Best-of Guides California

Best Barbecue in California

6 Restaurants
There are few indulgences in summer as tasty as fresh barbecue. And while Kansas City might be known as the barbecue capital of America, good ‘cue exists coast-to-coast. With that said, we rounded up some of our Inspectors picks in California ranging from Texas-inspired meats to mouthwatering menus in suburban locations. One thing's for sure though, these spots will have you craving more in no time.
Updated on 24 May 2023
Heritage Barbecue
31721 Camino Capistrano, 92675 San Juan Capistrano
$$ · Barbecue

Drawing inspiration from central Texas, chef/owner Daniel Castillo’s local favorite (and a Bib Gourmand) continues to draw in crowds with deliciously charred meats and equally delectable dessert.

Inspector notes: “Add on a side of chili with more brisket along with a cheddar-jalapeño biscuit and never look back again. Don't forget to save room for desserts like banana pudding or pineapple upside down cake.”

Horn Barbecue
2534 Mandela Pkwy., 94607 Oakland
$$ · Barbecue

If the smell of Matt Horn’s “West Coast Barbecue” didn’t make it clear, this Bib Gourmand spot takes their meat seriously. Just make sure to arrive early, because seats fill up fast.

Inspector notes: “Employing his family's cooking traditions and all manner of meat-smoking, the chef turns out trays of brisket, pulled pork, and sausages—all unfussy yet irresistible. Sides of Granny’s potatoes and pit beans are a must; while banana pudding is likely the best way to finish the affair.”

Moo's Craft Barbecue
2118 N. Broadway, 90031 Los Angeles
$$ · Barbecue

Initially a passion project from high school sweethearts Andrew and Michelle Muñoz, this backyard hobby transformed into a Los Angeles staple (and Bib Gourmand). Meats are treated with respect, Texas style, while the craft beers and sides add a fun twist.

Inspector notes: “Smoky, salt-and-pepper-crusted brisket and snappy, spicy sausages packed with cheddar and jalapeños pay homage to the barbecue traditions of Austin, Texas. Sides like Mexican street corn or tres leches bread pudding are a nod to their heritage. Altogether, this is the kind of food that demands a post-meal nap.”

Pig in a Pickle
341 Corte Madera Town Centre, 94925 Corte Madera
$$ · Barbecue

Home to some of the best barbecue in the Bay Area, this Corte Madera Bib Gourmand is filled with meats that are humanely raised and hormone-free enhancing the (already) mouthwatering menu. Adding to the homestyle vibes are chef/owner Damon Stainbrook’s suburban space, ensuring you'll be luxuriating in comfort along with eating and feeling good.

Inspectors notes: “Imagine the likes of melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork; 18-hour smoked brisket; perfectly moist, dry-rubbed ribs; or juicy hotlinks bursting with flavor. Even the mac-and-cheese, a gloopy afterthought at so many other such places, is tended to with care, offering rich flavor and toothsome texture.”

Big Sur Smokehouse
48123 Hwy 1, 93920 Big Sur
$$ · Barbecue

 Red marks the spot at this modern farmhouse. Behind the quaint and charming exterior lies the heart of the restaurant—tasty meat platters, Hawaiian rolls, and preserved pink onions served with flair.

Inspector notes: “Melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork and brisket find perfect harmony with such creative, smoky sauces as the “Tangy n' Sweet Pineapple Mustard” or “Spiced Carolina Cider.”

Breakwater Barbecue
30 Ave. Portola, Ste.1B, 94018 El Granada
$$ · Barbecue

Nestled in the charming seaside town of El Granada, this carnivore friendly hotspot is all about dinner with a show. Take a seat, grab a beer, and enjoy as guests are greeted by the in-house butcher slicing and prepping slabs of meat. Just remember to come hungry.

Inspector notes: "Braised in smoked pork stock with roasted poblano, smoked tomato and garlic, it's packed with smoky, spicy flavors and best sided with a slice of corn bread. But wait, there's more, specifically the Texas Trinity. It's an impressive heap of brisket, ribs and links, plus two sides (Merle's potato salad and beans and greens are good choices) and bread."

Hero: Ron De Angelis/Heritage Barbecue