Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on January 4, 2024.
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If you would've asked us about Pittsburgh's barbecue scene when we started this site, we probably would've replied with a sarcastic “what barbecue scene?”
To put it bluntly: while there were a few gems scattered around, the offerings around the city were quite sad.
This is all changing, however, and many barbecue joints have opened up around Pittsburgh that are starting to put our ‘que scene on the map. (Or perhaps our map, at least.)
As with most articles of this nature on our site, we do not publish definitive best-of lists as we do not want to hand out the top spots until we've truly tried them all. Instead, we go on quests to find the city's best meals, like our quest to find the best pizza in Pittsburgh or the best reubens in Pittsburgh to name a few, and update our guides with the best spots as we visit them.
In this one we're looking for the best barbecue in Pittsburgh, and we've been to a number of amazing spots so far!
Note: In the past, our quest style articles organized barbecue in various categories from below average to excellent. Since then, we have decided to remove any category style tier. That said, barbecue joints in this article loosely ordered by increasing preference in this article. So if you want to see our very favorites, scroll to the end!
Smokin' Toad's BBQ
This spot serves up what we think is a fairly limited menu for a barbecue restaurant but does include full entree options like smoked-and-fried wings, smoked meat sandwiches, and full entrees of pork belly, brisket, and more (two or three meat set combo plates are available, but not a la carte for traditional mix-and-match ordering).
During our first visit we were able to sample the wings as well as the Plain Jane (a massive pulled pork sandwich) and thought that the meats were prepared fine, but do not have that extra oomph from an exceptional rub, smoke, or tenderness that we often seek out from barbecue. Great when drinking at the brewery next door, we have to say, but a bit lacking on its own right.
Smokin' Toad's BBQ is located at 110 S Pike Road in Sarver, PA.
Rowdy BBQ is a walk-up barbecue stand off of Route 51 just south of the city and offers an array of meats, burgers, and other sandwiches (like Philly cheese) to name a few.
This one wins many points for being among the cheapest barbecue in the city and offers fairly tender ribs with a sauce that is on the spicy side (something we can appreciate). However, we were a bit turned off by the pulled pork sandwich as it was served with a sauce that was conventional to the point that we equated it to a popular sloppy meat sandwich that we had in our childhood years.
That being said, Rowdy offers up some exceptional other non-barbecue products so if you do make it out to their spot just be a bit selective in what you order and you'll still have a great meal!
Rowdy BBQ is located at 3900 Saw Mill Run Blvd just south of the city.
The Dream BBQ
The Dream BBQ is a smaller barbecue joint that only offers ribs, chicken, and a small array of sides that are reasonably priced (five wings, five ribs, and two sides cost me just about $18).
The flavor of the ribs here is quite good, both with a nice, spice-forward bark as well as a strong smoke flavor that I loved. The two sticking points I had with this one are that the wings, on the other hand, had little meat on them at all and the meat was not tender in the slightest. Perhaps not the chewiest meat out of all of those on this list, but it definitely had a bite to it.
So while I would be tempted on calling the ribs above average for the flavor, as it was quite good, I couldn't get over the tenderness overall.
The Dream BBQ is located at 7600 Braddock Avenue in Homewood.
Pittsburgh Barbecue Company
If there is an all around reliable barbecue company that we have enjoyed, it would be Pittsburgh Barbecue Company.
This popular Pittsburgh barbecue joint checks a lot of boxes for is including offering large portions at great prices, a small amount of bark and smoke ring, and a really delicious flavor from the dry rub that all comes together for nice final product. Even better? They have two locations around the region (one in Banksville and one in Murrysville east of the city)!
Going further, one of the things we absolutely love about Pittsburgh Barbecue Company is their sauce. They have a really flavorful and tangy barbecue sauce that is well rounded, not too spicy, and is the kind of sauce you want to (and can) buy by the gallon.
We are quite serious in making the statement that it is one of the best barbecue sauces in the city, and when you put it on their meats you get an overall wonderful package that we really enjoy.
Pittsburgh Barbecue Company is located at 1000 Banksville Road in Pittsburgh and 6625 William Penn Highway in Murraysville.
Jim's Smokin' Que
Jim's Smokin' Que is a mobile cart that you are likely to find at one of the region's many breweries. During our first visit, they offered a spread of smoked chicken, ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, and meat-topped mac and cheese to name a few.
