The Absolute Best BBQ in Phoenix

From brisket to pulled pork to ribs and beyond, look no further for Phoenix’s essential smoked meats.

Joe’s Real BBQ
Photo courtesy of Joe’s Real BBQ

From coast to coast and across the nation, the month of May is universally recognized as National Barbecue Month. But for these Phoenix pitmasters and restaurant owners, every minute, of every day, of every month, is dedicated to all-things barbecue: burnt ends, pulled pork, brisket, and beyond—and that’s not even getting into the legendary sides. It takes a heroic amount of work to run a ‘cue joint. And these barbecue local spots are proving that hard work pays off and that BBQ is essential pillar of Phoenix’s food scene.

Honey Bear's BBQ
Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert

Honey Bear's BBQ

Van Buren
$$$$

Honey Bear’s BBQ first swung open their doors in 1986. And since then, these ‘cue experts have been dishing out Tennessee-style barbecue to the masses. Pitmaster Mark Smith has been skillfully manning the smokers behind this Van Buren barbecue shack since the beginning. And all that time perfecting his craft has certainly paid off. Honey Bear’s lineup of smoked eats includes classics like combo plates packed with wood-smoked proteins, hefty sauce-drenched sandwiches, and all the standard fixings including collard greens, Cowbro’ Beans, and the unmissable, uber cheesy, Meaty Mac topped with your choice of pulled pork, beef brisket, or shredded chicken. Don’t miss housemade sweets like the golden crusted peach cobbler and Honey Bear’s iconic sweet potato pie.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Joe's Real BBQ
Photo courtesy of Joe’s Real BBQ

Joe's Real BBQ

Downtown Gilbert
$$$$

This Gilbert Heritage District barbecue joint is a time-tested East Valley favorite, which made its delicious debut in 1998. Today, Joe’s Real BBQ continues to excite the taste buds with an epic roster of smoky, flavorful meats. Here, proteins are smoked to perfection over Arizona pecan wood, a labor of love that spans 12 hours. There’s no wrong way to order here, truly. Although, the four-meat sampler plate, a medley of ribs, chicken, brisket, pork, and cornbread, makes for a great introduction to what Joe’s has to offer. Complementing all that meat is Joe’s lineup of 12 housemade sides, most of which you’d come to expect from a solid barbecue restaurant. And some, like the fresh beet salad or spicy citrus slaw, are more unexpected. Ultimately, Joe’s Real BBQ is as real as it gets when it comes to authentic ‘cue.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Little Miss BBQ
Photo by Lauren Topor Reichert

Little Miss BBQ

University & Sunnyslope
$$$$

Ask your protein-loving friends about their favorite local barbecue joint and they’ll likely start waxing poetic about Little Miss BBQ and its impressive offering of wonderfully smoked meats. Sure, you could take their word for it. Or, you could nab a spot in line and experience the nirvana that is Little Miss BBQ for yourself at one of their two Valley locations. After finding inspiration in Texas, competing in local barbecue competitions here in Arizona, and tirelessly perfecting his craft, owner and pitmaster Scott Holmes debuted the first Little Miss BBQ in 2014. Now, Arizona ‘cue fans can get a taste of Central Texas-style barbecue with proteins like sliced and chopped brisket, pulled pork and pork spare ribs, sausage, turkey breast, and beef short ribs, all of which are available by the pound at Little Miss. The jalapeño-cheddar grits, ranch-style beans, spoonable mac and cheese, and personal smoked pecan pies are undoubtedly worth saving room for, too.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
JL Smokehouse
Photo courtesy of JL Smokehouse

JL Smokehouse

Phoenix
$$$$

Forget traveling across state lines to get a taste of the South. Instead, point your GPS towards James Lewis’ JL Smokehouse. This rustic barbecue hideaway draws some influence from Tennessee-style cooking. But rest-assured, JL’s offers a style and taste that’s uniquely its own. It might be hard to comeby a smoked bologna sandwich, but you’ll find it on the menu at JL’s. Other popular southern favorites include JL’s must-order brisket, beef short rib tacos, BBQ chicken nachos, smoked sausage, and pork belly sandwich, all of which are smoked to precision onsite. And the sauce? Drench your proteins and tell us what you think.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Trapp Haus BBQ
Photo courtesy of Trapp Haus BBQ

