While New Orleans, in general, ranks high in terms of its culinary offerings, in the past the city was not known for its barbecue – especially when compared to more well-known barbecue locales in Texas, Alabama, the Carolinas and others. But that has changed: Now the city is filled with plenty of authentic barbecue options that have taken the shape of pop-ups, casual neighborhood joints, eateries infused with an upscale sensibility, and late-night bar food menus. Barbecue is ubiquitous and what’s considered “the best” is extremely subjective, but here are five of our favorite spots to get you started on your New Orleans barbecue journey.
Top 5 New Orleans Barbecue Spots
What started as a pop-up at a PJ’s Coffee on Magazine Street is now housed in an unassuming corner spot on Jackson Avenue. While NOLA Smokehouse is now a brick and mortar, a pop-up’s sense of impermanence remains: It’s only open Thursday-Sundays, and a lot of the meat sells out not soon after the 11 a.m. opening time. The thing worth getting here early for is the burnt ends – crispy, fatty pieces of brisket, a hallmark offering of a serious barbecue spot that you definitely couldn’t find in New Orleans’ barbecue-bereft days.
Twelve Mile Limit is one of those bars that has a dream-like combination of offerings: affordable craft cocktails, a Sunday brunch with a build-your-own biscuit option, free food and a comedy open mic on Mondays, and – with board games and posters of indie rock bands on the wall – a vibe similar to a hip, post-grad male’s apartment. The bar also serves delicious barbecue till late at night. The creamy mac and cheese is a required side item, and for dessert make sure to get a perfectly sweet, moist mini cake from Debbie Does Doberge.
A classic in the Bywater, the Joint was the beacon of light in New Orleans’ barbecue dark days and still remains a local favorite and is frequently acclaimed in national press. The brisket here is perfectly tender, and one sandwich features locally made chaurice sausage smoked in the restaurant’s backyard. The mac and cheese here also proves a worthy side item, and be sure to save room for the decadent peanut butter cream pie.
If you’re one of those diners who appreciates variety when it comes to condiments, McClure’s sauce selection alone makes it a must-stop. Options at the Magazine Street spot (another former pop-up) include traditional barbecue sauces representing different states’ barbecue traditions (the mayonnaise-based Alabama sauce is a unique offering), plus the Asian-inspired NO East sauce that includes hoisin and soy sauce. Another offering for the indecisive diner is the All Meats, All Sides option, which features a little bit of everything and is built for sharing. This is a place where you really can have it all.
Going to Walker’s does involve a bit of a trek, but it is certainly worth it. The draw here is that it’s the year-round home to the peppery cochon de lait po-boy that’s served at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. This is another place that tends to sell out, so be sure to get here early. You can also get typical barbecue offerings and while you’re out in New Orleans East, be sure to get in touch with nature.
Can’t get enough of New Orleans barbecue? Be sure to add the Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival to your calendar. The free event, held Oct. 17-19, features music by some of the city’s best blues artists and more than a dozen barbecue vendors at Lafayette Square.