🍖 What state has the best BBQ? 🍖
Texas is the best state for BBQ. It's home to three of the top 12 best BBQ cities in America: San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas.
Americans are passionate about their BBQ foods, with conversations around the grill often sparking fiery debates over which is best: North Carolina style vs. Kansas City style, wet rub vs. dry rub, or brisket vs. pork.
Perhaps no topic gets eaters more heated than where to find the best BBQ in the U.S.
From Kansas City, Missouri, to Memphis, Tennessee, to Lexington, North Carolina — a small town with a big appetite for BBQ — many cities have awarded themselves the title of best city for BBQ.
These claims to the BBQ throne are tough to settle without hard data. So we've cooked up a new ranking of the 50 best BBQ cities — based on research on prices, restaurants, BBQ events, and search activity — to provide evidence-based answers.
We ranked the 50 largest metro areas in the U.S. using several metrics, weighted in the following manner:
- 8x: BBQ restaurants per capita
- 6x: Average Yelp rating of BBQ restaurants
- 4x: Google Trends score for 10 BBQ terms: barbecue, BBQ, BBQ grill, BBQ near me, BBQ restaurant, BBQ sauce, BBQ ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and how to BBQ
- 4x: Number of Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series BBQ competitions hosted (last 10 years)
- 4x: Major BBQ events (cook-offs, festivals, etc.)
- 2x: Average distance between BBQ restaurants (in miles)
- 2x: Whether a state resident has been inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame
- 2x: Regional price for 1 pound of BBQ meat (poultry, beef, and pork averaged together)
- 2x: Percentage of local annual income required to buy 4 pounds of BBQ meat per month in a year
Wondering which city came out on top? Read on to find out if your city's BBQ scene is cooking with gas — or if it's more sizzle than steak.
🐖 BBQ Cities Key Takeaways
The 50 Best BBQ Cities, Ranked
|⬇️ Delicious Down SouthMost of the country's top 15 BBQ cities are, unsurprisingly, found below the Mason-Dixon Line.|
The 15 Best BBQ Cities
After pitting 50 metros against each other, 15 came out as the best BBQ cities the U.S. has to offer. As a group, the top 15 metros for BBQ stand out because:
- The top 15 cities in our study have an average of 3.4 BBQ restaurants per 100,000 people. That's 55% more than the average city in our study (2.2).
- The top 15 cities in our study have an average Google Trends score of 84 out of 100. That's 13% higher than the average score in our study (74).
- The cost per pound of BBQ meat (pork, beef, poultry) in the top 15 cities is $4.83, compared to $5.13 in the average city in our study.
- Eighty percent of the cities in our top 15 are located in the South, where the regional price is $4.66 per pound — the cheapest out of four U.S. Census regions (South, Midwest, West, and Northeast).
For more details, here's how the top 15 BBQ cities earned their individual rankings:
1. San Antonio, Texas
|🏆 The Cook-Off Capital
San Antonio is slated to host four major BBQ competitions over the next 12 months — no other city in our study is hosting more than two.
The home of the Alamo is one of the most memorable cities for BBQ enthusiasts. In addition to hosting multiple BBQ events, the city ranks highly in several of our other metrics.
Of the 50 cities we ranked, San Antonio has the fourth-most BBQ restaurants per capita — 4.2 per 100,000 residents. The city has a BBQ restaurant every 4.6 miles, better than the average city we studied, which has one every 5.4 miles.
San Antonio matches that quantity of BBQ shops with excellent quality, evidenced by the chopped brisket from 2M Smokehouse. It's especially fitting because San Antonio ranks No. 1 on our list in Google search activity for brisket.
2. Austin, Texas
|🙌 All-Around Awesome
Austin ranks in the top five of most of our metrics and has the second-highest average Yelp rating for BBQ restaurants (4.2 stars out of 5).
With standout restaurants like La Barbecue, it's no wonder Austin's Yelp ratings are among the highest on our list.
