Long Island's best BBQ: Critics' picks

Smoked St. Louis-style ribs with mac and cheese and collard greens at Backyard Barbeque in Freeport. Credit: Linda Rosier

Long Island doesn’t have a rich barbecue history but, during the last decade, pitmasters have stepped up their game. Inspired by the traditions of Texas, Tennessee, the Carolinas — as well as by their own backgrounds and travels — they are smoking their hearts out all over Nassau and Suffolk. Here, alphabetically, are a dozen great places for 'cue:

Backyard Barbecue

300 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport

Come for some of the best brisket on Long Island, and stay for the funky ambience that includes a wall-length mural of Black music luminaries. Co-owner Kenneth Ware, a classically trained chef who's worked in Michelin starred restaurants in London and with Jean-Georges Vongerichten in Manhattan, took the business over from his dad, Archie, in 2021 and updated the menu. The restaurant, on Freeport's Nautical Mile, is influenced by his family's Southern roots in Alabama and Arkansas, as well as Ware's time cooking at Husk in Savannah, Georgia. He smokes all the meats in his Southern Pride smoker in the back, and makes all his sauces and pickles in house. In addition to the barbecue, the restaurant is also known for its collard green empanadas and feisty lemon pepper wings. More info: 516-774-2120, backyardbbqinc.com

Bobby Q's … Jus Like Mama's 

365 West Sunrise Hwy., Freeport

The beef burnt ends at Bobby Q's in Freeport.  Credit: Linda Rosier

Barbecue and soul food go together like two peas in a pod. And this budget-friendly gem on Sunrise Highway specializes in both. Not to be confused with Bobbique in Patchogue, this restaurant is owned by police officer-turned-pitmaster Bobby Ford, who draws from his upbringing in Harlem as well as his mother's roots in South Carolina. His brisket is rubbed with whole mustard seeds, juniper berries and peppercorns, while meaty ribs are glazed with a sweet-tangy sauce, and “big ol’” turkey legs are expertly smoked. But the thing to order here just might be the barbecue chicken dinner ($17.99) with a side of salty collard greens and fat butter beans. The juicy chicken bits are kissed with char and a devilishly sweet and viscous barbecue sauce. More info: 516-460-8056, bbqeastofharlem.com

Maple Tree BBQ Smokehouse

820 W. Main St., Riverhead

If Maple Tree adheres to any one barbecue style, it's Texas. “Our hero is Aaron Franklin,” said co-owner Dennis O'Leary, referring to the founder of Austin, Texas' acclaimed Franklin Barbecue. No surprise that his team excels at brisket, Texas' signature 'cue, as well as its cousins pastrami (brisket that's brined before smoking) and burnt ends (the carbonized tips of the brisket, doused with sauce). Beyond beef, Maple Tree ably handles all the standards — St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, smoked chicken, smoked turkey — plus wings, pulled chicken and salmon. Most of these meats figure in the well-constructed sandwiches and tacos. Among the sides, don't miss the “kallards,” kale that has been briefly — and profitably — braised in pork broth. Maple Tree has an attractive dining room where you can wash down your meal with craft beer or local wines. Or, dine across the street on the picnic bench overlooking the Peconic River. More info: 631-727-2819, mapletreebbq.com

Meat’s Meat BBQ Shop

13175 Main Rd., Mattituck

Owner-pitmaster Larry Mondello’s nickname is Meat, and it suits him. Over the last decade, he’s advanced from fabricating barbecue pits to outfitting barbecue trucks to opening his own Mattituck restaurant in 2022. Mondello said he spent five years perfecting his brisket — and it is juicy and flavorful without being overwhelmed by smoke. St. Louis ribs are “competition style”: they are tender, “but you need teeth to eat them.” The pulled pork is not pre-shredded; the whole shoulder just sits in its own juices until the cook pulls off some meaty hunks. Sausage, pulled chicken and wings round out the smoked meats. Sides are done with care and finesse — the bacon-jalapeno macaroni-and-cheese (made with cavatappi) is al dente and not too heavily sauced; baked beans get extra depth from chunks of brisket. On July 6, Meat's Meat is moving a mile west to take up residence in The Branch Brewing Company; the Main Road shop will close later this summer. More info: 631-298-7251, meatsmeat.com

