More than a cooking method, barbecue is an American tradition and a delicious form of art. Whether you prefer your sauce tangy with vinegar or sweet with molasses, the odds are good you can find a style of BBQ to satisfy your taste buds — and your budget.
From dry-rubbed ribs to succulent pulled pork drowning in dip, there's no shortage of delicious delicacies out there, provided that you know where to look. And you don't have to spend a bundle to indulge. Here's an inside look at 50 BBQ joints where you can eat more for less.
Alabama: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur is known for creating the distinctly Alabamian style of white barbecue sauce back in 1925. Bob's has more awards than you could shake a mesquite stick at — from a list of wins at the King of the Smokers Invitational to accolades from the National Barbecue & Grilling Association — but you can still grab a Bar-B-Q Chicken Sandwich with that Famous White Sauce for $3.89. Or, snag a family pack meal with your choice of meats, coleslaw, buns and chips for just $14.99.
Alaska: Big Daddy’s BarB-Q and Banquet Hall
Featured on the Food Network and winner of numerous barbecue championships, Big Daddy's dubs itself "The Northernmost Southern BBQ." If you're looking for a deal, you can't go wrong with a half-pound of the award-winning rib tips, sautéed in southern-style sauce, for $7.50. And don't miss out on Tuesday's deal: $26.75 for a big bucket of ribs with coleslaw and cornbread.
Arizona: Honey Bear’s BBQ
The original Honey Bear's might be in Phoenix, but its barbecue is 100 percent Tennessee-style. Named one of the best barbecue restaurants in the region by chef Dominic Armato and AZ Central, Honey Bear's has been smoking since 1986. Deal hunters can't beat the $7.49 two-meat party pack, but a quarter chicken with a side and drink is a steal at $8.49, too.
Arkansas: Jones Bar-B-Q Diner
Part of Arkansas' official BBQ Trail, Jones Bar-B-Q Diner of Marianna is an Arkansas institution where you can get a pulled pork sandwich for just $3.50 or a whole pound of the good stuff for $7. According to the Southern Foodways Alliance, Jones is the oldest black-owned Southern restaurant still in continuous operation. Its longevity is owed to its mouth-watering meats, drizzled with vinegar-based sauce, that shine on simple white bread.
California: Copper Top BBQ
You can eat at the best restaurant in America for less than $15 — at least if you believe the Yelp reviews. Copper Top BBQ in Big Pine takes the very prestigious title as the highest-rated restaurant on the review site. Guests of this affordable eatery can enjoy a quarter chicken for $5.57. When it's time to splurge, though, indulge in five ounces of tri-tip, two pork ribs and a quarter chicken on the Big Pine Sampler Platter for just $18.56.
Colorado: Piggin Out
Lakewood's Piggin Out is pink and proud. A hardcore proponent of the slow-and-low method, the eatery preps its pork to be tender, pink and smoky. The restaurant also likes to experiment, so invest in one of the quirkier creations, like a Mile High Frito Pie stuffed with a hot link for $5.50. Or, try a PCBC — piled with pulled pork, chili verde, bacon and cheese — for $10.50, with your choice of two sides.
Connecticut: Smokin’ With Chris
Named one of the best barbecuers in the state by Connecticut Magazine, Smokin' With Chris in Southington combines outdoor dining, live music, a little drinking and sweet smoked meats. Chris Conlon's casual joint serves up award-winning prime rib and brisket chili, set off by flavors as diverse as Mexican chocolate and cinnamon, for $10.95.
Delaware: Where Pigs Fly
Gayot recommends the rich brisket, but it's the hickory-infused pulled pig that makes this Dover destination famous. A sandwich and side clocks in at around $8, so you'll have plenty of cash left for a house-baked onion loaf to soak up all that sauce. Be sure to wash it all down with a Cheerwine.
Florida: Drunken Dragon
Leave it to Miami Beach to do things a little differently. Drunken Dragon is a Korean-American barbecue fusion restaurant, and chef Xavier Torres — formerly of Nobu — knows exactly what he's doing. If you're looking for a chic, communal-style drinking and dining hall, Dragon Hour is where to go for deals. Munch on a pork shoulder-based banh mi Cuban presse for $6 or enjoy a Berkshire pork belly for just $9.
