The Ultimate Guide to Boston-Area Barbecue Right Now
Whether you're craving St. Louis ribs, Texas brisket, or North Carolina-style pulled pork, getting the meat sweats never felt so sweet.
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Ready to pig out? Pull out your elastic-waist eating pants, because we’ve stuffed this list full of the best BBQ restaurants around Boston—and whether you’re craving St. Louis ribs, Texas brisket, or North Carolina-style pulled pork, getting the meat sweats never felt so sweet.
Though its name nods to a thick and bitter variety of molasses, you won’t find too-lacquered ribs at this local haunt in Winthrop. Rather, chef Chris Thompson, alum of Cambridge’s late and legendary East Coast Grille, makes sure his marvelously smoked meats—from sliced Texas brisket to North Carolina-style pulled pork—always shine through the sauce. And he pays special attention to the sides, too, including a few that underscore his Winthrop spot’s familiar vibe: Consider the cups of “Gram Kath’s Rip Your Lips Off Chili,” as spicy as the description suggests, as well as mashed sweet potatoes loaded with maple syrup from Thompson’s Vermonter uncle Jim. Not to be sappy, but that’s pretty sweet.
47 Woodside Ave., Winthrop, 617-207-1783, blackstrapbbq.com.
Blue Ribbon BBQ
Catering for large and small groups has always been a specialty of this standout, long-running barbecue trio in the ‘burbs, so its pint- and pan-sized bulk meats, as well as “Feed-a-Crowd” packages of family-sized offerings, are well-suited for weekend takeout. Nowadays, we’d also strongly suggest stocking up from Blue Ribbon’s new “At-Home Cookin’ Menu,” which will home-deliver vacuum-sealed meats and weekly-changing specials (jerk candied bacon, anyone?) for reheating whenever you’re hungry. But don’t worry: You can still simply assemble individual platters of pulled chicken, St. Louis ribs, or other ‘cue sided with baked beans, black-eyed corn, and more. (Note: The BBQ-stuffed burritos are tasty, too.)
908 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, 781-648-7427; 342 Washington St., Dedham, 781-312-2583; 1375 Washington St., West Newton, 617-332-2583, blueribbonbbq.com.
Gobble-worthy barbecue and made-to-guzzle tiki drinks make for a perfect pairing here—so grab a seat, a pulled pork sandwich, some St. Louis ribs, and a frozen, rum-based Banana Hammock or multi-spirited Scorpion Bowl for two. Oh, and while it’s not barbecue, per se, the Southern-style fried chicken is the mouthwatering main draw (especially when served Nashville-hot). These birds were first made famous as a weekly special at sibling restaurant Highland Kitchen in Somerville.
1271 Cambridge St., Cambridge, 617-714-4662, highlandfried.com.
It seems like this idiosyncratic Continental cafe is always doing something different: putting out its own magazine and subscribers-only video content, opening a small gift shop, and—biggest undertaking of all—preparing to build a much bigger restaurant. The charming, casually elegant Union Square spot isn’t somewhere you would likely associate with barbecue, but chef Josh Lewin has started offering monthly Juliet BBQ takeout packages, including cheffy Texas-style spins and more global takes like a Persian-inspired splay featuring barbecue lamb, abgoosht-style potato salad, and an EVOO-drizzled shirazi salad. To find out about about the next preorder, sign up for the restaurant’s newsletter here.
21 Union Sq., Somerville, 617-718-0958, julietsomerville.com.
Larry J’s BBQ Cafe
Sure, there’s pulled pork, brisket, and other ubiquitous offerings you’d expect to find at most barbecue joints—but from his Revere restaurant and takeout shack in the Seaport, Larry Jimerson slings other mains and sides you don’t see as often ’round these parts. Smoked turkey legs and smoked bologna come to mind; so do smoked, chili-stuffed potatoes, BBQ spaghetti, and “Texas caviar,” a salad of pickled black-eyed peas in vinaigrette. Oh, and sauces cover plenty of ground too, from bold Arkansas Red to the super-hot Cali Fire you’ll need to extinguish with cocktails (like bourbon sweet tea) served in 32-ounce to-go jugs.
600 D St., Boston, 617-348-9800; 1148 N. Shore Rd., Revere, 781-286-6781, larryjsbbqcafe.com.
Yes, former jm Curley chef Chris Bauers can fry you one of the best fish and chips plates in town—but he can also smoke you some stellar meats. The Dorchester tavern dedicates a section of its menu to barbecue, and doles out heavy half-pound offerings of brisket, burnt ends, and pulled pork; there’s also mix-and-match platters with side like jalapeño-cheddar cornbread and bacon braised collard greens. Need something that’ll really stick to your ribs? Come Thursdays through Saturdays, when Bauers also offers half and full St. Louis-style racks.
