Best BBQ restaurants both new and classic: NYC’s top smokehouses

Satisfy your craving for smoked meats and homespun comfort food at the best BBQ restaurants in NYC.

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Best BBQ in NYC: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

Everyone from neighborhood families to leather-clad bikers makes the pilgrimage to this perpetually packed Harlem smokehouse. With locations in Syracuse and Rochester, founder John Stage—a himself a Harley lover—transformed a former meatpacking plant into a third outlet in 2004, and he’s been lassoing in fans ever since. Nestled under railway tracks on a drafty riverside corner, with McDonald’s being the nearest other nosh, the bluesy, bare-brick hall attracts clued-in New Yorkers who wait more than an hour for jalapeño-crowned Texas brisket; fleshy, pull-off-the-bone pork ribs; and thick-battered fried green tomatoes drizzled with cayenne-buttermilk ranch dressing. The meats, nursed over hickory in four computerized smoking pits, are South-worthy on their own, but even more so when slicked in the smoky-sweet house BBQ sauce: The secret-recipe condiment magically transforms a notoriously tough Boston butt cut into one of the city’s most lusciously viscous pulled porks. In between pigging out (literally), kick up your spurs to live sets by local soul crooners, like the trumpet-blarin’ Ginetta’s Vendetta and the guitar-strummin’ Dave Fields Band. 700 W 125th St at Twelfth Ave (212-694-1777,—Christina Izzo

Photograph: Virginia Rollison

Best BBQ in NYC: Mighty Quinn's

When confronted with city ’cue, purists are often quick to add the begrudging qualifier, “It’s pretty good…for New York.” Hugh Mangum’s low-and-slow meat haven needs no such addendum—it’s mighty good barbecue, period. The drummer turned chef first hawked his Texalina—Texas spice meets Carolina vinegar— specialties at his immensely popular Smorgasburg stand, and when the operation went brick-and-mortar in December 2012, the hungry throngs followed. Lines snake through the steel-tinged East Village joint, gawking as black-gloved carvers give glistening meat porn a dash of Maldon salt before slinging it down the assembly line. Paprika-rubbed brisket ($8.85)—slow-cooked for 22 hours—boasts a quarter-inch smoke ring and a girdle of fat that will have your taste buds cheering, if not your arteries. The thick campfire bark of the pulled pork ($7.75) elevates it from the usual saucy porcine slop you’re used to, and the Jurassic-sized beef rib ($23), which looks like a prop from The Flintstones, is so impossibly melt-in-your-mouth tender, one bite will quiet even the pickiest of BBQ hard-liners. 103 Second Ave at 6th St (212-677-3733,—Christina Izzo

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Best BBQ in NYC: Mable’s Smokehouse and Banquet Hall

Southerners will feel right at home at this wood-paneled roadhouse—opened in 2011 with mismatched chairs, pail light fixtures and the obligatory deer head—on the Williamsburg waterfront. Artist-cum-pit-boss Jeff Lutonsky and wife Meghan Love dole out smoky Oklahoma ’cue and sides with recipes inherited from Lutonsky’s mother and grandmother. Folk and blues cut through beer-fueled chatter as tousle-haired diners tear into homespun fare: juicy blackened brisket ($16/lb), tender pulled pork ($16/lb), Velveeta-enriched macaroni ($3.95) and borracho beans stewed in Texan lager Shiner Bock ($3.95). Don’t forget a douse of the lip-smackingly tangy sauce, whose recipe—as with most treasured family dishes—remains a guarded secret. 44 Berry St at North 11th St , Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-6655,—Patty Lee

Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Best BBQ in NYC: BrisketTown

Jersey-born Daniel Delaney—a bespectacled former Web journalist—might not seem like an obvious poster child for purist Texan ’cue. But the Yankee is turning out some seriously craveworthy meat. The Food & Drink Award–winning Delaney takes the traditionalist route, coating chunks of heritage beef in salt and pepper before smoking them over oak-fueled fire for 16 hours. That deep-pink brisket ($25/lb), along with remarkably tender pork ribs ($19/lb), draws Williamsburg’s jeans-and-plaid set, who hunker around tables, wiping their mouths with paper towels as mellow blues and indie tunes, like Mac DeMarco’s “Ode to Viceroy,” jangle over the speakers. The trim selection of sides is equally superlative: rich, garlicky collard greens and potato salad zipped up with pickled mustard seeds and caramelized onions. 359 Bedford Ave between South 4th and 5th Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-701-8909,—Patty Lee

