From a half rack of ribs to thinly sliced brisket that's been simmered in fine spices all day, we all have our favorite barbecue eatery go-tos. If you're a fan of well-cooked meats, you'll find no shortage of options in Tennessee. However, to get the very best, you might need a little assistance. Here are a few of the best BBQ restaurants in Tennessee:
Slow cooked over a pit and sliced extra thin (then piled high), Ridgewood BBQ has perfected its legendary formula to create a taste that's worth traveling for. And that's saying something, considering how remote the small mountainside town of Bluff City is (near Boone Lake and Johnson City). In addition to the well-sliced meats, the sauce used here is a well-kept secret - according to the eatery itself, only two people in the world know the recipe, and it isn't written down anywhere.
BBQ fanatics come from miles around to eat here, so expect to wait for a while. However, upon first bite of that juicy, tangy meat, we promise you'll find any idle time quite worth it.
Bozo's Hot Pit Bar-B-Q
Despite its name, there's no clowning around about the ribs served up here. Located in Mason - just about 45 miles west of Memphis, Bozo's has been an area mainstay since 1923, with its hickory wood, pit-smoked barbecue ribs served in the same special way for generations. There's no way it's not making this list of the best BBQ restaurants. Meat here is cooked to a delicious, grisly, seared crisp on the outside, yet the meat is filled with juicy succulence and flavor on the inside that's fall-of-the-bone good. Trust us - this is the way you've always wanted pork to taste. To top off their legendary ribs, order a side of baked beans or a cole slaw with a tangy vinegar base.
Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint
This Nasvhille area eatery was featured on the popular series, "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives," but this "joint" is the perfect place to chow down on barbecue with a twist. At Martin's, you can enjoy your pulled pork (done up sweet with perfectly saccharine sauce) atop a cornbread pancake and a side of slaw - it's called the "Redneck Taco." Although this might sound like a crazy mess, it's crazy worth it - even if your pinkies do get a little dirty. If you've brought the entire clan and there's more than a few picky eaters, fear not - there's hot dogs, chicken tenders and even kid-sized ribs for tots, as well as plenty of delectable carnivorous options for people who are not in the mood for 'que. They might change their minds after they get a whiff, though.
If you're in neighboring Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge during your upcoming vacation, you don't have to go far for great pulled pork or ribs. Repeatedly voted the best BBQ in all of the Smoky Mountain area, Bennett's is definitely well-known, but it's local celebrity status has not affected its truly out-of-this-world flavor. Bennett's does BBQ Texas style, with the meat cooked for up to 14 hours (until it's a perfect pink) and then is served hot with the sauce on the side, "so you can pour on as much or as little as you like," explains the eatery.
Choose from wings, a whole pig leg, well-seasoned chicken breasts or even their huge beef ribs! The secret is really in the sauce here, so you can't go wrong! If you can't choose, we recommend the Texan Sampler, which is as massive as it sounds: pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken, baby back ribs and sausage all served up in hearty portions.
If you're one of those BBQ people who prefers the great sides that are offered alongside the meat (yeah, I know you exist), then Larry's in Winchester (right by Chattanooga) is your new favorite Tennessee BBQ joint. Larry's, which is housed in a classic wood building that makes you immediately feel right at home, is known for its sides - particularly, its coleslaw. The slaw here is done with some spicy mustard, making it the perfect mix of zesty seasoning and cool flavors.
Now that you know where all the best BBQ restaurants in Tennessee are, maybe you'll have a better idea on where you want to stay!