Charlotte, North Carolina, might not have a renowned BBQ reputation like Kansas City or St. Louis. Still, we promise you that Charlotte is home to some of the best BBQ around. We’ve compiled this ultimate guide to the best BBQ in Charlotte, NC so that you know exactly where to get started.
Surprisingly, there are a lot of options. This southern city is quite the haven for BBQ lovers. And it doesn’t matter whether you prefer Eastern or Western Carolina BBQ, or even Texas-style BBQ. You are bound to find a new favorite spot.
Get ready for some of the most mouthwatering BBQ in town!
Best BBQ in Charlotte: Top Picks and Hidden Gems
Midwood Smokehouse, Mac’s Speedshop, and Noble Smoke are among the most popular BBQ joints in the Queen City. Still, smaller spots like Sweet Lew’s BBQ will surprise you with their deep and smoky flavors.
An entire age of Charlotte restaurants, including Bill Spoon’s Barbecue, have disappeared to be replaced with high rises. Still, Bill Spoon’s legacy lives on in Charlotte barbecue culture.
Why Charlotte, NC, Is a BBQ Lover’s Paradise
Charlotte offers a diverse range of delicious BBQ styles and flavors, making it a BBQ lover’s paradise. You will find both Eastern Carolina BBQ, which has a vinegar-based tang, and Western Carolina BBQ, which offers a more tomato-based sweetness.
And because most Charlotte BBQ joints are neutral when it comes to Eastern vs. Western Carolina BBQ, you will also find some Texas-style BBQ. Plus, each restaurant has its own unique approach to smoking and flavoring meats.
Our Top 5 Picks for Best BBQ Joints in Charlotte, NC
While there is a long list of quality barbecue spots, we’ve started this list with our five favorite barbecue spots. We also include a few honorable mentions below in case you have time for a full tour of Charlotte BBQ establishments.
So, if you are ready to indulge in some of the best BBQ in Charlotte, NC, let’s get started by considering these five smoky favorites.
1. Midwood Smokehouse: A Classic BBQ Spot with a Modern Twist
As the name suggests, Midwood Smokehouse is located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, under the shadows of Charlotte’s growing skyline. The parking situation at Midwood Smokehouse is a little challenging, but finding a spot is well worth the effort.
Midwood Smokehouse is so popular that then-President Barak Obama stopped by to visit with Hillary Clinton. The two world leaders reportedly sampled quite a bit of the menu, and we recommend that you do the same.
It’s worth mentioning that Midwood Smokehouse is actually Texas-style BBQ, but they do have several sauces that honor the local spot’s North Carolina roots.
Our favorite Midwood Smokehouse menu items include the following:
- Brisket Plate (lean)
- Burnt Ends
- Miquel’s Queso (seriously)
- Mac & Cheese
- Banana Pudding (save some room!)
2. Noble Smoke: Mouthwatering Meats and Southern Hospitality
While the owner of Noble Smoke has sometimes been the center of controversy, the barbecue is among the best in all of the South.
Their process says it all. Noble Smoke owns eight custom-built smokers, which they use to slowly smoke over 1,200 pounds of premium meat every day. The smoking process requires patience and takes as long as 14 hours each day!
There is a lot more that we could say about the spacious facility or the long list of successful sister restaurants, including Rooster’s and Bossy Beulah. But the process speaks for itself. Noble Smoke deserves a spot on the list of BBQ spots that you need to try.
Based on our experience, these are the must-try Noble Smoke dishes:
- Chopped Cheshire Pork
- Housemade Sausage
- Anson Mills Hush Puppies
- Onion Rings
- Bread Pudding
3. Sweet Lew’s BBQ: A Cozy Spot for Unforgettable BBQ
Like Noble Smoke, Sweet Lew’s is a newer addition to the Charlotte barbecue scene. It is also located on a lower-traffic street in the mostly-residential Belmont neighborhood. For these reasons, some people may not be familiar with Sweet Lew’s, and we consider it one of Charlotte’s hidden gems.
Still, for those searching for the best BBQ in Charlotte, NC, you have to make a stop at Sweet Lew’s. Midwood Smokehouse and Noble Smoke listed above are more barbeque generalist. Sweet Lew’s is the spot you can go for authentic North Carolina barbecue.
Here is something interesting that really sets this Charlotte staple apart: The owner also offers Sweet Lew’s BBQ Pit Master Class. The experience isn’t cheap, but it’s an awesome gift for the BBQ lover in your life.
We recommend considering some of these menu items when you stop by:
- Sweet Lew Sampler
- Brunswick Stew
- Potato Salad
- House Pickles
4. Mac’s Speed Shop: A BBQ Joint with a Biker Vibe
While Mac’s Speed Shop has a biker vibe, the menu is warm and inviting. The original location on South Blvd. is a fun place to visit, but all of the locations serve fantastic BBQ.
Mac’s is a Charlotte favorite. Yes, they have great food (including one of the best burgers in Charlotte), but the ambiance is the reason many people love to hang out. The South End location has a particularly funky vibe, including room for live music and an outdoor seating patio.
And yes, on occasion, you will see bikes parked to the side. All we can say is this: If the food is good enough for a bunch of bikers, you are sure to love it too.
