Barbecue is blossoming in Baltimore and Dixon and I are absolutely here for it.
From plastic squeeze bottles filled with homemade sauces, their names marked with painter’s tape, to overstuffed sandwiches that arrive wrapped in foil with a stack of napkins instead of utensils, we love everything about the cuisine. So we’re thrilled that Baltimore is now home to tons of great barbecue restaurants.
So many, in fact, that choosing our favorites was beyond tough. One way we narrowed the playing field was by focusing only on places where you can sit down and enjoy your ‘cue. But make no mistake: there’s a ton of good barbecue that comes from food trucks (Smoking Swine, we’re looking at you!) or from carry-out joints (Big Bad Wolf has our hearts on that front).
We’re sure we’ve missed some solid sit-down joints, too. If you have a favorite that’s not on the list, please share it in the comments. We’re always looking for new barbecue to try!
Favorite Barbecue in Baltimore
1607 Sulgrave Avenue, Baltimore
Though Woodrow’s only opened at the end of this past summer, with a cozy interior and super-friendly staff, the restaurant feels like it’s been part of the Mt. Washington community for much, much longer.
Woodrow’s owner Matt Piron keeps his wood fire burning 24/7; his approach to barbecue is straight out of Central Texas. Those roots mean he makes a killer brisket – moist and full of smoky flavor. We like it piled high on a sandwich or on its own, eaten with a fork, with just a drizzle of sweet barbecue sauce.
The rest of Woodrow’s short menu is stellar, too, from the pulled pork to the potato salad. But if you can only eat one thing, make it the brisket. And eat that often.
547 Cranbrook Road, Cockeysville
The first time we tried to go to Smoke, by the time we arrived, they’d sold out of barbecue for the day. That’s always a good sign.
The second time, we planned better and arrived earlier – then ordered half the menu. We liked everything we ate, but we fell in love with the smoked wings. Juicy and messy, they were just a little more interesting than traditional hot wings.
And watch out for Smoke’s Facebook videos, advertising their specials via song parodies. They’re R-rated…but hilarious.
Sometimes, it seems like Mission BBQ is taking over the world. What started in 2011 as one location in Glen Burnie has now blossomed to over 50 restaurants, located in a dozen states – and that number is constantly growing.
Mission has made a name for itself for its patriotic vibe – not only is the décor red, white and blue, Mission is heavily involved with both national and local nonprofits with ties to the military and other first responders and at noon every day, everyone in the restaurant stops what they’re doing and stands at attention while the National Anthem plays.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t also pay close attention to their barbecue. Our favorites include the brisket and pulled chicken, in part because they make a great canvas for the wide variety of sauces that sit on every table.
It’s hard for us to say no to the Bay-B-Que sauce, which gets some of its heat from Old Bay, and we’ve been known to do some mixing of our own, combining the sweet KC Classic, Tupelo Honey Heat and tangy Carolina Vinegar for something all our own.
Blue Pit BBQ & Whiskey Bar
1601 Union Avenue, Baltimore
“Whiskey bar” might not immediately convey kid-friendliness – and it’s true that this Hampden joint is generally a grown-up spot. (Also true: the cocktails are excellent.)
But if your kids are well-behaved and you head there early, Blue Pit is more than worth a visit. Stroll past the bar to order your barbecue at the counter at the back of the restaurant; they’ll hand you a number and find you when it’s ready.
Dixon’s favorite at Blue Pit is the pulled pork – and it is terrific – but I’m all about the jackfruit. It’s unlike anything I’ve had at any other local barbecue spot: smoky, juicy and 100% vegetarian.
Jackfruit is a tropical tree fruit that has gained notoriety over the past couple years because when smoked, it has the kind of meaty texture that can make a fan out of even the most serious carnivore. It holds its smoke well and, when topped with crunchy, tangy slaw, like it is at Blue Pit, will make you forget that what’s on your plate is actually a fruit.
Andy Nelson’s BBQ
11007 York Road, Cockeysville
With over three decades of business behind it, Andy Nelson’s has earned its spot as a Baltimore barbecue mainstay. Plenty of locals have grown up eating the former Colt’s smoky meats, either with their families at home or in the cozy, casual Cockeysville building the restaurant calls home.
We usually stick with the classics at Andy Nelson’s: pulled pork for me, dry ribs for Dixon. But occasionally, if I’m feeling healthy, I’ll go for the pulled turkey. It’s surprisingly moist and when its doused in vinegary sauce, it’s just as satisfying as the pig.
Photos by Laura Black