1. Honey Bear's BBQ
Van Buren

Honey Bear’s BBQ first swung open their doors in 1986. And since then, these ‘cue experts have been dishing out Tennessee-style barbecue to the masses. Pitmaster Mark Smith has been skillfully manning the smokers behind this Van Buren barbecue shack since the beginning. And all that time perfecting his craft has certainly paid off. Honey Bear’s lineup of smoked eats includes classics like combo plates packed with wood-smoked proteins, hefty sauce-drenched sandwiches, and all the standard fixings including collard greens, Cowbro’ Beans, and the unmissable, uber cheesy, Meaty Mac topped with your choice of pulled pork, beef brisket, or shredded chicken. Don’t miss housemade sweets like the golden crusted peach cobbler and Honey Bear’s iconic sweet potato pie.

2. Joe's Real BBQ
Downtown Gilbert

This Gilbert Heritage District barbecue joint is a time-tested East Valley favorite, which made its delicious debut in 1998. Today, Joe’s Real BBQ continues to excite the taste buds with an epic roster of smoky, flavorful meats. Here, proteins are smoked to perfection over Arizona pecan wood, a labor of love that spans 12 hours. There’s no wrong way to order here, truly. Although, the four-meat sampler plate, a medley of ribs, chicken, brisket, pork, and cornbread, makes for a great introduction to what Joe’s has to offer. Complementing all that meat is Joe’s lineup of 12 housemade sides, most of which you’d come to expect from a solid barbecue restaurant. And some, like the fresh beet salad or spicy citrus slaw, are more unexpected. Ultimately, Joe’s Real BBQ is as real as it gets when it comes to authentic ‘cue.

3. Little Miss BBQ
University & Sunnyslope

Ask your protein-loving friends about their favorite local barbecue joint and they’ll likely start waxing poetic about Little Miss BBQ and its impressive offering of wonderfully smoked meats. Sure, you could take their word for it. Or, you could nab a spot in line and experience the nirvana that is Little Miss BBQ for yourself at one of their two Valley locations. After finding inspiration in Texas, competing in local barbecue competitions here in Arizona, and tirelessly perfecting his craft, owner and pitmaster Scott Holmes debuted the first Little Miss BBQ in 2014. Now, Arizona ‘cue fans can get a taste of Central Texas-style barbecue with proteins like sliced and chopped brisket, pulled pork and pork spare ribs, sausage, turkey breast, and beef short ribs, all of which are available by the pound at Little Miss. The jalapeño-cheddar grits, ranch-style beans, spoonable mac and cheese, and personal smoked pecan pies are undoubtedly worth saving room for, too.

4. JL Smokehouse

Forget traveling across state lines to get a taste of the South. Instead, point your GPS towards James Lewis’ JL Smokehouse. This rustic barbecue hideaway draws some influence from Tennessee-style cooking. But rest-assured, JL’s offers a style and taste that’s uniquely its own. It might be hard to comeby a smoked bologna sandwich, but you’ll find it on the menu at JL’s. Other popular southern favorites include JL’s must-order brisket, beef short rib tacos, BBQ chicken nachos, smoked sausage, and pork belly sandwich, all of which are smoked to precision onsite. And the sauce? Drench your proteins and tell us what you think.

5. Trapp Haus BBQ
Roosevelt Row

Trapp Haus BBQ first emerged along Downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row in 2018. The rest is history. Since the beginning, barbecue devotees have descended to the Downtown Phoenix barbecue joint for pitmaster Phil Johnson’s award-winning fare, which ranges from family-style platters of hickory-smoked brisket, burnt ends, ribs, hot links, and whole chickens to sandwiches, salads, and bowls. Johnson’s approach to barbecue doesn’t fall in line with what most barbecue masters preach, his own methods are exactly that, his own methods. Johnson’s grilling style is what you would consider freestyle. His improvisational approach to ‘cue is inspired by uncommon flavors and he’s developed techniques that break the mold of barbecue. And, he must be doing something right. Johnson keeps nabbing accolades for his ‘cue. And folks keep coming back for more.

6. Starlite BBQ
South Scottsdale

Smoked meats and whiskey make for a legenedy pairing. Starlite BBQ seems to think so, too. After all, that’s what their business model is based on. Equal parts barbecue restaurant and whiskey bar, Starlite surprises even the most discerning barbecue connoisseurs with elevated takes on ‘cue and curated selections of rare and hard to come by spirits. Starlite’s standouts include the 12-hour smoked brisket and for more modest appetites, the smoked and slow-roasted pulled pork sandwich, a handheld delicacy dressed up with house barbecue sauce, pickles, and coleslaw. Additional offerings like the appetizing grilled red shrimp with cheesy grits, the incredibly oversized cornbread pancake, and the vegetarian mesquite-grilled cauliflower round-out the menu here.

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