The Absolute Best Barbecue Spots in Boston Right Now
From hearty slabs of Texas-style brisket to indulgent sides, these are the must-visit spots for barbecue in Boston.
The words “Boston” and “barbecue” are hardly synonymous. When you picture our city’s cuisine, visions of lobster rolls and clam chowder come to mind. A pitmaster town we are not, but there’s still fantastic ‘cue to be found all over town—you just need to know where to look.
Some spots go highbrow with full dining rooms and even fuller whiskey menus, while others are tiny takeout joints slinging trays of meat that are known mostly through word of mouth. No matter which route you choose to go, there’s a top-notch spot worth a pit stop on this list of the best barbecue joints in Boston right now.
Blue Ribbon BBQ
Blue Ribbon Bar-B-Q is where many a Bostonian tasted their first barbecue—likely due to its family-friendly atmosphere—and it’s still going strong since the opening of its West Newton outpost in 1995. The slow-ride approach makes their meat so tender and delicious, along with the oak and hickory barbecue woods. There are actually multiple styles of BBQ represented, from North Carolina to Kansas City, but all the essentials are here, from ribs and brisket to pulled pork and burnt ends. The "grandma’s kitchen" sides like baked beans, mashed potatoes, and black-eyed corn are hard not to fill up on; ditto the homemade pies in varieties like key lime and pecan.
The Don’s BBQ
This is an origin story we can get behind: After 25 years languishing in a corporate career that left him dead inside, chef Sebastian "The Don" DiFelice did a 180 and opened his first restaurant. He made a career out of his true passion: brisket. And when you sit down to sink your teeth into the beef at The Don’s it’s clear that you don’t earn the nickname “the godfather of brisket” for nothing. This spot’s Texas-style barbecue also includes pork ribs, pulled pork, pulled chicken, and smoked andouille sausage, all of which you can order a la carte or with cornbread and a choice of two sides. Absolutely save room for the bread pudding, or at least take away a few pralines to go.
Larry J's BBQ Cafe
You don’t expect to encounter authentic barbecue mere steps from Boston Harbor. But then again, chef-owner Larry Jimerson is full of surprises. After all, this is a pitmaster who cut his hospitality teeth managing a wine bar in Palm Springs. Jimerson also somehow manages to turn out a massive menu out of a small takeout kiosk. On top of expected classics like St. Louis pork ribs, pulled pork, and smoked brisket—all smoked for more than 12 hours—you can also indulge in everything from fried pickles to a Southern Fried Catfish Sandwich to smoked beef bologna. In other words, your lunch break just got a whole lot more interesting.
M&M BBQ is living history. The eatery was originally founded by Marion and Maurice Hill as a famed food truck called M&M Ribs back in 1982. Their grandson Geo Lambert took the reins more than a decade ago, and has since given those famous fall-off-the-bone pork ribs an even bigger platform with the team’s very first brick-and-mortar outpost. Housed inside Dorchester Brewing, M&M BBQ also serves sandwiches (brisket, pulled pork) along with barbecue chicken and bar snacks like grilled corn and loaded fries.
Pit Stop BBQ
Whenever a Texas transplant starts lamenting Boston’s paltry barbecue scene, a helpful birdie flits down and whispers three magic words in their meat-seeking ear: Pit Stop Barbecue. For more than three decades, the Mattapan restaurant has doled out heaping platters of beef back, pork ribs, juicy grilled chicken, and slow-smoked brisket buttressed by craveworthy sides like candied yams, cornbread, collard greens, and mac ‘n cheese. And given that the spot is only open Thursday through Saturday, this is appointment dining in the purest sense.
The Porch Southern Fare And Juke Joint
This Southern joint may be known for serving up pimento cheese, chicken and waffles, and Frito-topped bowls of chili, but don’t be fooled: The Porch also dishes out the real deal when it comes to proper ‘cue. Chef Jonathan Post’s whole hog barbecue program comes courtesy of a custom-built, 1,000-pound, wood-fired smoker that turns out a small but mighty menu of pulled pork, Texas brisket, and St. Louis spare ribs, accompanied by classic fixings like potato salad and collards. The spot also has a top-notch barbecue offering for vegans, otherwise known as the smoked BBQ jackfruit.
The Smoke Shop BBQ
Ribs, crispy pork skins, brisket, burnt ends, fried chicken—it’s all represented at The Smoke Shop thanks to chef and owner Andy Husbands, who first made his name on the competitive barbecue circuit for more than 20 years. What began as a single effort in Kendall has since expanded to become a local mini-chain, and the barbecue has only gotten better with each new location. Be sure to save room for some whiskey—the menu is 250 labels long—and the butter cake to round out your meal. And if the Pork Belly Burnt Ends are on the menu, they are a must.
How to book: Via website.
Sweet Cheeks Q
Top Chef-er Tiffani Faison knows there’s only one way to eat barbecue, and that’s on metal trays with big scoops of sides next to a hearty order of meat. More than a decade ago, Faison brought her pitmaster expertise to Kenmore and introduced Sox fans to the joys of true Q: dry-rubbed pork ribs, slow-roasted brisket, Texas-style hot links. The bourbon list is its own draw, as are the Southern-style cocktails served in mason jars. You’d be forgiven, though, if you accidentally filled up on the buttermilk biscuits slathered with honey butter alone—they are, in a word, ambrosial.
Tennessee's Real BBQ
This may come as a surprise, but great barbecue can be found in Braintree. And Peabody and Framingham, too. Hit the ‘burbs to hit the ‘cue at a mini chain that’s won awards all over the country. The key might be in the dry rubs, or the use of three sweet smoking woods (hickory, apple, and cherry). Whatever the secret to their success, the results speak for themselves: Memphis, Texas, or baby back ribs; pulled pork sandwiches; sliced brisket; and smoked BBQ sausages.