21 Greater Cincinnati BBQ Joints You Need to Try Before You Die
Cincinnati's barbecue is a delicious, well-kept secret from the rest of the world, but Queen City residents know the deal, and that just means more delicious smoked meats, homemade BBQ sauces and hearty sides of mac 'n cheese, coleslaw and greens for the rest of us.
But if you're not in on the secret, we'll happily share it with you. From classic joints with simple menus to ones with a New Orleans twist or a gift for crafting new dishes from old favorites, these are the Cincinnati area's barbecue spots you should try before you die (if the flavors don't send you straight to heaven first).
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Photo: Provided by Bee's Barbecue
5910 Chandler St., Madisonville
Bee’s believes good barbecue takes time and that smoking meat is an art – one they practice every day with patience and passion, using high-quality and locally sourced ingredients – even the wood they use is locally sourced. What results from that patience and dedication is a menu filled with tender, fresh barbecue you can buy by the half-pound or pound, on a sandwich or as a plate complemented with sides like creamy mac ‘n cheese, sticky BBQ beans and sweet honey cornbread. If you have any room left for dessert (or if you just want to power through), you won’t want to miss Bee’s Bourbon Peach Cobbler, crafted with bourbon- and brown sugar-laced peaches with a sugar crumble crust, or proprietor Bee’s personal favorite: the banana pudding – made with fluffy layers of fresh bananas, whipped cream and vanilla wafer cookies.
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
133 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine; 3313 Riverside Drive, Columbia Tusculum
Eli’s has over 15 outdoor picnic tables for dining, both in the sun and the shade. Celebrate a warm afternoon with a cold brew and some delicious barbecue, like their pulled pork sandwich with a slide of jalapeño cheddar grits and baked beans. Bring your own beer and enjoy the warmth by the river.
Photo: Sami Stewart
1607 Central Ave., West End
Located in a bright yellow and red trolley car, Ollie’s Trolley is a soul food staple in Cincinnati. This little trolley serves a variety of smoked meats, including ribs, turkey tips and pulled pork, plus metts and burgers. They also offer plenty of sides, like collard greens, buttered corn and potato salad. For dessert, get a slice of their lemon pound cake or chess pie, or take a whole pie or cake home to share.
5901 Kellogg Ave., California
Serving up food so good it’s criminal, Pig Candy BBQ offers a menu of craft barbecue, homemade sauces and inventive sides from their location in a former jail. Meats are smoked on-site and the sides and sauces are made from scratch. Specialties include their Pig Candy Waffle (a gluten-free waffle pressed with pulled pork, topped with maple peach glaze and served with Pig Candy’s tangy white sauce on the side); mac ‘n cheese topped with pulled pork, the sweet and sour red sauce and slaw; and a sampler so you can try a little bit of everything.
7440 Hamilton Ave., Mt. Healthy
Goodies knows their pork butt: pit-smoked slowly ’til the fat has completely dissolved and a crunchy, caramelized crust has formed on the outside. Lip-smackin’ rib tips and Buffalo wings are complemented by standard Southern sides of collard greens, red beans and rice or mac & cheese. For those not tempted by the sauce, there’s the fish or fried okra. Peach cobbler, sweet potato pie and chess pie are available for dessert.
7391 Forbes Road, Sayler Park
Incline Smoke Shack serves up its handcrafted barbecue from a food truck permanently parked outside 13 Below Brewery in Sayler Park. Stop by for one of their insanely good barbecue sandwiches like their smoked turkey club, topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato and their cranberry walnut spread, or the chopped brisket, which is tossed with caramelized onions. Sides include favorites like Saratoga chips, mac ‘n cheese and housemade pickles, as well as a sweetcorn spoon bread that you can share…but you probably won’t want to. For a cold beverage, stop in 13 Below for a beer or a housemade hard seltzer (we recommend the orange cream).
2733 Short Vine St., Corryville
Alabama Que was founded by Dwan Ward, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and former UC football player, in 2008. An Alabama native, Ward’s restaurant oozes Southern charm and a food truck was added to the business to keep up with growing demand. Some meat options include smoked chicken, beef ribs, smoked salmon and their famous turkey tips. Add some of their sides like the green beans, yams or mac & cheese for a hearty barbecue meal, and top it all off with a dessert: peach or apple cobbler, lemon or chocolate cake or banana pudding.
302 Court St., Covington
Smoke Justis is an urban sports bar where you can catch live music, sporting events and other festivities. The menu includes a variety of smoked meat plates, with options ranging from ribs and wings to brisket and pulled pork. The menu also sports a wide selection of bourbon and craft beer.
1149 Ohio 131, Milford
Pickles & Bones is a carry-out and catering establishment located in Milford. They offer traditional barbecue plates, sandwich meals, meat by the pound and scratch-made sides. Notable barbecue dishes include hot link sausages, pulled pork sandwiches and pulled Amish chicken.
Photo: Lindsay McCarty
975 E. McMillan St., Walnut Hills
Owned by Matt Cuff, this Walnut Hills barbecue joint is "committed to the mission of Faith, Love and BBQ." On the menu, you’ll find smoked brisket, ribs, chicken and more. And don’t skip on the classic barbecue sides. Need more convincing? Even U.S. President Joe Biden gobbled up Just Q'in's brisket, mac & cheese, jalapeño cornbread and peach cobbler during a visit to Cincinnati
. Grab it all by the plate or by the pound for catering.