BBQ, barbeque, barbecue—however you spell it, there’s no disputing it is more than just a way of cooking, it’s an entire culture. Whether you’re looking for fall-off-the-bone deliciousness, authentic whole-hog pit smoked fare or some fusion and veggie alternatives, there’s a joint that’s right for you. We’ve rounded up the most awesome, kid-friendly BBQ restaurants in the country, now all you need to do is try to include a few in your summer travel plans. Scroll down to see them all.  

Jack's BBQ—Seattle, WA

Five years ago, Texan Jack Timmons set about bringing his hometown flavors to the Pacific Northwest, and the giant smoker outside tells you that you're in for a treat. An oversized plush giraffe welcomes little ones and for parents wanting to avoid a long wait, Jack's takes reservations. The menu boasts incredible brisket and full flavor sausage as well as sides of mac ‘n’ cheese, potato salad and coleslaw. It comes top of the list in our roundup of Seattle-based BBQ joints to treat dad on Father's Day. 

3924 Airport Way S.
Seattle, WA 98108
(206) 467-4038

Online: jacksbbq.com

Joe's Kansas City BBQ—Kansas City, KS

Offering tender smoky ribs, generous sides, perfectly sliced brisket, a tangy sweet sauce and seasoned fries, Joe's certainly lives up to the hype. A favorite of celeb-chef Anthony Bourdain, there are three locations, and the original one still operates out of a neighborhood gas station at the corner of 47th Avenue and Mission Road in Kansas City. Expect a line of hungry 'cue fans most times of day but take comfort—it moves pretty fast. This is a joint that welcomes everyone, even vegetarians—smoked mushrooms replace brisket in their Portobello Z-man.

3002 W 47th Ave.
Kansas City, KS 66103
(913) 722-3366

11950 S. Strang Line Rd.
Olathe, KS 66062
(913) 782-6858

11950 S. Strang Line Rd.
Olathe, KS 66062
(913) 782-6858

Online: joeskc.com

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Podnah's Pit Barbeque—Portland, OR

The name comes from the Texan 'Podnah' for partner, which was the nickname for Rodney Muirhead's grandfather. Tapping into his Texan roots, Muirhead set up Podnah’s Pit a decade ago. The crew fires up the pit at 5 a.m. every morning to prepare honest, slow-smoked meats over oak hardwood. While the staff are committed to Texan-style 'cue, they also make a mean Carolina-style pulled pork. For other kid-friendly BBQ options in Portland, check out this list from our archives.

1625 NE Killingsworth St.
Portland, OR
(503) 281-3700

Online: podnahspit.com

Bogart's Smokehouse—St Louis, MO

Satisfy your BBQ cravings for salt, fat and spice with some of the best flavors in St. Louis. Bogart's Smokehouse is super quaint and has an old-time feel with picnic tables and seating indoor and out. Staff is friendly, and the food is top notch—pick from ribs, pulled pork, brisket, turkey, pastrami or burnt ends and pair with sides of fire and ice pickle, deviled egg potato salad or beans.

Bogart's Smokehouse
1627 S 9th St.
St. Louis, MO 63104
(314) 621-3107

Online: bogartssmokehouse.com

Gorilla Barbeque—Pacifica CA

This roadside BBQ joint is set up in a train carriage off Highway 1 in Pacifica. It's hard to ignore the delicious smells as you pass by or the line of hungry patrons. The best cuts are often sold out by their 8 p.m. closing time so get there early or call ahead to make sure they have what you want. It's a grab-and-go establishment and service is pretty fast. Once you have your order of tender brisket, juicy ribs or full flavor sausage, the idea is to head to the beach to tuck in.

2145 Coast Hwy
Pacifica, CA 94044
(650) 359-7427

Online: gorillabbq.com

The Pit—Raleigh, NC

North Carolina isn't short of great BBQ joints, and The Pit is one of them. It has great service and proudly serves authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked 'cue. Set in a 1930's meatpacking warehouse, it's a step up from the family style roadside joints. The pigs they smoke are all locally farmed and sustainably raised, and they also offer Texas-style brisket, baby back ribs, barbecue turkey, fried chicken and a not-to-be-missed barbecue tofu dish. Another bonus at The Pit is valet parking!

