It’s no surprise that a state known for beef and hog farming is clustered with more than a few really good BBQ joints. We put together a list of 13 independent barbecue restaurants just inside the 465 loop alone that serve up a variety of styles, from Memphis to Kansas City to Texas. Because really, what would the crossroads of America be without a mashup of the best kind of regional food combined with honest Indiana pastured meat?
The Very Best BBQ in Indianapolis
Northside (& other locations)
There are two restaurants inside the 465 loop and one just outside in Mooresville, and the growth of this local restaurant is no surprise when you get a taste of their brisket or rib tips. If you’re in a rush, they have a fast and delicious lunch special every day that’s usually less than eight bucks. But really, take some time to sit and order their pit sampler: you pick either two or three meats between brisket, rib tips, turkey, sausage, pulled chicken, pulled pork, or jumbo wings. Then, well, you'll probably want to take a nap.
25th & MLK
This place is one of the oldest and longest-running barbecue joints in the city, and the first restaurant my parents told me to hit up back when I first moved here. It’s been a freestanding little shop serving up takeout ribs and rib tips on MLK for decades, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Why? Because it’s that. damn. good. Nowadays, you can eat out on the patio when the sun is out and order some takeout for nights when you don’t feel like cooking... or had one too many cocktails.
This place only opens to the public on Fridays and serves everything else from the catering arm of the business. But don’t worry: you’ll be able to sample some of their prime BBQ every year at the Indiana State Fair. Of course, if you're not going to the fair, you’ll have to throw a party with 20 of your closest friends just to get a taste. But trust us, it’s worth it. Better start vacuuming.
56th & Emerson
Another restaurant high on the list of Indy’s best soul food spots, Garrett’s makes unbelievably tender barbecue brisket. Whether you eat it on a sandwich or by itself, just make sure you eat it (because we will if you don’t). The daily smoked selection is limited -- they’re closed on Monday and Tuesdays -- but anything you get is damn delectable. Just be careful: if you’re there during karaoke don't cover your ears when that thick BBQ sauce is on your fingers. That could get messy.
64th & Binford
If you’re looking for anything from a brisket dinner to some barbecue on a bun, head north on Binford and hit up Black Diamond. The place is small, so take out might be your best bet here. Grab either a full or half slab of ribs and pair it with some usual BBQ favorites: baked beans, coleslaw, corn on the cob, etc. And if your appetite is really kicking in, order the whole chicken dinner for just $11.95.
Don’t let the name fool you: Fat Dan’s does some of the best smoked meats in town, from wings to brisket. One of the best things you can get here is the smoked meatloaf sandwich, which you can choose to cover with barbecue sauce or leave plain. But really, we can’t imagine a reason (or a world) where you’d rather leave it plain and not have it dripping in that sweet, sweet, sauce.
The heart of Downtown has a lot of convenient food options for 9-to-5ers, but Dick’s is one of few places taking their time. Thanks to its smoker, the best thing to try here are either the ribs or the wings, both of which come out with a nice layer of char and smoke and take little effort to remove from the bone. You can also use GrubHub if you're not up to getting it yourself. In which case, congrats, you've found yet another convenient food option.
16th & Tibbs
The ribs from King Ribs are indeed fit for a king. They’re sticky and littered with sauce and a great layer of crunchy, smoky char. If you want to go a little lighter, the place also makes incredible barbecued chicken that you can buy a quarter at a time, or get a whole one for just shy of $10. If you’re wise, you’ll save room for a slice of pie.
37th & MLK
You might have guessed this one already, but Hank’s does some pretty great brisket. On top of that, its smoked corned beef is pretty on point with the BBQ baked potato, brisket sandwich, and loaded fries topped with, well, more corned beef. It’s a great place for dining in, but ordering some takeout and choosing a spot under an old tree at Crown Hill across the street is the real way to go.
Note: considering we mentioned corned beef twice here we’re hoping you realize you shouldn’t be passing it up.
Pitmaster Mitch McDaniel is churning out everything from chickens to pulled pork to smoked Alaskan salmon at his Nora barbecue joint. Grab yourself some Moon Shine Punch or a recommended craft cocktail -- and sure, maybe some ribs -- after you’re done jogging on the Monon Trail, just a few hundred feet away. Also, schedule another day of jogging: what you just did is pretty much useless.
Drivers, mechanics, and locals alike finally have great barbecue in Speedway. They’re serving not only Memphis-style ribs and sausage, but also a nice roundup of homestyle dishes like fried catfish and meatball subs. It’s easy eating to go with an outstanding lineup of small-batch bourbons.
38th & Shadeland
Indianapolis has some great soul food restaurants, and His Place is definitely one of them. And just so you’re not totally uneducated in their menu when you get there, here are two things you need to get: ribs and chicken and waffles. Oh, and the bourbon creamed corn... and the greens... and a BBQ fried bologna sandwich... and some yams. OK, maybe it’s more than two things.