13 Granite Ave., Dorchester, 617-326-6677, lucysamericantavern.com.
2020 didn’t have a whole lot going for it. But here’s one Best of Boston-worthy thing that happened: Pitmaster Geovanni Lambert, who’d been running his family’s 1982-founded food truck M&M Ribs, moved into Dorchester Brewing Co. Now those perfect racks have been joined by barbecue half-chicken and a host of other inspired eats—from “Dumpster Fries” deluged with shredded beef brisket and smoked cheese sauce, to salads topped with smoked jackfruit or bratwurst braised in Dorchester Brewing’s cream ale. Even better, the recently renovated taproom now has the well-timed addition of a four-seasons greenhouse on its roof, preserving an al fresco feel even when the weather gets cold.
1250 Massachusetts Ave., Dorchester, 617-307-7674, mandmribs.com.
Pit Stop BBQ
Blink and you’ll miss it—but that’d be a shame, because this inconspicuous counter-service spot has earned every one of its 30-plus years as a neighborhood fixture. Even if you’re not a local, detour to Pit Stop for various cuts of pork, beef, and chicken, offered as combo trays with sides like Cajun rice, collard greens, and mac ‘n’ cheese. Save a little room, though, because desserts get a lot of love here, including whole sweet potato pies, peach cobbler, and the signature banana pudding. (Actually, save some room in your fridge, too; you can take home Pit Stop’s tangy sauce by the gallon.)
888 Morton St., Mattapan, 617-436-0485, pitstopbarbecue.com.
The Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint
The near-nightly lineup of live blues, soul, and country music is back in action at the Porch, which serves up Southern-fried tunes and grub. The latter category includes trays of pulled pork and St. Louis spare ribs, plus sandwiches like La Grange, which piles Texas brisket with chili, pickled onions, and a jazzy, espresso-laced barbecue sauce. Add steaming skillets of cornbread, smoked chicken wings with white Alabama-style sauce, and comfort classics like shrimp and grits, and it’s one hell of a set list.
175 Rivers Edge Dr., Medford, 781-874-9357, theporchsouthern.com.
It’s a Davis Square stalwart for a reason: Namely, Redbones’ always reliable, wide-ranging array of St. Louis ribs, pulled chicken, sliced brisket, and more meats—as well as starters like fried hush puppies and Buffalo shrimp. Everyone’s had to adapt during the pandemic, though, so besides doing barbecue takeout, Redbones has also started pouring some selections from its strong craft beer selection into take-home growlers; Berkshire Beer Company’s Redbones IPA is, of course, among them. Still thirsty? Bottled cocktails abound too, including boozy slushees like the hibiscus margarita.
55 Chester St., Somerville, 617-628-2200, redbones.com.
Hopefully soon, once downtown offices start to refill and lunch hour crowds demand it, Shed’s will reopen its novel BBQ-build-a-bowl eatery, where guests choose a “base” of either queso mac ‘n’ cheese or quinoa and rice, then load it up with a choice of ‘cue (pulled pork, smoked turkey, and hot links are among the options) and multiple toppings—including cornbread croutons, pickled jalapeños, sliced green apples, or pepper jack cheese. Until then, it’s currently accepting catering requests for private parties and corporate lunches—so maybe just remind your company’s HR manager that nothing gets people back like chopped brisket.
32 Bromfield St., Boston, 617-542-7433, shedsbbq.com.
The Smoke Shop BBQ
You know what they say: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And chef-pitmaster Andy Husbands can certainly back up his reputation with bona fide bragging rights: For one thing, he’s cofounder of the competitive team IQUE BBQ, the first New England team to win the Jack Daniel’s World Championship (the Olympics of smoked meats, if you will). You’ll find out why at his Smoke Shop restaurants, where the Hell’s Kitchen alum turns out truly exceptional burnt ends, slabs o’ ribs, and pulled pork and chicken. But he slays all corners of the menu here, from the chicken wings made red-hot with fermented habanero and brown butter, to Southern-style egg rolls filled with pulled pork, collards, coleslaw and corn—all washed down with an excellent, extensive whisky list.
343 Congress St., Boston, 617-261-7427; 1 Kendall Sq., Cambridge, 617-261-7427; 8 Holyoke St., Cambridge, 617-547-7427; 325 Assembly Row, Somerville, 617-261-7427, thesmokeshopbbq.com.
Sweet Cheeks Q
Now that she’s one of Boston’s most well-known restaurateurs with James Beard noms (and a recurring Chopped judgeship) to her name, that Tiffani Faison was a finalist on the first season of Top Chef is just a footnote to a much larger success story. But it’s worth mentioning in the context of Sweet Cheeks Q; after all, it surprised some folks when, after achieving food-TV fame, Faison chose straightforward barbecue (not fancy fine dining) for her first self-owned venture in 2011. But when you consider the quality of product and stunning consistency of the smoked meats here, it’s clear only one of the best could be behind it. The chopped prime brisket is incredible; the mac ‘n’ cheese and “Church Basement Potato Salad” among the best sides in town; and those “world-famous biscuits” more than earn their acclaim.
1381 Boylston St., Boston, 617-266-1300, sweetcheeksq.com.