Where to Find the Best Barbecue in Las Vegas
Here’s where to go in Sin City when you want a meal cooked low and slow.
Barbecue can be a touchy subject in Las Vegas. Conversations usually begin with "Vegas never had good barbecue until…" and then debates erupt over how to finish the sentence. Some restaurants earn equal amounts of praise and complaints. Others are automatically discarded for trite reasons (like being on the Strip, for example). So where to begin? While barbecue menus may look similar to the casual observer, the low-and-slow style of smoking meats leaves little room for error. A good operation requires the expertise of a seasoned pitmaster and well-crafted side dishes. A heavy dose of charm doesn't hurt either. Ready to form an opinion of your own? Check out the following restaurants to see how the barbecue scene is booming in Las Vegas. Hit one of these spots before exploring all the fun things to do in Sin City this summer.
Lickin Good Smokin BBQ
Lickin Good Smokin BBQ is a newcomer to the Vegas barbecue scene, opening in late 2021. Founder Joe Woodel was previously the pitmaster at The Beast by Todd English and is now following his own vision based on the barbecue he loved growing up in East Tennessee. The meats are smoked with cherry wood and finished over oak with an emphasis on flavorful rubs over sauces. Coleslaw is made to order. Forget about mac n' cheese. The restaurant does corn and cheese instead, finished elote-style with cilantro, Tajin, and cotija cheese. The chili is another killer side dish, mixing beans and brisket with hand-cut ancho chilis. If you prefer something on the lighter side, try the broccoli salad with pickled raisins, smoked sunflower seeds, and shredded carrots. The dining room plays everything from country and rap to house and opera, all based on Woodel's own shuffled playlist. Booze is on the way once an alcohol license is finalized.
SoulBelly BBQ is the culmination of a long journey for Bruce Kalman—one that saw the chef make impressive appearances on shows like Top Chef and Chopped while earning nationwide acclaim at restaurants like Union in Pasadena. Now in Las Vegas, the chef is serving up barbecue (something he once did alongside Dave Grohl for fun) with a gourmet touch in the Arts District. SoulBelly BBQ is often described as a place you'd see in Nashville or Austin; full of Americana charm with murals painted on the wall and banquettes made of reclaimed wood. There's also a stage for live music and Kalman himself loves to perform. But the tender meats are the real draw, with Creekstone Farms beef and Duroc heritage pork cooked extra long at extra low temperatures over Texas post oak on two large front patio smokers. Kalman does traditional sides the right way, plus sandwiches, burgers, smoked nachos, and even a new take on pigs in a blanket. Wash it all down with a serving of Jiggle Juice, a spicy whiskey lemonade in a plastic bag.
Founder Mike Ross named Jessie Rae's after his wife, who is not only a source of inspiration, but also bought his first smoker. He started small, perfected his skills on the competition circuit, and now has a restaurant that happens to be just steps away from Allegiant Stadium. A proud local, the chef describes his barbecue as "Vegas-style," mixing together elements from different regions. Ross is a former bartender who makes his own sauces with the same knack for complex recipes you'd find in a well-made cocktail. The signature God Sauce, for example, is sweet with a hint of vinegar and spice. When smoking meats, Ross and his team like to experiment with different types of wood, giving customers subtle differences in taste with each return visit. Ultimately, Jessie Rae's is about having fun. Ask about The Fortress (a rack or ribs stuffed with fries, mac n' cheese, and a choice of meat with a hot link and sauce on top) or "Loaded in Vegas" combinations of meat over waffle fries, tater tots, mac n' cheese, or BBQ mashed potatoes.
Big B's Texas BBQ
Texas native Brian Buechner launched Big B's Texas BBQ in Hederson in 2016, and followed up with a Summerlin-area location with a full bar in 2019. He and wife Natalia drive a 34-foot trailer to Texas Hill Country every three months or so to pick up mesquite for their smokers. The couple believes in clean meats with dry rubs, no injections, and sauce served (if requested) on the side. Leftover brisket is used in the baked beans the following day. A four-blend mac n' cheese and green beans sauteed with garlic are also popular sides. Follow Big B's on Instagram to keep up to speed on secret menu items like a meat-stuffed baked potato, Texas Cheesesteak Sandwich, and Loaded Potato Skins. Placing a pickup order? Just know Big B's has a policy of carving meats and packing orders when the customer shows up. It's worth waiting a few extra minutes to have the food as fresh as possible.
The return of Mabel's BBQ is one of the best things about the recent reopening of the Palms resort. Michael Symon's restaurant looks much the same as it did before the 2020 shutdown, albeit with a modified, somewhat truncated menu. The heritage-bred meats are smoked in-house over cherrywood, applewood, and post oak, served on their own or inside sandwiches and a "stoner burrito." The smoked portabella in the latter is a nice option for vegetarians. Mabel's picks up where it left off with an excellent beer, bourbon, and cocktail selection. Have your Manhattan made to order or with a "French Toast" influence (with maple and walnut bitters) on draft. The one thing missing, at least for now, is Sara's, the restaurant's still-closed speakeasy supper club. Get a feel for what it was like with a Smoked Prime Rib special on Fridays.