Based on Google search activity, Austin has some of the biggest BBQ fans in the country. The city scored a 95 out of 100 in our Google Trends metric, which measures how often people search the web for BBQ-related terms. Only two cities scored higher in that metric.
Austin has no shortage of BBQ joints with 4.7 restaurants per 100,000 people — more than double the average city we studied (2.2). The city has a BBQ restaurant every 3.5 miles, compared to 5.4 in the average city.
3. San Jose, California
|💰 Best BBQ Bargains
No city is more affordable for BBQ fans than San Jose. Based on the area's typical income, buying 4 pounds of BBQ meat every month for a year costs the average resident 0.21% of their income.
Leaving the South doesn't mean leaving behind good BBQ — with the slowly smoked meats of Smoking Pig BBQ Company serving as Exhibit A.
San Jose in general has a surprising amount of BBQ joints. Of all the cities we analyzed, San Jose has the second-most BBQ restaurants per capita — 5.6 restaurants per 100,000 people. The metro has a BBQ restaurant every 2.8 miles, better than the 5.4-mile distance for the average city we ranked.
San Jose also has a high number of residents eager to make the cuisine themselves. Of the 50 cities we studied, it ranks fourth in Google search interest for how to BBQ.
4. Nashville, Tennessee
|🐔 A Taste of Tennessee
As part of the South, Nashville enjoys some of the cheapest BBQ prices. One pound of BBQ meat in the region costs $4.66 — compared to $5.13 for the average city.
With Nashville's high quality and low prices, you can't afford to miss out on Music City's BBQ culture. The city takes its BBQ seriously — having hosted 13 Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series competitions over the last decade, while the average city we studied had just 3.7 over that 10-year span.
Nashville residents often search the web for BBQ-related terms, earning the city an 81 out of 100 in our Google Trends metric, an improvement over our study's average of 74.
Google data shows Nashville's favorite BBQ foods to search for are baked beans and cornbread. Visitors can get the full experience by trying cornbread hotcakes, baked beans, and other sides at Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint.
5. Las Vegas, Nevada
|👨🍳 A Wealth of BBQ Joints
Las Vegas residents have hit the jackpot when it comes to BBQ restaurants. The city has 6 BBQ spots per 100,000 people — nearly triple the average city we analyzed (2.2).
In addition to having the most BBQ restaurants per capita, Las Vegas hosts some of the highest-rated spots for BBQ. The typical Vegas BBQ joint has a Yelp rating of 4.2 stars — higher than the average city in our study with 3.9 stars.
Las Vegas residents spend more time searching the web for BBQ-related terms than most, with a Google Trends score of 89 out of 100, compared to 74 in the average city we studied. That score of 89 is also the highest of any Western metro we reviewed.
Specifically, Vegas ranks No. 2 in Google search activity for BBQ ribs, No. 3 for bulgogi — a Korean-style BBQ found at spots like Arirang Korean BBQ — and No. 5 for Texas BBQ. The only cities that search more for Texas BBQ are the four Texas metros we analyzed.
6. Birmingham, Alabama
|🍞 Taking Sides
Birmingham locals value their side dishes. The city ranks No. 1 in search activity for cornbread, as well as No. 3 for baked beans and BBQ sauce.
Birmingham residents frequently search the web for BBQ foods — earning an 89 out of 100 in our Google Trends metric, better than the average city's score of 74.
Birmingham is also a popular choice for cook-offs, having hosted five Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series competitions in the last 10 years, while the average city in our study has hosted 3.7.
BBQ fans in Birmingham have a lot of options, with 3.9 BBQ restaurants per 100,000 residents — almost double our study's average (2.2). That includes multiple locations of SAW's BBQ, which has earned praise for its smoked chicken and Alabama-style white BBQ sauce.
7. Tampa, Florida
|🏖️ Quality on the Coast
Aside from great beaches, the Tampa area has the best-reviewed BBQ restaurants on our list. The average BBQ spot has 4.3 out of 5 stars on Yelp, the highest average of any city.
