4 Rivers Smokehouse

4 Rivers Smokehouse is a Florida-based BBQ chain specializing in brisket and burnt ends.

There are 14 4 Rivers Smokehouse locations, all of which are in Florida.

4 Rivers Smokehouse was founded by John Rivers, who hosted a cookout in 2004 to raise funds for a local family whose daughter was fighting cancer.

However, the first 4 Rivers Smokehouse storefront was not opened until October 2009.

That day, a line formed around the block within an hour of the restaurant’s opening, full of people hungry for 4 Rivers’ famous brisket.

The 4 Rivers Smokehouse menu features delicious smoked meats, including Angus brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, burnt ends, Texas sausage, smoked turkey, and even plant-based vegan burnt ends.

4 Rivers Smokehouse also serves delectable sides, like BBQ baked beans, mac & cheese, Texas cornbread, fried okra, collard greens, baked cheese grits, bread pudding, and sweet potato casserole.

In addition, they offer extravagant sandwiches in their John Rivers Originals menu section, including a burnt ends melt, a BBQ quesadilla, and a BBQ twist on a classic Cuban sandwich.

9. Corky’s Ribs and BBQ

Corky’s Ribs and BBQ is a barbecue chain famous for its Memphis-style barbecue, especially ribs.

There are 8 Corky’s Ribs and BBQ locations in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

The first Corky’s Ribs and BBQ was opened by Don Pelts in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1984.

Since then, Corky’s Ribs and BBQ has been voted the best BBQ restaurant in Memphis 22 times.

Ribs are at the center of Corky’s menu, and are available on their own or as part of combos.

Their combos are combined with other meats, including brisket, chicken, catfish, pulled pork, and smoked sausage.

Corky’s Ribs and BBQ also sells a variety of home-cooked sides, like BBQ baked beans, hushpuppies, coleslaw, potato salad, green beans, and mac and cheese.

Lastly, even if you’re not in Arkansas, Mississippi, or Tennessee, you can still get your fix of Corky’s Ribs and BBQ through their mail-order service.

8. Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ

Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ is a Texas-based BBQ chain specializing in oak-fired barbecue seasoned with a signature dry spice.

There are nearly 50 Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ locations in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ was originally a combination of a gas station, garage, and grocery store opened by Max Aue in Leon Springs, Texas.

In 1989, Rudy’s Country Store also became a BBQ restaurant, whose meats quickly gained notoriety for their delicious, oak-fired, dry-spiced flavor.

The menu at Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ features a variety of signature meats, including brisket, turkey, baby back ribs, pork ribs, chicken, sausage, and “chopped meat,” which is a combination of brisket, turkey, and pork.

Rudy’s Country Store and BBQ offers two delicious flavors of barbecue sauce, or “sause,” which are named original and sissy (less spicy).

Lastly, Rudy’s offers five classic Southern sides: creamed corn, pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, and peach cobbler.

7. Sonny’s BBQ

Sonny’s BBQ is a Florida-based BBQ chain specializing in slow, oak-smoked barbecue.

There are over 90 Sonny’s BBQ locations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

The first Sonny’s BBQ was opened by Floyd and Lucille Tillman in Gainesville, Florida, in 1968.

The Sonny’s BBQ menu features various meats, including St. Louis and baby back ribs, pulled and sliced pork, Angus beef brisket, smoked chicken, and smoked turkey.

Sonny’s BBQ also serves an array of delicious sides, like BBQ beans, mac & cheese, coleslaw, tater tots, green beans, and corn.

For the best variety, you may want to try one of Sonny’s BBQ “Pitmaster Plates,” which combines a variety of meats with BBQ beans, coleslaw, and garlic bread.

6. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue is a BBQ chain dedicated to serving and perfecting Kansas City-style barbecue.

There are 4 Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue locations, all of which are in Kansas.

The first Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue was opened by Jeff and Joy Stehney in 1997 in a former gas station in Kansas City, Kansas.

For the previous half-decade, Jeff and Joy Stehney were part of a competitive barbecue team called “Slaughterhouse Five” and had won over a dozen prizes for their cooking.

The Stehneys bring their award-winning recipes to the Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue menu, featuring delicious meats like pulled pork, smoked turkey, smoked ham, beef brisket, BBQ sausage, and burnt ends.

Joe’s classic Southern sides include BBQ beans, potato salad, coleslaw, dirty rice, spicy slaw, and red beans and rice.

If you want to try something unique, order the “Rocket Pig,” an extravagant sandwich made with Joe’s award-winning pulled pork, sweet-hot BBQ glaze, bacon, pepper jack cheese, BBQ mayo, and fried jalapenos.

5. Sugarfire Smokehouse

Sugarfire Smokehouse is a BBQ chain specializing in St. Louis-style barbecue.

There are 15 Sugarfire Smokehouse locations in Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, and Texas.

