12 Barbecue Joints You Need To Try In Florida

When the weather gets warm, thousands of Americans fire up their grills and pit for some good old-fashioned barbecue. Those who aren't willing to wait for the seasons to change head to their favorite restaurants. And Florida has some of the best of them.

This favorite American food is believed to have originated from indigenous Caribbean tribes. When colonizers settled in their land, they observed the native people roasting meat over a wooden grill on top of pieces of sticks over a fire so that the meat was engrossed in smoke. One account shows the word "barbecue" as being derived from the Taíno tribe's word "barbacoa." Another states that "barbacoa" is a Spanish word that came from the word "barabicu" of the Timucua tribe of Florida and Arawak of the Caribbean. 

The Spanish conquistadors adopted this method of cooking which created a distinct flavor and brought it with them as they extended their reach into the southern United States, which included Florida. A painting by French explorer Jacques Le Moyne from the 16th century depicts Native Americans in Florida barbecuing. Now Florida is home to some of the top barbecue restaurants in America. Here's our list of places you shouldn't miss out on.

1. Jenkins Quality Barbecue -- Jacksonville

The Jenkins family opened the first Jenkins Quality Barbecue in Jacksonville in 1957. Since then, they've grown to include two other city locations and have earned national praise from media outlets, like the Food Network and Southern Living, as one of the best places for barbecue in the South.

Jenkins Quality Barbecue is known for slathering its slabs of meat with its signature mustard-based barbecue sauce that comes in mild, hot, or sweet. You can also purchase the famous sauce on the restaurant's website. Its beef, pork, and chicken is oak wood-fired in a brick pit. The menu includes racks of ribs, whole and half birds, sandwiches, and sides like corn nuggets and baked beans that are served simply over butcher paper.

"I love Jenkins BBQ. Just thinking about it has my mouth watering. The mustard-based BBQ sauce is delicious and unique. There's nothing else like it anywhere. The slow-smoked chicken is tender and juicy, and then when you add the crinkle fries and that slice of bread, it's a party in your mouth. Trust me, if you're in the Jacksonville area you will not be disappointed if you make it a point to stop at Jenkins BBQ," a customer wrote on Tripadvisor.

2. Big Lee's Serious About Barbecue -- Ocala

Rashad Jones became obsessed with barbecue after tasting a family member's cooking in the Mississippi Delta. After perfecting his own recipes and techniques under Uncle Leon "Big Lee's" guidance, Jones decided he wanted to share his love for food and hospitality with others and open a food truck.

Now Big Lee's Barbecue is rated as one of the top places to grab small-batch barbecue. Jones' food also earned national acclaim after he was declared the winner and "Master of 'Cue" on Food Network's "BBQ Brawl." You can find out where the company's trucks are going to be on its website or social media pages. And you'll want to get to those locations early since they regularly sell out of the dish you're craving.

The menu offers half and full feeds of brisket, ribs, burnt ends, chicken, sausage, and pulled pork, as well as sandwiches. You'll also find classic simple sides that are turned into incredible mouthwatering creations like the Brisket Stuffed Mac and Cheese, aka The Kathy, which was featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives." The made-from-scratch daily desserts like banana pudding and peach cobbler are nothing short of heavenly, as is Big Lee's fresh tea.

3. Pig Floyd's Urban BBQ -- Orlando

Pig Floyd's Urban BBQ offers a modern upscale take on barbecue with what they refer to as "remixed recipes" that combine cultures. Despite its contemporary style, the Orlando-based restaurants use traditional fire pit methods to smoke their meats and they have all your favorite classics on the menu, like ribs, pork belly, and chicken.

You'll also find innovative items like the Brisket Tostada, an Asian-inspired Bánh Mí sandwich, fried seasoned tofu, yuca frita, and barbecue Bento Boxes. Customers love the variety at Pig Floyd's Urban BBQ, which has earned them 4.5-star rating on Yelp and Tripadvisor.

"I love barbecue and trying different kinds of food in general. This is some of the best of both. The barbecue has an Asian influence which adds a level of flavor like no other and it is surprising and delicious," a happy customer exclaimed on Tripadvisor. "The ribs and brisket are my favorites but the chicken and sausage are both a very close second. There was nothing there I didn't like."

4. Woodpeckers Backyard BBQ -- Saint Augustine

If you're a Floridian or visitor, one thing you'll want to do before you pass on from this world is make a trip to Woodpeckers Backyard BBQ in Saint Augustine. Cheapism named them as having the best ribs in the state in 2022 and put them on their "Holy Smoke! Bucket-List Barbecue in Every State" list in 2023. News4Jax also declared the restaurant as having "Jacksonville's best barbecue."