Georgia: Fresh Air Bar-B-Que
Established in 1929 and still praised by Southern Living as an awe-inspiring eatery, Fresh Air Bar-B-Que offers old-fashioned slow cooking done right. Its tangy, spicy, tomato-based sauce makes the $2.85 pulled pork sandwich pop, and the Brunswick stew is available at the same super-low price. Visit the original Jackson location or the second spot in Macon.
Hawaii: Uncle Bobo’s Smoked BBQ
Located in Kaʻaʻawa, Uncle Bobo's gives its slow-and-low meats a Hawaiian twist by smoking them for hours over a combination of hickory and tropical woods and then adding an onion-and-garlic-heavy sauce. Recommended by Thrillist, the meats here often come with a seasoned rice side, and they also come pretty cheap — the local favorite pork shoulder plate with two sides clocks in at $10.75. Or, you can go one-handed with a spicy, Louisiana hot sausage on a hefty French roll for under $5.
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Idaho: Pitmaster BarBQue Company
Idaho Falls' Pitmaster travels the West competing in BBQ contests and often takes home the awards. Money-minded barbecue buffs can text "brisket" to 91011 to join the joint's VIP Club for a chance to win swag like home smokers. However, you can also save money at the restaurant by ordering 10 half slices of Pig Candy — sweet and spicy thick-cut bacon — for $6.89.
Illinois: Bill’s Bar-B-Q
The tiny town of Metropolis in Southern Illinois isn't just the official home of Superman — it's the unofficial home of BBQ for breakfast, thanks to the neighborhood staple known as Bill's Bar-B-Q. Founded in 1965, Bill's serves over-the-top breakfast sandwiches that deliver mounds of meat. The Heart Attack features sausage, ham, bacon and egg for $6.70, but you can double the deliciousness with The Stroke for $7.40.
Indiana: Shigs In Pit
Really, Shigs In Pit is worth visiting for the name alone. But it helps that this Fort Wayne institution was named the best barbecue in the state by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development. The pulled pork sandwich is just $5.99, and the Big "Shig" Pig is $8.99. The latter menu item shakes up the classic BBQ pork sammy by adding house-smoked bologna, pimento cheese and creamy coleslaw.
Iowa: Smokey D’s BBQ
The winner of more than 75 state championships, Smokey D's was named one of the state's best barbecue spots by Travel Iowa, and with good reason. Offering delicious treats like gooey mac and cheese and flavorful brisket, this eatery is also known for its low prices. At lunch, the rib platter with two sides goes for just $10.59, or you can opt for a Daily Comfort Food special — ranging from hot beef sandwiches to BBQ chicken — every day of the week for under $10 each.
Kansas: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Kansas City, Mo., is known around the world for its barbecue, but in 1996, Joe's stepped up the game in Kansas City, Kan. Inside a retro gas station, these champion smokers serve up all kinds of BBQ sandwiches — from the house specialty pulled pork to the Smokie Joe, a combo of chopped smoked beef and pork — for just over $6. The coleslaw is spicy, and the burnt ends — only available at certain times — sell out fast at $16.99 per pound.
Kentucky: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn
Since 1963, this Owensboro institution has been serving up thousands of pounds of its distinctly Kentuckian barbecued meat every week — and that meat is tender hickory-cooked mutton with a vinegary, peppery Worcestershire-based sauce. You can try the mutton for just $4.59 per sandwich. But if you're feeling more peckish, $11.49 will net you a buffet loaded with hickory smoked meats, shrimp and catfish fiddlers every Monday through Saturday during lunch.
Louisiana: HillBilly Bar-B-Q
You'll find no shortage of hip, trendy barbecue spots near New Orleans, but Hillbilly Bar-B-Q keeps it simple with its vinegar-based, Kentucky-style smoking and dry-rubbed pork spare ribs. Of course, it is Louisiana, so you're also going to find hickory-smoked alligator sausage. Most lunch specials cost well under $10, individual pork, beef and chicken sandwiches are around $5 and a whole smoked chicken rings in at just $9.95.
Maine: The Rib Truck
These days, you can't go wrong with food from a truck. When you see that smoke rolling off John and Mary Freeman's Rib Truck in Fort Kent, Madawaska, Caribou or Presque Isle, it's time to hit the brakes and pig out. A rack of ribs costs a cool $10, but you have to try the $8 signature Pork Parfait, which layers BBQ baked beans, pulled pork and house-made BBQ sauce in a handy to-go cup.
