The Absolute Best Barbecue Spots in Philly Right Now
From hearty slabs of Texas-style brisket to indulgent sides, these are the must-visit spots for barbecue in Philadelphia.
When compared to cities in the South like Memphis or Austin, it’s difficult to see Philadelphia as a barbecue town. We don’t have an ingrained culture of smoked meats here—there’s no regional argument between Pennsylvania towns about barbecue sauce ingredients, a la North Carolina, or public disagreements between pitmasters about exactly what type of wood elicits the most perfect smoky flavor. Eating barbecue food in Philly elicits a surprised joy that you can scoop up a pulled pork sandwich here or a top-notch ribs platter there when the craving hits. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Over the last decade, there’s been a proliferation of barbecue spots across Northeastern cities (our guide to America’s best barbecue even includes places in New York City), and Philadelphia is no exception. We’ve got a variety of restaurants, ranging from takeout counters specializing in one particular style of barbecue to sit-down restaurants where you can spend an afternoon with friends over beers, briskets, and ribs.
Long Shot BBQ
From a takeout window in a corner of Gray’s Ferry, Long Shot BBQ is an as-of-yet underappreciated gem that has all the makings of a cult favorite. Go now while there aren’t long lines for brisket, housemade smoked cheddar and jalapeno sausage, chicken thighs, pulled pork, and ribs, all sold by the pound or in wraps and sandwiches. Their cornbread is some of the best in the city, and pairs nicely with other sides like potato salad, house-fried potato chips, coleslaw, and mac ‘n cheese. The best side, though, is the Sweet Potato Casserole Cup, baked into individual servings and topped with a crunchy brown sugar topping.
Huff & Puff BBQ
Huff & Puff is a great option for groups with mixed dietary restrictions. Chef Josh Hitchner puts just as much focus into vegetarian and vegan options like Smoked Corn Ribs, Pulled Jackfruit, and Brisket-Smoked Seitan as he does into classic meat barbecue like ribs, pulled pork and brisket. In the summer, look for his Smoked Watermelon, which concentrates into a sweet-savory candy-like texture. Pickle fries, mac ‘n cheese, collards, and baked beans round out the menu.
A good indication of a great barbecue spot is selling out regularly. Barkley’s does so quite often, so get there early if you want to try the beef ribs, smoked chicken, or pulled pork sandwiches. If you’re not headed up to Strawberry Mansion, where its brick-and-mortar restaurant is located, check the restaurant’s Facebook page to see if the food truck is out and about—it often parks at the Berlin Farmers Flea Market or Linvilla Orchards. The BBQ joint also delivers via Black and Mobile, a delivery service dedicated to working with Black-owned restaurants.
Big Bad Wolf Barbeque
Big Bad Wolf is strip-mall barbecue at its best. The spot’s signature item is Pork Belly Bites, which are smoked until they’re flavorful and juicy, then sliced, breaded, fried, and soaked in a sweet and spicy sauce. Big Bad Wolf has plenty of other items like hearty meat platters, excellent cornbread, and the works, but the pork belly bites are the money shot that needs to be added to every order.
Seafood towers are trendy, but what if barbecue towers are the next big thing? Try one at Craft Hall, stacked with three different meats and three sides with options like spare ribs, pork shoulder, and brisket paired with collards, mac ’n cheese, and cornbread. In addition to being a barbecue spot, Craft Hall is part brewery: Mainstay Independent Brewery’s beer is brewed on site, so it’s a good spot for an evening of drinking.
Deke’s is another spot that does the Philly barbecue mash-up of a brisket cheesesteak, as well as a couple of other sandwiches inspired by this city’s obsessive love of hoagies. Also notable: the mac ‘n cheese, a requisite barbecue side, is made with large shells and plenty of cheddar and the shop offers three types of loaded potato wedges that make a satisfying side.
Fette Sau (which is German for fat pig) is the place to go with a big crew when you want to settle in for an evening of rowdy drinking (and lots of smoked meats). It’s counter service, which makes it easy for everyone to order and pay for themselves, and the long picnic tables make it easy to pile in a group. Stephen Starr’s spots never disappoint, and Fette Sau is no exception with top-notch brisket and satisfying burnt end sandwiches that combine both pork and beef. It’s also a great spot to go with a group that includes vegetarians, as the sides are so good that some have been known to go for those alone.
Henri's "Hotts" Barbeque
Henri Hott’s is the place to stop on your way to the beach or on your way home from a day-trip when you’re sun-tired and just need some quality meat and a hearty spread of sides. The restaurant has suspended the beloved buffet for now, but you can still fill up on ribs, brisket, and smoked chicken, as well as fried shrimp, crab cakes, fried chicken, and many freshly made pies and bundt cakes.
The Lucky Well
Chad Rosenthal finally brought his Ambler-based barbecue spot to Center City in 2020, just in time for all our summer ‘cue needs. His menu focuses on Memphis-style dry-rubbed ribs, but the restaurant’s offerings include elegant vegetable starters as well as burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, pulled pork, and smoked sausage. The Vegan Burnt Ends are a surprising standout made with a brined and smoked sweet potato that hits all the savory, smoky barbecue notes without a single animal product.
Mike’s BBQ is probably the most beloved and well-known barbecue in the city, iconic for selling out early and often, and for the brisket cheesesteak sandwich which is just as delicious as it is as over-the-top. The brisket is excellent, as is the pulled pork, and the ribs will haunt you for the rest of your life. Get them on a classic platter with sides, or try them in the cheesesteak or the pulled pork Italiano, which is inspired by a Philly roast pork sandwich.
Smoke’s menu ranges from the classic: a straight-up meat-and-three platter with your choice of pork, brisket, smoked sausage, or ribs, to the less traditional pork belly tacos or nachos. It’s the kind of spot where families go time after time for a quick, easy, delicious dinner.
Sweet Lucy's Smokehouse
Sweet Lucy’s is one of those places that people have been going to for their entire lives. It’s a casual, family-friendly spot that just does the basics: hickory-smoked pork, chicken, brisket, sausage, and turkey. You can combine them in any number of ways: in sandwiches, on platters, even on toasted Italian rolls for a barbecue hoagie. But however you choose to eat it, the meat is smoky and moist and the vibes are very friendly.
Zig Zag BBQ
Chef and co-owner Matt Lang doesn’t let a single style define him at Zig Zig. His background is in Texas-style barbecue so brisket anchors the menu, but there’s much more to love. Recent specials include a Smoked Half-Chicken covered in urfa chili, sumac, and tons of sesame and Jerk-Spiced Pork Belly. Also notable are Lang’s sides, which follow no rules except to be absolutely delicious: macaroni and cheese drenched in queso sauce and sprinkled with hot Cheeto dust or a savory corn pudding with roasted hatch chilies and queso chihuahua.