We aren’t going to mince words on this one – San Antonio’s BBQ scene is FIRE. Truly, it’s one of the best things we do here, and locals are immensely proud of, as well as defensive of, the city’s barbecue joints. And while we’ve always known we’ve got a good thing going on, now you don’t just have to take our word for it. A recent study crowned San Antonio with the title of “America’s Best BBQ City,” over and above the big dogs like Austin, Dallas, and Kansas City.
Now, no offense to these cities (seriously, major R-E-S-P-E-C-T here), but it’s SA’s moment in the spotlight and we are going to take advantage of the attention to share some of San Antonio’s best BBQ restaurants with you.
Below is a list of the top 11 best barbecue restaurants in and around Alamo City. These restaurants, some of which have been honored with national awards and recognitions, have mastered the art (yes, ART) of smoking meats to mouthwatering perfection while simultaneously doing a bang-up job of offering a range of delicious side dishes to accompany them. Whether you are in town for a short time or have lived here for years, do yourself a favor and make it a point to visit one of these local gems because San Antonio is America’s best BBQ city (have we mentioned that?) after all.
San Antonio’s Best BBQ Spots
THIS. If you only have time to check out one barbecue restaurant while you’re in SA, 2M Smokehouse should be it. 2M’s reputation has spread far beyond the scope of San Antonio with numerous national recognitions including being named a James Beard Award semi-finalist, not once, but twice since opening in 2016. And one visit to 2M will tell you why.
2M’s excellent brisket alone is worth a visit to San Antonio (be prepared - it comes with a price tag, $32/lb.). It’s peppery, smokey, and oh-so-tender. One bite and you’ll immediately know just why the James Beard Foundation nominated 2M’s pitmaster, Esaul Ramos Jr, for best chef. If ever there was a special aptitude for brisket, Ramos possesses it in aces.
But brisket isn’t all 2M does well. Their pork links with serrano peppers and Oaxaca cheese also can’t be missed. Order it all and partner your meats with sides of chicharoni macaroni and Maria’s ranchero beans.
2M Smokehouse is open Thursdays through Sundays from 11am to 4pm, or whenever they sell out. Our recommendation, arrive early and be prepared to stand in line (because in San Antonio, we queue for barbecue).
Reese Bros Barbecue
Look out, 2M, because SA BBQ newcomers, Reese Bros BBQ, are nipping at your heels! Recently named one of Bon Appétit’s 50 Best New Restaurants for 2022, Reese Bros has taken the Alamo city BBQ scene by storm, and we couldn’t possibly agree more with Bon Appétit’s assessment.
The actual Reese Bros, Nick and Elliott Reese, have been honing their craft since 2018 when they got their start in the BBQ pits of Marathon, TX. After returning to SA, they began lighting up the market with nothing but a smoker and a tent from Academy Sports. After a few pop-up events, they eventually acquired a food truck, followed by a brick-and-mortar, and have been a massively successful staple in the world of SA barbecue ever since.
That success all comes down to their food - it is exceptional on EVERY level. We suggest you order as many menu items as possible, and perhaps as much of them as possible (because, you know, quality AND quantity). Their oak-smoked brisket is so tender it will completely melt in your mouth. Their poblano mac and cheese may check the box as the best mac and cheese you have ever had. Their queso fundido sausage links will make you sweat with delicious cheese-laden spiciness. And did we mention their turkey breast, okra, pinto beans, or homemade tortillas? So, so yummy.
Reese Bros is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 am to sell out, and, just like 2M, lines form early (we are talking 10-15 minutes prior to opening). Parking for Reese Bros is across the street, adjacent to the Ramos and Del Cueto law firm, in a small lot. If the parking lot is full, plan to park on a residential side street.
Curry Boys BBQ
Curry Boys BBQ recently made the move from an outdoor walk-up food stand to a bright pink restaurant that is housed in an old converted home. Driving by it, you would never guess that this tiny little restaurant has become an absolute GIANT in the world of barbecue. The culinary magic that occurs here has recently earned the team of chefs at Curry Boys a semi-final nod for a 2023 James Beard award, as well as features on the Hulu series BBQuest, and the PBS series Planet BBQ. Curry Boy's move to a larger facility has set them up to multiply their magic and continue serving a community that loves them for it.