Trapp Haus BBQ

Roosevelt Row
$$$$

Trapp Haus BBQ first emerged along Downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row in 2018. The rest is history. Since the beginning, barbecue devotees have descended to the Downtown Phoenix barbecue joint for pitmaster Phil Johnson’s award-winning fare, which ranges from family-style platters of hickory-smoked brisket, burnt ends, ribs, hot links, and whole chickens to sandwiches, salads, and bowls. Johnson’s approach to barbecue doesn’t fall in line with what most barbecue masters preach, his own methods are exactly that, his own methods. Johnson’s grilling style is what you would consider freestyle. His improvisational approach to ‘cue is inspired by uncommon flavors and he’s developed techniques that break the mold of barbecue. And, he must be doing something right. Johnson keeps nabbing accolades for his ‘cue. And folks keep coming back for more.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Starlite BBQ
Photo courtesy of Starlite BBQ

Starlite BBQ

South Scottsdale
$$$$

Smoked meats and whiskey make for a legenedy pairing. Starlite BBQ seems to think so, too. After all, that’s what their business model is based on. Equal parts barbecue restaurant and whiskey bar, Starlite surprises even the most discerning barbecue connoisseurs with elevated takes on ‘cue and curated selections of rare and hard to come by spirits. Starlite’s standouts include the 12-hour smoked brisket and for more modest appetites, the smoked and slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich, a handheld delicacy dressed up with house barbecue sauce, pickles, and coleslaw. Additional offerings like the appetizing grilled red shrimp with cheesy grits, the incredibly oversized cornbread pancake, and the vegetarian mesquite-grilled cauliflower round-out the menu here.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Naked Q
Photo courtesy of Naked Q BBQ

Naked Q

Phoenix & Glendale & Scottsdale
$$$$

Naked Q’s approach to barbecue is rooted in the basics. While some pitmasters and ‘cue freaks live and die by the sauce and seasonings, Naked Q doesn’t slather on the sauce or rely on excessive seasonings or smoke when it comes to preparing their proteins—it’s in the name. Naked Q’s Oren Hartman puts his uncomplicated dry rubs to work for a straightforward take on ‘cue. Naked Q’s concise menu features a gang of barbecue sandwiches of the pulled pork, chopped brisket, and hot link varieties, to name a few. Other menu favorites include Naked Q’s hefty platters, served with cornbread and your choice of sides, ranging from Carolina-style slaw and potato salad to ranch-style beans and a rotating offering of roasted veggies.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Bobby-Q BBQ Restaurant and Steakhouse
Photo courtesy of Bobby-Q

Bobby-Q BBQ Restaurant and Steakhouse

Biltmore & Phoenix & Mesa
$$$$

Executive Chef Mark Hittle and owner Bob Sikora have a good thing going at Bobby-Q. Since opening in the early 2000s, this now chain of local barbecue restaurants has delighted hungry patrons with its extensive lineup of smoky, slow-cooked barbecued eats. Bobby-Q doesn’t show any allegiances to one specific style of barbecue. Here, you can get your ribs Texas-style or St. Louis-style—both are equally tasty. Like the ribs, the rest of the proteins you’ll find on the menu, think sausage links, pulled pork, beef brisket, and chicken, are smoked onsite for 22 hours over a combination of mesquite and almond wood and finished on the grill. More than ‘cue, Bobby-Q churns out a mean selection of wood-fired steaks, all of which are wet-aged for 60-days and hand cut at the restaurant every day. The desserts are also delectable, especially those donuts and the seasonal cobblers.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Lauren Topor Reichert is a Phoenix-based nutritionist, multimedia storyteller, barbecue fan, and creative photographer. Her work has been featured in travel guides, national publications, and the social feeds of some stellar local restaurants. Follow her around Arizona, and beyond, on Instagram @hungryinphoenix.