Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, and that means BBQ season is officially here. Now, there are many self-proclaimed home pitmasters out there, and we’re sure you know one — or are one. Perhaps there’s even high-quality rubs involved — or a manly apron. But if you’re feeling less-than-ambitious this weekend or simply just don’t have enough green in your backyard to cook out, it’s perfectly acceptable to dine out. Just make sure the barbecue is authentic.
With data pulled from our sister company’s proprietary Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), below are the Top 4 BBQ joints around the U.S. that consumers (71,610,951 of them to be exact) love most, based on their sentiment toward our 15,256 tracked brands across 17 social media platforms in 430,748 locations. This sentiment data was pulled from Q1 2015.
1. Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque | New York City | RSMI Sentiment Score: 65.18
Where do we begin? This BBQ joint, with locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and New Jersey, marries traditions from Texas and the Carolinas, dubbing their fare Texalina. Mighty Quinn’s, helmed by craftsman and Pit Master Hugh Mangum, brings authentic barbecue with all-natural meats and poultry to a fast casual setting. However, meats are wood-smoked for hours before being served to promote smokier flavors. They even make their own BBQ sauce in house, naturally. Location interiors boast reclaimed wood throughout, as the team is sustainably conscious. Aside from its walk-in dining, Mighty Quinn’s includes a catering arm and offers, as of recently, pitmaster lessons for newbies to “learn the secrets of great BBQ.” It’s easy to see why this concept is getting a lot of love from its guests on social.
Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque
2. Franklin Barbecue | Austin | RSMI Sentiment Score: 64.87
A mound of award-winning brisket shoved into a fresh roll with a hint of cabbage for balance and a whole lotta flavor. That’s just one of the menu items you can get at Franklin Barbecue, located on 11th Street in Austin. But make sure to get there quick: the restaurant is open for lunch only (beginning at 11 a.m.) and closes up shop once everything is sold out. Aaron Franklin is the chef behind the operation, a name that may sound familiar considering his newly appointed honor of Best Chef: Southwest by the James Beard Award Foundation. Or because he is co-author of “Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto.” Or maybe you’ve seen his BBQ With Franklin YouTube channel, which will soon be turned into a PBS BBQ variety TV show. Either way, Franklin is serving up some damn good barbecue and has the accolades — and RSMI score — to prove it.
900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702
3. bellyQ | Chicago | RSMI Sentiment Score: 64.09
If you’re looking for something a little less traditional and more upscale, bellyQ — the culinary brainchild of Chef Bill Kim — is it. Kim’s take on Asian Barbecue brings about the marriage of new flavors and an interactive, modern dining experience (grill tables are optional). Only open for brunch and dinner, bellyQ’s menu dreams up dishes like rib tips with maple BBQ glaze, sesame and steamed buns; white corn coconut grits with marinated vegetables; and marinated Korean short ribs with carrots and crispy shallots. Is your mouth watering yet? All ingredients on the menu are locally sourced and seasonal. This simplicity and refinement can also be seen inside of the restaurant, with minimal decoration and a luxuriously understated space. Located on W. Randolph Street in Chicago, bellyQ is a Cornerstone Restaurant Group concept, with Michael Jordan as a partner. And, according to social diners, it’s definitely a BBQ slam dunk.
1400 W. Randolph Street
4. SMOKE Restaurant | Dallas | RSMI Sentiment Score: 64.02
Homegrown. Homemade. Local Eats. This is how SMOKE describes itself. Between its lunch, midday, dinner and brunch menus, not only does the restaurant not miss a beat in dayparts, it also knows no boundaries. Using Southern ingredients, SMOKE’s dishes are anything but traditional. Dishes teeter on a delicate balance of comfort food and out-of-the-box, adventurous fare. Dinner menu items include dishes like Cabrito & Masa with cajeta, green apple salsa verde and goat cream; Cooked in the Coals pot chicken with sweet chile mole, pumpkin seeds, dry sherry rice and mushrooms; and coffee-cured natural beef brisket with B&B pickles and potato salad. Diners can also pull from a Family-Style Feasts section, which feeds 2-4 people, with options ranging from sausage to grilled fish. But it’s the Barbeque Board that has our heart: ribs, pulled pork, brisket, ham, bacon & turkey with pickles, relish and rolls. White clothing not recommended. (Bonus: If you’re in Plano, get excited — SMOKE has just opened a new location in your ’hood!)