New Orleans doesn't have the rich barbecue history that a city like Memphis or St. Louis has. What it does have are world class chefs turned smokers that are building their own barbecue legacy from the ground up.
Local chefs are top notch innovators and they put these skills to good use when working with the spices and sauces that tempt BBQ aficionados. Ribs, pulled pork, pork belly and brisket are some of the city's top offerings. It's not uncommon to be walking down a street and see a restaurant smoking a pig on their side yard spit for all to see and smell. No secrets here, except for the dry rub recipe applied to the swine before the sun rose.
The "low and slow" approach to meat preparation started to gain traction here maybe a decade or so ago, adapting methods that historic barbecue towns follow but with a bit of a New Orleans twist. Locals and frequent visitors to the city have approved, and the barbecue scene continues to sizzle.
New Orleans may be unlike any other U.S. city, in the South or otherwise, but visitors hungry for Southern style barbecue have been heard. Check out the best places to sample Big Easy smoked meat platters and savory sides.
Formerly a popup inside Chickie Wah Wah, Blue Oak now has its own digs on Carrollton, which is good news for fans of low and slow cooked smoked meat. Besides some stupendous brisket and pulled pork, check out the most excellent smoked wings and spicy green onion sausage. Portions are copious, so plan to share apps like the barbecue nachos and Dagwood-sized sandwiches including a personal fave, the pit viper (jerk pulled pork with slaw and jalapenos). This irresistible eatery is from New Orleans' natives Ronnie Evans and Philip Moseley, has a full bar and is open nightly for dinner. Better yet, eating a spicy fried chicken sandwich on Tuesdays at Blue Oak supports Hogs for the Cause, the March 23/24 fundraiser to fund pediatric brain cancer outreach services with local partners including Children's Hospital of New Orleans and Ochsner Hospital for Children. The restaurant is donating all of the proceeds from its Tuesday chicken sandwich and ever-changing daiquiri menu through the annual Hogs for the Cause barbecue competition.
B.B. King is smiling down on Decatur Street these days, thanks to the opening of the fifth club to bear his name in New Orleans. The legacy of the late great blues legend inspires the soulful happenings in the space that formerly housed Margaritaville across from the French Market. The renovated space, which features five bars, outside seating on Decatur and a bank of windows overlooking the market, is as much a restaurant as it is a club. A menu of Southern favorites, including outstanding fall-off-the-bone ribs, keeps company with New Orleans dishes including jambalaya pasta and gumbo yaya. Beginning in April 2016, the restaurant will launch a Zydeco Brunch on Saturday and a Blues Brunch on Sunday from 10AM-2PM.
Although he's best known for his citified upscale cuisine at Ox Lot 9, chef Jeffrey Hansell is going down a soulful country road with his new restaurant Smoke in Covington. WOrking with his wife and partner Amy and pitmaster Nate Meharg, a passionate barbecue devotee, Hansell has raised the bar on barbecue, dishing outstanding slow pit fired meat and a menu of swoon-worthy sides. From the first mouthful, it's clear that Smoke is not your average barbecue joint. The menu offers Texas-style brisket, gorgeously charred and juicy; house-made hot link, and German- and Czech-inspired smoke sausage; smoked chickens; St. Louis-style pork ribs; pulled pork; and occasional specials like rib tips. The collard greens are epic, same goes for the uptown mac & cheese. For dessert, try a root beer float or a hefty slice of pie from Oxlot 9 pastry chef Breanne Kostyk.
In need of some comfort? Turns out it's closer than you'd think, a state of mind and indulgence on Oak Street at the bendiest part of Riverbend uptown. Brack May's eatery menu includes small plates such as figgy toast with blue cheese croutons and chicken wings with smoked bacon and pickled chiles. Smoke fans must try the barbecue steak served with grilled asparagus, signature mac & cheese, onion rings and house BBQ sauce. Everything is good, so good in fact that there's often a wait. But one bite of the massive shrimp cobb salad, and that wait is forgotten. Save room for dessert, especially if it's pie.
Ms. Hyster's is a Central City barbecue hot spot known for serving comfort food in a "grandma's kitchen" setting complete with gospel music in the background. Rock bottom prices and great value make this a real gem if you're on a budget. A juicy half chicken with two sides - yes get the Velveeta powered mac-n-cheese - is around $7, a great deal. Sandwiches, desserts and delicious sides round out the menu. This is a family-run place that attracts droves of workers at lunch time, a good sign for sure that the food is good and plentiful. All of the cakes are homemade - try the sour cream coffee cake.
This locals' fave is powered by Neil McClure's passion for slow-cooked meat and careful attention to detail. McClure's Barbecue dates to 2011 as a pop-up at Dante's Kitchen, opening its permanent uptown location in 2013. One of the best things about McClure's is the option to slather your smoky meat with various different regional sauces, from North Carolina vinegar-style, to sweet Kansas City sauce and the mayo-informed white Alabama sauce that goes divinely with pork. The brisket cheesesteak is another winner, not a Philly original but a beast all its own worth discovering. The double pork and beans and the smoky collards are great sides to try.
Jazz Fest only happens once a year, but you can have the amazing cochon de lait po'boy at Walker's any time - as long as you get there early. Although they also offer ribs and chicken, it's the po'boy filled with slow cooked pulled pork and cole slaw in a horseradish sauce that is downright swoon-worthy. Walker's BBQ is usually open Wednesday through Saturday in New Orleans East, about 15 minutes outside of town. Like all great BBQ joints, Walker's takes the minimalist, hole-in-the-wall approach, but you don't come for the ambiance. If pork isn't your go-to barbecue meat, their smoked chicken is amazing, and be sure to try the skin-on potato salad and smothered mustard greens on the side.
Pitmaster Rob Bechtold, a renowned smoker known for his NOLA Smokehouse pop up, is the pit boss behind Central City BBQ, famous for its overnight smoked meat and Hogs for the Cause award winning sauce. Bring some cold beer or whatever you're drinking and tuck into a burnt ends sandwich, divinely crusted brisket, pulled pork, boudin, ribs - it's all delish. Sides include a killer slaw and crispy Brussels. The $59 sampler feeds a small army heaps of glistening pulled pork, equally unctuous beef brisket, strongly smoked pork ribs paved with a caramelized layer of rub and coal-black burnt brisket ends threaded with ribbons of melting fat.
HillBilly Bar BQ is a barbecue joint founded off the principles of old school Kentucky meat smoking on fragrant hickory wood. While some on this list focus on dry rubs, HillBilly is also a sauce type of place, with many options available to smother your meats. Sides here are spectacular, with pork chunks mixed into the beans and a hand shredded slaw that can make a meal. Alligator is on the menu, with the gator sausage links a nice addition to any platter. Though not located in the city of New Orleans, HillBilly Bar BQ is a short drive away and worth the trip if you want that traditional backwoods barbecue.
The Joint is one of the premier spots to get your smoke on in New Orleans, opened since 2004 during the early rise of barbecue in the Crescent City. Located in the Bywater at the corner of Mazant and Royal, the Joint is owned by Jenny and Pete Breen and serves authentic "side of the road" BBQ and side. Featured in Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" The Joint is all about the slow smoke, evident by the crusty outer layer and pull apart texture of the meats. This place is so smoke-centric that even the salad comes with a smoked tomato dressing.