By Eric Twardzik
BBQ chicken from Formaggio Kitchen
Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge

Nevermind the fact that it’s closer to Canada than it is to the Mason-Dixon line—greater Boston hosts BBQ joints that compete with the best. Whether you’re a homesick transplant or a Yankee craving a taste of the South, head to the following spots to get your carnivorous fix.

BBQ from Blue Ribbon BBQ

A pilgrimage to one of the Blue Ribbon Barbecue locations in Arlington, Dedham, or West Newton should be considered mandatory for Boston-area smoked meat aficionados. Modeled after the roadside barbecue joints that dot the American South, Blue Ribbon slow cooks its ribs, pulled pork, hot links, and more over oak and hickory for maximum flavor. Meat may take center stage, but don’t neglect sides like dirty rice or Southern desserts such as fruit cobbler and pecan pie.


Before settling down inside the Dorchester Brewing Company, M&M BBQ existed as a food truck, a catering business, and a pop-up operation for more than 30 years. Those decades of barbecue know-how are reflected in the quality of the meltingly soft Pork Ribs and ambitious platters like the Smokers Club, which piles pulled pork, beef brisket, and beer-braised brats over sauerkraut with honey mustard and house-made pickles. You’ll also find hearty sandwiches like the Geneva Ave (beef brisket with smoked cheese sauce) and heavy-duty snacks including Dumpster Fries (hand-cut fries doused in pulled pork, pulled chicken, or beef brisket with smoked cheese sauce, scallions, and BBQ-infused ketchup).

Highland Fried

The Inman Square sister to Highland Kitchen, Highland Fried is built around the former’s famous Fried Chicken. You can receive that crispy poultry in the form of either a three-piece dinner, an entire bird, or the Fried Chicken Thigh sandwich, and all can be accompanied by Nashville hot, chile-honey, Buffalo, or Nashville hot sauces. But fried chicken isn’t the only draw: there are also BBQ classics like beef brisket and half-racks of St. Louis-cut pork ribs, all of which come with cornbread and two sides. (We’re partial to the creamy homestyle Mac & Cheese.) Don’t sleep on the scratch-made Buttermilk Biscuits, which you can order solo with honey butter or as the foundation for a hearty breakfast sandwich at brunch.

Food from Formaggio Kitchen seasonal BBQ

On Saturdays between March and October, Formaggio Kitchen’s Cambridge location puts cheese on the back burner and gets to grilling. Each installment of its famed sidewalk BBQ features smoked chicken, brisket, and other BBQ staples (which they begin preparing two days beforehand) plus sandwiches, half-pound hot dogs in hollowed-out baguettes, and sides like candied yams and mac and cheese. This street barbecue inspires impressive lines and cooks until sell-out, but you can pre-order until 4 p.m. the day before.

BBQ from Sweet Cheeks Q

Sweet Cheeks Q represents Top Chef alum Tiffani Faison’s quest to bring laid-back Sunday-style barbecue to the heart of Boston. Long wooden tables and mason jar cocktails help create that sense of casual ease—as do cafeteria trays laden with pork ribs, Buttermilk Fried Chicken, and “hot” or “cold” scoops of sides like collard greens or Cita’s Broccoli Cheese Casserole. Portions are generous, but that doesn’t stop us from starting with an order of fluffy, buttery biscuits that are almost a meal unto themselves.

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 pull inspiration from across the country; expect to find Memphis-style dry ribs, Texas-inspired brisket, and more. On the more creative side of the menu resides duck poutine and a smoked and fried bacon-wrapped hot dog dubbed The Hog.

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