20 January, 2020, 23:17

Guide to 15 smokin’ barbecue restaurants in Tucson

When it comes to eating meat, few preparations are as pleasurable as barbecue.

While it’s easy to think of barbecue as expensive, it’s probably one of the most undervalued foods on the market. If your lunch required you to wake up at 2 a.m. that morning to check on your meal, would you do it?

Aside from the considerable cost of wood, pitmasters invest a considerable amount of time overnight making sure the heat doesn’t get too high or low. Such patience and care is rewarded with succulent, tender meat with beautiful bark.

Here’s the list of barbecue restaurants in Tucson. We’re excluding steakhouses and other restaurants that happen to offer barbecue.

BBQ Rush

5151 S. Country Club Rd.
Ribs, Brisket, Chicken, and Wings at BBQ Rush (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Ribs, Brisket, Chicken, and Wings at BBQ Rush (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Although the restaurant is located in an RV park, it still has a loyal local following with its blend of post oak and mesquite. The Central Texas-style barbecue restaurant features family recipes passed down through generations. The wings are smoked and fried for a tender, crunchy treat.

Favorites: Honey Hot BBQ Chicken Wings, St. Louis-style Ribs, Beef Ribs

For more information, visit bbq-rush.com.

BBQ Shack

7230 E. 22nd St.
Half chicken at BBQ Shack (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Half chicken at BBQ Shack (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Local catering company R & R Family Kitchen expanded their brick-and-mortar space to a 2,600-square-foot restaurant called BBQ Shack in 2019.

The ribs fall into fall-off-the-bone territory. The chicken was the unanimous office favorite.

For more information, call (520) 258-9994 or visit rrbbqtucson.com.

Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ

1801 N. Stone Ave.
Brisket at Brother John's Beer, Bourbon & BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Brisket at Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

This large restaurant also features a large menu with southwestern influences. The draft beer and whiskey selections are also massive. Pecan, applewood, and occasionally peachwood are used for the smoke.

Favorites: Beef Brisket, Blistered Shishito Peppers, BroJo’s “Piggy” Pastrami Sandwich

For more information, visit brotherjohnsbbq.com.

BrushFire BBQ Co.

2745 N. Campbell Ave. • 7080 E. 22nd St.
BrushFire BBQ Co. special (Credit: Jackie Tran)

BrushFire BBQ Co. special (Credit: Jackie Tran)

BrushFire uses a blend of mesquite and pecan for the smoke. If you want to visit the ice creamery, visit the east location.

Favorites: Messy Mac & Cheese with Pork Belly, Smokey Chipotle Sticky Ribs

For more information, visit brushfirebbq.com.

BxQ (Bronx BBQ) at The Boxyard

238 N. Fourth Ave.
Catfish Sandwich at BXQ (Credit: Melissa Stihl)

Catfish Sandwich at BxQ (Credit: Melissa Stihl)

BxQ, located at Fourth Avenue shipping container development The Boxyard, features a small menu with barbecue, sandwiches, mac and cheese, and pie.

Favorites: Catfish Sandwich (trust us)

Operating hours are noon-midnight.

Keep up with Bronx BBQ on Facebook.

Catalina Barbeque Co. & Sports Bar

3645 W. Starr Pass Blvd.

Catalina Barbeque highlights its oak and pecan wood-smoked barbecue in a sports bar environment. Go for the One – Three Meat Platter, with options that include beef brisket, smoked pulled pork shoulder, ribs, smoked chicken, and burnt ends (brisket tips charred in BBQ sauce).

Favorites: Catalina Cheese Burger, Baked Mac n’ Cheese (with smoked meat)

For more information, visit marriott.com.

Holy Smokin’ Butts

6940 E. Broadway Blvd.
Three-meat plate with ribs, brisket, tri-tip, potato salad, and mac and cheese at Holy Smokin' Butts (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Three-meat plate with ribs, brisket, tri-tip, potato salad, and mac and cheese at Holy Smokin’ Butts (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Holy Smokin’ Butts earned its following with its pecan wood-smoked, Austin-style brisket, and medium/medium-rare tri-tip.

