TODAY'S PAPER
Good Evening
Good Evening
LifestyleRestaurants

The best barbecue restaurants on Long Island

St. Louis style ribs, cornbread and baked beans

St. Louis style ribs, cornbread and baked beans at Swingbelly's in Long Beach. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Everybody has an opinion on what makes great barbecue--the balance of smoke, heat, sauce and spice. Whether you're seeking St. Louis–style spareribs or brisket sandwiches piled on Texas toast, Long Island's top barbecue spots stand ready to dish it up. Here are the top picks from Newsday's restaurant critics:

Sempre Fame (374 Tulip Ave., Floral Park): Despite its Italian name (which, fittingly, means "always hungry"), John and Chris Cavallo's friendly little eatery 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

Smok-haus (7 Twelfth St., Garden City): Don’t let the clunky, diacritically-challenged name fool you: Manny Voumvourakis' Garden City barbecue joint consistently turns out some of the finest brisket on the Island, along with excellent baby back and spare ribs, and juicy pulled pork. But Smok-haus's best-kept secret may well be its weekends-only pastrami — brined-in-house, delicately flavored, and better than you’ll find than at many delis specializing in it. (Get there before they sell out.) Other favorites include a brisket cheesesteak sandwich and a pork belly-on-potato-roll sandwich that’s just as decadent as it sounds, and served with coleslaw and pickle chips. All barbecue meats are served a la carte as well, as are the porchetta and smoked shrimp. Ever-popular mild, medium and hot wings are smoked before being fried for maximum appeal and served with an Alabamas white sauce. Especially for lunch customers is the "individual meal option" wherein meats are served on a roll, in a pita, over rice or as a salad. More info: 516-400-7100, smok-haus.com

Smoked Barn (2932 Hempstead Tpke., Levittown): At this modest 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. Try the rotisserie chicken seasoned with oregano, thyme and the Peruvian pepper called aji panca. Whole-chicken meals include either chaufa (Peruvian fried rice) or salchipapas (fries topped with sliced hot dogs). There’s also a selection of freshly made Peruvian smoothies. 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, smokedbarn.com

Smokin’ Wolf BBQ & More (199 Pantigo Rd., East Hampton): This casual, terra cotta — hued spot is the deceptively casual setting for outrageously great barbecue from chef-pitmaster Arthur Wolf. His duck alone can evoke 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 blackcurrant 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 towering hunks of cornbread. The dining room is casual but comfy, with iced tea and beers such as Montauk Wave Chase IPA at the ready. Wolf’s menu has been compressed during COVID-19, but special sandwiches and frisbee-sized quesadillas, such as one filled with pulled pork and mango, still draw a steady crowd at lunch and dinner. More info: 631-604-6470, smokinwolfbbq.com

Swingbellys (909 W. Beech St., Long Beach): Having weathered the wrath of superstorm Sandy, 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

TownLine BBQ (3593 Montauk Hwy., Sagaponack): Think the Hamptons can’t produce good barbecue? Then you’ve never been to this humble outpost straddling the tony enclaves of Sagaponack and Wainscott. Well-sourced meats, careful smoking and rich housemade sauces are the secrets behind the success of TownLine’s pulled pork and brisket (available in both plates and sandwiches), not to mention the popular St. Louis-style spareribs. Robust cocktail and beer selections are best enjoyed when dining in, while takeout fans will love the 4- or 8-meal combo kits composed of meat, sides and all the trimmings. Can’t decide whether to stay or go? Consider spending an evening on the outdoor deck, a riot of reclaimed barn wood tables and local bands on select nights. The experience is not to be missed, nor are the buffalo fries — christened with honeyed with hot sauce and bleu cheese — or the cornbread. The latter is warm, sweet, dotted with kernels and unquestionably among the Island’s finest. More info: 631-537-2271, townlinebbq.com

Laura’s BBQ (76 Shore Rd. in Glen Cove): Lloyd Adams’ absolute mastery of Texas-style barbecued beef brisket comes as a happy consequence of his many years standing sentry over a smoker. It starts with his wife Laura's top-secret rub, followed by 14 low-slow hours spent orbiting a firebox thick with hickory, cherry and mesquite smoke. At journey’s end is simple, tenderized perfection of the sort that makes sauce almost sacrilegious. Equally fine is a pound of his lean yet succulent pork ribs, or a juicy half-pound of chicken capable of single-handedly erasing memories of incinerated birds past. The couple conducted business out of a faux-log cabin trailer for several years before opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant during that has indoor space, plus a large, heated open patio adjacent to Glen Cove Creek. More info: 516-715-1500, laurasbbq.com

Mighty Quinn’s (829 Franklin Ave., Garden City): Split wood and big, black smokers are in full view of the customers at Mighty Quinn’s, one of New York City's premier barbecue spots that opened a franchise further east. The smoked meats include brisket, burnt ends (of brisket), pulled pork, spare ribs, the signature "brontosaurus rib," (on-the-bone short rib), wings, half chickens and brisket sausage, whose taste falls somewhere between kielbasa and a great burger. Meats are available in single servings, by the pound and family meals and even, assembled as customers move through a Chipotle-style point-and-choose line. Sides are a combination of traditional (mac and cheese made with cavatappi and four cheese, sweet potato casserole with maple and pecans, corn fritters) and contemporary (kale salad, Brussels sprouts with soy vinaigrette, broccoli salad with bacon and almonds). There’s also cornbread, fries (plain, sweet-potato, or "dirty," smothered with burnt ends, chile-lime sauce and onions). For dessert, there are "imported" cookies and pies from Centerport’s exuberant Hometown Bake Shop. More info: 516-544-2844, mightyquinnsbbq.com

Stuey’s Smokehouse BBQ (50 Birch Hill Rd., Locust Valley): The country chic spot puts out a classic menu of baby back ribs, brisket, smoked salmon, pulled pork and smoked sausage, plus juicy roast (not smoked) chickens and all the sides: ranch pit beans (three-bean mix in barbecue sauce), fresh string beans, sweet potatoes and cornbread. Primarily a takeout affair, there's backyard seating when good weather prevails. More info: 516-277-2202, stueysbbq.com

Old Fields (15 New St., Huntington; 130 Old Town Rd., Setauket): It's a little bit Texas and a little bit Brooklyn at Old Fields Barbecue, which has two locations dedicated to 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 laced with rum and brandy and is based on an 1850s recipe. More info: ofbarbecue.com

Latest reviews