Great barbecue is a subjective matter, and there’s no shortage of spectacular barbecue joints across the country. But for all the listings of top barbecue restaurants out there, nobody’s thought to ask the guys who are arguably more close to it than anybody else: competition pitmasters. We did just that, and their picks for America’s best barbecue restaurants might surprise you.
Certain barbecue restaurants — you know which ones — seem to get all the attention in rankings of America’s best barbecue joints. It’s even gotten to a point where many rankings are nearly identical. And though there’s no denying that those restaurants are all legendary and worthy of the high praise they consistently receive, it’s high time that some other, more off-the-radar restaurants made their way to the top of the heap. There are still some seriously renowned restaurants on our list, but we bet that you haven’t even heard of the vast majority of them.
We contacted more than 50 of America’s top competitive pitmasters and asked them to send us a list of their absolute favorite spots for barbecue across the country. Because these pitmasters are strictly competitive, they don’t run restaurants that they could be partial to, so there was no risk of a conflict of interest. Respondents included Brian Stefan of Southern Smoke, Mark West of 10 Bones, Christopher Prieto of Prime Barbecue, and the folks from Down to Smoke. These guys know their ‘cue, and these places are where they go to get it.
Read on to learn which barbecue restaurants competitive pitmasters told us are the best in America.