71st & Binford
Sure, this place is in a crappy strip mall in a nameless part of the Northside. Yes, it’s kind of dark inside and the tablecloths are a little bit dated. But then you bite into those ribs, and none of that other stuff matters anymore because you’ve reached rib nirvana. If you’re a fan of smokey ribs that are sauced, and enjoy the option for some heat, look no further than GT South’s.
1. Squealers Barbeque5515 W 86th St, Indianapolis
2. Bar-B-Q Heaven Inc.2515 Dr Martin Luther King Jr St, Indianapolis
3. Judge's BBQ & Juice Garden Smoothie Bar2104 W Michigan St, Indianapolis
4. Garrett's Smokehouse Barbeque5502 Emerson Way, Indianapolis
5. Black Diamond BBQ6404 Rucker Rd, Indianapolis
6. Fat Dan's Deli5410 N College Ave, Indianapolis
7. Dick's Bodacious BBQ50 N Pennsylvania St, Indianapolis
8. King Ribs3145 W 16th St, Indianapolis
9. Hank's Smoked Brisket3736 Dr Martin Luther King Jr St, Indianapolis
10. North End Barbecue & Moonshine1250 E 86th St, Indianapolis
11. Barbecue And Bourbon1414 Main St, Speedway
12. His Place Eatery6916 E 30th St, Indianapolis
13. G. T. South's Rib House5711 E 71st St, Indianapolis
This local BBQ joint has grown into three outposts, and one taste of their brisket or rib tips will instantly explain why. We recommend going for the pit sampler, which lets you pick either two or three meats between brisket, rib tips, turkey, sausage, pulled chicken, pulled pork, or jumbo wings. Pair with loaded pork fries or beer onion rings and you'll be in for a barbecue-induced nap.
One of the oldest and longest running 'cue joints in the city, Bar-B-Q Heaven is a small, freestanding takeout shop with a patio for when the sun is shining. They do BBQ simply but they do it well, with ribs and rib tips that have stayed popular among locals and tourists for decades.
This place caters primarily to, well, catering, but they're open every Friday to serve the public piles of pulled pork, brisket and wings, among other meats. They also double as a juice bar which makes for a unique combination bridging the gap between healthy and "I just ate my body weight in smoked meat."
Don't let the decor fool you, for this ramshackle barbecue joint is serving up some seriously tender brisket. The daily smoked selection is limited, but what they do is done incredibly well. What's more, they host karaoke! Just don't get barbecue sauce on the mic.
This tiny place comes equipped with big BBQ flavor. Order a half or full rack of ribs and pair them with sides like baked beans and corn on the cob. If you're really hungry, you can order an entire chicken dinner for just $11.95. The place does catering too, so if you want the backyard BBQ without having to fire up the grill, you know who to call.
The home of Chicago beef in Indianapolis is Fat Dan's Deli, a casual modestly named haven of smoked meats, from wings to brisket. Some of its best items include a smoked meatloaf sandwich and the fall-off-the-bone smoked chicken wings, but this deli also has an impressive beer list that pairs perfectly with a BBQ sandwich.
Counter-serve lunches and full-service suppers make this bustling downtown BBQ stop suitable for all speeds of life. The brisket is perfectly smoked with just enough fat and fall-off-the-bone texture. The portions are huge and the price is right, so skip your usual $12 salad in favorite of some down-home downtown barbecue.
Stop at one of the first drive-thru barbecue restaurants in Indiana for sticky ribs smothered in sauce with a great layer of crunchy char as well as daily specials like a half chicken for just $4.50. And don't leave without a slice of sweet potato pie...it's just like grandma used to make, if she was Southern and had the cooking chops of a pro.
It's pretty obvious, but it's still worth pointing out that Hank's does a pretty great brisket. On top of that, its smoked corned beef is pretty on point with the BBQ baked potato, brisket sandwich, and loaded fries topped with, well, more corned beef. It’s a good spot for dining in, but ordering some takeout and choosing a spot under an old tree at Crown Hill across the street is the real way to go.
Barbecue and booze, what a happy matrimony -- even happier when you don't have to travel to the like of Texas or the Carolinas to get them. Way up in Indianapolis' northern suburbs sits a shockingly pretty (see: polished wood, Edison bulbs, vintage flair) that doles out Southern-style barbecue with dry rubs enviable by even the most experienced pit masters. Naturally raised meats including not just pork and beef but also chicken and salmon fall right apart and go down easy with a straight glass of vintage whiskey.
At this Speedway location, they're serving not only Memphis-style ribs and sausage, but also a nice roundup of homestyle dishes like fried catfish and meatball subs. It’s easy eating to go with an outstanding lineup of small-batch bourbons.
Out of all the great soul food restaurants in Indianapolis, His Place Eatery has to be one of the best. Locals have a hard time choosing between the ribs and the chicken and waffles, but we say just order both and share with a friend. It will be hard not to order everything on the menu! Where else can you get a BBQ fried bologna sandwich?
This place may be in a not so nice strip mall, but we swear that G. T. South's Rib House serves up some of the best barbecue in Indianapolis. Their ribs are by far the best thing on their menu, and we highly recommend that everyone in Indianapolis give G. T. South's a shot.