Photograph: Pamela Ashley Pasco

Best BBQ in NYC: Blue Smoke

Legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer took a casual turn with this classed-up ’cue house in 2002. Number crunchers pack the skylighted dining room—accented with rustic flourishes (red vinyl booths, exposed-brick wall)—and roll up their pin-striped sleeves to dig into platters of Kenny Callaghan’s pit barbecue. Opt for moist shredded pork lightly coated in a sharp vinegar sauce ($19), hickory-smoked slices of marbled Creekstone Farms brisket ($19) and hefty beef ribs (half rack $17, full $27); a dash of Spanish paprika adds extra bite. Homestyle desserts, including a towering wedge of luscious banana cream pie ($8), complete the all-American offerings. 116 E 27th St between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave (212-447-7733) • 255 Vesey St between North End Ave and West St (212-889-2005) •—Patty Lee

Photograph: Whitney Lawson

Best BBQ in NYC: Fatty ’Cue

The aroma of burning oak wafts down the block from Zak Pelaccio’s newly reopened meat house (shuttered for more than a year to rework the menu and decor). Join a rowdy crowd of off-shift restaurant folk at the downstairs bar for a contemporary cocktail created by Mayahuel’s Philip Ward, while reggae and old-school hip-hop pump through the space. In the second-floor dining room, trim Williamsburgers slide into tufted green banquettes and feast on plates of Asian-accented BBQ from Anthony Masters, who mans the spot’s two Ole Hickory smokers. Pork ribs ($11) arrive in a pool of palm-sugar-infused fish sauce, while crispy lamb ribs sit atop cool fermented tofu yogurt ($14). The superbly pliant meat slabs are irresistible on their own, but also work with the DIY sandwich fixins of rhubarb kimchi, vinegar aioli and steamed white buns. 91 South 6th St between Bedford Ave and Berry St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-599-3090,—Patty Lee

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Best BBQ in NYC: Smokeline

’Cue newcomer Daniel Delaney had one hell of a banner year: After sparking a cult following at BrisketTown, the pit master debuted this satellite in April. He supplies High Line strollers with Central Texas–style grub, sodas sweetened with P&H syrup and seasonal pies. Red-blooded beauts like Delaney’s top-notch brisket, an exemplar of sweet, no-sauce-necessary meat and expertly charred peppercorn crust, come stuffed in butter-grilled rolls for easy portability: The Mess, a SmokeLine exclusive, is just that—a four-napkin combo of chopped brisket, pulled pork, Vermont cheese, onion relish and piquant chili sauce ($10). But as at BrisketTown, once the meat’s gone, the joint closes for the day, so be prepared to take down a tourist or two as you haul ass for a glorious bite of stellar beef. High Line at Tenth Ave and 15th St (718-701-8909,—Christina Izzo

Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

Best BBQ in NYC: Hill Country Barbecue Market

Texpats can find a little piece of home in the smoky warmth of this behemoth, bi-level Chelsea honky-tonk, opened in 2007. Meticulously modeled after Lockhart, Texas’s legendary Kreuz Market—Kreuz patriarch Rick Schmidt personally christened Hill’s pit with a half-burnt log from his own smoker—the 10,000-square-foot Lone Star oasis pours Shiner beer, scoops Blue Bell ice cream, plays rootsy, two-step tunes and, most importantly, slices up some killer beef. Meal ticket in hand, herd near the upstairs counter for “moist brisket” ($23/lb), an indulgently fatty mix of deckle and tip smoked for 12 hours over Texan post oak. A slab of beef shoulder ($23.50/lb) comes as juicy and rosy-rare as good roast beef, ringed with a charred salt-and-pepper crust. Alongside homestyle sides like bourbon-spiked sweet potato mash ($4.75) and vinegary, crisp cucumber salad ($3.95), meats are doled out in butcher-paper bundles that soon moisten with dripping fat—the paper-towel rolls plopped at each picnic table come into good use, if you can resist licking your fingers first. 30 W 26th St between Broadway and Sixth Ave (212-255-4544,—Christina Izzo

Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

Best BBQ in NYC: Fort Reno

Before January 2012, barbecue lovers had nowhere to satisfy their carnivorous cravings in smoked-meat-barren Park Slope. Jacques Gautier (Palo Santo) filled that void when he opened this wood-clad 60-seat den. And you get exactly what you’d expect at a Brooklyn barbecue spot: grass-fed meats, artisanal quaffs stirred by a mustachioed barkeep and house-made mason-jar lights hanging preciously overhead. But don’t let twee Park Slope prejudice derail you from bellying up to Reno’s crave-inducing provisions. North Carolina native Tim Coughlan mans the Cookshack smoker, churning out supple Pat LaFrieda brisket, copiously rubbed in a striking coffee-chocolate-chipotle mixture and roasted for up to 24 hours. Macaroni and cheese gets a chefly update via an übercreamy béchamel loaded with Monterey Jack, smoked Gouda and cheddar, while those scruffy bartenders give cocktails an unexpected but welcome meaty touch with locally made bacon bitters.  669 Union St between Fourth and Fifth Aves, Park Slope, Brooklyn (347-227-7777,—Christina Izzo

Photograph: Michael Kirby Smith

Best BBQ in NYC: Fette Sau

Joe Carroll (Spuyten Duyvil) pioneered Williamsburg’s smoked-meat boom in 2007 with this auto-shop-turned-ramshackle-roadhouse, whose name means “fat pig” in German. Starving throngs wait dutifully for their gluttonous turn at the counter, while  picnic tables are shared by leather-clad locals and European tourists. Tractor-seat stools and kitchen-knife taps line the bar, where thirsty patrons get gallon jugs of craft brews (Sixpoint Vienna Pale Ale, Coney Island Mermaid pilsner) before slipping back into the raucous crowd. Fill up on a rotating selection of lamb, beef and Black Angus brisket ($19), St. Louis–style ribs with ends properly trimmed ($22)—and sides such as Dante’s German potato salad (small $3.25, large $5.25), whose chunks of onion-studded spuds are coated in a zesty vinaigrette. 354 Metropolitan Ave between Havemeyer and Roebling Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-963-3404,—Patty Lee

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Best BBQ in NYC: Alchemy, Texas

One divey barbecue spot gives way to another. The meat-peddling counter at the back of Legends Sports Bar—once home to Pearson’s and Ranger Texas Barbecue—changed hands yet again in April. Its newest iteration is a smoke lab helmed by Josh Bowen of John Brown Smokehouse. The Queens pit master nods to his Hill Country training with Lone Star State standards, reimagining the usual salt-and-pepper rub with fenugreek, guajillo and pasilla chilies. He pulls offbeat creations from a J&R smoker: tender beef ribs ($28/lb) mopped with foie gras vinegar; pork-and-beef sausage laced with fiery paprika ($9/lb); and nightly specials such as goat, lamb belly and frog legs. But you can also find traditional standards, like moist pork ribs ($12/lb). Cap-wearing teens and local businessmen tackle the mounds of meat at red-and-white-checked tables, moaning or cheering at games playing on hi-def TVs. Even if your team doesn’t win, Bowen’s jazzed-up Texan goods certainly score. 71-04 35th Ave between 71st and 72nd Sts, Jackson Heights, Queens (718-803-8244,—Patty Lee

Photograph: Beth Levendis

Best BBQ in NYC: The Smoke Joint

“Real New York Barbecue” is the mission statement at this unassuming Fort Greene spot. Like its nabe, the restaurant has flourished since opening in 2006, growing from a counter to a cozy 48-seat joint beloved by Downtown Brooklynites and BAM’s postshow crowd. BK boys Ben Grossman and Craig Samuel riff on regional styles, crafting a menu of classic smoked meats (pulled pork, brisket) and grilled fare (hot dogs, chicken wings), made in a hulking Ole Hickory smoker. Chatty servers bring plates of black-barked short ribs ($16) and moist St. Louis spareribs ($13 per half slab), making sure each table is armed with two sauces—the tomato-based Jointsmoke and the fiery Hollapeno—the playful names echoing the down-home vibe. Choose from 50 types of whiskey (Hudson whiskey, Jefferson’s bourbon) to wash down your meat. 87 South Elliott Pl between Fulton St and Lafayette Ave, Fort Greene, Brooklyn (718-797-1011,—Patty Lee