Tampa has a long list of brilliant BBQ shops, such as local favorite Al's Finger Licking Good Bar-B-Que, once named the best BBQ restaurant in Florida.
Tampa is one of only four cities on our list to check the following three boxes:
- Will host a major BBQ event in 2022 
- Hosted a Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series competition in the last decade
- Located in a state that's home to an American Royal Barbecue Hall of Famer
As for convenience, Tampa has easy access to BBQ restaurants with one every 3.7 miles, an improvement over the average city in our study, which has one every 5.4 miles.
8. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
|💵 OK, Now That's a Deal
Oklahoma City is terrific for BBQ lovers on a budget. Buying 4 pounds of BBQ meat every month for a year costs residents 0.27% of the area's median annual income — compared to 0.35% in the average city we studied.
Oklahoma City's BBQ scene extends far beyond simple affordability. The city has 3.5 BBQ restaurants per 100,000 people — about 60% more than the typical city we reviewed. Locals also spend a little more time searching the web for BBQ foods than average, according to our Google Trends metric.
Google data shows that Oklahoma City ranks No. 5 in search interest for brisket — outdone only by the four Texas metros on our list. If you're in town, you ought to try the brisket at Clark Crew BBQ, an award-winning restaurant that also offers a class on how to BBQ.
Those are just a few reasons why visitors ought to try Oklahoma City's BBQ scene sooner rather than later.
9. Jacksonville, Florida
|🪙 Dining on a Dime
Jacksonville is in the country's cheapest region for BBQ prices. A pound of BBQ meat costs just $4.66 — cheaper than the average city in our study ($5.13).
The Sunshine State's biggest city also has a big appetite for BBQ. The high volume of BBQ-related searches out of Jacksonville earned it a 79 out of 100 in our Google Trends metric, an upgrade over the average score in our study (74).
The city ranks highly in two important metrics: BBQ restaurants per capita (3.5 per 100,000 people) and highest frequency of BBQ restaurants (one every 4.3 miles). Both are better than the average city we reviewed.
Beyond the numbers, Jacksonville is also a sweet spot for Southern hospitality, with restaurants like Monroe's Smokehouse Bar-B-Q earning glowing reviews for It's attentive waitstaff.
10. Kansas City, Missouri
|🥩 A Pitmaster's Paradise
Kansas City is home to many seasoned BBQers. Nine of Missouri's 10 BBQ Hall of Famers hail from Kansas City.
Kansas City is such a BBQ staple that one of our metrics has its roots in the city — Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series competitions. Unsurprisingly, KC dominates this metric, having hosted 66 such competitions in the last 10 years — compared to just 3.7 for the average city we reviewed.
Kansas City also has more than enough enthusiastic eaters. KC has the second-highest online search activity for BBQ-related terms, scoring a 97 out of 100 in that metric.
But for all its accolades, Kansas City has its fair share of drawbacks:
- Its regional meat prices are higher than the prices in the average city on our list ($5.30 vs. $5.13).
- It ranks in the bottom half of our affordability metric.
- Strangely, BBQ restaurants are somewhat few and far between. There's just one every 6.7 miles — the fifth-worst distance of the 50 cities we studied.
11. Memphis, Tennessee
|🙋♂️ Not Bluffing Around
Memphis, also known as Bluff City, is incredibly enthusiastic about BBQ. Residents search the web for BBQ-related terms so often that they scored a perfect 100 in our Google Trends metric.
Memphis ranks highly for several individual search terms: No. 1 for BBQ, No. 2 for cornbread, No. 2 for how to BBQ, and No. 3 for BBQ ribs.
Memphis is also part of the cheapest region for BBQ prices. A pound of BBQ meat costs consumers just $4.66 — much cheaper than in the typical city we studied ($5.13).
No matter the prices, the city has a rich BBQ culture and history. In fact, both of Tennessee's BBQ Hall of Famers are from the city — including the co-founder of Cozy Corner BBQ.