They relocated to 6940 E. Broadway Blvd. in May 2019. The 7,000-square-foot restaurant, triple the space of their original location, features a full liquor license.

Favorites: Fatty Brisket, Tri-Tip, Potato Salad

For more information, visit holysmokinbutts.com.

Fire N’ Smoke Wood Fired Pizza & BBQ

6502 E. Tanque Verde Rd.

The smoke used here depends on the meat; hickory for beef and chicken, peach wood for pork. They also offer wood-fired pizza, so Brisket Pizza is an option.

Favorites: St. Louis Ribs, Smoked Pulled Chicken Sandwich, Barbecue Pizza

For more information, visit firensmokebbqnpizza.com.

Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue

5250 E. 22nd St.
St. Louis pork ribs at Ken's Hardwood Barbecue (Credit: Jackie Tran)

St. Louis pork ribs at Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Ken uses Sahuarita-sourced pecan wood for his diverse range of barbecue styles. The authentic Southern sides and Soul Food Sundays are the main draws.

Favorites: St. Louis Pork Ribs, Fried Chicken (only available sometimes as a Sunday special), Ken’s Rye Pale Ale (collaboration with Green Feet Brewing)

For more information, visit kenshardwoodbbq.com.

Kiss of Smoke BBQ & Catering

663 S. Plumer Ave.
Bell Ringer Plate at Kiss of Smoke BBQ & Catering (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Bell Ringer Plate at Kiss of Smoke BBQ & Catering (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Meats are smoked with pecan and cherry wood for a milder smoke taste, while chicken includes mesquite in the wood mix. Vegetarians can indulge in smoked jackfruit over macaroni and cheese.

Favorites: Brisket, Jackfruit, Fatties

For more information, visit kissofsmokebbq.com.

Mr. K’s BBQ

6302 S. Park Ave.

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This long-time Tucson staple uses mesquite wood smoke for their barbecue.

Favorites: Hot Links, Brisket, Texas Beans

For more information, call (520) 792-9484 or visit mr-ks-original-bbq.business.site.

Red Desert BBQ & Catering

918 W. Prince Rd.
Brisket, Loaded Tots, and Ribs at Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Brisket, Loaded Tots, and Ribs at Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Red Desert features hickory-smoked barbecue with their signature secret spice rub. Their Loaded Tots are one of the best deals in town at $7.50.

Favorites: Ribs, Loaded Tots with Pulled Pork, Burger Special

For more information, visit rdbbq.com

Smokey Mo

2650 N. First Ave.
Smokey Mo tri tip sandwich (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Smokey Mo tri tip sandwich (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tiny barbecue joint Smokey Mo chooses mesquite as their smoke wood of choice. Their menu is influenced by Kansas City and Texas styles with some adaptation to local Tucson tastes.

Favorites: Pulled Pork Sandwich, Chicken Wings

For more information, visit smokeymo.com.

Tay’s BBQ

Barbecue spread at Tay's BBQ (Photo courtesy of Tay's BBQ on Facebook)

Barbecue spread at Tay’s BBQ (Photo courtesy of Tay’s BBQ on Facebook)

Earlier this year, Tay’s Brew House expanded to include a barbecue restaurant (with a bar) on site.

The menu features Meat Plates (choice of one to three meats and two sides), SandwichesKids MealsFamily Ranch Packs, or individual meat servings — brisket, pulled pork, and pulled chicken.

Keep up with Tay’s BBQ on Facebook or call (520) 762-3439.

Two Boots BBQ Shop

1830 S. Park Ave.

Two Boots features mesquite wood-smoked barbecue and a handful of soul food dishes.

Favorites: Chicken Quarters, Hot Links

Keep up with Two Boots BBQ Shop on Facebook.

Have a favorite barbecue spot? Let us know in the comments.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.