Good Massachusetts barbecue is like a rare, saucy unicorn. Many places claim to have authentic and delicious barbecued fare, but few restaurants can actually deliver. That’s why we’ve curated this list of the best places in Massachusetts to get barbecue that will make you think you’ve died and gone to Tennessee.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Bison County Bar and Grill, Waltham
Tender meats slow-cooked over fragrant apple and cherry wood. That’s a delicious sentence, right there. Dry-rubbed ribs and perfect pulled pork will be the highlight of your trip to Bison County, but the garlic jalapeño rice will be a welcome addition. Plus, there’s lots of beer: 14 on draft and over 50 bottled varieties.
2. Redbones, Somerville
This place has some of the best barbecue this side of the Mississippi. Though it definitely doesn’t have a fancy setup (the interior is a hodge-podge of quirky decor, and guests eat at long cafeteria-style tables), Redbones consistently hits it out of the park when it comes to flavor and authenticity. They’ve been serving incredible barbecue since 1987 and know how to turn a simple rack of ribs into a perfectly smoked, seasoned, and sauced meaty masterpiece. Try the enormous Barbecue Belt meal, which comes with Texas ribs, St. Louis ribs, baby back ribs, smoked beef brisket, beans and slaw.
3. Hulun Beir Mongolian Restaurant, Cambridge
Barbecue doesn’t have to be all about southern flavor. This Mongolian eatery dishes up some the best lamb ribs in the state. Cook-it-yourself cuisine is the star at Hulun Beir, and there are hot pots at each table. Guests can customize their entrees and the staff are extremely helpful. But seriously, once you try the lamb ribs, you won’t want to order anything else.
4. Theodore’s Booze Blues & BBQ, Springfield
A true local favorite, Theodore’s BBQ is a funky barbecue joint with fun decor and a long-running tradition of hosting amazing local and national blues acts. Catch some music Tuesday through Saturday (shows start at 9 pm, generally), and don’t forget to load your plate with their superb burnt ends: smoky and sweet chunks of tender brisket, crisped to perfection. The staff is friendly and will always make you feel like a regular. Don’t forget to order a huge basket of chicken and waffle fries.
5. Blackstrap BBQ, Winthrop
With incredible slow-cooked flavor and classic sides like corn fritters and collard greens, this place knows how to do barbecue right. Blackstrap lives up to its name by serving up its specialty “burnt ends” in a rich molasses sauce.
6. B.T.’s Smokehouse, Sturbridge
This is rustic homestyle BBQ at its best. This counter-service stop offers heaping portions of Southern-style smoked meats & all the fixin’s. A great option outside of Boston, B.T’s Smokehouse makes one of the best classic pulled pork sandwiches you’ll ever sample. If plain ol’ meat is more your tune, try a combo plate so that you’ll be able to try more than one kind of their scrumptious offerings.
7. Smoky Bro’s, Shelburne Falls
Amazing outdoor dining and takeout barbecue on the scenic and historic Mohawk Trail. The brisket is dense and flavorful, and this is one place you can get an incredibly meaty bowl of baked beans.
8. Bub’s BBQ, Sunderland
Bub’s is a real hidden gem. The first thing you’ll notice is the giant sign announcing B A R B Q – it’s hard to miss. Bub’s offers seasonal picnic table dinging and serves ribs, pulled pork and other Southern staples. The real star here, however, is the incredible house sauce. There’s no charge for extra, and you’ll want as much as possible. For the great quality, this place is also really reasonably priced.
9. The Texas BBQ Company, Northborough
This place may be tiny, but their barbecue packs a pig punch. House-smoked meat straight off the grill is the big draw, though their live music and incredible service doesn’t hurt. Try the jalapeño cornbread for a hot kick in a sweet package.
10. Smokestack Urban Barbecue, Worcester
Smokestack specializes in South Carolina-style barbecue and killer sides like shrimp ’n’ grits and fried pickles. If you’re used to Texas-style or Tennessee-style smoked meats, this place might be a bit of a departure, but definitely one you should embrace. They also have a great selection of beers on tap.
11. Blue Ribbon BBQ, West Newton
You might not find this place unless you’re looking, but it’s worth the hunt down Washington Street. A Zagat darling, the food at this joint would still be a great value even if it cost twice as much. Mouthwatering ribs, tender and flavorful brisket, and portions that will make you gawk. As close as you’re going to get to authentic Carolinian barbecue up here in the frozen north.
12. Lester’s Roadside BBQ, Burlington
This joint used to be…a McDonalds. Believe me, though: it’s definitely shed its inauspicious beginnings. Lester’s offers counter-service dining with service that will definitely impress, especially after a 2013 takeover by fresh owners. The smoked meat gets carved right in front of you, and Wednesday and Sunday bring all-you-can-eat rib and wing deals. Yeah, you’re going to want to save room for seconds.
13. Pit Stop Barbecue, Mattapan (Morton Village)
This place may not look like much (okay, it looks like a sketchy convenience store), but oh my lord: one gnaw of their ribs and you’re going to be asking them to cater your next party. The cajun-spice seasoning and tangy Carolina-style sauce will blow you away. A quick word of warning: there’s only seating for four. Yes, four people. And they’re only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday. So plan accordingly.
Where is your favorite spot to get amazing barbecue in Massachusetts? Let us know!