328 W Davie St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 890-4500

Online: thepit-raleigh.com

Rocklands—Arlington VA and Washington D.C.

When you're in need of some smoky meaty goodness in Virginia and DC, Rocklands is the place to go. There are three locations: Arlington, Alexandria and D.C. that have been serving customers for nearly 30 years. None of the restaurants are too fancy—their version of "al fresco" dining is a few picnic tables out front, and the menu provides a feast of slow-smoked flavor that's guaranteed to keep hunger at bay.

25 S. Quaker Lane
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703)778-9663

3471 Washington Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 528-9663

2418 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-2558

Online: rocklands.com

DAS BBQ—Atlanta, GA

The hulking great smokers at DAS BBQ are so beloved they have names—Poncho and Lefty. You can watch the pitmasters at work in a windowed smokehouse, and the food served is a unique twist on Georgia and Texas 'cue. Brisket, sausage and pulled pork are all smoked to perfection, and there are some not-to-missed sides, including the creamed jalapeno corn and, of course, mac and cheese. There's plenty of seating inside and out and, for kids, check out the $5 sammie slammer (aka a jumbo slider with chips or a side).

1203 Collier Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 850-7373

Online: dasbbq.com

Maple Block Meat Co.—Culver City, CA

Leave it to L.A. to come up with a slightly sophisticated hipster-ish take on BBQ. Maple Block Meat Co' serves creative drinks, must-have sides and meats by the pound that will satisfy that need for salt and smoke and sweet flavors. You'll be spoilt for choice between perfect ribs and brisket, moist cornbread, spicy sauce, full flavor sides and homemade cream sodas.

3973 Sepulveda Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 313 6328

Online: mapleblockmeat.com

Three Little Pigs—Kansas City, MO

World champion and award winners for their BBQ and their rubs (which you can buy to take home) this Crown Center spot for BBQ is a local's favorite. Not only can you get some of the most delish BBQ in the area here, you can also sign up for BBQ classes to learn their insider secrets. 

2450 Grand Blvd
Ste 141
Kansas City, MO 64108
Online: three-little-pigs-bbq.com
 

Blue Ribbon BBQ—Arlington, MA

Here you'll get fall-off-the-bone unbelievable deliciousness and homemade sauces to die for. Blue Ribbon has been consistently serving what they call 'swine dining' for 22 years. All the meat is cooked at low temperatures for long periods of time over oak and hickory hardwoods, inspired by the roadside joints that dot the American south. There are three locations in Arlington, West Newton and Dedham, each one with its own unique retro feel.

908 Massachusetts Ave.
Arlington, MA 02476
(781) 648-7427

1375 Washington St.
West Newton, MA 02465
(617) 332-2583

342 Washington St.
Dedham, MA 02026
(781) 312-2583

Online: blueribbonbbq.com

Germantown Commissary—Germantown, TN

The pulled pork is the favorite here. So good, according to the staff, "y'ull slap yo' mama." Try the pork with the slaw on top or go for the smokey goodness of BBQed ribs, chicken or burgers. The menu allows for little piglets under 8 to eat $5 drumsticks, Baby BBQ or a PBJ sandwich. There are also tamales, nachos, shrimp and for folks from Georgia, Brunswick Stew. The place is small so be sure to book ahead. It has an old-time feel, the walls covered in commemorative pictures, license plates, and signage.

2290 South Germantown Rd.
Germantown, TN 38138
(901)754-5540

Online: commissarybbq.com

Salt Lick—Driftwood and Round Rock, TX

The open pit at Salt Lick in Driftwood is where the magic happens. Most open fire pits fall foul of safety codes so this one, built in the sixties, is pretty unique. Dry rubbed ribs and brisket slow cooked and caramelized over oak and pecan shells set you up for BBQ bliss. Family style plates for $25 offer all-you-can-eat beef brisket, sausage, pork ribs, potato salad, coleslaw and beans. There's also a children's family style plate for a third of the price and kids under 3 eat free. Driftwood is huge, so you're guaranteed seating. They have a second location at Round Rock and outlets at Austin and Dallas, Fort Worth airports.

