For most people, BBQ isn’t an everyday type of food. Not only would it supplant nail-biting as the third most unhealthy habit in your life (behind social media and, well, alcohol), but you also need to be in a certain mood to pay $20 for a half-pound of meat you order at a counter and eat off of butcher paper with plastic silverware. That’s why when you do decide to get BBQ, you should go to one of the 14 places on this guide, which are all memorable enough to hold you over until the next time. Whether or not “next time” means tomorrow is up to you.
Hands down, this is the best barbecue in NYC. You’re probably going to have to wait an hour in line to get it, and your clothing is going to smell like a delicious bonfire when you leave - and it’s 100% worth it. Get the brisket, get a giant beef rib, and get two lamb belly banh mis. Eat one of the banh mis, and put the other on a pedestal in your home so that your occasional guests can admire it. If you’re with a group (which you should be), add some brisket tacos and Jamaican jerk baby back ribs. Both are excellent, but they’re more like supporting actors. If you’ve never been here, make some weekend plans to stop by this Red Hook barbecue spot, and bring a book to read in line.
If you don’t have the time or patience to wait in line at Hometown, we suggest you check out Morgan’s in Prospect Heights. This place opened in 2013, and it’s still making some of our favorite Texas-style barbecue in the city. The fatty brisket is tender and moist, and the pork ribs come covered in a thick, salty bark with a nice char. There’s a big dining room with brick walls and wood ceiling beams, and it’s usually pretty easy to find a table.
The menu at Fette Sau changes daily, and unless you stalk their Instagram, you won’t know what’s available until you walk into the converted garage in Williamsburg and see what’s written on the chalkboard menu. Assuming they haven’t sold out yet (fairly common on weekends), they pretty much always have brisket and pork ribs. Order both and ask for a lean cut of brisket, which crumbles as you cut into it, as well as plenty of sides, like the burnt end baked beans. Take your number from the counter, and order something from the long draft list at the bar before sitting at a communal picnic table inside or on the small outdoor patio.
Mable’s is within a couple blocks of three very trendy hotels in the middle of Williamsburg, but once you get your order of Frito pie, you’ll feel like you’re in some town from Friday Night Lights. The ultimate Texas snack food - chili and cheese on top of Frito’s served in the bag - is served at this big, table-service spot near the river. Along with the Frito pie, ordering here is easy. Get the deluxe platter, which comes with three meats - brisket, pulled chicken, and pulled pork - and three sides. Feel free to mix up the sides, except for the mac and cheese. That’s non-negotiable.
New York doesn’t have a regional BBQ style, which means that BBQ spots here can pick and choose different meats, cooking styles, and sauces from around the country. No place takes that to heart like Dinosaur BBQ, which serves everything from St Louis-style ribs and Memphis-style pulled pork to Creole deviled eggs. The grilled, sweet ribs and the smoked jumbo chicken wings are both great, but no matter what meats you order, make sure to get a few orders of the lightly crunchy fried green tomatoes that come with a ranch-based dipping sauce. The location in Harlem is similar to the one in Gowanus in that it feels like a big warehouse that’s been converted into a barn, and it’s great for groups and kids.
Even if it were raining outside and you couldn’t hang out in the courtyard listening to live music, and even if they somehow ran out of the Kansas City-style (sweet, thick, and tangy) BBQ sauce that makes pretty much anything delicious, you’d still be happy at John Brown. That’s because you could still order the burnt ends. The smoky, tender, bark-covered bites of meat are the best thing here, and one of our favorite BBQ orders in the city.
Mothership Meat Company is a Texas-style barbecue spot in Astoria from the people behind John Brown Smokehouse. The brisket is always a good choice here, but it’s not the star. What you want here are well-seasoned ribs with meat that falls right off the bone, as well as at least one juicy sausage link. This place is best enjoyed in the warmer months when you can hang out on the massive back patio for several hours while drinking beer and eating large amounts of smoked meat.
Holy Ground serves slow-smoked meats like pork shoulder, brisket, and racks of spare ribs, along with sides like collard greens and mac and cheese. But that’s where its similarities with other spots on this guide end. The underground space in Tribeca has red leather booths rather than picnic benches, $16 cocktails instead of canned beer, and instrumental jazz - not Old Town Road playing from the speakers. Come here for a birthday or business dinner, and order the massive beef rib, smoked chicken, and crispy potatoes.
Some of the BBQ spots on this list have outdoor space, but none of them can compete with Pig Beach. The courtyard at this indoor/outdoor space next to the Gowanus Canal is about the size of a quidditch pitch. The best thing here is the very messy cheeseburger that you can get with one, two, or three patties. But if you want more traditional BBQ, then get the sampler platter, which includes brown sugar and honey glazed ribs, as well as a quarter pound of any three meats for $34. It’s best here during the summer, when you can spend the afternoon drinking frozen cocktails with a big group of friends while feeding cornbread to other people’s dogs.
Hill Country is a good spot to know about because it works for just about any situation, assuming it’s a situation when you’re looking to eat dry-rubbed, slow-smoked meat off of butcher paper. The upstairs part of this massive spot in Flatiron has outdoor, bar, and communal seating, and the equally large downstairs area has a stage for live music. No matter where you sit, you can take advantage of the daily Happy Hour (4-7pm and 10pm-close) in between trips to the butcher counter where you order food. There’s a pitmaster special - brisket, pork ribs, chicken, sausage, and two sides for $32 - but we recommend focusing your attention and stomach space on the peppery ribs and spicy sausage, which, along with the cornbread, are the best things here.
Arrogant Swine specializes in North Carolina-style barbecue, which means a lot of pork. The main draw here is the East Carolina whole hog, with is essentially just smoky pulled pork with a subtle vinegar sauce - and it’s a solid order. But if you’re a fan of mustard, go for the spare ribs. They come out charred and chewy with a sweet mustard glaze, and they make for a very good drinking snack. Sit at the long bar in the warehouse-like space in East Williamsburg, or grab a picnic table on the back patio. And if you need some carbs with your barbecue, get the mac and cheese waffle. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and you’ll want to split it with at least one other person.
If you know what to order at Randall’s Barbecue, you can have a very rewarding experience here. The pastrami with chopped liver on a bialy, for example, is one of the best sandwiches you can get downtown. The brisket, five spice duck, and pork spare ribs are also worth ordering if you find yourself on the LES and in need of smoked meat (barbecue options are pretty limited in the area). But if you see the fried pork ribs on the menu, skip them. They come battered with an upsettingly thick, chewy crust, and they’ll upset you. But we appreciate how this place takes risks (even if they don’t work), and we also like counter-service set up with a full bar to the side.
Queens Bully is one of our favorite spots in Forest Hills for both BBQ and day drinking, and it’s the best place in the area to do both while watching sports on TV. The big space right on Queens Boulevard serves some very good smoked chicken and baby back ribs, as well as six types of wings. Unless you need to dole out punishment to a friend who let Yahoo auto-draft his fantasy football team, stay away from the sauce made with Carolina reaper peppers.