Maryland: Fat Pete’s Barbecue
Fat Pete's was a hit in College Park well before it was popular with The Washington Post. Daily specials like chopped brisket sandwiches, pulled pork and pulled chicken all chime in at around $5, and the $7.99 brisket burnt ends enjoy an extra four hours in the smoke. If you have $14.99 to spare, though, challenge yourself with a Belly Buster sandwich heaped with smoked bologna, pulled pork, chopped brisket, candied bacon and mac and cheese.
Massachusetts: Blue Ribbon BBQ
West Newton's Blue Ribbon brings a little of the South to Massachusetts. Boston Magazine sings the praises of "the most enticing burnt ends around" and the "sumptuous pulled pork," so you might as well try both with a Barbecue Duo Combo, available for $15.99. Those dry-rubbed ribs are a deal, too, at $8.49 for lightly glazed St. Louis cuts.
Michigan: US 31 Bar-B-Q
Up in Muskegon, US 31 Bar-B-Q serves its meats with a secret-recipe relish and a whole lot of humble, family-style charm. The prices at this diner-style dive are pretty humble, too, with single-meat sandwiches ringing in at $3.90. So, go ahead and opt for two meats for $4.15 or three for a fist-pumping $4.25 — you'll have plenty of change left for a slice of pie, too.
Voted the WCCO Viewers' Choice for Best BBQ in Minnesota in 2015, this eatery offers meats smoked and prepped for four to 14 hours. At the counter of this Champlin diner, two folks can eat for $23 with a 1-pound sampler of up to three meats. Alternatively, you can build a sandwich with meats ranging from pulled pork to slab bacon and various toppings for around $8. Top it all off with your choice of sauces, such as Pepper Vodka BBQ or Espresso.
Mississippi: Leatha’s Bar-B-Que Inn
Barbecue is as old as America, and we owe stewards of the craft like Hattiesburg's own Leatha Jackson for helping solidify the tradition. Though Leatha passed away in 2013, her legendary food lives on. Lunch ribs are only $10.99, and a plate of all four of the establishment's meats can be had for $23.99. While you dine, pick up a copy of Leatha's book, "If These Fields Could Talk," to find out how she became the Barbecue Queen of Mississippi.
Missouri: Arthur Bryant’s
If you're in Kansas City, you know it's time to get serious about barbecue. Follow Travel + Leisure's advice and join the queue at Arthur Bryant's, which the publication listed as one of the best BBQ restaurants in the country. Indulge your taste buds with a two-meat sandwich for $10.55. Before you head home, purchase a bottle of the original spicy, vinegary sauce to take along for just $4.25.
Montana: The Notorious P.I.G.
Barbecue restaurants love their puns, and the BBQ community loves Notorious P.I.G. in Missoula. Named best in the state by the Travel Channel, this notorious people-pleaser sells meats it starts cooking at 4 a.m. every day — over cherry and apple wood — until it runs out, so get there early. You can dig into a pound of pulled pork for $13 or score the same amount of tri-tip sirloin for a reasonable $19.50.
Nebraska: Swine Dining
In a hotly contended contest, Omaha.com eventually handed the title for best barbecue in the city to Swine Dining, gushing over the pulled pork's "smokiness, its texture and its depth of flavor," as well as the eatery's tender ribs. A full slab of those ribs will cost you $20.99, or you can opt for a saucy $7.99 snack of four bones. On weekdays, jump into the All in the Pool Sandwich with two sides for $7.97; this monster meal features Swine's succulent meat selections between two bursting slices of bread.
Nevada: Rollin Smoke BBQ
Vegas is known far and wide for its all-you-can-eat buffets, and that's how the city does barbecue, too. Sample the succulent meats at your leisure or, if you're feeling conservative, opt for the creative Sliced Brisket Po-Boy. At $12.99, this meal will easily fill you up before you hit the slots.
New Hampshire: Arnie’s Place
Recommended by New Hampshire Magazine for its 14-hour hickory smokes, moist pulled pork and huge serving sizes, Arnie's Place offers a slice of Americana in Concord. Grab a bench outside and treat yourself and your date to a three-meat, two-side plate for $26.99. Just don't leave without trying the locally famous, extra-thick soft serve ice cream for $3.75.