Old Fields

15 New St., Huntington

It's a little bit Texas and a little bit Brooklyn at Old Fields Barbecue. Meats include brisket, St. Louis-style pork ribs, smoked chicken, pulled pork and housemade sausage. Diners can chose from five sauces as well as a la carte sides that include mac-and-cheese, collard greens, watermelon salad and mashed sweet potatoes — plus Hawaiian rolls and cornbread for sopping up the juices. Old Fields’ cocktail menu also sticks to the classics, such as a Moscow Mules, a banana-infused Old Fashioned, and a tea-based Dragoon Punch that is laced with rum and brandy and is based on an 1850s recipe. More info: ofbarbecue.com


7 12th St., Garden City 

Smoked wings at Smok-Haus in Garden City. Credit: Linda Rosier

MIT-trained engineer Manny Voumvourakis ran an investment banking firm before he opened his first eatery in 2018 and, since it debuted, Smok-haus has expanded its offerings far beyond the classic ribs, pulled pork, brisket and wings. Now you’ll find supernal smoked pastrami and porchetta and chicken thighs, dark-chocolate chili, fried chicken sandwiches and tacos and sandwiches that bestow international twists (Mexican, Korean, Greek, Italian) on the smoked meats. Cases in point: carnitas tacos, a brisket cheesesteak sandwich and a pork belly-on-potato-roll sandwich that’s just as decadent as it sounds. Ever-popular mild, medium and hot wings are smoked before being fried and are a key component of the lively after-work bar scene here. In warmer weather, a patio beckons. A takeout-only Hicksville location (954 S. Broadway) opened last year to bolster the original Garden City kitchen, which no longer has the space to serve and to smoke. More info: 516-400-7100, smok-haus.com

Smokin’ Wolf BBQ & More

199 Pantigo Rd., East Hampton

This terra-cotta-hued spot is the deceptively casual setting for outrageously great barbecue from chef-pitmaster Arthur Wolf. His duck alone can produce euphoria: Cold-smoked and rubbed with five-spice powder, the Crescent Farm bird is roasted in the rotisserie for hours until its skin is blackened and crisp, its meat fork-tender (slather this with house black currant sauce for full effect). Smoked brisket, slow-cooked baby back ribs and barbecue chicken wings all fall into the same major league, as do sides such as oozy mac-and-cheese or crunchy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside, can't-eat-just-one hush puppies. The dining room is casual but comfy, with iced tea and beers such as Montauk Wave Chase IPA at the ready. Special sandwiches and frisbee-sized quesadillas, such as one filled with pulled pork and mango, draw a steady crowd at lunch and dinner. More info: 631-604-6470, smokinwolfbbq.com

Struggletown BBQ

1028 Rt. 25A, Mount Sinai

John and Jake Leonard, father-and-son owners of Struggletown BBQ in Mount Sinai, which serves pulled pork. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

For John Leonard, barbecue was “a backyard hobby gone crazy,” but 10 years after he started competing on the barbecue circuit, the hobby blossomed into a modest, counter-serve restaurant that he and his son Jake Leonard opened in 2023. Struggletown’s menu starts with the classics — brisket, burnt ends, St. Louis ribs, pulled pork, pastrami — all of which are done to a turn. The pulled chicken, as rich and luxuriant as any pork, deserves special commendation. Struggletown serves five “mac bowls” (smoked meat on a bed of three-cheese-sauced shells) and 10 sandwiches, three of which honor John’s sons: For the Jake, grilled skirt steak is heaped onto a brioche roll with melted Cheddar-Jack cheese, onion rings and chipotle aioli. And even though John’s other sons don’t work at the restaurant, they got their own sandwiches too: Aloha Justin honors the middle son’s Hawaiian sojourn with pulled pork, coleslaw, grilled pineapple and teriyaki-style Huli Huli. The youngest Leonard boy, “Little John,” is name-checked in LJ’s Buff Melt: pulled chicken, melted Cheddar-Jack cheese and pickles with Buffalo-ranch sauce. More info: 631-598-1188, struggletownbbq.com

