The Best Barbecue in Boston

By Eric Twardzik
05/24/2021
M&M Barbecue

Nevermind the fact that it’s closer to Canada than it is to the Mason-Dixon line—Greater Boston hosts BBQ joints to satisfy a homesick transplant and Yankee alike. Next time you are craving a taste of the South, head to these spots for smoked meats.

BBQ from Blue Ribbon BBQ

An excursion to one of three Blue Ribbon Barbecue locations—Arlington, Dedham, and West Newton—should be mandatory for Boston-area smoked meat aficionados. Blue Ribbon slow-cooks ribs, pulled pork, hot links, and other options over oak and hickory for maximum flavor. Meat may take center stage, but don’t neglect sides like dirty rice and Southern desserts such as fruit cobbler and pecan pie. Modeled after the roadside BBQ joints that dot the American South, there’s plenty of nostalgic bric-a-brac decorating the suburban spots, which are open for takeout and limited (dog-friendly!) patio dining.

M&M BBQ

Before settling down at Dorchester Brewing Company, M&M BBQ was a food truck, a catering business, and a pop-up operation—and more than 30 years of barbecue know-how are reflected in the quality of the meltingly soft pork ribs. At their permanent location, ‘cue fans will also find sandwiches like the Geneva Ave, beef brisket with smoked cheese sauce; and beer-friendly snacks like Dumpster Fries, hand-cut potatoes doused with BBQ-infused ketchup, smoked cheese sauce, your choice of meat, and topped with scallions. A rooftop reservation goes great with smoked meats, too.

Blackstrap BBQ

Interior of Blackstrap BBQ

Situated in a small Winthrop space decked out with hanging lights, a dartboard, and an American flag, Blackstrap BBQ isn’t trying to look fancy. They’re far more concerned with cooking good barbecue—and pulling inspiration from across the country. Expect to find Memphis-style dry rubbed ribs, crispy smoked jerk chicken, Texas brisket, and more. Sides span a range of influences, from Maple Mash sweet potatoes, to Spicy Asian Slaw and Corn and Bacon Salad. Limited-availability specials like Crab & Andouille Fritters with Creole Aioli also keep things interesting.

Highland Fried

The Inman Square sister to Highland Kitchen, Highland Fried is built around the elder’s famous fried chicken, but crispy poultry isn’t the only draw: there are also BBQ classics like chopped beef brisket, half-racks of St. Louis-cut pork ribs, and house-made sausage links including a Spicy Caribbean style. There are plenty of options on the side, including chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, but we’re partial to the creamy homestyle Mac & Cheese and the scratch-made buttermilk biscuits with honey butter. Fun and sometimes frozen tiki-style  cocktails complement the casual cuisine.

BBQ from Sweet Cheeks Q

Sweet Cheeks Q represents Chopped judge Tiffani Faison’s quest to bring laid-back barbecue to the heart of Boston. Long wooden tables and mason jar cocktails help create that sense of casual ease—as do trays laden with pork ribs, buttermilk fried chicken, and hot and cold scoops of sides like collard greens or Cita’s Broccoli Cheese Casserole. Portions are generous, but that never stops us from ordering a bucket of fluffy, buttery biscuits that could make a meal unto themselves.

With Smoke Shop locations in Kendall Square, Assembly Row, Harvard Square, and Fort Point, chef Andy Husbands is building a mini barbecue empire. We’re happy to see it grow, so long as it continues to serve the excellent slow-cooked ribs, brisket, and burnt ends that Husbands has been perfecting in competitions for more than 20 years. The Smoke Shop takes barbecue’s natural pairing—whiskey—just as seriously, offering over 200 varieties of American brown spirits.

The Porch Southern Fare & Juke Joint

Nashville native chef-owner Jonathan Post pays homage to his hometown at his rollicking venue in Medford, which frequently hosts live music alongside comfort food and cool cocktails. Whether you catch a show or not, The Porch will welcome you with Southern hospitality—and juicy smoked Texas Brisket, dry-rubbed St. Louis Spare Ribs, and tender Chopped Whole-Hog ‘Cue (pulled pork). Classic sides like collards and creamy cheese grits are authentically tasty; and even the sleek space, located at a new-ish residential development, has shiny steel details that evoke the curvature of a custom-built smoker, which itself sits on the patio.

Updated by Jacqueline Cain

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