Curry Boys’ concept is all about fusing the flavors of classic Texas barbecue with the flavors of Asian curry into the perfect rice bowl. Think aromatic jasmine rice, crispy garlic, tangy chili sauce, and smoky brisket - all rolled into one dynamic dish. Flavors at Curry Boys BBQ are out of this world and take the notion of traditional barbecue to a whole new level. First-timers to Curry Boys would do well to try the Brisket Smoke Show and the Cold Chili Garlic Noodles. Both dishes are total flavor explosions and will show you why Curry Boys is one of the best restaurants in San Antonio.
Warning: Parking at Curry Boys right now is a bit of a nightmare. N. St. Mary’s has been under construction since what feels like the cretaceous period and nobody seems to know when it will be resolved. Highly recommend you plan for extra time as you will need to park on a residential street and walk a bit. Just know that your exercise will be well rewarded.
South BBQ & Kitchen
Obviously, we love Curry Boys BBQ. But in order to have a Curry Boys, we need to have a South BBQ and Kitchen. South BBQ provides all of the rich brisket that Curry Boys uses to compose their breathtaking bowls. Without South, we would just have typical bowls of Asian green curry, albeit delicious ones.
Curry Boys aside, South’s barbecue more than stands on its own. Everything you find at South BBQ is scratch-made in-house – meats, sides, and even the sauces. That means freshness is at the forefront of every component. Highly recommend South BBQ’s brisket which is so juicy and wildly flavorful that you don’t actually need barbecue sauce, except that it tastes so good you’ll WANT it. Also really enjoyed the jalapeño cheddar pork links which were just spicy enough to taste fantastic, but not so spicy as to torment your insides.
Don’t neglect to add a few of South BBQ’s amazing, fresh-made sides either. Their borracho beans and creamed elote were seriously on point and must-haves. But if there happens to be a tier above “must have,” their loaded tater tot casserole would occupy that space. Cheesy, creamy, tater-tottery, UN-FREAKING-REAL.
South BBQ and Kitchen is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm and you can order ahead on their website for either pickup or dine-in.
No BBQ eater should miss out on Grant Pinkerton's second location in San Antonio. Here you can enjoy the same slow-smoked barbeque that has made Pinkerton's a household name and it’s equally as delicious and authentic as the original in Houston.
We’ll begin with the obvious: the barbecue is fantastic. You don’t win a spot on Texas Monthly’s 50 Best lists without delicious smoked meats, and there’s definitely some fierce competition in this state. The sliced peppery brisket melts in your mouth. It’s so intensely flavorful, you don’t even need sauce…but their own homemade barbecue sauce is really good, so try it anyway. It’s sweet with a little bit of tanginess to it.
And those famous pork ribs are definitely worth getting. You’ll be asked if you want them glazed, and the correct answer is “yes.” It’s a mildly sweet, shimmery glaze that’s painted onto each rib before it’s placed on your tray. And the jalapeño cheese sausage links have big, melty hunks of cheese in every bite. It’s so gooey and decadent, you could almost just eat this sausage link instead of the mac ‘n cheese side.
The barbecue sides at Pinkerton’s are standard, yet perfect. The slaw is extra crunchy and sweet. The yellow mustardy potato salad is served in big creamy scoops. It’s nice and tangy and the perfect contrast to the hearty, salty meat. But maybe the star of the show is their duck and sausage jambalaya - definitely give that a try!
But beyond the fantastic meat, sides, and desserts, Pinkerton’s wins a spot on our list to the best barbecue in San Antonio because of the fun restaurant ambiance, which is kind of an anomaly in the BBQ world where it’s all about the meat and rarely anything else. Located in downtown San Antonio on the edge of Legacy Park, the farmhouse-style building evokes a comforting country vibe, with Texas country music playing in the background and a big, welcoming bar. The outdoor porch offers a great view of the park, where you can hear kids at play and feel the wind on your face. So, if you're looking to dig into the best local barbecue while enjoying a cozy atmosphere, Pinkerton's is the spot.