L2 Texas BBQ
L2 is owned and operated by two guys named Larry (Larry Lehrner and Larry Esguerra) who previously opened Texas Meltz together, a restaurant that overstuffs its sandwiches with quality meats. L2 (which took over the old Memphis Championship BBQ space) offers a similar bang for your buck, serving meats smoked over mesquite, post oak, and hickory. Try the all-you-can eat special for $39.99 when dining in-house. It begins with three meats, two sides, and a choice of cornbread or Texas toast. Finish it off and you're welcome to return for more. The menu also has house-made sausage and the same sandwiches you'd find at Texas Meltz, plus a few surprises like fried catfish, fried okra, and house-made bread pudding. Plans are in the works for a gaming license and full bar later this year.
Steve's Pig Pikins BBQ
Steve's Pig Pikins BBQ makes the most of time-tested barbecue methods and a strong collection of family recipes. The restaurant follows the vision of Steve Roy, the current president of the Nevada BBQ Association and a veteran of the competition circuit for more than a decade. Roy says it all began with his mother's BBQ sauce, which is sweet and tangy with some kick on the backend. Enjoy meats on their own or in a couple oversized sandwiches: The Hank (made with a little bit of everything) or The Rea (with bold and spicy ingredients). For even more indulgence, try the brisket-stuffed chimichanga. The whiskey-baked beans are the most popular side dish, but the sugar pickles get a lot of attention (pickled cucumbers with onions and peppers). Roy says nearly everything else is made in-house too, from the salad dressings to the vanilla ice cream that’s based on his grandfather's hand-cranked recipe. Ask for a scoop on top of a cobbler. The dining room has charm to spare with family photos lining the walls.
Virgil's Real BBQ
Barbecue isn't always easy to find on the Strip, which makes Virgil's Real BBQ a welcome sight at The LINQ outdoor promenade. The concept originated in New York (and has another location in the Bahamas), but the Vegas version is the only one with a live music stage and was the originator of the Bloody Mary Bull Rider, served in a large mug with brisket, shrimp, and bacon as garnish. Booze also comes in the form of draft beer, whiskey, and one-gallon "Party in a Jar" cocktails to share. The two-level restaurant has a second-floor patio and is an unapologetic tourist magnet, but takes its food seriously with two custom-designed smokers on site that warm up meats for up to 10 hours over a combination of hickory, oak, and fruit woods. The idea is to cover a wide variety of barbecue styles, from sweet Memphis-style ribs to tangy Carolina-inspired pulled pork. Try 'em together with a half-chicken, brisket, two sides, and cornbread in the Pig Out platter for two.
When dining on the outskirts of Las Vegas, you won't find any barbecue better than Fox Smokehouse in Boulder City. Look for it in a quiet strip mall on the main drag near the historic downtown area. The restaurant takes pride in smoking quality meats over hickory, preferring to let the natural flavors and dry rub do the talking over heavy sauces. Owners Dan and Kelly Fox put their skills to the test on the competition circuit over the years, where they're known as BBQ Junkie. You can't go wrong with the ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and burnt ends, but make sure to try the Smokehouse Burger, made with a nine-ounce blend of brisket and certified Angus beef. Come by Sunday mornings for the Tri-Tip Eggs Benedict and other items on the breakfast menu. The owners recently opened a new concept, Fox Family Bakery, for scratch-made bread, pies, cookies, and other baked items.
Blood Bros. BBQ
Blood Bros. BBQ—a hit in Houston's crowded barbecue scene—now has a home in Las Vegas with a quick-service counter at Famous Food Street Eats inside Resorts World. The food is inspired by the diversity of Houston's Alief neighborhood and the Asian heritage of owners Robin and Terry Wong, as well as pitmaster Quy Hoang, who earned recognition from the James Beard Foundation for his work. Is the Vegas experience the same as the one back home in Texas? Not quite. It's a smaller menu that sticks to a few core dishes, but you'll appreciate the flavors in the St. Louis Pork Ribs slathered in Gochujang rub for a sweet-and-spicy bite, turkey dusted in Japanese shichimi togarashi for added heat and umami, and brisket served on its own or mixed together in fried rice. Jalapenos bring added kick to both the creamed corn and coleslaw. Hoang personally trained the Las Vegas team, including local pitmaster Jordan Scott, and continues to make return visits to ensure everything is up to his standards. The meats are cooked in the stall with oak and pecan inside cabinet-style smokers.
How to order: Order and pay for your meal at one of Famous Foods Street Eats' digital kiosks. Then head to the Blood Bros. counter to pick up your food.
