Philly isn’t exactly known for barbecue. But there is a robust scene here, with players, old and new, doing it up right and keeping us full.
Local barbecue specialists smoke meats for more than a dozen hours to achieve the perfect smoke ring and Texas-trained chefs cook up exciting takes on classic barbecue dishes.
Here is our guide to the region’s best barbecue.
» READ MORE: Best pizza to eat right now in Philadelphia
Owner Matt Lang smokes on a gas-fired Ole Hickory, turning out brisket, pork, turkey, and pork spare ribs, which he sells by the pound and in sandwiches. A rotating assortment of sides such as queso mac, corn pudding, vegan potato salad, and tahini slaw complement the selection of meats.
Mike Strauss’ smoked brisket cheesesteak, an essential pit boss twist on the classic Philly sandwich, is reason enough to visit Mike’s BBQ, and the smoked meats with telltale pink smoke halos and moist tenderness have turned this East Passyunk spot into an all-purpose smokehouse champ. The spare ribs, pulled pork, smoked wings, and crispy pork belly are fantastic, and Mike’s peppery brisket are a true Philly barbecue pleasure.
» READ MORE: Mike's BBQ: Going from the smoker into the fire
Doug Henri’s roadhouse on the Black Horse Pike is a must-stop on the way to the Jersey Shore. The barbecue is reliably among the region’s best (ribs and chicken, in particular), and his weekend soul food buffets are a reason to visit, too.
There are three locations of Chad Rosenthal’s barbecue and whiskey bar: One in Ambler, one in Warrington (temporarily closed due to the pandemic), and one in the Spring Garden neighborhood, the newest locations. This legit-smoked barbecue has progressed nicely since the Ambler location opened years ago. The Memphis-style dry-rubbed spare ribs, the smoke-darkened hot links and zesty, tenderized whole chicken are must-trys.
📍Ambler: 111 E. Butler Ave., Warrington: 1613 N. Main St., and Spring Garden: 990 Spring Garden St., 🌐 chadrosenthal.com/tlw, 📷 @theluckywell, 🕑 Ambler, Fri.-Sat., 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Wed.-Thurs. & Sun., 4 p.m.-9 p.m.; Philadelphia, Wed., 4 p.m.-8 p.m., Thurs.-Fri., 4 p.m.-9 p.m., Sat., 12 p.m.-10 p.m., Sun., 12 p.m.-8 p.m.; Warrington, temporarily closed
» READ MORE: Chad Rosenthal: A restaurateur finds a mission
Owner Aaron Clark says that his Audubon, N.J., barbecue shop is his homage to Texas brisket. His brisket is minimalist in the Texas style, but peppery, tender, smoky, and so good. The big hit on his menu, though, is the smoked pork belly tacos with mango salsa.
Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse in the Northeast is a reliable barbecue spot with a well-rounded menu of hickory-smoked meats, sandwiches, and sides. Meats like smoked chicken and pulled pork are available in platter, sandwich or just meat form, and smoked wings and baby back ribs round out the menu.
» READ MORE: Where to find the best wings in Philly
Fette Sau (German for “Fat Pig”), opened in Fishtown to eager crowds nearly a decade ago and has since established itself as a mainstay in the Philly barbecue scene. The shop has three signature barbecue sauces each offering its own tangy, smoky, or spicy flavor to the pink-ringed smoked meats and meat-heavy sandwiches.
» READ MORE: Recipe: Fette Sau-style Baby Back Ribs
R. Scott Hanson is hardly the first homesick Texan to find solace by taking the pepper-encrusted bark of a big brisket into his own hands. But Hanson, who claims Austin as home, is at a transitional moment as his weekly NXTX Tex-Mex barbecue pop-up series at Cadence Restaurant grows in popularity. The Tex-Mex barbecue concept — think brisket tacos, tortilla-wrapped hot links, and deeply smoked carnitas — made its first stop in 2019 at the PHS Beer Garden on South Street and is a now a staple at the Girard Avenue restaurant with an afternoon-long, pre-order-only Sunday pop-up that offers Texas-style barbecue platters and Tex-Mex plates.
What was once a ghost kitchen operating under a delivery-only guise is now a 6,300-square-foot full restaurant at 246 Market St. in Old City, just off Third Street. The menu has barbecue and soul staples served in generous portions, including tender brisket, beef, and St. Louis-style pork ribs, various fish, every manner of fried food, and requisite sides, including collard greens seasoned with turkey, five-cheese mac and cheese, and a creamy potato salad.
May 20 is the target opening of Huff & Puff BBQ at 246 S. 11th St., next door to Middle Child. This project brings together South Jerseyans Luke Patrick, Josh Hitchner, and Adele Monaghan on a takeout/delivery joint with a strong complement of vegetarian items, including smoked watermelon, and “corn ribs” (corn sliced lengthwise and grilled).
» READ MORE: Our best Philly tips: Read our most useful stories