On our first visit, we were only able to sample a half-rack of ribs and found the meat to be incredibly tender and with a modest smoke flavor. It would fall off the bone with the slightest tug and almost melted in our mouth.
While we quite enjoyed the meat, we thought the sauce on this one was lacking a bit as it was a fair bit sweet and was not balanced out with as much notable spice as we'd otherwise prefer. Still, we look forward to trying more from this one if their other meat is just as tender as the ribs!
Jim's Smokin' Que is a mobile cart that can be found around the city. Recent locations have been shared on their Facebook page.
Mitch's BBQ is an interesting barbecue restaurant in Warrendale as aside from the standard spread of barbecue they also make ramen and kimchi (with their meat being an optional add-on for the ramen)!
But as far as the barbecue itself is concerned, the meat at Mitch's gets an above average from us primarily for the price point (a massive tray of meat plus a monster tray of pork rinds and cornbread is just over $20) and an array of flavorful sauces.
The meat itself is fairly tender and has a modest bark and smoke ring we'd expect from solid barbecue, but when you add in several pretty stellar sauces and a modest price point you certainly get our attention. Definitely check them out next time you are in the North Hills!
Mitch's BBQ is located at 16070 Perry Highway in Warrendale.
Hog Father's BBQ
Hogfathers BBQ offers up a somewhat straightforward barbecue menu that is simply cooked to perfection. If you want tender meats in an array of options straight up or in sandwich form, this one certainly will not let you down as the meats here are among some of the most tender we've had in the region (but admittedly not the largest of portions we've ever seen).
Throw in a reasonable price point, an array of sides, and more and we can see why this one has expanded to have several locations south of the city!
Hogfathers BBQ has several locations south of Pittsburgh in Canonsburg and Washington.
Those who wish to visit Clem's Cafe are in for a bit of a drive as the restaurant is located about 60 minutes east of the city in Blairsville, PA.
If you make the trip you'll be rewarded with some of the most tender meats in the region that can be cut with a plastic fork (a rare feat here!). A monster combo plate of a quarter rack of ribs and half pound of pork runs just over $10, and is a steal by any standards.
Our only regrets is that the meat comes out doused in sauce (swimming, really) and visitors are best to ask for this one on the side in order to get a fine appreciation for the meat alone first. But even with this slight knock as the sauce is somewhat flavorful as well, we have to say, tender meat wins the day.
Clem's Cafe is located at 1985 US-22 in Blairsville, PA.
Two Brother's Barbecue
Two Brother's is one of those places that comes together as a good, full package barbecue place and doesn't have one or two key components that we seek out. The ribs were tender, had a light bark, and a small smoke ring, but came together as a whole offering just a nice final product that we simply enjoy a bit more than others.
One thing that makes Two Brother's a bit more unique is they have an array of non-traditional barbecue items as well for those who want to kick it up a notch, like barbecue pork nachos. So if you are still in the mood for good barbecue but want them served differently, Two Brother's has you covered there as well.
Two Brother's Barbecue is located at 5228 Thompson Run Road in Presto. They are seasonal and close over the winter.
Off the Rails Barbeque and Drafthouse
Off the Rails Barbeque is a popular restaurant in Verona for all things smoked meats, craft brews, and, depending on when you visit live music. On our late weeknight visit to this one, we got all three which made for a delightful combination.
During our first visit, we got to sample a half rack of ribs and a pulled pork sandwich (sadly, brisket had run out for the night) and appreciated the tender meats and their intense flavors with a lovely, albeit light, smoke flavor to balance. Coupled with their house made sauces, a monster plate of fries, and a can of a Grist House IPA, and our cravings were satisfied all around.
Just be quick when visiting this one- their popular meats can (and do) sell out regularly!
Off the Rails Barbeque and Drafthouse is located at 549 Allegheny River Blvd in Verona.
Pittsburgh Smokehouse is a popular barbecue food truck that can be found at various events and breweries in any given week (although they often do not publish their schedule in advance). While this one serves up an array of delicious meats, we need to call out their smoked wings which are, by far, some of the best you'll find in the city.
Throw on some of their spicy Blast Furnace hot barbecue sauce and you have a must-order dish you'll be ordering time and time again.
