It’s been a pretty incredible year for barbecue in Pittsburgh.
Although long-time favorites like Showcase in Homewood and Wilson’s on the North Side are as solid as ever, a whole new crop of BBQ joints has joined their ranks. Suddenly, there’s no shortage of choices and styles.
So here’s a roundup of delicious options in the smoked meat department, Pittsburgh. We hope you’re hungry.
Ribs & Bread, Oakland
You’ve got to admire their honesty: Ribs and bread are pretty much what you get here, but they’re really all you’ll need. These tasty St. Louis-style ribs are made by South Carolina native Randy Thompson, who cares about the details. For a relatively bare-bones takeout place, there’s a lot of effort putting into locally and ethically-sourced meats. Pork ribs and chicken are available in a sweet red or mustard sauce (or both). And despite the old-school flavor, they use a high-tech electronic smoker that can get you a rack of ribs in about six minutes. Thompson told NEXTpittsburgh that he likes to work on new sauces, marinades and glazes all the time, including “pumpkin, pineapple and ginger.”
Sugar and Smoke, Bloomfield
You’ll find this tasty newcomer in the old Del’s location in Bloomfield. It’s a great crossroads location, though a previous barbecue place in this spot was short-lived. The emphasis here is on traditional Southern cooking, with a slight New Orleans accent — but they do solid barbecue, too. Though it’s hard to pass up the Shrimp Po’ Boy, you should try the melt-in-your-mouth Smoked Brisket on a toasted brioche bun with Alabama white sauce (a mayo/horseradish mix). Surprisingly, this place is also excellent for vegetarians: Try the vegetarian gumbo, vegetarian hush puppies, fried green tomatoes and charred brussels sprouts.
Showcase BBQ, Homewood
A truly bare-bones spot with a penchant for fiery everything, from the flaming fonts on their website to the truly hot sauce that they slather on like gravy. Get brisket on Texas Toast for a sandwich, or get the full Woodley, which will fill you up and make you smile — four meaty bones, six wings, two sides (try the red beans and rice) and two sodas, all for $17 (!).
YinzBurgh BBQ, Shadyside
This little takeout joint is nestled in that auto-dealership-centric corridor between Oakland, Bloomfield and Shadyside. Their BBQ style comes from the coastal plains of Georgia, with an emphasis on a distinctive spice rub and low-and-slow cooking over hardwood. There’s pulled pork, baby back ribs, beef brisket, BBQ chicken, smoked meatloaf and smoked tofu, too. They’ve also got beef short ribs sourced locally from Clarion Farms.
Wilson’s Bar-B-Q, North Side
This place always looks closed (or abandoned), but it’s actually the granddaddy of Pittsburgh barbecue joints and the gold standard by which the rest must be judged. Nothing fancy, just chicken, ribs and sauce, with a bit of white bread to sop it up. The spare ribs are smoked slowly until they’re tender and juicy, amply marbled with fat, and sold by the plate or full rack. The chickens are cut in half and smoked right next to the ribs with a good simple rub. And the hot BBQ sauce is spicy, with a tomato base, vinegar and a kick of black pepper on the tip of the tongue.
Smoke Barbecue & Tacqueria, Lawrenceville
Putting barbecued meats into tacos is not only acceptable — it kind of makes one wonder why we do it any other way. All the meats at this Texas-style barbecue spot have a pedigree — there’s Wagyu beef brisket served in a mustard barbecue sauce, sauteed onions, hot peppers and cilantro, and Berkshire pulled pork slathered in an apricot habanero barbecue sauce, served with caramelized onions and cilantro. Add slaw and pickles for a buck, because it’s Pittsburgh and coleslaw always goes on top of anything. Vegetarians can get smoked ‘shrooms with ancho chili corn salsa, fried smoked onions and cilantro. You can also get burnt ends in a coffee barbecue sauce as a snack. This rustic little spot next to Row House Cinema fills up fast, so it’s smart to time a visit before or after the lunch and dinner rushes.
The Dream BBQ, Homewood
You’ll smell this place long before you see it. The aromas of cooking meats pervading the street outside, rising from an array of metal drum-style smokers. The ribs are the perfect balance of crispy and juicy, and quite substantial. Get the honey mustard and a serving of sugary yams on the side.