Our Favorite Barbecue Joints in the South

The South is famous for its delicious barbecue and these award-winning restaurants don't disappoint.

While barbecue is great year-round, there's something about the finger-licking cuisine that lends itself to summertime cooking. Americans find themselves at backyard barbecues for Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day—so there's something special about it. To relish this fare, visitors search high and low to try the best barbecue the South has to offer. 

El Sancho meal at Lewis Barbecue
El Sancho meal at Lewis Barbecue (©Leslie Ryann Mckellar/Byrd House PR)

South Carolina

Lewis Barbecue: Charleston, South Carolina

Custom-made smokers, cut-to-order Central Texas barbecue and a backyard patio all make Lewis Barbecue the place to be. And let's not forget—"Sunday Supper" includes chicken fried steak and sides, Wednesday's specialty is smoked prime ribs and Tuesday from 6 pm to 10 pm is "Tex Mex Tuesday." 

Rodney Scott's BBQ: Charleston, South Carolina

A James Beard award-winner, Rodney Scott spent his life around the Southern fare and has mastered the craft of real South Carolinian barbecue.  The restaurant's menu provides some variety, such as fried catfish, but the barbecue optiosn—whole hog, pit-cooked chicken and spare ribs—remain at the forefront of this Southern barbecue joint.

The Smokin' Pig: Pendleton, South Carolina

Dining at The Smokin' Pig is a game day tradition for Clemson University fans so much so that the restaurant offers tailgate packages specifically for college game day. Only open three days per week, diners are overjoyed by the traditional ribs, juicy combo platters and sides from fried okra and loaded potato casserole to seasonal cobbler and banana pudding. 

Dukes Bar-B-Que: Aiken, South Carolina

This buffet-style restaurant has a lot to offer such as barbecue ribs, chicken and a number of sides including baked beans, black-eyed peas, cabbage, collard greens, green beans, fried potatoes, spiced apples and much more. The restaurant's wide selection is part of what keeps diners coming back. 

Brisket at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
Brisket at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q (Courtesy Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q)

Georgia

Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q: Atlanta

An Atlanta staple, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q garnered media attention from CBS Better Morning, The Food Network and more. Must-try menu items include Texas Fries (smothered in barbecue sauce, brisket or pulled pork, jalapeños and melted cheese), "The Texacutioner" (chopped brisket, hickory-smoked jalapeño cheddar sausage, mustard and onion pickles on a brioche bun) and Fox Bros. Rib Plates. 

Sweet Auburn Barbecue: Atlanta

Sweet Auburn Barbecue puts a multicultural spin on Southern classics. Menu items include a wide variety of dishes such as traditional slow-cooked meats, Pimento Cheese Wontons and Bulgogi Salad. The barbecue restaurant also has vegetarian options including Barbecue-Rubbed Tofu.

Southern Soul Barbecue: St. Simons Island, Georgia

Named the "South's Best BBQ 2018" by Southern Living for the second year in a row, Southern Soul proudly serves slow-cooked meat.  Diners chowing down on specialty sandwiches (including the Soul 'Mater) and soulful sides will leave knowing how Southern Soul Barbecue achieved its accolades.   

Heirloom Market Barbecue: Atlanta

American and Korean flavors intertwine at Heirloom Market Barbecue. The chefs serve simple, classic barbecue with hints of their own personal flavor. Chef Cody Taylor brings the traditional Southern flavors, and chef Jiyeon Lee produces the barbecue cuisine inspired by her Korean heritage. Menu items range from smoked wings and pulled chicken to spicy Korean pork and smoked kielbasa. 

BBQ at Hog Wild
(Courtesy Hog Wild Beach & BBQ)

Alabama

The Shack BBQ: Talladega, Alabama

The Shack BBQ has it all including homemade baked beans, barbecue, burgers, hot dogs, wings and ribs. Plus, a majority of menu items are less than $15. The casual American dining establishment is great for both small families and large group outings.

Hog Wild Beach & BBQ: Gulf Shores, Alabama

There's no shortage of flavorful dishes at the award-winning Hog Wild restaurant. Pulled, smoked chicken is served in the restaurant's famous White Barbecue Sauce; the "Nasty G" sandwich is filled with chopped rib, chicken, pork and buffalo shrimp; and the restaurant serves "Big T's Sampler" so customers can taste a bit of everything.