Pittsburgh Smokehouse is a food truck with rotating locations throughout the month.
We wind down our list with a barbecue joint that isn't traditional American barbecue, but is instead Argentinian. Gaucho Parrilla has been serving up Argentinian style barbecue since 2013 and transcends what you know about meat and puts it on a whole new playing field.
The meat here is so perfectly cooked that it doesn't need a single drop of barbecue sauce as a compliment; however, the restaurant offers an assortment of sauces ranging from garlic to chimichurri as a supplement. Go for the pulled pork, the steak platter, or more or less anything on the menu- whatever you pick will be delicious.
Gaucho Parrilla is located at 146 6th Street in downtown Pittsburgh. They were formerly in the Strip District but relocated in 2020.
Big Rig's BBQ
Whenever we share this article, we often get a large influx of recommendations of where to check out next. While we are still working our way on getting to all of them, sometimes a spot receives a ton of recommendations and we get there right away. Big Rig's BBQ in Monroeville was one such spot.
This one opened in late 2019 and has been quickly growing a die-hard following. Within a few bites, we knew why that is. The meat here is tender. Not just the brisket. Not just the pork belly. Not just the ribs. All of it. In fact, the platter I ordered here would be in the running for the most tender meats we've had to date anywhere, and that is really saying something (and if you like fatty brisket, ask for slices of those too- only a few places in the area do this one well).
While I would say that this one is a bit lighter on the smoke flavor, and the bark on the meat is also less noticeable than other places, we really can't get over the tenderness, and for that we call this one excellent. Be sure to throw on a side of cornbread and pork burnt end baked beans as well to round out the meal!
Big Rig's BBQ is located at 226 Center Road in Monroeville, PA.
Walter's BBQ and Southern Kitchen opened in Lawrenceville in late 2018 and offers a large menu of barbecue options including meats straight from the smoker, tacos, sandwiches, and a rather robust brunch offering to name a few.
During our first visit we were able to sample their ribs, brisket, as well as the pork belly and were not disappointed. The ribs were surprisingly tender, with a good smoke ring, and a rather strong flavor from a pepper rub. The brisket was a clear winner after selecting a fatty option which it exceptionally tender with the same style rub as the ribs. The only one we hesitate on is the pork belly which was first smoked, sliced, and grilled, giving it a bit of an unusual texture you would not expect.
Overall, Walter's BBQ pulls off some rather delicious meats. Do yourself a favor and jump straight in on this one for your next visit (and be sure to try their candied bacon as well)!
Walter's BBQ is located at 4501 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
Blowfish Barbecue is a Pittsburgh food truck (cart, really) that makes some fairly exceptionally barbecue- be it pulled pork, ribs, or chicken and turkey drumsticks (depending on what is offered on any given day at least). The cart is a fairly simple smoker producing delectable products accompanied by their rather flavorful sauces, and proves you do not need an elaborate setup to do justice to meat.
We are a bit biased on this one because it is also mobile, meaning you never know which brewery or event you'll find them at. Exceptional meat, a moving location, and paired with great Pittsburgh beer? Sign us up.
Be sure to order a side of their famous smoked macaroni and cheese here, as they truly make some of the best in the city.
Blowfish Barbecue is a food truck that is often found at Brew Gentlemen, Roundabout's North Shore popup, and more. Check their Facebook page for locations.
Located on a quiet corner of Homewood West is Showcase Barbecue. This one is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of joint that only stands out due to two smokers being located on the side of the building and a rather obscure sign.
The menu at Showcase is fairly straight forward with chicken, ribs, and pulled pork being offered plus an array of sides. The meat is fairly tender, packed full of flavor (with a fair bit of bark too!), and their sauce is almost a barbecue / mustard hybrid that has a sufficient tang that we absolutely love- a rarity for the region.
The best part? This one is cheap, and you can have a feast for two for less than just about anywhere else on this list. As far as no frills barbecue is concerned, it is hard to do it better than here.
Just be sure to get there early as they are known to sell out fast!
Showcase Barbecue is located at 6800 Frankstown Road in Homewood West.
More Pittsburgh Barbecue Coming Soon!
As with all our quests, this guide is a work in progress and only features barbecue joints we've personally visited. We've got many more to go and will add them into this guide as we visit them.
Know of any good barbecue joints we haven't tried? Comment below to let us know about it!