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Once upon a time, good barbecue was strictly a southern affair. But, in recent years, Cleveland has gotten in on that sweet, smoky action in a big way. Barbecue is the food of summer. The food of family. Maybe even the food of America.
Whether you’re after chicken or ribs, a dry rub or the tangiest sauce, we’ve got it all here on the north shore. Our top picks run the gamut from legacy joints with recipes passed down through generations to startups featuring fresh spins on the classics.
When celeb chef Michael Symon turned to barbecue, it had to be in a distinctly Cleveland way. Mabel’s BBQ uses Eastern European spices, adds Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard to the sauce and even smokes the meat over local fruitwood. Their beef rib can’t be topped, but we’re partial to the “This Is Cleveland” platter.
Faced with retirement from the NFL, former Brown Al “Bubba” Baker went into the family barbecue business. Bubba’s Boneless Ribs — created in partnership with his daughter, Brittani Bo Baker — are so good that they even won over the experts on TV’s “Shark Tank.” Try them for yourself at Bubba’s Avon location or by special order.
No list of CLE’s best would be complete without the hottest new pop-up. Casey Kulas created Union because of a strong belief that barbecue brings people together. Maybe too many people. Customers love this BBQ so much that it often sells out fast. Catch ‘em on Sundays at the Brunswick Farmers Market and snap up a Frito Pie. You can thank us later.
This partnership between a Canadian entrepreneur and Pitmaster Eddie Jay will leave your mouth smoking. What else would you expect from a place boasting a “Hotter Than Hell” barbecue sauce? Their specialty Ohio City Platter — loaded up with pulled pork, beef brisket and BBQ ribs — is not to be missed.
Located in the historic Cleveland Arcade, Boney Fingers smokes their pork, brisket, chicken and ribs for up to 16 hours. And, for those barbecue diehards, they’re open for breakfast on weekdays, too. Check out the Boney Boy — a beef polish sausage topped with pulled pork, coleslaw, cheese sauce and BBQ sauce. Yes, please.
Started in 1958 by friends Eddie Beckham and James Mitchell (hence B and M), this BBQ biz is now run by Eddie’s son, Greg. With six locations scattered around Northeast Ohio, scratch-made deliciousness is never far away. Our taste buds are working overtime just thinking about their brisket and rib tip.
What began as two friends in a food truck (purchased for $1,000 on Craigslist) has blossomed into a Lakewood BBQ institution. Order up a half slab or The Proper Slopper and dine on a cafeteria tray just like the old days. Oh, and try the bacon on a stick. We’re not sure if it technically qualifies as barbecue, but exceptions can be made.
Owner Robert Hill Jr. and his three sons offer farm-to-table barbecue at their Cedar-Lee and Ohio City locations. The brisket, ribs and pulled pork slowly smoke all day (yep, 24 hours) inside The Rib Cage’s custom-built brick smokehouse. Fun fact: The Hill family smokes all of the meat with local wood straight from Amish Country.
Beloved BBQ spot specializing in home-style Southern classics.
Takeout BBQ joint located inside Cleveland’s Old Arcade, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Sports-themed BBQ restaurant opened by football icon Al "Bubba" Baker and featuring his signature, patented boneless baby-back ribs.
Chef Michael Symon’s Mabel’s BBQ is a Cleveland-style barbecue restaurant located in the heart of downtown Cleveland.
By incorporating Bertman’s...
We subscribe to the philosophy that amazing BBQ is only as amazing as the people who make it and the people who eat it. Lucky for us, Cleveland is all...
No nonsense food-truck-turned-restaurant in Lakewood.
A father-and-sons-owned smokehouse and bar located on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, just east of Downtown Cleveland.
A father-and-sons-owned smokehouse and bar located on West 25th Street in Ohio City, just west of Downtown Cleveland.