BBQ is a deeply American, and in particular Black American, tradition. Slow-cooked, slathered, and grilled meat — subject to various interpretations based on regionality from the Carolinas to Texas to Memphis — has a long and storied history in the American South in particular and, as the food has become king regionally, all over the United States.
But while we may know what every state’s favorite type of BBQ is (and it appears that Texas meats are king) the best cities to get BBQ in America is a totally different ballgame. Well, luckily, some smart people over at Lawnstarter have decided to compile a list and map of the best places to get BBQ in America.
“There are cities that cook barbecue, and there are barbecue cities,” they write.
The rankings of the best cities to get BBQ were calculated through a number of key measures — 14 hallmarks of good barbecue. The number of BBQ restaurants in general, and the number of top-rated BBQs, plus the number of smokehouses and their quality were all part of the ranking.
Lawnstarter also considered the number of NBBQA Excellence Award Winners (the National Barbecue Association) and other awards given out to teams working at the joints. They also considered how many barbecue competitions from the KCBS (Kansas City Barbecue Society) were hosted in the city — an interesting metric in that it shows just how serious the city is about good barbecue.
In the end, the brand ranked 199 cities from top to bottom of which has the best BBQ cities. The top 10 and bottom 10 are as follows:
The Top 10 Best Cities to Get BBQ in America
A few of the inclusions on the list of the best BBQ joints in America make a lot of sense. Kansas City, Houston, Memphis, for example. The Midwest is often considered to be the king of BBQ, after all. But others are a bit more surprising — like New York City.
- Kansas City, MO
- Chicago, IL
- Houston, TX
- Cincinnati, OH
- Memphis, TN
- Louisville, KY
- St. Louis, MO
- New York, NY
- Minneapolis, MN
- Overland Park, KS
The Worst 10 Cities to Get BBQ in America
Starting from the absolute worst — Aurora, Illinois, and moving up to Lakewood, CO, here are apparently the worst cities to get BBQ. Texas folks will surely not be pleased.
- Aurora, IL
- Akron, OH
- Amarillo, TX
- Columbus, GA
- Anchorage, AK
- Garland, TX
- El Paso, TX
- Rockford, IL
- Vancouver, WA
- Lakewood, CO
Interestingly, there were some other standouts of cities that didn’t rank in the top 10 but still had some good features. Los Angeles, for example, has the most top-rated BBQ restaurants, followed by Honolulu, Hawaii, and New York, NY, tying for second place.
The cities with the most cooking teams ranking in the top quarter of BBQ World Series Open Contests include Kansas City, St. Louis, Omaha, Overland Park, and then Chicago, Olathe, and Tulsa all tying for fifth place. Meanwhile, despite St. Lous being one of the best BBQ cities, it has the fewest BBQ festivals, proving that maybe they feel they don’t have anything to prove at all.
Anyway, the list is controversial to be sure, but that’s probably because anything involving BBQ is almost certainly set to start up a fight. And anyway, congrats to Kansas City,