Photograph: Andrew Fladeboe

Best BBQ in NYC: Daisy May's BBQ USA

Southerners brag about their admittedly first-rate barbecue, but can they say their down-home joints started with a French-trained toque stoking the pit fires? That distinction is awarded to this acclaimed Hell’s Kitchen rib shack—before founding the restaurant in 2003, Adam Perry Lang cooked in renowned fine-dining temples like Le Cirque and Daniel. Despite such upscale roots, this bare-bones haunt is a rustic love letter to the South: Mason jars brim with sweet tea, tarnished horseshoes are nailed to the wood walls, and below-the–Mason-Dixon barbecue is slapped onto red trays at the counter up front. Load up on rub-heavy Memphis pork ribs ($15.90 per half rack), fragrant with paprika and mustard seed, and $5 fixins like creamy corn laced with New York cheddar, and brown-sugar–whipped sweet potatoes so sugary good, they could moonlight as dessert. 623 Eleventh Ave at 46th St (212-977-1500,—Christina Izzo

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Best BBQ in NYC: Little Brother BBQ

Craig Samuel and Ben Grossman (the Smoke Joint) go all-natural at this tiny Clinton Hill sibling. Using sustainable meats—Springer Mountain chickens, Naturewell pork and Nature’s Choice beef—the Southern-food boosters dish out impeccably moist plates of hickory-smoked chopped barbecue (tender chunks of charred beef, juicy chicken), as well as snappy sausage links. They’re plugged into toasted Il Forno rolls ($7.50) or piled on top of baked beans and dirty rice (toothsome Carolina Gold grains piquant with red peppers; $9.50). A steady stream of laid-back locals order at the wood counter, making it a neighborhood takeout favorite. But the setting is just as fine for dining in, particularly on warm nights when the doors are flung open to the street, letting a breeze zip over checkered-cloth-topped tables, as R&B jams (Brian McKnight, Rihanna) fill the wood-and-brick-lined room. 544 Clinton Ave between Atlantic and Fulton Sts, Clinton Hill, Brooklyn (347-889-7885,—Patty Lee

Photograph: Jessica Lin

Best BBQ in NYC: John Brown Smokehouse

Josh Bowen’s meat shrine sparked a renaissance in Queens—now home to three new-wave smokehouses—when it opened in 2011, resurrecting a legacy started by shuttered Pearson’s Texas Barbecue. The Hill Country alum’s Kansas City specialties draw in neighborhood families and burnt-end addicts, who make the trek down a desolate stretch of Long Island City for the fatty morsels of brisket deckle ($23/lb). Grab a beer from a bar stocked with both local and foreign brews (Rockaway ESB, Hitachino White ale) on your way to the mural-decorated backyard garden. At picnic-blanket-topped tables, diners tear into wobbly chunks of pork belly ($18/lb) and hefty spareribs ($9 per quarter slab). The pork is succulent on its own, but we recommend a drizzle of the tangy, molasses-infused sauce—you wouldn’t be chowing down in true K.C. fashion without some. 10-43 44th Dr between 10th and 11th Sts, Long Island City, Queens (347-617-1120,—Patty Lee

Southern food is well represented in Gotham, with a recent barbecue boom bringing meat-hungry New Yorkers even more low-and-slow cooking. Armed with Wet-Naps, Time Out New York trekked from Williamsburg to Harlem in search of the best BBQ in the city, from young upstarts to established stalwarts. BBQ hounds, get ready to feast.

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How on earth could you include Daisy May's BBQ on this list?!? That could only be true if there were 15 or less BBQ spots in NYC! I went out of my way to eat there once and found the food mediocre at best...additionally, they wouldn't serve tap water, you have to buy bottled water. WTF? Get it together guys, just because it has BBQ sauce on it, doesn't make it BBQ.