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Brother John's Beer, Bourbon & BBQ (Photo by Jackie Tran)

The Best Barbecue in Tucson

Updated March 5, 2024

Welcome to the our picks for the best barbecue spots in the heart of the Sonoran Desert!

Tucson may not have a distinctive barbecue style like those in several southern, midwest, or Texas cities, but we’ve got plenty of talented transplants and home-grown chefs who give grilling a local spin — not to mention abundant desert-hardy mesquite trees that provide wood for them to practice their techniques. From slow-cooked ribs that fall off the bone to tangy pulled pork sandwiches and everything in between, journey with us as we explore the sizzling best of Tucson’s barbecue joints.

Learn how we create our guides here.

a group of people standing in a kitchen preparing food
Bashful Bandit Barbecue (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

Bashful Bandit Barbecue

Bashful Bandit Barbecue opened its doors in the former Bashful Bandit dive/biker bar at 3686 E. Speedway Blvd. Tucson native and owner, Toby Kyte, has redesigned the patio to holster multiple 1,000-gallon offset smokers overseen by manager and head pitmaster Jesse Aguirre.

(Photo Courtesy of Brother John's Beer)

Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ

Since opening in 2015, the sprawling Brother John’s has become a favorite hangout for families and groups of friends who chow down on Southern-style low-heat, slow-smoked meats and tasty traditional sides with a Southwest twist (think jalapeno cheddar corn bread). The bar has a huge selection of bourbon, as the name suggests, and there’s weekly live music. If you can’t decide between the pork belly, baby back ribs, or charred brisket ends, try one of the Family Combos.

a close up of a piece of cake
Ribs At Bubb's Grub (Photo Credit: Bubb's Grub)

Bubb’s Grub

With a passion for all things comfort food, Bubb’s Grub offers a menu that blends classic favorites with a creative twist. From mouthwatering burgers loaded with gourmet toppings to indulgent mac ‘n’ cheese bowls that redefine comfort, every dish is crafted with love and attention to detail.

a bowl of food on a plate
(Photo courtesy of Fork & Fire Smokehouse + Taproom)

Fork & Fire Smokehouse + Taproom

Fork ‘N Fire is a sizzling hotspot that ignites the senses with its delectable wood-fired creations. This joint offers a diverse menu featuring pulled pork, sliced brisket, artisanal pizzas, flame-kissed burgers, and flavorful dishes that showcase the essence of wood-fired cooking.

Photo Courtesy of Holy Smokin Butts BBQ

Holy Smokin’ Butts BBQ

This laid-back joint is a favorite on the east side of town, thanks to their tender Texas-style smoked meats and Carolina barbecue sauce that ranges from sweet to extra spicy. A great introduction to their offerings is the Ol’ School Platter, including brisket, pulled pork, tri-tip and sides such as smoked baked beans, coleslaw, and mac ‘n’ cheese. On Friday and Saturday Steak Nights, you can savor barbecued rib-eye.

House Smoked Chicken Wings at The Horseshoe Grill (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

The Horseshoe Grill

A family-owned steakhouse with an upscale cowboy vibe, the Horseshoe Grill is known for its skillfully prepared meats, especially the pulled pork and pork belly burnt ends. For a sampler, try the Pig Master Sandwich, which also includes bacon, sausage, and beef brisket. Sides such as the fried pickles, apple coleslaw, and the house chili make great complements to the main event meats, which you can watch being grilled in a huge glassed-in enclosure.



Photo Courtesy of Ken's Hardwood Barbecue

Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue

Foodie Favorite:
a man wearing a hat and glasses
Michael Elefante

“I consistently get great bbq from a spot close to my restaurant. Ken’s hardwood BBQ. It’s always juicy and moist and their sauces are really flavorful. And their sweet potato pie is spot on. I could eat a whole pie!”

Ken’s Hardwood Barbecue brought some serious southern cooking traditions to town with the Sadler family, who started with a soul food spot in Dixon, Tennessee. Four generations and a Tucson food truck later, the family still draws on its southern roots at its casual brick-and-mortar dining room but Texas hot links and St. Louis ribs are part of the smoked meat repertoire. Catfish is also a regular menu item, and don’t even get us started on their sweet potato pie and peach cobbler.

Photo Courtesy of Kiss of Smoke BBQ

Kiss of Smoke BBQ

Kiss of Smoke BBQ & Catering began with an award-winning barbecue team who now have a low-key brick-and-mortar store while also bringing high-quality food to Tucson events, from weddings to luncheons. The brisket and pulled pork are particular crowd pleasers. And talk about cross-cultural: Along with such specials as nachos that come with your choice of barbecued meat, you can also get a breakfast bagel and a fatty — bacon-wrapped sausage that is stuffed and smoked.

Various barbecue meats at Mr. K's Original BBQ (Photo credit: Brielle Farmer)

Mr. K’s Original BBQ

This South Park Avenue spot is a long-time Tucson BBQ staple — owner Ray Kendrick has been delighting patrons with his no-frills approach to barbecue since 1997. Popular items on the small menu include beef ribs, along with the more typical pork. Our favorites include the hot links and brisket, but go for the Three Meat Combo and you can decide for yourself.

BBQ Plate from Smokey Mo (Photo credit: Dana Sullivan)

Smokey Mo

This no-frills spot on 1st Avenue produces some of the best barbecue in town. Takeaway is a good choice when it’s too hot to sit out on the back patio or in the small dining area near the kitchen, but if you want to keep inhaling those great meat aromas, you might want to stick around. The friendly chef/owner, who describes his barbecue as Kansas City style, is almost always on site to greet customers if he’s not tending the grill.  Along with such standards as brisket and pork ribs, the pastrami and burgers are standouts.

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