The Best BBQ Spots in Seattle
Unlike Memphis, Austin, or Kansas City, Seattle is a seafood town. So it isn't surprising that, for years, it seemed like the only place to find BBQ, America's most famous contribution to the culinary tradition, was some hole-in-the-wall spot like Pecos... or, you know, Hole in the Wall BBQ. Well not anymore. In the last few years, an abundance of great spots have opened across the city, meaning you can finally get mouthwatering Kansas- or Texas-style 'cue without actually going to those states -- or to some former gas station in SoDo. Unless you want to, because Pecos is still on our list.
This lunch-only spot regularly draws long lines to its service window for its incredibly messy brisket, pork, and chicken sandwiches. When the meat is this good, you don’t need much else... except maybe a hot link or a few sides, like smoked potatoes or BBQ beans, which you can enjoy at the handful of tables scattered outside (if there’s room).
Nestled in Ballard, this joint boasts a robust menu of Texas-inspired items, like boneless fried chicken and fried bologna, half and full slabs of signature ribs, and BBQ plates that are "piled high" and include cornbread and two sides. It also has a wide array of trademark sauces inspired by Southern states with names like Kansas, Alabama, and... um, roasted habanero. The best state of ‘em all.
South Lake Union
This small, cozy spot in South Lake Union (it opened a second location in Lynwood last year) is a vegetarian’s worst nightmare thanks to a mouthwatering selection of smoked meats (including pork ribs, pulled pork/chicken, pastrami, brisket, etc.), 11 different kinds of sliders, and much more. It also boasts a sizable whiskey and vodka selection and has a happy hour from 3-6pm with $3 sliders, drafts, and wells.
This stylishly ramshackle Central Texas-inspired BBQ joint serves its meat with your choice of sides, plus bread, pickles, jalapeños, and BBQ sauce (if you ask for it), has a handful of appetizers like buttermilk hush puppies and beef... yes, beef... bacon, and even offers a lunchtime buffet. The best part? It started serving breakfast tacos earlier this year and plans to start serving brunch soon.
Presumably not named for what you'd have to call everyone else in The Roots after years of Questlove getting all the attention, this exposed-brick and aged wood-decorated spot boasts a custom smoker that's putting out serious meats. Like what, you say? Try the house-cured and smoked pork belly, ribs, a smoked pork shank, or a platter packed with a half chicken, brisket, baby back ribs, pulled pork, and three sides, called the "Cowboy Killer." Oh, and don't forget the bar in back, which is pouring American whiskeys, bourbon, and bevy of craft beer.
Owned by a Seattle BBQ vet and the guy behind 9 Million In Unmarked Bills, this Fremont (and soon to be West Seattle) BBQ "shack" is winsomely and exuberantly decorated to evoke a kind of cartoonish Southern charm. But you probably won't notice any of that when you smell the meat that's smoked for up to 16 hours on green alder, or taste the three-day-brined chicken that’s wrapped in caul fat before it's cooked, or spread the smoked bone marrow on a piece of bread, or... well, you get the idea.
It's technically not a hole in the wall, but a small shop next to an alley where since 1989, a father and son have been serving up slow-cooked BBQ (the meats are smoked for 16 hours with oak and fruit woods) that's so good, it's won them a state championship. Twice. But come lunchtime, when the place is packed with workers from all the nearby office towers, it sure feels like something that’s definitely smaller than a hole in the wall.
Steeped in the BBQ traditions of Kansas and Texas, this former mobile meat operation opened a small storefront in the Central District a few months ago. Complete with a sprawling patio out back, the brick-and-mortar serves a wide array of brioche sandwiches, like Texas chicken and hickory-smoked pulled pork, and larger plates like the Woody, which is really just a heaping bowl of smoked jalapeño mac & cheese topped with meat. Oh, and don't worry, you can still find the truck at various locations around the city.
Bringing barbecue with a touch of Louisiana to the far northeast corner of the city, this roadside joint is outfitted with a smoker that cranks out 120 racks of ribs at a time... or would, if it weren't also being used to make house sausage "hammers," brisket, pork, etc. by the pound. Some of the latter is put on buns to make eight different kinds of "sandys," including the jalapeño-cheddar sausage-based Iron Horse, and the Rock Dawg with chopped brisket. And whatever you do, don't sleep on the "side pieces," including gumbo, hush puppies, and more.
This slightly new, no-frills joint that's so far down Rainier Ave it might as well be in Renton is worth the trip for the huge portions of unquestionably good chicken, brisket, and pork served by the pound, on sandwiches, or in combination with a couple of sides. The owner cooks everything “Emma-style,” named after the food her mother made when she was growing up in Arkansas.
Sign up here for our daily Seattle email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.