A note about parking: Pinkerton offers a couple of validated parking options near the restaurant. Get the details on their website for the most up-to-date information.
Garcia’s Mexican Food
Two words: Brisket. Tacos. Enough said.
Julio and Yolanda Garcia opened up Garcia’s Mexican Food in San Antonio back in 1962. Now 60 years later, Garcia’s children run the place and continue their parent’s legacy of serving great food in a casual atmosphere. And while Garcia’s Mexican Food isn’t strictly a barbecue restaurant, they are known the city over for dishing out the best brisket tacos in town.
Served on homemade flour tortillas and smothered in fresh guacamole, Garcia’s brisket tacos (which are smoked in-house daily) are deliciously tender and so, so good. Guests to Garcia’s who don’t want to try a taco can also choose from a brisket sandwich or brisket by the pound. And while you won’t find other BBQ staples like sausage links, smoked turkey, or potato salad here, you might as well take advantage of what they do have and give their carne guisada with cheese a go. It may not be a barbecue, but after one bite, you’re not going to care.
Two Bros BBQ Market
Popular San Antonio chef Jason Dady (of Range, Tre Trattoria, and Jardín) and his brother Jake Dady opened Two Bros BBQ Market in 2009 and have been on the receiving end of a number of awards and recognitions over the years including being ranked in the Top 50 BBQ Joints in the World for 2013 by Texas Monthly as well as being featured on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations. And their classic pit BBQ on the far north side of San Antonio continues to be a location worth visiting today.
Two Bros offers a well-rounded menu of smoked meat favorites including brisket, pulled pork, turkey breast, chicken thighs, and chopped beef. We absolutely loved their uber-popular cherry-glazed baby back ribs. The subtle sweetness and tartness of the glaze were a perfect pairing with the tender, salty ribs. For sides, do not miss the stuffed jalapeños that are wrapped in bacon and dripping with a smoky creamed cheese filling - they are utterly divine.
Two Bros is open seven days a week (a rarity in top-level BBQ) for both indoor and outdoor dining. On a nice day, you can take your food outside to enjoy on their spacious, tree-shaded patio while the kiddos hit up the playscape.
The Big Bib BBQ
The Big Bib BBQ’s story is one of steady growth based on increasing demand for its great barbecue and friendly service. The restaurant began as a one-man operation in 2000 and over time, required multiple moves to accommodate increasing customer demand. The restaurant solidified itself as a local favorite with a slew of BBQ awards in its pocket including multiple Blue Plate recognitions from local news station WOAI. Today, The Big Bib operates two locations in San Antonio and a brand new location in New Braunfels.
Menu choices at the Big Bib are fairly BBQ standard. A sizzling brisket is a tried-and-true option for meat lovers and so is the tender, juicy chicken and smoked turkey. The jalapeño sausage is also an outstanding choice as are the lovely sides of sweet potato casserole and turkey meat collard greens. All meats can either be purchased by the pound or as a plate with two side options.
The Bib Bib BBQ’s main location is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11 am to 7 pm and Sundays from 12 pm to 5 pm. The line forms early here so either plan to arrive about 10 minutes before opening or wait until the initial lunch crush has subsided about an hour after opening.
The Barbecue Station
“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name”…and apparently in San Antonio, that place is The Barbecue Station. Open since 1992, the Barbecue Station has developed a respectable local following with years of Express News Reader’s Choice Awards under its belt. In fact, it is not at all uncommon to see regulars walk in for lunch and the staff put in the order before it even needs to be stated. If you’re looking for a friendly neighborhood BBQ joint with good food and community appeal, look no further than The Barbecue Station.
The Barbecue Station offers a fairly large menu when compared to other BBQ restaurants with a choice of meats by the pound, plates, combo plates, and sandwiches. If you are looking to try a few different meat options, order a combo plate with two meat choices and a couple of sides such as creamed corn, coleslaw, or jalapeño mac and cheese. We liked the brisket and pork ribs – when it comes to the brisket, make sure and order the marbled brisket for a fattier, more moist option. Meats here are all solid, though a tad on the salty side, so be careful if you have to limit your salt intake.
