The 10 Best Barbecue Restaurants in Metro Phoenix | Phoenix New Times


These are the 10 best barbecue joints in greater Phoenix

Out of all of the options for smoked meats across the Valley, here are the can't-miss spots.
Head to north Scottsdale gas station The Thumb for an unexpected feast.
Head to north Scottsdale gas station The Thumb for an unexpected feast. Tirion Boan
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No matter the region or style, when it comes to great barbecue, you can smell it from the parking lot. An aroma of burning mesquite or hickory hits you as soon as you get out of the car. Plumes of smoke let you know you’re in the right place and your stomach growls in anticipation of the savory meats and selection of sauces inside.

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.

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At Caldwell County BBQ, walk past the giant smokers outside and find a seat in the welcoming dining room.
Tirion Boan

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.

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Pork ribs and vinegary Dr. Pepper barbecue beans are among the standouts at Cryin' Coyote BBQ.
Sara Crocker

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.

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Ribs are the star of the show at Danky's Bar-B-Q.
Tirion Boan

Danky’s Bar-B-Q

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.

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Don't skip the elote and make sure to leave room for banana pudding at Eric's Family BBQ.
Tirion Boan

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.

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Honey Bear’s BBQ on Van Buren Street.
Lauren Cusimano

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.

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A mixed meat platter and armada of sides from JL Smokehouse.
Chris Malloy

JL Smokehouse

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.

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A platter of meat, of course with a beer, from Little Miss BBQ.
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

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.

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Meats are served sauce-free at NakedQ.
Tirion Boan


Multiple Locations
Lucky for Valley residents, NakedQ has restaurants in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Glendale, meaning this modern counter-service joint and its aroma of smoking meat are never too far away. The "naked" in the name refers to barbecue served without sauce and only minimal spices. The sauces can be added later, and they are nothing to miss. Order a butcher paper-lined tray of chopped or sliced brisket, moist and smoky pulled pork, or tender St. Louis-style ribs, and douse it all in the house, spicy or mustard-based sauces. Peppery mac and cheese and a block of cornbread round out the meal.

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Stacy's Off Da Hook BBQ and Soul Food is a perfect option for takeout.
Tirion Boan

Stacy’s Off Da Hook BBQ and Soul Food

1804 W. Glendale Ave.
The best description of Stacy’s Off Da Hook is found in the name. This uptown Phoenix joint packs in the flavor, all in a tiny five-booth spot on Glendale Avenue. Squeeze in or, better yet, order takeout for a dinner fit for a backyard bash. Sauced ribs are the perfect amount of messy and satisfying, while the Southern sides shine. Sweet candied yams and collard greens pair well with the pulled pork, rib tips and cornbread at this Southern-style staple. Wash it all down with Kool-Aid, served on tap.

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The Thumb is many things including a gift shop, gas station store, barista and barbecue restaurant.
Tirion Boan

The Thumb

9393 E. Bell Road, Scottsdale
How many gas stations have you visited that have a giant, sparkling chandelier inside? How about a full coffee counter? A cute gift shop? A stocked wine selection? An entire barbecue restaurant? Well, The Thumb in north Scottsdale has it all. Outside, drivers pull up to the pumps to fill up their cars like they would at any normal gas station. But inside, The Thumb is so much more. Head to the counter and order - we recommend the three meat platter to get a taste of everything - and then mosey around the gift shop while you wait. When you’re number is ready, grab a seat in the circular dining room under the chandelier or by the large fish tank if you’ve got kids in tow. Dig into thick slices of brisket, served lean or moist, snappy sausage and savory pulled pork. The meats pair perfectly with the house barbecue sauce or a ruddy chipotle version. For sides, the beans are packed with meat to the point they are almost chili. Creamy mac and cheese counters the tangy barbecue sauce and rounds out a meal that stands out among barbecue options in the Valley and makes your brain swirl when you remember you’re sitting in a gas station. Fill up on the way out.
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