In metro Phoenix, there are a number of spots where you’ll find outstanding ’cue. A heavy influence from Texas, a splash of Carolina-style sauce, a mix of Tennessee and Louisiana flavors and a few twists from Mexican cuisine meld to create something uniquely Arizonan.
From Southeast Gilbert to Avondale, North Scottsdale to South Phoenix, here are the 10 best barbecue restaurants in the Valley.
Caldwell County BBQ
18324 E. Nunneley Road, Gilbert Caldwell County BBQ is to the far East Valley what Eric’s Family BBQ is to the West. Line up at the counter and order links, turkey and thick slices of brisket by the pound before picking your sides and finding a spot inside or on the patio to sit and chow down. Three sauce options grace each table and add a sweet, spicy tang to the meat. The aromatic flavor of black pepper permeates the brisket and turkey, both of which sport thick crusts of the stuff. Outside the restaurant, giant black smokers with names such as Mr. Big and Little Boy keep the aromas coming and the kitchen stocked.
Cryin' Coyote BBQ
6130 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek Cryin’ Coyote BBQ replaced Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue in July, and the smokehouse has already shown it’s ready to carry the mantle of Cave Creek ’cue. Cryin’ Coyote smokes the full gamut of meats, but the standout among them is the restaurant’s ribs, which find the right balance of tenderness, smoke and bit of char. The fat is beautifully rendered, making for a rich bite that carries a hint of sweet and saltiness. The sides are distinctly influenced by the Southwest – a chile relleno-style rice casserole stands in for mac and cheese, for instance. Cryin’ Coyote is a place where you should save room for dessert. The Texas sheet cake, a moist, rich chocolate cake, pays honor to the classic and adds warmth with notes of cinnamon and ginger.
4727 E. Bell Road, #31 If you only get one thing at Danky’s Bar-B-Q in north Phoenix, let it be the ribs. When cut into, an almost-candied bark crackles before tender meat gives way. But trust us, you won’t want to get just one dish. This little spot, wedged into a narrow strip mall space, serves major flavor. Local beer flows on tap, chunks of pork stud the barbecue beans and sandwiches rock names such as the pulled pork Danky Dank, the beef brisket Curly Wolf and the combo Hot Southern Mess.
Eric’s Family BBQ
12345 W. Indian School Road, Avondale Eric's Family BBQ, a white-painted adobe-style building in Avondale, churns out some of the best barbecue in the Valley. This joint is known for its Texas-style brisket, which takes 16 hours to create, but don’t sleep on the turkey, infused with sweet tea to keep it juicy. Eric’s serves both pork and beef ribs, as well as pulled pork measured by weight at the counter. Find the daily menu scribbled on brown paper taped to the walls. The ’cue is excellent, and sides of cheesy elote, craveable beans and spirals of mac and cheese complete the meal. For dessert, the classic banana pudding brims with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Chow down at a picnic table inside, or sprawl out on the patio as music fills the space.
Honey Bear's BBQ
5012 E. Van Buren St. The Honey Bear's BBQ recognizable midtown A-frame restaurant due to the pandemic and was set to become another barbecue spot which ran into issues of its own. But thankfully, the original location of Honey Bear’s on Van Buren and 52nd streets remains open. This restaurant and catering company has been serving Tenessee-style barbecue since 1986. Standouts on the menu include Honey Bear's specialty pulled pork shoulder and ultra-creamy mac and cheese.
2010 E. Broadway Road
2650 E. University Drive, Mesa JL Smokehouse fits the definition of a classic no-frills barbecue joint. Park on the street in South Phoenix and make your way to a bright red-painted building. Inside, there’s no counter but rather a pass-through window into the kitchen. With the catchphrase “Put some South in your mouth,” this spot draws inspiration from Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, Louisiana and Carolina-style barbecue to create a blend all its own. Blackened chicken drumsticks and spiced, red-hued baked beans served in Styrofoam lunch trays are must-try dishes on the menu. This spring, JL opened a second location, bringing tasty barbecue and homemade lemonade to University Drive in Mesa.
Little Miss BBQ
8901 N. Seventh St.
4301 E. University Drive No Phoenix barbecue list would be complete without the restaurant that reigns supreme in this Valley. Little Miss BBQ, with locations near Tempe and in Phoenix’s Sunnyslope neighborhood, stands at the top, and for good reason. Customers line up around the block, waiting for their turn to try the brisket that former New Times food critic Chris Malloy called “a portal to another dimension.” Add a dose of Arizona to your barbecue adventure with a green chile burrito smothered in bright enchilada sauce.