Owner Lisa Marston smokes her brisket, pork, turkey, ribs, chicken, and sausage fresh every day. Whether you're dining in or taking your food to-go, it's best to call in and reserve your meals because they are known to sell out daily. There's full-service dining indoors or you can order at the window and eat at the outside tables. Barbecue comes on a plate with two sides and Texas toast. Woodpeckers Backyard BBQ also serves sandwiches that come with a single side, which include collard greens, datil cornbread, and green beans. You can choose from more than half a dozen sauces like Orangedale White or Datil Mustard.

Woodpeckers Backyard BBQ has a 5-star rating on Tripadvisor with 4.5 on Yelp. One Yelper wrote, "All I can say is: 'Wow!' The meat was juicy, our sauces were tasty, and we each had a side item that we loved! The datil baked beans were nice and flavorful with a hint of [a] kick and the cole slaw was nice and cold with just the right amount of sweetness. I usually won't eat cole slaw, but this might honestly be the best I've ever had!"

5. 4 Rivers Smokehouse -- several locations

4 Rivers Smokehouse was founded based on the love for others and their community and began following a fundraiser to support a family whose child was fighting cancer. The Rivers family cooked it in their garage. Many charitable events and burnt ends later, and John Rivers opened the first location in 2009. Now he owns one of the biggest barbecue chains in Florida.

4 Rivers Smokehouse takes its barbecue extremely seriously. Its brisket is wet-aged for 30 days then rubbed with special seasonings before being smoked for 18 hours. Chicken and pork are made in a similar fashion. Not only will you get on-the-bone meats, but delicious sandwiches like the Burnt Ends Melt. Other dishes include vegan Fried Okra or the Six Shooter, a baked cheese grits dish topped with pulled pork and southern coleslaw. This barbecue joint is also a great place if you have a sweet tooth with its generous-sized menu of cake slices, cookies, dessert bars, and cupcakes.

4 Rivers Smokehouse has 4-stars on Yelp and 4.5-stars on Tripadvisor. "You won't go wrong at 4 Rivers. The baked beans are worth the trip themselves. I had the lean brisket. [It was] thick cut [and] perfectly tender. Only two bbq sauce options [were offered], but honestly it's all you need. [It's] pure smokey goodness. Definitely do [get] the bread pudding," a satisfied Yelper wrote.

6. Shiver's Bar-B-Q -- Homestead

Shiver's Bar-B-Q is a family-owned operation that opened in 1950 to offer hickory-smoked barbecue "and warm smiles." And it's surely succeeded having been named among the best in the business by media organizations like the New York Post and the Food Network.

Shiver's Bar-B-Q offers three types of slow-cooked ribs, pork, chicken, and brisket. It's pulled pork smokes for half a day before it's served for maximum tenderness. Slabs of meat come with two sides like the Jalapeno Cheese Grits or Cheesy Hashbrown Casserole. It's also got fried green tomatoes as an appetizer, burgers, sandwiches, and desserts like Peach Cobbler. Off-menu specials include items like Biscuits with Brisket and Gravy or seasonal items like Pumpkin Soufflé. Though the interior is casual with connected long picnic table-style seating, customers on Yelp and Tripadvisor say it's cozy without being cramped and give it a 4.5-star rating, with one Yelper saying Shiver's Bar-B-Q is "out of this world." 

"Wow, this place is unbelievably good. I don't know how I've never seen it before. It is way far south in Homestead, but is worth every penny to come here and eat. [I] ordered the baby back ribs, coleslaw, and fries. This is unlike anything in Miami ... I don't know how they make the ribs here, but [it] is much superior than anything I've seen before," a customer wrote on Yelp.

7. Jimmy Bear's BBQ -- Saint Cloud

Jimmy Bear's BBQ started out as a food truck and moved into a St. Cloud brick and mortar in 2014. It has since expanded to offer some nightlife with Jack Rabbit Slims Bar and Porky's Comedy Club. Known for its "sultry" tasting barbecue and comfort food sides, customer favorites include the Smoked Mac and Cheese and the Rib Float.

You could easily just come to Jimmy Bear's BBQ for the extensive appetizer list with Hushpuppies, the BBQ Sundae, or Jimmychanga. In addition to main courses of racks of ribs, and pulled chicken or pork, you'll find an array of sandwiches, like the Big Bad Wolf, and burgers that include a vegan option.

The Jimmy Bear's BBQ truck also makes pop-up appearances. Customers gave it a 4.5-star Yelp rating. "The food was absolutely amazing. We had the bacon strips with bourbon maple glaze, which was outstanding. All of their sides were delish and my husband's brisket was tender and smoked perfectly — 10/10 [and we] will be back the next time we're in the area," one of them wrote on Yelp.

8. Park Avenue BBQ Grille -- several locations

Park Avenue BBQ Grille has been in business since 1988 with one goal in mind: to serve its customers the tastiest barbecue around. "I tell my chefs to make the food as if their mother were coming to dinner and to cook what they know," the restaurant's owner, Dean Lavallee, told the Palm Beach Florida Weekly.