Sugarfire Smokehouse’s head chef and owner, Mike Johnson, combines St. Louis classics like ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket with less traditional barbecue ingredients, like andouille sausage, artichokes, mushrooms, and cheese curds.

Sugarfire Smokehouse has received several awards for its food, including the 2018 World Food Championships Award for Best Sandwich.  

The Sugarfire Smokehouse menu features a variety of classic St. Louis-style barbecued meats, including pulled pork, brisket, ribs, and turkey.

One of the most popular menu items at Sugarfire Smokehouse is the “Big Muddy,” a massive brisket sandwich containing smoked sausage, horseradish sauce, BBQ sauce, lettuce, and pickles.

If you still have room for dessert, you’ll want to try one of Sugarfire Smokehouse’s house-made pies, baked daily by Sugarfire’s co-owner and pastry chef, Carolyn Downs.

4. Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint is a BBQ chain specializing in West Tennessee-style whole hog barbecue.

There are 10 Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint locations in Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The first Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint was opened by Pat Martin in Nolensville, Tennessee, in 2006.

For the previous 25 years, Martin studied the art of West Tennessee-style whole hog barbecue from the pitmasters of Henderson, Tennessee.

The menu at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint is representative of a traditional barbecue restaurant, featuring meats like pulled pork shoulder, sliced beef brisket, sliced smoked turkey, spare ribs, and fried catfish.

The sides at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint include mac & cheese, baked beans, green beans, coleslaw, potato salad, hushpuppies, and cornbread hoecake.

If you’re looking for something unique, order the “Redneck Taco,” made with a cornbread hoecake and your choice of meat and topped with coleslaw and Jack’s Creek Sauce.

3. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue is one of the unique BBQ chains on our list, specializing in Hawaiian plate lunches.

There are over 200 L&L Hawaiian Barbecue locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

The first L&L Hawaiian Barbecue was opened in the Kalihi neighborhood of Honolulu, Hawaii, over 50 years ago.

In 1999, L&L founders Johnson Kam and Eddie Flores, Jr. expanded the franchise to California, bringing Hawaiian plate lunches to the continental United States.

The L&L Hawaiian Barbecue menu revolves around the Hawaiian plate lunch, which dates back to laborers who worked in sugar and pineapple plantations in Hawaii in the 1800s.

It combines native Hawaiian, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Portuguese, and New England cuisines.

The Hawaiian plate lunch consists of rice, macaroni salad, and several choices of protein, including BBQ and beef, chicken katsu, fried shrimp, Kalua pork, garlic shrimp, and SPAM musubi.

2. Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q

Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q is a Florida-based BBQ chain specializing in Southern pit barbecue.

There are over 20 Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q locations, most of which are in Florida.

The first Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q was opened by Lou Bono in Florida in 1949.

Decades later, Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q is still family-owned, and each location smokes and cooks all its menu items onsite daily.

The Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q menu features traditional, pit-smoked meats, including pulled pork, smoked turkey, beef brisket, St. Louis ribs, smoked sausage, and smoked chicken.

Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q also serves traditional Southern sides like baked beans, Brunswick stew, coleslaw, collard greens, green beans, mac & cheese, corn nuggets, and fried okra.

In addition, Bono’s serves sandwiches called “Smokehouse Stackers,” like the Bo Hawg, made from BBQ pulled pork, a sausage link, cheddar cheese, and the Slawpy Pig, which is a giant pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw

1. Full Moon Bar-B-Que

Full Moon Bar-B-Que is an Alabama-based BBQ chain famous for its hickory-smoked meats and barbecue sauce.

There are over 15 Full Moon Bar-B-Que locations, most of which are in Alabama.

The first Full Moon Bar-B-Que location was opened in 1986 in Alabama and was bought by brothers David and Joe Maluff in 1999, who still run the restaurant chain today.

The Full Moon Bar-B-Que menu contains classic, hickory-smoked meats like chicken, pork, Black Angus beef brisket, ribs, turkey, and pork links.

Full Moon’s sides, or trimmings, include baked beans, collard greens, fried okra, mac & cheese, potato salad, and coleslaw.

Full Moon Bar-B-Que is also famous for its “Chow Chow,” a unique, relish-esque sauce/side dish that is delicious with any hickory-smoked meat.

In addition, Full Moon is also famous for its half-moon cookies, studded with pecans and chocolate chips and dipped in chocolate.

Conclusion

The barbecue world is diverse, with many different cooking styles, meats, and sides to try.

Each BBQ chain on our list represents the best American barbecue, from regional variations to more creative, fusion-y takes on barbecue.

Whether you like the traditional style or looking for a unique option, use our list to find the best barbecue place near you to satisfy your craving.

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Last Updated: September 27, 2022

About the Author

Eril Eti is the founder of Shopfood.com.  He has over a decade of experience in consumer goods and launched many products sold at retailers like Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Target, Kroger, Publix, and more.

Eril loves food, traveling, and trying out new restaurants. Outside of work, you can find him on a hiking trail in New England or playing soccer with his kids.

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