Mountain West Eatery
Mountain West Eatery mixes comfort food and bold flavors with family-focused hospitality. Rick Ruff opened the restaurant at the onset of the pandemic with wife Jenilyn on Blue Diamond Road near Mountain's Edge, featuring a menu based on his mother's personal recipes. Ruff describes his barbecue as "Chicago-style," which is all about having a firm, moist texture. It's not fall off the bone. Some of the other dishes, however, have a clear Southern influence, including the Shrimp and Grits, traditional Gumbo, and a Ghost French Toast sandwich stuffed with fried fish. Smoked meats also find their way into salads and breakfast scrambles. Lunch and dinner plates come with a corn muffin and two sides.
How to order: Call 702-844-8313 with any questions.
The Beast By Todd English
Todd English is having a resurgence as one of the most high-profile celebrity chefs in Las Vegas. He brought back his signature Olives restaurant at Virgin Hotels and put his name behind the The English Hotel, a boutique resort in the Arts District with the Pepper Club as its in-house bar and restaurant. Yet The Beast may get the most foot traffic, thanks to its location inside the AREA15 entertainment complex. The menu covers a lot of ground, from pizzas to Korean corn dogs, but the "Beast Breath Smoke House" is the heart of the kitchen, centrally located in the dining room. A four-person pit crew led by Orelle Young smokes meats with oak, allowing natural flavors to some through with subtle touches like a Carolina-style vinegar sauce on the pork butt, an ancho chili rub on the ribs, and cayenne on the brisket, adding warmth to every bite. Try them all in a sampler platter or choose a protein to stuff inside a loaded one-pound baked potato with Alabama white sauce on top.
How to order: Walk-ins are common, but call 725-210-5365 to reduce the wait with a reservation.
Trailhound Smokers BBQ
Trailhound Smokers isn't a restaurant. It's a catering service that happens to have some of the best barbecue in Las Vegas. The concept was founded as a side project by Timm Martin, who worked construction for more than 40 years before leaving to make his love of barbecue a regular gig. He prefers smoking meats over pecan wood for its mild, sweet properties, but uses peachwood for whole hogs to match a peach injection and glaze. A few of the sides come with fun modifications, like crushed pineapple in the baked beans, jalapenos in the Southwest-style corn, and a hint of parmesan in the mac n' cheese. Everything is made to order for weddings, corporate parties, and other special events with a custom-built, stainless-steel BBQ pit and trailer brought on site. An annual cookout has raised more than $140,000 for K9s for Warriors and other charities over the years.
How to order: The general public can place orders online for pickup with a minimum 72-hour notice. Once-a-month combo meals are announced on Facebook.
Founder Gerald Casas grew up in the Houston neighborhood of Braeswood and borrowed the name for his own Las Vegas restaurant, which puts a refreshing Tex-Mex spin on traditional barbecue. Brisket and chicken are smoked over post oak and stuffed inside tacos with Mexican rice on the side, along with other familiar staples like mac n' cheese, potato salad, and green beans. Casas throws in a few surprises too. Just look at the ramen, given a burst of flavor with spicy pork and hominy. The restaurant has the feel of a Texas icehouse with an open kitchen and garage-style roll-up door. The bar keeps things simple with house-made sangria and a collection of Texas and Mexican beers. Braeswood had the unique challenge of opening two weeks after the high-profile debut of SoulBelly just a block away, but is quickly catching on as both restaurants work in synergy to establish the Arts District as a hub for barbecue in Las Vegas. Braeswood also serves an easygoing weekend brunch with brisket, egg, and salsa burritos.
Rollin Smoke began as an Arkansas family selling roadside barbecue sandwiches in front of a hardware store and quickly grew to three brick-and-mortar locations (including one in partnership with Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison at Pawn Plaza) and service counters inside Allegiant Stadium and T-Mobile Arena. The menu has expanded in dramatic fashion too, offering more depth than most barbecue restaurants in town, so plan a few return visits to get it all in, especially the smoked meatloaf (made with pulled pork and brisket, served on mashed potatoes, and topped with crispy onion strings), the Outlaw (a smoked brisket and beef burger), and the Arkansas-style burnt ends (cubed and seared with a sweet barbecue sauce for a moist, tender bite). The brothers stick with hickory for its strong, smoky flavor to match a robust dry rub. Ribs are smoked all the way through for a touch of bark. The baked beans are made with brisket and pork, making them a hearty meal all by themselves.
John Mull's Meats & Road Kill Grill
This is one of those dining experiences you have to try at least once in Las Vegas. John Mull's Meats began as a slaughterhouse in 1954 and still processes wild game from licensed hunters today. However, most people come for the Road Kill Grill, an on-site BBQ kitchen known for spices made from scratch, recipes that date back to opening day, and mouthwatering St. Louis-style ribs marinated overnight, parboiled, and smoked for 45 minutes. Don't overlook the hot links, cured for 16 hours and smoked for six. While the food is technically “to go” from the counter, people tend to stick around and eat at the picnic tables on the patio. The lines are notoriously long, especially on Saturdays, so come by on Tuesdays and Thursdays when tri-tip is available.