12. Dallas, Texas
|✨ Big BBQ Energy
The Big D has big deals on BBQ. Buying 4 pounds of BBQ meat each month for a year costs residents 0.31% of the area's median annual income — cheaper than the typical 0.35% in the cities we reviewed.
Dallas residents make the most of their affordable BBQ options — evidenced by a high rate of Google searches for BBQ-related terms. The city scored an 89 out of 100 in that Google Trends-based metric, an improvement over the typical score of 74.
Dallas is also one of just four cities on this list that can say it has hosted a Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series competition in the last decade, is hosting a major BBQ event later this year, and is in a state that's home to an American Royal Barbecue Hall of Famer.
And being home to the critically acclaimed Cattleack Barbeque is just an added bonus.
The fact that Dallas finished with such an impressive ranking but was still beat out by two other Texas cities is a testament to the Lone Star State's strong BBQ scene.
13. Orlando, Florida
|🏰 A Magical Place for BBQ
Orlando eaters must be enchanted by their excellent BBQ options. The average BBQ restaurant here has 4.1 out of 5 stars on Yelp. Only five cities on our list have a higher average.
Tired of theme park turkey legs? Then it's time to try one of Orlando's standout BBQ restaurants, such as Bubbalou's Bodacious Bar-B-Que and Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa — the latter even has its own podcast.
The options don't stop there. Orlando has 2.8 BBQ restaurants per 100,000 residents — 27% more than the average city we reviewed. Plus, BBQ joints aren't too hard to get to in the city, with one every 3.8 miles, a shorter distance than the typical trek of 5.4 miles among all cities we studied.
14. Raleigh, North Carolina
|🍽️ Carolina Cuisine
Raleigh locals are big fans of their own style of BBQ. No city we reviewed has a higher search volume for Carolina BBQ.
Carolinians carry a lot of pride when it comes to their BBQ sauce, whether it's the mustard-based dressing popular in South Carolina or the vinegar-based sauce that dominates North Carolina — which one can find at The Pit Authentic Barbecue in Raleigh.
Either way, it's no surprise that Raleigh residents have the second-highest Google search volume for BBQ sauce out of the 50 cities on our list.
As a bonus, BBQ is relatively affordable in Raleigh. Buying 4 pounds of BBQ meat each month for a year costs locals 0.28% of the area's median annual income — 20% cheaper than the typical city we analyzed (0.35%).
15. Richmond, Virginia
|❤️ Virginia Is for Lovers of BBQ
Richmond residents can support more BBQ restaurants than the typical city in our study. The city has 2.5 BBQ joints per 100,000 people — 14% more than the average city (2.2).
Richmond is also home to many BBQ competitions. In the last 10 years, the city has hosted 12 Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series contests — more than triple the average city we reviewed (3.7).
For a city with such a competitive streak, it's easy to explain the popularity of Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue, a restaurant that emphasizes its commitment to the craft of BBQ.
Richmond also benefits from its spot in the South — the region averages lower prices for BBQ meat than other areas. Buying a pound of BBQ meat in this part of the country costs $4.66, less than the $5.13 it costs in the average city in our study.
Who Didn't Make the Top 15?
With such a competitive list, some metros are bound to be disappointed. Cities with solid BBQ reputations, such as Louisville, Kentucky (No. 16), Houston (No. 18), Atlanta (No. 19), and Charlotte, North Carolina (No. 21), barely missed the top tier of our list.
However, there are three cities that some readers may not have expected to see in the bottom half of our rankings. We aren't trying to start a beef with these three cities. They just fell below average in a few key metrics
- St. Louis (No. 26) has fewer BBQ restaurants per capita (1.8 per 100,000 people) than the average city in our study (2.2 per 100,000). It also ranks near the bottom in our affordability metric.
- Los Angeles (No. 27) was hurt by high prices — with 1 pound of BBQ meat costing about $5.61 — and it wasn't able to make up the difference in our other metrics.
- New York (No. 41) slipped into the bottom 10 because of a low number of BBQ joints per capita (1.2 per 100,000) and one of the lowest Google Trends scores based on the frequency of BBQ-related web searches in the area.