18300 Fm 1826
Driftwood, TX 78619
(512) 858-4959

3350 E Palm Valley Blvd.
Round Rock, TX 78665
(512) 386-1044

Online: saltlickbbq.com

Phil's BBQ—San Diego, CA

Phil's BBQ tops the list of a burgeoning BBQ scene in the San Diego area. Phil's has four family-friendly spots, plus outlets at Petco Park baseball field and the airport. Each serves mesquite grilled baby back and beef ribs, chicken and sandwiches. Lines can get long, which is a testament to the food and friendly atmosphere. Phil's is known for its fast-casual dining style and its top-secret recipe for BBQ rubs and sauces.

750 Sports Arena Blvd.
San Diego, CA
(619) 226-6333

579 Grand Ave.
San Marcos, CA
(760) 7591400

9816 Mission Gorge Rd.
Santee, CA
(619) 449 7700

17051 West Bernardo Dr.
Rancho Bernardo, CA
(858) 312 6161

Online: philsbbq.com

Q39—Kansas City, MO and KS

The BBQ at Q39 is fall off the bone, melt in your mouth good. All the plates are made to share, and all BBQ plates are served with a side of apple coleslaw, beans or potato salad which can also be subbed for fries or veggies. The decor is pared down industrial, and there's an open kitchen. The team behind Q39 have won awards for their tender meat, and pitmaster Rob Magee brings his training as a chef to the restaurants, making each spot fun and contemporary, rustic and friendly but urban, contemporary and impeccably clean.

Q39 Midtown
1000 W 39th St.
Kansas City, MO 64111
(816) 255-3753

Q39 South
11051 Antioch Rd.
Overland Park, KS

Online: q39kc.com

The Firehouse—Johnson City, TN

Fans of The Firehouse say the BBQ here can’t be beaten. The portion sizes are generous, the servers are attentive, the food is well priced, arrives quickly and tastes delicious—oh, and there's a vintage fire engine to greet you when you come in the door. Aside from the tasty ribs, brisket, chicken and pulled pork, there are also salads, burgers, sandwiches, and soups.

627 W Walnut St.
Johnson City, TN 3760
(423) 929-7377

Online: thefirehouse.com

 

Kitchen Table—Denver, CO

Kitchen Table has moved inside Goosetown Tavern, which has had some folks confused, but once you've worked that out and placed your order, you'll find the food full of flavor and the burnt ends especially popular. The pork is well seasoned, and there's a whole section of the menu dedicated to Kansas City-style 'cue as well as burgers, salads, grilled chicken and a selection of traditional sides. 

3242 E Colfax Ave.
Denver, CO
(303) 399-9703

Online: kitchentablecafe.com

Hometown Bar-B-Que—Brooklyn, NY

Even before the ferry service made Hometown Bar-B-Que easier to get to, this mecca in Brooklyn's Red Hook has been able to draw a crowd. On the menu, there's killer brisket, ribs, and pulled pork (plus burnt ends if you're lucky). As well as the traditional fare, there's some fusion food reflecting the neighborhood's diversity. Check out the lamb belly Bahn, Korean sticky ribs, Jamaican jerk ribs and pastrami. The sides aren't an afterthought either, there's buttery cornbread, tasty mac and cheese and baked beans. Live music on Friday and Saturday nights means the place is hopping on the weekends.

454 Van Brunt St.
Brooklyn, NY
(347) 294 4644

Online: hometownbarbque.com

17th Street Barbecue—IL and NV

The Big Daddy of BBQ joints, 17th Street Barbecue, is owned and operated by legendary pit master, Mike Mills and his equally talented daughter, Amy. The ribs really are that good. The bark is smoky and loaded with flavor from their rub (known as magic dust), and the meat near the bone is the light pink color of perfection. Everything on the menu is delicious and the service is second to none.  The Mills' run two 17th St. locations in southern Illinois and two Memphis Championship Barbecue dine-in, drive-thru and take-out restaurants in Las Vegas.

2700 17th St.
Marion, IL
(618) 998-1114

32 N 17th St.
Murphysboro, IL 62966
(618) 684-3722
Online: 17bbq.com

4379 N. Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 644-0000

2250 E. Warm Springs Rd.
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 260-6909

Online: memphis-bbq.com

— Emily Myers

 

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Feature photo: Scott Madore via Unsplash