New Jersey: The Hickory Hog
Listed on Men's Journal's "25 Best Barbecue Spots in America" list, Hickory can't help but add a little Jersey flair to its dishes. Try the $9.99 blackened steak bites, served with spicy aioli. For something more traditional, opt for a Carolina pulled pork sandwich, created with hickory, for just $7.99.
New Mexico: Danny’s Place
When Dairy Queen wouldn't let chef Danny add smoked meats to the menu of his Carlsbad franchise restaurant, he went his own way and opened up Danny's Place. Today, the New Mexico eatery serves up chopped beef sandwiches for as little as $4.15. If you want more of that slow-cooked meat smoked over sweet hardwood in Dan's wood-fired pit, go for the three-meat meal for $15.19.
New York: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Brooklyn doesn't serve velociraptor, but it does tackle the dinosaur-sized task of bringing authentic, slow-and-low barbecue to New York City. Save some dough with an $11.99 dino burger or embrace the excess with the Big Ass Pork Plate — including pickles, crisp belly cracklings, two sides and cornbread — for $17.99.
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North Carolina: Herb’s Pit B-B-Q
At first glance, Herb's Pit B-B-Q in Murphy looks like a family house — and it kind of feels like home when you eat there. Since 1982, Herb's has been pit-cooking thick-chopped meat, which the eatery drenches in the sweet sauce North Carolina is known for. A smoky chopped BBQ pork sandwich is a steal at $3.99, or you can forgo the bread and just get a whole plate of chopped pork — complete with two down-home sides — for $9.99.
North Dakota: Lush Lola’s
At Lush Lola's in Osage, it's all about the name. Appropriately located at the Smokey Hills Wilderness Retreat, Lola's infuses its barbecue with plenty of boozy goodness, like its Drunken Pig topped with Captain Lola's Rum BBQ sauce or the beer-braised Tipsy Cow. The latter costs just $10 and includes two sides.
Ohio: Beaugard’s Southern Bar “B” Que
No one really knows why the middle "B" in Beaugard's Southern Bar "B" Que is in quotes, but everyone appreciates the Wilmington eatery for offering solid Memphis-style dining at affordable prices. From its barn-style dining hall, Beaugard's focuses on fall-off-the-bone meats, like its affordable brisket, which goes for just $6.50 per half-pound. It's hard to go wrong with a pulled pork sandwich, though, especially when it costs just $3.95.
Oklahoma: Van’s Pig Stand
Since 1930, Van's Pig Stands have served Oklahoma locales from Shawnee to Purcell, and now the business even boasts a food trailer. Scope out the rotating specials for deals like the $4 Pig Sandwich, or make out like a bandit with a half-pound of chopped pork for $8.
Oregon: Podnah’s Pit
Podnah's Pit is in Portland, so of course it's a little cooler than your average barbecue joint. But that doesn't stop it from offering decent deals like St. Louis cut ribs for $2.75 a pop. You can also get a little fancier with all-natural brisket smoked for 10 hours (and served with two sides) for $17.50. Keep an eye out for daily specials starting at 5 p.m. to save money on everything from smoked lamb to prime rib.
Pennsylvania: Redd’s Smokehouse BBQ
According to PennLive, Redd's Smokehouse ranks among the top barbecue restaurants in the Keystone State. The original food trailer couldn't contain Redd's flavor, so it's now a full-on restaurant known for its balance of charred edges and soft insides, as well as the $7.99 barbecued bacon on a stick. Redd's might also be the northernmost point at which you can fill up on Brunswick stew — and at $3.25 a cup, you might as well do just that.
Rhode Island: Becky’s Real B.B.Q.
Becky's brings the hickory to Middletown, offering slow-cooked ribs that have been voted best in the state by more than one publication. Becky's temperatures never rise above 225 degrees, and the meat smokes over hardwood until it just about dissolves. You can feed four diners at Becky's for $30.99, with the Straw House pulled pork special, or just feed yourself with a BBQ chicken lunch plate for an astoundingly cheap $4.85.
South Carolina: Scott’s Bar-B-Que
What was once a gas station in Hemingway is now home to barbecue artists carrying on the tradition of whole-hog barbecue. Owned by Rodney Scott, this family business features a massive smokehouse, fueled by wood chopped right out back, that produces its own deeply seasoned, perfectly charred pork. Dining on a pound of the good stuff will cost you $11, or you can grab a plate with sides for $7.