Which Region Has the Best BBQ Prices?
The map below shows the typical cost of 1 pound of pork, poultry, and beef averaged together in four U.S. Census regions.
Data Details: Top 5 Rankings by Category
The cities below had the highest levels of online search activity for each type of food.
The 10 Worst BBQ Cities
Unfortunately, some cities got smoked in our rankings. The following metros landed at the bottom of our list:
1. Phoenix, Arizona
2. Providence, Rhode Island
3. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
4. Boston, Massachusetts
5. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
6. Detroit, Michigan
7. Minneapolis, Minnesota
8. Seattle, Washington
9. Cleveland, Ohio
10. New York, New York
The bottom 10 stand out because they have:
- Fewer BBQ restaurants: The bottom 10 cities have an average of 1.3 BBQ shops per 100,000 people — 41% fewer than the average city in our study (2.2).
- Low search interest: Residents of the bottom 10 cities don't spend much time searching for BBQ-related terms online, scoring a 63 out of 100 in our Google Trends metric — compared to 74 in the average city we reviewed.
- Fewer BBQ events: The bottom 10 cities haven't hosted any Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series BBQ competitions and have no major BBQ events planned for the upcoming year, according to BarbecueNews.com.
Phoenix fell to last place. We're roasting Arizona's capital for having just 0.9 BBQ restaurants per 100,000 people. Buying BBQ also costs more in the region, with the average pound of BBQ meat costing $5.61 — compared to $5.13 in the average city we studied.
Aside from higher prices, BBQ fans in Phoenix also have to spend more time traveling to restaurants. BBQ spots are spread out, with one every 10.4 miles in the metro area — nearly double the typical distance of 5.4 miles among the cities we analyzed.
But don't let the city's disappointing ranking turn you off from the local food scene. On the bright side, Phoenix recently ranked as one of the top 15 cities for food trucks.
Clever compared the 50 most-populous U.S. metro areas across a number of metrics, listed below. Each metric was normalized and then graded on a 100-point scale. The combined weighted average of the scores determined the "BBQ city" score upon which the final ranking was based. Data points were attributed to metropolitan areas as much as possible. For some data points, statewide data was used. For others, regional data was used.
The metrics used are as follows:
- BBQ restaurants per 100,000 residents (23.53%)
- Google Trends score for 10 general BBQ terms (11.76%)
- The presence of BBQ events in each city (11.76%)
- Number of Kansas City Barbeque Society Master Series BBQ competitions hosted in the last 10 years (2012-2022) (11.76%)
- Average Yelp rating for BBQ restaurants in each city (17.65%)
- Whether the city is located in a state where a resident has been inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame (5.88%)
- Average distance between BBQ restaurants (5.88%)
- Regional prices for 1 pound of BBQ meat (beef, pork, and poultry) (5.88%)
- Percentage of annual income spent on 4 pounds of BBQ meat per month in a year (5.88%)
Data sources include: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Yelp, Google Trends, Kansas City Barbeque Society, American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame, and BarbecueNews.com.
Since 2017, Clever Real Estate has been on a mission to make selling or buying a home easier and more affordable for everyone. 12 million annual readers rely on Clever's library of educational content and data-driven research to make smarter real estate decisions — and to date, Clever has helped consumers save more than $82 million on realtor fees. Clever's research has been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, Inman, Housing Wire, and many more.
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Frequently Asked Questions About the Best BBQ Cities
What state has the best BBQ?
Texas is the best state for BBQ. It's home to the two top cities for BBQ in the U.S., San Antonio and Austin. Learn more.
What city has the best BBQ in Florida?
Tampa is the best city for BBQ in Florida. Overall, the Sunshine State has three of the top 15 best cities for BBQ. Learn more.
What are the best types of BBQ?
Some of the most popular BBQ foods in the U.S. include brisket, pulled pork, and spare ribs. Popular sides include mac and cheese, baked beans, coleslaw, and cornbread. Learn