It's official: Barbecue has caught fire on Long Island. Only a few years back, one could count the number of serious local barbecue spots on one hand. Thankfully, those days of settling for so-so ribs, chicken, brisket and pulled pork smothered in sticky sauce are gone. Now, you can afford to be picky about where you go to satisfy a yen for something slow-smoked and delicious. Here are some of our favorites.
Note: Most dishes mentioned are samples of the restaurants’ menus and may not be available at all times. Seasonal changes and dish substitutions are common.
Backyard Barbeque (300 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport): Backyard Barbeque, which opened last year, is the first restaurant venture from Archie Ware, a former Town of Hempstead sanitation worker and backyard barbecuer par excellence. After he retired in August 2017, he "got bored of sitting at home doing nothing." The menu is fairly traditional, with one big exception: The specialty is brisket rubbed with lemon pepper. The simple interior is dominated by a huge mural depicting musical giants of blues and jazz, among them, Ray Charles, Etta James, B.B. King, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. "I listen to R&B, hip-hop, reggae," Ware said, "but for smoking, it's gotta be the blues." More info: 516-771-4227, bbqonthemile.com
Pork ribs are served at Backyard Barbque in Freeport.
Old Fields Barbecue
Old Fields Barbecue (15 New St., Huntington): With a carefully considered rustic-industrial interior, traditional menu, and counter service, Old Fields Barbecue is "a combination between Texas and Brooklyn," said David Tunney. The co-owner of Old Fields in Greenlawn and Port Jefferson teamed up with manager Rory Van Nostrand and chef Israel Castro to sample barbecue "from Nashville to Austin." The team decided to keep their menu simple -- meats, sides, sauce and bread -- and made-to-order at a pickup counter in the back of the dining room. Diners can choose 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. More info: 631-923-1515, ofbarbecue.com
The "cast-iron" cheeseburger at Old Fields Barbecue in Huntington.
Rolling Smoke Grill
Rolling Smoke Grill (189B Portion Rd., Lake Ronkonkoma): After four years rolling and smoking around Long Island in their customized barbecue truck, Kerry and Rich Ciota parked long enough to open a restaurant in Lake Ronkonkoma in 2018. The signature item is a Flintstonian "dinosaur rib," a 9-inch length of short rib that is almost indecently tender. Brisket is sliced to order, pork butt and chicken thighs are pulled to order, and ribs are only intermittently available as a special because, Kerry said, "there's only a short window when they are at their best." Sides and desserts, developed by the Ciota's trained-chef son, Adam, 23, are also stellar; don't miss the cornbread and creme brulee. More info: 844-474-5548, rollingsmokegrill.com
Sliced brisket is served at Rolling Smoke Grill in Ronkonkoma.
Sempre Fame (374 Tulip Ave., Floral Park): Despite its Italian name, which means always hungry, John and Chris Cavallo's six-year-old restaurant is dedicated to the American art of barbecue, which scores winning marks across the board. The brothers take an old-school approach to their smoked meats, but their extensive sandwich menu is more suited to the tastes of millennial food Instagrammers. Sandwiches, piled high between two slices of double-thick "Texas toast," range from simple brisket or grilled chicken to combos designed for maximum likes, such as the Clogs, a gooey pileup of brisket, bacon, fried chicken cutlets, barbecue sauce and melted mozzarella. More info: 516-488-7900, semprefame.com
Smoked fried wings are served at Sempre Fame in Floral Park.
Smok-haus (7 12th St., Garden City): Manny Voumvourakis' yearslong transition from derivatives trader to pitmaster ended in November when he opened the spiffy Smok-haus in Garden City. The menu features brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs and spareribs as well as a gyro-esque pulled beef and lamb combo that honors the owner's Greek heritage, and a smoked Italian porchetta that honors his wife's. There are also smoked turkey breasts, pulled chicken thighs (with a shawarma-style dry rub) and smoked wings that are subsequently fried for maximum appeal. Especially for lunch customers is the "individual meal option" wherein meats are served over rice or salad, in a burrito or pita. Sandwiches, on toasted Hawaiian rolls, come piled high with your choice of meat plus coleslaw and pickled vegetables. More info: 516-833-6633, smok-haus.com
Smoked wings are served at Smok-Haus in Garden City.
Smoked Barn (2932 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown): At this one-year-old smokehouse, Peruvian-born Renzo Vargas offers the American pantheon of pulled pork, pork ribs, brisket and beef short ribs -- plus pork belly and, as a special, the rolled Italian pork roast called porchetta, smoked and then deep-fried to crisp the skin to chicharron-like levels. But any of these meats benefits from Vargas' huacatay, a hot sauce made green with black mint. Also on the menu, rotisserie chicken seasoned with oregano, thyme and the Peruvian pepper called aji panca. In the corner of a strip mall off the Hempstead Turnpike service road, Smoked Barn is easy to miss. Don't. More info: 516-396-9892
The massive beef rib at Smoked Barn in Levittown.
Smokin' Wolf (199 Pantigo Rd., East Hampton): Arthur Wolf's Smokin' Wolf is the heir to Turtle Crossing, the seminal Long Island barbecue restaurant where he was executive chef. The menu has a Southwestern bent, with guacamole, quesadillas, fish tacos and fajitas rubbing shoulders with pulled pork, ribs, brisket and sausage. Wolf has a jones for fowl: chicken is barbecued, roasted and fried; duck and turkey are smoked. Eat in, eat outside, take out and Smokin' Wolf will also cater your event. More info: 631-324-7166, smokinwolfbbq.com
BBQ brisket chili with cheese, sour cream and corn bread is served at Smokin' Wolf BBQ in East Hampton.
Stuey's Smokehouse BBQ
Stuey's Smokehouse BBQ (50 Birch Hill Rd., Locust Valley): This takeout spot (with an inviting outdoor patio) has a country chic befitting Locust Valley, with a vaulted ceiling and exposed beams, subway tile counters and a lot of stainless steel. It also boasts the wood smokers and succinct menu of a classic barbecue joint: baby back ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausage, smoked salmon (this is Long Island, after all) and roast chicken. Sides include sweet potatoes, pit beans, string beans and cornbread. Pitmaster John Zervoulakos would rather sell out than reheat yesterday's barbecue, so call in your order or come early. More info: 516-277-2202, stueysbbq.com
Cornbread loaves at Stuey's Smokehouse BBQ in Locust Valley.
Swingbellys Beachside BBQ
Swingbellys Beachside BBQ (909 W. Beech St., Long Beach): Having weathered the wrath of superstorm Sandy, several personnel changes and the revival of Long Beach's West End, Swingbellys is swinging harder than ever. 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. Stop by on a Tuesday night for the terrific fried chicken. More info: 516-431-3464, swingbellyslongbeach.com
Pecan pie is served at Swingbellys Beachside BBQ in Long Beach.
TownLine BBQ (3593 Montauk Hwy., Sagaponack): The smokiest venue in the Hamptons' white-hot Honest Man restaurant group (Nick and Toni's, Rowdy Hall, Coche Comedor and La Fondita) TownLine mingles traditional barbecue with a star-studded clientele. The menu keeps it simple with brisket (sliced or chopped), pulled pork or chicken, chickens and ribs (pork and beef) available by the pound or in various combo platters. Dine indoors in rustic-chic splendor, or take your feed outside and behold some of Long Island's prettiest farmland. More info: 631-537-2271, townlinebbq.com
A pulled pork sandwich is served at Townline BBQ in Sagaponack.