- St. Louis Ribs
- Hickory Smoked Wings
- Route 66 Burger
- BBQ Beans
- Banana Pudding
5. The Smoke Pit: Award-Winning BBQ and Sides
We are cheating a little bit on this next recommendation because The Smoke Pit is technically in Concord, NC. Still, this customer favorite is located in the Charlotte metro area, not far from the Charlotte Motor Speedway, so we say that it still counts.
Remember when we said that Noble Smoke cooks their brisket for up to 14 hours? Well, The Smoke Pit brings a new definition to the term “low and slow.” The Smoke Pit low-smokes their meat for up to 18 hours.
The other big differentiator for The Smoke Pit is they only use local hickory wood. The result is some of the best BBQ you will ever experience. It’s hard to maintain quality when you are cooking for the masses, but the use of local hickory wood and the 18-hour cook time is evidence that The Smoke Pit doesn’t compromise on quality.
For those seeking out the best BBQ in Charlotte, NC, we recommend you wear pants that are a little loose when you show up. Here are some of our favorites:
- Brisket Super Spud (wear loose pants!)
- BBQ Pulled Chicken
- Sweet Potato Casserole
Beyond the Favorites: More Charlotte BBQ Gems
The five restaurants listed above serve some of the best BBQ in Charlotte, NC, but there are a few other spots that deserve mentioning. Some of these spots are old Charlotte favorites that proceed the likes of Midwood Smokehouse and Mac’s Speed Shop.
And while you can make the case that the newer generation has surpassed these older hole-in-the-wall spots, there are plenty of people that would argue I am wrong. Like Charlotte’s best pizza joints, the best BBQ spots in Charlotte all have their own twist.
Bubba’s Barbecue: A Hidden Gem for Delicious Ribs
The newer generation of Charlotte hot spots takes a more egalitarian approach to barbecue. They serve traditional Carolina barbecue, but they also serve Texas or St. Louis-style barbecue as well.
Not so with Bubba’s Barbecue. Bubba’s Barbecue has served Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue since 1962. Bubba’s utilizes a 33-hour process that cooks almost all of the fat away from the meat. The Eastern NC-style BBQ utilizes choice lean meat, which is seasoned with salt, crushed red pepper, and vinegar.
Some people love it, and some people hate it. But what you can’t deny is that Bubba’s does it right, representing the best of North Carolina heritage BBQ.
Sauceman’s: A Local Favorite for BBQ and Southern Sides
Are you looking for the best BBQ in Charlotte? Well, Sauceman’s won the 2013 Destination America’s BBQ Pitmaster competition for Best BBQ in NC. So for you overachievers out there, why settle for the best BBQ in Charlotte when you can have the best BBQ in all of North Carolina? 😎
Sauceman’s might hit the top five, but they focus on Lexington-style BBQ, which like Eastern-style BBQ, isn’t for everyone. It’s one of the reasons that places like Midwood Smokehouse, which serve a broader taste palette, are so popular.
Bill Spoon’s Barbecue: A Charlotte Staple for Over 50 Years
Bill Spoon’s served the Charlotte community for nearly 60 years, but they closed back in 2020. Still, the restaurant was such a Charlotte staple that we included them on the list as a tribute to great Charlotte barbecue experiences.
Unfortunately, Bill Spoon’s Barbecue was a casualty of the pandemic, but clearly, its memory serves as a reminder at Charlotte’s place in BBQ culture.
Tips for Your BBQ Experience in Charlotte, NC
If you are new to the Charlotte area, plan on trying several barbecue spots on the list before declaring a new favorite. You are likely to be surprised at how different they all are, while all are very high quality.
For those planning a trip to the Charlotte area, there are plenty of things to do in Charlotte, but I hope you save plenty of time for eating barbecue. The Best BBQ in Charlotte, NC, allows for Texas and St. Louis-style barbecues, but you will see tributes to traditional Eastern and Lexington-style BBQ too.
The Differences Between Eastern and Western Carolina BBQ
Let’s start with the similarities between Eastern and Western BBQ. Both styles of barbecue rely on pork meat and a vinegar base. From there, the differences start to create one of the fiercest BBQ rivalries around.
Eastern BBQ uses almost the entire hog. In fact, old-timers will say that Eastern BBQ uses “every part of the hog except the squeal.” It is also known for its runny vinegar sauce with few additions other than salt or red pepper. The idea is to let the meat shine through.
On the other hand, Western-style BBQ (also referred to as Lexington-style) uses a red sauce with a ketchup base that is mixed with vinegar. Lexington-style BBQ also uses more selective meat, the pork shoulder.
Personally, I prefer Lexington-style BBQ, but there are fans of both.
Go Beyond the BBQ: Charlotte’s Best Sides and Desserts
Look, slow-smoked meat is the focus for all of the best BBQ spots in Charlotte. Still, any good BBQ joint has fantastic sides and desserts.
We are partial to baked beans, mac and cheese, and banana pudding. But one thing we love about the best BBQ spots in Charlotte is that they’ve all developed their own little twist.
At Midwood, you will want to try the queso with brisket mixed in and finish your meal with banana pudding. At Nobel Smoke, we recommend trying the onion rings and bread pudding. The list goes on.
At one time, the Charlotte region lacked solid barbecue options, but times have changed. Check out the best BBQ in Charlotte, and check back to let us know what you think!