South Dakota: Rowdy Hog Smokin’ BBQ
Over in Sioux Falls, Rowdy Hog keeps it simple by focusing on tender meats paired with tangy sauces — maybe that's why Thrillist called it the best barbecue in South Dakota. A quarter rack of ribs slides in at a below-average $8.99, but you'd be remiss to skip the Mac Daddy — a pulled pork sandwich topped with mac and cheese — for $7.49. And if you need a top-off, add three bone ribs to any meal for $5.99.
Tennessee: Sugar’s Ribs
We could probably come up with a list of 50 great barbecue deals in Tennessee alone, but for now, we'll limit ourselves to the legendary Sugar's. Located in Chattanooga, Sugar's specializes in spare ribs rather than the popular baby backs, keeping them crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Pig lovers should try the pork butt, which comes sandwich style with a side for $8.75.
Texas: Smitty’s Market
Another big hitter in the world of barbecue, Texas offers no shortage of world-class barbecue. However, if you're looking for deals, Smitty's Market in Downtown Lockhart is the place to be. Since 1948, Smitty's has used the same pit to smoke its sausage, which now comes in both regular and jalapeno varieties. This barbecue snack will cost you just $2.25, or $5 if you go for the jalapeno upgrade.
Utah: Joe Morley’s BBQ
Joe Morley's of Midvale has been around since 1985, but that doesn't stop it from keeping current. Deal hunters should check out Joe's official website for promos like free sides when you Instagram your experience.
Morley considers his cherry wood-smoked, hand-sliced brisket the house specialty, and a pound can feed up to four for just $14.95. Everyone loves burnt ends, but few eateries have had the notion to put them on a sandwich and smother them with barbecue sauce and blue cheese... until now. This meal includes a side and is a must-try at $10.99.
Vermont: Bluebird Barbecue
Bluebird Barbecue in Burlington pairs dozens of craft beers and even craftier cocktails with its barbecue platters, promoting a vibrant, social atmosphere. Likewise, its menu features fun barbecue classics, such as a plate of three brisket tacos with hot slaw for $14.95 and poutine with pulled pork for $13.95.
Virginia: HogsHead Cafe
Virginia's a heavy-hitter on the barbecue scene, but only the HogsHead Cafe in Richmond made TripAdvisor's 2015 list of the best barbecue in the U.S. If you want the best for the least, try a half-pint of hand-pulled pork for $5.99, or an a la carte sandwich for $6.99. If you'd rather mix your meats, go with the most-requested menu item. The Hog Dog is a bacon-wrapped jumbo beef hot dog, deep fried and topped with pulled pork, house-made barbecue sauce and coleslaw.
Washington: Jeff’s Texas Style BBQ
Though it might live on State Avenue in Marysville, Jeff's is all about spreading the gospel of authentic Texas-style barbecue, down to the post oak wood chef Jeff imports from Austin. Jeff's enthusiasm shines through his food — he's more than happy to share his recipes with you — and his prices focus on family style dining. A $64 Texas Trinity Tray feeds up to six people with brisket, sausage, spare ribs and four sides. Additionally, you can take advantage of weekly specials, such as smoked pork belly on Fridays and beef ribs on Saturdays.
West Virginia: Hickory House Restaurant
In case the name didn't give it away, the Hickory House's slogan should clue you in: "The hickory wood makes it goooood." The prices — paired with a menu that's not afraid to have some fun with barbecue staples — are also "goooood." Throw some jalapeno and melted pepper jack cheese on your $10 brisket sandwich or get your pulled pork served in a potato pie for $14.
Wisconsin: Blowin’ Smoke BBQ
Travel Wisconsin wants to let you in on a secret: Blowin' Smoke in Waunakee has "some of the juiciest sandwiches you'll find this side of Kansas City." Get a dry-rubbed, slow-smoked pork shoulder and two sides for $12.49. If you prefer a little diversity, go for the Half Chief, which serves up ribs, beef brisket, pork and homemade sausage medallions for just a buck more. And keep an eye on the rotating daily specials to save on applewood smoked prime rib, burnt ends, sliders and more.
Wyoming: Bubba’s Bar-B-Que
Gayot gives Bubba's Bar-B-Que a score of 13/20 for its succulent meats, but that hasn't affected the institution's prices. The rare Bar-B-Que Ham sandwich makes an appearance on the menu for $10, as does the Sloppy Bubba, which slaps sliced beef and pork simmered in barbecue sauce on a toasty bun.