Cornbread or garlic toast and two sides are offered with their rib, fish, and chicken. You'll also find plant-based barbecue options. Park Avenue BBQ Grille also impresses with its over-the-top sandwiches like the Porknado with pulled pork that comes smothered in cheddar and what they call "stupid sauce," along with diced pieces of bacon, jalapeno, and tomato.

"Great place for BBQ! [The] pulled pork is delicious, [the] ribs are tops, the cornbread is sweet, and the sauces offered are plentiful. If you're in the mood for a burger, don't pass up this place. The burgers are great!" a customer who gave a 4-star rating on Yelp wrote.

9. Ellie Lou's Brews & BBQ -- Orlando area

Ellie Lou's Brews & BBQ is a barbecue joint with a promise to "rub you the right way." This family's roots in the Southern food industry go back to the 1800s. Now under the creative direction of Chef Dennis Cheplick, this Clermont establishment is known for its handcrafted sauces and its irresistible daily specials made with seasonal ingredients to obtain the freshest quality.

Despite the plentiful amount of places for barbecue in the Orlando area, Forking Orlando says Ellie Lou's Brews & BBQ is the best with its tender pieces of meat that come in generous portions. Its pork, brisket, turkey, and chicken comes chopped on Kaiser bun sandwiches with one side and a corn muffin or on a platter with two sides and two corn muffins. Ribs come on a platter of different-sized slabs.

Sauces include the hot Southern Lava, the mustard-based Carolina Gold, Kansas City Sweet, and Memphis. Customers gave Ellie Lou's Brews & BBQ a 4.5-star rating on Yelp with one saying, "I ordered the Gospel Grits with smoked turkey and loved it! Ellie Lou's makes the best smoked turkey. It is always tasty, fresh, and moist. The grits were amazing and plentiful. I also ordered a half rack of ribs with beans, potato salad, and cornbread. The ribs were seasoned perfectly and the meat fell off the bone."

10. Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill -- several locations

Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill set down its roots in Lake County Florida in 1998 and has grown to offer full-service dining in several Sunshine State locations. The restaurant company promises to offer an outstanding variety in its menu and a comfortable atmosphere.

This is another place you might want to call ahead or get there early since its slow-smoked meats can run out. You can order chopped or sliced pork that's pulled with sauce, beef, turkey, sausage, or chicken that's either smoked or grilled. You have a choice of one to three meats that come with garlic toast and two sides. Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill's award-winning ribs come in full or half racks. It also offers half-pound steak burgers, fish entrees, and sandwiches.

One thing that stands out about Oakwood Smokehouse & Grill is its list of eight salads, like the BBQ Combo Salad which allows you to indulge in its slow-roasted turkey and beef over a nice light salad of tomato, cucumber, egg, cheese, and onion. It's perfect if you're in the mood for some barbecue and want to leave out all those heavy sides.

11. Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que -- Orlando

Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que opened its doors in Orlando in 1986. Since then, it's gone on to offer a family-like atmosphere with award-winning hardwood fire pit-cooked barbecue in two locations. The restaurants have earned praise from Southern Living, Zagat's Restaurant Surveys, and Fortune Magazine.

After being cooked slow on low, Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que's meats are rubbed with special seasonings and sloshed with barbecue sauce. Appetizers include Florida favorites like Gator Nuggets and Fried Green Tomatoes. Meat entrees include options of brisket, turkey, pork, catfish, ribs, and lamb that come with garlic bread, cole slaw, fries, and baked beans. You can also order it by the pound. Sandwiches can come separately or with a side of beans and fries.

Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que's Orlando location has a 4-star rating on Yelp. "This is a very friendly place. You can smell the grilling smell as soon as you walk in the door. They have a variety of sides, such as okra, mac 'n' cheese, collard greens, etc. The restaurant is very clean. The food was delicious. The baked beans were seasoned very nicely with just enough sweetness. The fries were wonderful. The wings make you lick your fingers. The brisket was cut very nicely. You get your money's worth," a customer wrote on the site.

12. Nancy's Bar-B-Q -- Lakewood Ranch

As the owner of Nancy's Bar-B-Q explains, "There aren't too many white Jewish women making pork barbecue." But Nancy Krohngold does and now she has one of the best barbecue spots in the state. This Florida favorite is famous for its Boston Butt, a pork shoulder dry rubbed in a mixture of 14 ingredients before it's cooked on low in a barbecue oven over oakwood for at least 15 hours.

This method creates a caramelized coating and an authentic North Carolina flavor. Nancy's Bar-B-Q was chosen to cater an event featuring President Bill Clinton as a speaker and has been named on many best lists. Though they offer catering all over Florida, you can also visit its casual Lakewood Ranch location.

Nancy's Bar-B-Q's menu offers a la carte meat items and group meals and trays. There is also a long lovely list of homemade sides like Sesame Crunch Slaw, Edamame Succotash, and Red Skin Potato Salad. Big sandwiches include the Brisket Interstate Cheesesteak with portobello mushrooms, provolone, sautéed onions, and horseradish sauce over lean carved meat.