The 10 Best Barbecue Chains in America

There are multiple locations of each of these, and for that we should be happy

Facebook/ Red Hot & Blue
Mid-Atlantic chain Red Hot & Blue was founded by Washington insiders including former RNC chairman Lee Atwater.

Barbecue is one of those foods that’s fiercely regional: beef in Texas, sweet sauce in Kansas City, and so on. But thankfully, there are plenty of chains out there that bring amazing barbecue all across the country, and we’ve rounded up 10 of them.

The 10 Best Barbecue Chains in America (Slideshow)

Chains tend to get bad raps in general, largely because they rely on production lines and cost-cutting measures to deliver food that’s as inexpensive and quickly-made as possible (think pizza chains versus an actual pizzeria). But when it comes to barbecue, there’s really no corner-cutting. Because if you cut corners with barbecue, using low-grade meat, for example, or not smoking it for long enough, people will know. And not only will they know, they’ll get angry. You can screw around with burgers or pizza, but you can’t screw around with barbecue.

All the owners of the chains on our list keep this fact close to heart, and it comes through in the food they serve. In order to assemble our ranking, we looked at dozens of barbecue restaurants with multiple locations all across the country, and ranked them according to the following criteria: local renown, consistency of the food across all locations, adherence to traditional barbecue techniques like “low and slow” on-premises smoking, atmosphere, and, most importantly, if the food tastes good.

Choosing a favorite type of barbecue is a subjective matter, but I think we can all agree on the fact then when done right, there’s nothing on earth that’s more delicious. And while some of these chains might specialize in Texas-style barbecue and others focus on St. Louis, we should be mighty thankful that they’ve decided to expand and grace parts of the country that might otherwise not have access to great barbecue with their presence. So strap in and get ready to learn about the 10 best barbecue chains in America. 


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38 Comments

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Atwater had no ownership position at Red, Hot & Blue.

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Sonny's is awesome for having family friendly pricing AND great BBQ!!!

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Sonny's is a must for family friendly prices and great BBQ!!!

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Starnes in Paducah Ky. Not a chain though. And don't expect fancy. As far as chains. Sonnys is good. only reason to go to a chain is if there is no other place to go for bbq.

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Famous Dave's (and Memphis BBQ) suck!!

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Let's face it, it's hard for a chain restaurant to do anything great due to the lack of "passion". the best Q places have always been "hole-in-the-wall" kind of joints. Jim & Nick's is good. I've eaten at Corky's, Famous Dave's, Sonny's, Red, Hot, and Blue, Dinosaur's, Arthur Bryant's, Full Moon, Dreamland, Interstate, Whitt's, and Big Bob Gibson's to name a few. My favorite so far has been Bunyan's BBQ (hole in the wall) in Florence, AL. Don't expect them to act like they're glad you're there, but the food is worth it!

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What, no Sonny's Real Pit Bar-b-que?

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Dreamland is the top o' the top!

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I have eaten at sonny's, famous dave' & smokey bones, none of these compare to City BBQ based in Columbus, Ohio. None of these chains can hold a candle to Lethia's in Hattisburg, MS.

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Y'all have no clue. The best Chain BBQ is Rudy's BBQ..... End of conversation...........

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Remember, people, this is a review of chains. I can't disagree with the order. Jim & Nick's and Red, Hot, and Blue are both outstanding, and Moe's Original has amazing smoked wings.

The absence of Sonny's is what gives this list credibility.

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To rate barbeque chains and to not mention Rudy's Country Store in the top ten indicates that either you didn't do a comprehensive sampling . . . or you don't know barbeque . . .

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Dinosaur BBQ isn't even the best chain in Syracuse, let azlone the country. It's actually quite gross. And what list of top chains is complete without Sonny's BBQ?

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I've eaten bbq all over the south...the best pit smoked meats and sauce are found in the little roadside joints sprinkled around western Kentucky

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Im sure all are good BBQ but Gibsons in Decatur and Huntsville are difficult to beat. No tomato sauce allowed on the BBQ

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pajamabottoms

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Kansas City BBQ sucks, with the exception of LC's, and Billy Sims should not have even made the list..

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Dickeys is nasty!!!!! Rudy's BBQ in Texas needs to be on the list.

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Was in KC 7 months ago. BBQ out of this world. Ridiculous to not include. I agree.

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Was in KC 7 months ago. BBQ out of this world. Ridiculous to not include. I agree.

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Famous Dave's was founded in Hayward, WI. Not Minnesota.

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JIm 'N Nicks is the one BBQ I avoid at most costs. It's like a Cracker Barrel for BBQ. Too expensive. Inauthentic. Average BBQ.

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Totally agree!

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JIm 'N Nicks is the one BBQ I avoid at most costs. It's like a Cracker Barrel for BBQ. Too expensive. Inauthentic. Average BBQ.

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People always have a favorite but Dino in Rochester, the bartenders are the best! We miss you Robbie and Julie! You guys kick ass!

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I don't know who put this list together, but it's obvious that they don't know anything about REAL BBQ !

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Are you kidding me? This list contains no classic KC BBQ. Where are Arthur Bryant's and Gates? Why is the BBQ Capitol of America unrepresented in the "best" BBQ list?

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This list contains no classic KC BBQ! Possibly because the author doesn't know any better. Where are Gates and Arthur Byrants?

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Billy Sims is from Hooks, Texas - not St. Louis

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How on earth do you leave out Texas, Kansas City, AND Memphis from ANY list of great BBQ? FAIL!

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