Ranked: Best BBQ in the South

Barbecue. No matter where you travel — especially in the South — you’ll discover what the locals insist is the best, truest barbecue ever. From smoked chicken with white sauce in Alabama to seasoned sausage in Texas, every southern restaurant and family thinks their coveted secret recipe is the pinnacle of this savory dish. But not everyone can actually be the best, right?

Lucky for you, we’ve scoured reviews and profiles from restaurant reviewers, pitmasters and more to come up with a list of the best BBQ in the South.


Locations throughout Alabama, sawsbbq.com

Trained at Johnson & Wales, North Carolina-native Mike Wilson has been smoking meats and crafting sauces for decades. Wilson’s recipe for success, however, has never changed. A mouthwatering combination of passion, expertise and hard work has earned Wilson’s Birmingham, Alabama, restaurant, SAW’s BBQ, the top spot on Southern Living’s “The South’s Best Barbecue Joint In Every State 2023″ ranking.

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“The menu features Carolina style smoked pulled pork, chicken and ribs, served with one of three styles of sauce,” the restaurant’s website states. “Sides include baked potatoes, beans, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and banana pudding.”

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

1715 6th Avenue SE & 2520 Danville Road SW, Decatur, Alabama, bigbobgibson.com

Winner of the Jack Daniels World Championship, Today Show Challenge and American Royal International Barbecue Contest, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q has been offering award-winning and world-famous southern food since 1925.

“Bob Gibson was an L & N railroad worker who honed his cooking skills on the weekends, in a hand dug barbecue pit,” the famous chain’s website said. “Along with delicious smoked meats, he became famous for his Original BBQ White Sauce. Five generations of pitmasters and over 90 years of barbecuing, they’ve earned 15 World BBQ Championships (Pork, Brisket, Ribs, Chicken) and 5 Memphis in May World BBQ Grand Championships.”

It’s that competitive edge that earned Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q a shoutout from the Food Network.

“Created by Bob Gibson in 1925, the tangy mix of mayo, vinegar and spices has become a regional icon, found at barbecue joints throughout the northern part of the state,” Food Network’s Sara Ventiera said. “Smoked-meat aficionados drive from all over the country to get a taste of the original ivory-colored recipe. At two locations, locally sourced poultry (including turkey!) is slowly cooked in hickory-fired brick pits until tender and juicy. While that may be the specialty, don’t overlook the rest of the menu. Big Bob also serves award-winning pulled pork, ribs and beef brisket, a veritable smorgasbord of luscious smoked meat.”

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Tejas Chocolate & BBQ

200 N. Elm Street, Tomball, TX 77375, tejaschocolate.com

Founded by chocolate-making pitmaster Scott Moore Jr. and “Carrot souffle’ goddess” Michelle Holland, Tejas Chocolate & BBQ is Tomball, Texas’ secret culinary weapon. It’s the restaurant’s outside-of-the-box thinking that earned it high marks from Eater, even being ranked at the state’s top BBQ pitstop.

“For us, making chocolate is about letting the origin of cacao reveal its own character in chocolate flavor,” the company’s chocolate Craftory website said. “By using minimal and pure ingredients the complexities of cacao tell us the story of their origins in something wonderful & delicious.”

“Barbecue for us starts with simple ingredients like Texas ‘black & white’ brisket rub,” the website explained. “About equal parts salt and black pepper is all you need to make brisket taste great. We offer smoked brisket, pork shoulder, pork spare ribs, turkey, and sausage.”

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

Locations throughout Kansas, joeskc.com

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is a restaurant with a Hollywood reputation. Featured on “Man vs. Food,” “Food Paradise” and “All You Can Meat,” the Kansas City BBQ joint is no stranger to attention. However, it was the late Anthony Bourdain’s rave reviews on “No Reservations” that brought the restaurant’s reputation to a new level.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

While not properly in the South, a trio of Kansas locations, each hidden within local gas stations, takes southern cooking to a magical place.

“In Kansas City, where barbecue is a way of life, it is understood that smoke has mystical properties,” the restaurant website stated. “Smoke has the power to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. It can transform the least desirable cuts of meat into the most delectable. It can even transform a neighborhood corner gas station into one of the most popular restaurants on the planet.”