Stuey’s Smokehouse BBQ

50 Birch Hill Rd., Locust Valley

Half a roasted chicken at Stuey’s Smokehouse BBQ in Locust Valley. Credit: Linda Rosier

This mostly takeout spot is a labor of barbecue love for owners Carrie and Terry Morabito, successful Manhattan restaurateurs who are also local residents. The menu is short and sweet, and when the meat is sold out, customers are out of luck — so come early or call first. Feast on baby back ribs, brisket, pulled pork and smoked sausage and, this being Long Island, smoked salmon. The exceptional sides include not-too-sweet cornbread and bracing coleslaw. Stuey’s also has a lovely garden for fair-weather gluttony. More info: 516-277-2202, stueysbbq.com


909 W. Beech St., Long Beach

Dan Monteforte's rollicking restaurant starts with the basics — pulled pork, brisket, chicken, ribs — and spins them into dozens of inventive dishes such as the “mac & Pete” (burned ends tossed with macaroni and cheese), the smokehouse cheesesteak sandwich or the smoke-pit tacos. A two-meat platter like the chicken and rib combo is moderately priced at $28 and arrives stacked with side dishes like a saucy corkscrew mac-and-cheese and two glorious hunks of crumbly cornbread with honey for dipping. During the summer, Swingbelly's is a certified lovely place to be, with the salty beach air flowing in from open windows. Although most patrons pack in the corner lining the bar. More info: 516-431-3464, swingbellyslongbeach.com

TownLine BBQ

3593 Montauk Hwy., Sagaponack

St. Louis ribs, smoked chicken and cornbread at Townline BBQ in Sagaponack. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Sagaponack’s ZIP code is the most expensive in New York State (and third in the country) so it’s about the last place you’d expect to find this lean, mean, no-frills barbecue machine. The 17-year-old TownLine is owned by Honest Management, which also operates the Hamptons hotspots Nick & Toni's, La Fondita, Coche Comedor and Rowdy Hall. Smoked meats here are extraordinary across the board: meaty St. Louis ribs that need no sauce, juicy brisket (even the lean slices), tender pulled pork, burnished chickens. Any leftover juices (or, let’s be honest, melted fat) should be mopped up with the fantastic fries. The rustic structure boasts a big vaulted-ceilinged dining room with booths, a communal table made from butcher block, and a fireplace. Before, after or instead of your meal, you can hang out in the adjoining lounge where a full bar, TV, darts and a pool table are at your disposal. Or dine on the deck, overlooking a cultivated field that must be worth $1 billion. More info: 631-537-2271, townlinebbq.com

Village BBQ

2224 Jerusalem Ave., North Merrick

Village BBQ in North Merrick may be a sliver of an eatery but, for Randy Brown, it’s the Big Time. This is the third location he’s occupied in four years — but it’s the first one that isn’t inside a gas station. The tiny, one-man show is quite a departure from his former career as a health care executive. When he retired in 2020, he decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant. “I didn’t know what kind,” he recalled, “but I had begun to lean into barbecue, like a lot of guys.” Brown’s menu ranges all over the barbecue and soul-food repertoires: Jigglingly tender brisket, beef plate ribs, St. Louis pork ribs, rib tips, chopped BBQ (pork shoulder), chicken (barbecued and jerk) and turkey wings. Brown also roasts pernil (Latin American pork shoulder), bakes chicken, and fries chicken, shrimp and whiting. And he makes Philly-style cheesesteaks. Give him a day’s notice if you’d like braised oxtails. More info: 516-727-2060, villagebbq.online

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