Pitmaster at The BBQ Exchange
Pitmaster at The BBQ Exchange (Courtesey The BBQ Exchange)

Virginia

The BBQ Exchange: Gordonsville, Virginia 

Get a taste of "real Virginia barbeque" at The BBQ Exchange with dishes that include hickory-smoked and slow-roasted pork shoulders, meats dry-cured with secret-ingredient rubs and chicken halves grilled over live coals. The BBQ Exchange even serves homemade pickles, salads and slaws with its sandwiches. There's a reason the restaurant was featured in Virginia Living's 2017 "Best BBQ" issue. 

Shawn's Smokehouse BBQ: Culpeper, Virginia 

At Shawn's Smokehouse, owner Shawn Moss perfects barbecue dishes by creating unique homemade sauces and using on-site smokers. He and his team worked day in and day out testing dishes in order to provide the most flavorful and tender meats. The restaurant's barbecue is so good that its award-winning pit master, Kit Rudd, offers a barbecue school to teach diners how to barbecue like a pro. 

Barbecue Sandwich
Sandwich from Bill Spoon's BBQ (Courtesy Bill Spoon's BBQ)

North Carolina

Bill Spoon's Barbecue: Charlotte, North Carolina

Bill Spoon's BBQ specializes in Eastern North Carolina-styled barbecue. Imagine the taste of vinegar-based barbecue, served alongside mustard-based coleslaw, made-from-scratch hush puppies and a sweet tea to wash it all down. 

Lexington Barbecue: Lexington, North Carolina 

Named one of "10 Best Southern BBQ Spots" by USA Today and one of "20 Best BBQ Restaurants in America" by LocalEatsLexington Barbecue is not one to miss. The restaurant cooks its barbecue in a traditional manner, over a wood fire—rather than gas. Pork shoulders roast over oak and hickory coals for nearly half a day and the barbecue sauce and slaw is flavored with ketchup.

Skylight Inn BBQ: Ayden, North Carolina 

Situated in Ayden, North Carolina, Skylight Inn BBQ has been serving up barbecue since 1947. The old-timey favorite is famous for its signature North Carolina style of whole hog barbecue, which it offers in a sandwich, plate or by the pound. 

Ole Time BBQ: Raleigh, North Carolina

Having recently been nominated one of the "Top Ten Barbecue Restaurants in North Carolina," Ole Time BBQ  stands above the rest with affordable prices, hand-chopped barbecue pork plates, and a mouth-watering breakfast menu. Diners are overjoyed when they stumble upon the homey diner. 

Mississippi 

Pig and Pint: Jackson, Mississippi

The eclectic Pig and Pint is a local favorite, especially on Mondays when the restaurant combines barbecue, beer and live trivia for a night of fun. Enjoy some friendly competition and eat pork belly corn dogs, saucy smoked wings, pork rind nachos and Pepsi-glazed baby back ribs. The restaurant also offers a large selection of cold beer

Ribs, beans and coleslaw
Ribs, beans and coleslaw at Peg Leg Porker. (Courtesy Peg Leg Porker)

Tennessee

Peg Leg Porker: Nashville, Tennessee 

There's no shortage of Southern hospitality at Peg Leg Porker, a family-owned and operated barbecue restaurant. The award-winning restaurant owners have cooked alongside some of the world's top chefs and have even cooked at the prestigious James Beard House. The barbecue nachos, pulled pork platter and sandwich plate make this eatery a must-try Nashville restaurant. 

Ridgewood BBQ: Bluff City, Tennessee 

With recipes gathered during the course of three generations, Ridgewood BBQ serves traditional comfort food that'll satisfy any appetite. Diners line up for the restaurant's award-winning smoked meats, which are smoked for eight to 10 hours in custom smokehouses. Foodies can't get enough of the smoked pork and beef in the sweet, tomato-based "Tennessee-styled" sauce. 

Cozy Corner Restaurant: Memphis, Tennessee 

Cozy Corner specializes in barbecue ribs, turkeys and Cornish hens. The restaurant feeds the need for barbecue with cozy dinner plates and low prices (the "six-bone ribs" are $13.99). These dishes send barbecue lovers home with stuffed bellies. 

Louisiana

Cou-Yons': Port Allen, Louisiana 

Couyouns's serves up some of the state's best barbecue, seafood and potatoes. One must-try item includes the saucy shrimp, which are fried and tossed in the sauce of your choice. Or try the fried shrimp loaded potato, handcrafted for barbecue perfection. 

The Joint: New Orleans

The Joint received critical acclaim from publications like Bon Appétit and Zagat. It also appeared on Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" on the Food Network. The Joint serves up slow-cooked tender beef, meaty baby back ribs and locally made sausage smoked right outside the restaurant.