Windmill Ice House
Just north of the 410 loops near the airport, the Windmill Ice House is a little bucolic slice of the country, but smack dab in the city. The restaurant is situated in an old house (formerly a daycare) that occupies a grassy, one-acre property replete with a windmill (appropriately so), a large outdoor seating area, and a playground. The Windmill Ice House offers a distinct backyard barbecue feel with excellent food in a relaxed setting.
Windmill’s barbecue is lovely in its simplicity and flavor. They use a simple rub and chop all of their own mesquite wood for the smoker with the end result being that their meats stand on their own. Each meat is cooked for hours every day so guests can choose whatever suits their fancy knowing that all of it will be fresh off the smoker. Whatever you order, make sure and cover it in some of Windmill's crazy good BBQ sauce which is perfectly tangy and full of flavor.
Windmill’s sides follow the simple suit with offerings like green beans, potato salad, collard greens, and the shockingly delicious cornbread pudding (shocking because it looks savory but tastes wonderfully sweet) with an almost spice-cakey flavor that has been drenched in a creamy béchamel sauce. In Windmill’s case, simple yields some of the tastiest results.
225 Urban Smoke
225 Urban Smoke touts itself as a Texas BBQ restaurant with a Mississippi and Louisiana flare. The brisket here is smoked to perfection at 225° for 9 hours at their location in the heart of urban SA near Fort Sam Houston (hence the name), while their other meats, as well as some southern faves you won’t find at other barbecue joints like fried chicken, catfish, and gumbo, are also winning choices for anyone with a hankering for a BBQ/cajun crossover.
Urban Smoke’s menu is a decent-sized medley of barbecue plates, sandwiches, sides, and cajun specials. If you want to try it all in one dish, order The Big Easy, a monstrosity of a sandwich filled with brisket, sausage, pulled pork, cracklins, and BBQ sauce, that is served on a fresh brioche bun. Add a side of red beans and rice and you (and approximately 5 of your closest friends), will have enough delicious food to last you for a long, long while. Be sure though and save some room for dessert. NOLA beignets all the way.
Honorable Mention: The Smoke Shack
While it doesn’t win a top spot on our guide to the best BBQ in San Antonio, Smoke Shack is an important restaurant in the SA BBQ scene. There is a time and a place to visit it.
Smoke Shack appears on many “best BBQ in San Antonio” lists, and for a few good reasons! It’s been a staple in SA for many years, and folks know the name. It was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives when Guy Fieri stopped by and devoured “The Big Mac Daddy,” a 7-pound BBQ dish of brisket, ribs, sauces, sausage, all covered in 4 scoops of mac n cheese. (It makes great television…but does it qualify Smoke Shack as the best BBQ in San Antonio?) Also, Smoke Shack offers catering! It’s incredibly convenient.
But...(you knew there was a “but,” didn’t you?) the meat doesn’t stand out as being better than (or even as good as) most of the other top BBQ spots in San Antonio. The brisket is, dare we say it, a little bit chewy and rubbery. It lacks the melt-in-your-mouth characteristic that you learn to expect from award-winning BBQ joints. The pork is a tad overcooked, just to the point where it doesn’t do that fall-off-the-bone thing that makes pork ribs so great.
Here’s where Smoke Shack really shines: the “instagramable” dishes. The Frito pie, which is a boat of crunchy corn chips topped with brisket, pinto beans, gooey cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce, is absolutely scrumptious and looks amazing on your IG reel. The monstrous brisket grilled cheese, the Smoke Shack Mac n Cheese with brisket, and the “Big Dog” (a 6” hoagie with sausage, brisket, and pulled pork, smothered in two BBQ sauces and topped with crunchy slaw) are more examples of the fun, tasty, photo-worthy things to try on your visit to Smoke Shack.
So no, the meat itself doesn’t stand up to the San Antonio BBQ giants like 2M, Pinkerton’s, Reese Bros, and South BBQ, and ordering a pound of sliced brisket isn’t the move at Smoke Shack. But if you want to mix that meat with all sorts of cheesy/crunchy/tangy/gooey toppings and flavors, and take lots of pics that will have your followers drooling, you’re in for a treat.
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