Where there’s smoke, there’s damn good barbecue.
When it comes to food, it doesn’t get more country than barbecue – this is pork every politician can get behind. Thanks to Yelp, we can weed out restaurants with mediocre eats and bad service. Here are ten of the highest-rated smokehouses in the country.
In Tennessee, barbecue isn’t taken lightly. Jack’s is one of the state’s best not only when it comes to food, but in decor and location as well. Located on Nashville’s famed neon Broadway Street, it’s the perfect place to go after a night of heavy honkey-tonking. Owner and founder Jack Cawthon began his catering ascent in the 1970s, so he’s been on the scene a while. In fact, their website features a decades-long timeline that also pays homage to past Nashville barbecuers. On menu, meat overfloweth, the combos are hard to beat, and they have several sauces with which to mix and match. The walls are packed with Tennessee memorabilia, and the rooftop seating is one of the best Nashvillian vantage points.
Usually places like Texas and Tennessee get all the ‘cue credit, but don’t sleep on St. Louis. Pappy’s places more emphasis on ribs, and their sides include corn cobs, green beans, and sweet potato fries. But they beat other establishments in creativity points with the bizarro Frito pie, containing Fritos, cheese, onions, baked beans, and your choice of meat. If you love the rub they use, you’re in luck – they sell their housemade sauce by the bottle. But if you want to stop by, clear your schedule for the day. They almost always have a line around the block (plus, you know, meat coma).
Making the tail end of Yelp’s 2015 list, Eli’s is a local Ohioan staple. Owners Eli and Drew hitchhiked the U.S. together, so it’s safe to assume that their friendship translates into slammin’ dishes. Their menu is shorter than most, but Eli’s strives for quality over quantity. Their pulled pork sandwiches are piled higher than high, and their homemade cornbread is served warm and with jalapeno flakes. Even better, they’ve got oldies playing on a turntable 24/7.
Tourist attractions in Compton usually have more to do with N.W.A. than southern cooking, but there stands Bludso’s, named Yelp’s 64th best restaurant in 2014. Owner Kevin Bludso comes from a long line of Texas barbecuers and has turned his grandmother’s recipes into this hugely successful venture. Plenty of local LA press outlets have named it a crucial culinary stopover. Their menu features meat for days, red velvet cake, and rib sandwiches, making it stand out from your run of the mill smokehouse.
Don’t let their urban California location fool you. Coop’s has garnered plenty of Yelp praise as one of the top west coast BBQ houses, serving up crunchy ribs and tender brisket in pound and half-pound portions. On weekends, they cook up a special housemade Texas sausage in addition to rarer BBQ fare like jerk chicken and hot links. But if you visit Coop’s, nothing beats the Knock Out: a six-meat sampler, totaling three pounds, plus two large sides, for only $31. YOLO, right?
Little Miss clocks in on Yelp’s best-of 2015 list at number 10, and no wonder: their fatty brisket wins over everyone who tries it, and their house-made sausage is as fresh as it gets. But if you can’t decide what to get, their outrageous meat platter is probably for you (one Yelp user claimed it got him “Meat Drunk”). And don’t forget to ask for the ultra-southern jalapeno cheddar grits on the side. Though the decor is spare – their menu is hand-scrawled in marker and ‘subject to change’ – they’ve gained glowing praise from Texas Monthly, Phoenix Magazine, and Thrillist.
Franklin too has made multiple best-of Yelp lists. Their famous brisket is considered by many to be the best in the world. Franklin’s is also generous with their portions, and they mix up BBQ dessert standards with pies like the clinically insane bourbon banana. And don’t leave it to their bold flavors to convince you of their dedication. Founder Aaron Franklin has also created a Youtube series (and soon-to-be sister TV show) on the art of barbecuing, from fig sauce to welding. The savvy smoker has also written a barbecue book entitled A Meat Smoking Manifesto. So rest assured, Franklin Barbecue knows their business inside and out.
Once again, STL makes the list. Bogart’s head chef Skip Steele was raised in Memphis and has assembled a crack team with a fresh perspective on the beloved barbecue tradition. If their meat selection didn’t cover every base (pulled pork, turkey, beef brisket, burnt ends, pastrami, sirloin tips), their four original sauces (smokey, hot, tangy, and vinegar) sure do. Then take into account mouth-watering sides like pit baked beans and deviled egg potato salad, and you’ve got a must-visit.
Coming in hot at #3 on Yelp’s 2014 list and #25 on their 2015 list, Joe’s features creative specialty sandwiches, turkey options, and some southwestern flare in their rice and beans sides. Owners Jeff and Joy, former restaurant sales reps, discovered their hidden barbecuing talents when they formed the fantastically-named Slaughterhouse Five BBQ team in the early 90s. The group crushed competitions statewide, eventually leading Jeff and Joy to open a gas station counter joint in 1997. Since then, Joe’s has gotten ups from the New York Times, the Washington Post and Anthony Bourdain, among others.
At the beginning of 2015, Yelp named Copper Top the best restaurant – in the world. Talk about great expectations. Their no-nonsense menu gets right to the good stuff: massive sandwiches and locally-sourced ribs, grilled over red oak fires. Owner Hank grew up on a California dairy farm and used his two (lucky) sons as guinea pigs for his lifelong pursuit of the perfect barbecue recipe. Copper Top combines decades of family know-how with state-of-the-art grill technology to create the perfect smoked rib. The serene mountain views from their outdoor picnic tables don’t hurt either.