Tender is the meat falling off the pork ribs at Barbecue Smith in Roosevelt, where meat spends quality time in the smoker while Chuck Shin—of none other than Chuck’s Hop Shop—keeps an impressive range of beer flowing across 25 taps. Should you want to kick things up, there are three house barbecue sauces, but the spiciest, crunchiest fixin’ in this joint is kimchi made by Shin’s own mom.
After years of slinging hot links and rib tips on Cherry Street, the zenlike pitmaster known to most simply as Pookey found himself a new location just off 23rd Avenue and Rainier. Sure, there are a few parking spaces outside, and far more space within. But otherwise, Barbeque Pit 2.0 offers the old familiar assortment of Sam Cooke and Michael Jackson photos as its first iteration, the same live-edge wood counter (now joined by a bunch of tables) and, mercifully, the same perfect slabs of ribs, pulled pork, and surprisingly meaty rib tips. Also the same: Pookey’s cash only policy.
Ballard’s long-standing urban barbecue and bourbon joint is designed like a mullet: businesslike consumption of ribs and brisket up front, party in the back bar, but also sharp aesthetics throughout. Dress the dry-rubbed meats yourself with one of the four house sauces and note appetizers that transcend their down-home origins, like the pink pickled deviled eggs. The brunch menu goes well beyond barbecue with benedicts, biscuits, and hash.
Just north of the spot where Lake City Way turns into Bothell Way stands Brileys BBQ, a beacon of carefully smoked meat. Rather than pick a particular region’s style, owners Kyle Brierley and Skyler Riley take their favorite methods and patchwork a menu together: brisket in the vein of Texas, Kansas City–style ribs; gumbo and Brunswick stew round out the sides. From pit beef to sliced brisket, everything out of their kitchen is fired over cherry wood from Eastern Washington. The dining room has both lovely water views and a large screen TV for game spectating.
Reconcepts can be dicey, but Eric Banh turned Seven Beef, his upscale Vietnamese steak house in the Central District, into a more rugged space where smoke pervades everything from cocktails to Southern-style brisket to the chicken in the fried rice. The result is a little bit Southern, more overtly Asian, and sometimes just straight-up beefy; dinner might start with green papaya salad, then move on to spare ribs and collard greens and fish sauce wings. When this unlikely combo works it works, as in a side of bacon that’s thick as a deck of cards, its usual maple flavor offset with nuoc cham. The umbrella-dotted patio is absurdly pleasant.
Some barbecue joints are temples of meat and technique, a place to evaluate smoke rings and eschew sauce. However, enter this little pink storefront on Rainier and it feels like you just scored an invite to an epic family barbecue. A really nice family, at that. Brisket is tender, rib meat can’t wait to part ways with the bone, and it all comes slathered in a tangy tomato-based sauce. Sides are barbecue standards (baked beans, yams, coleslaw, potato salad) but are clearly made with care and no shortage of extra steps. This means fluffy corn bread and mac and cheese that isn’t overly soupy; the greens—cooked with bits of chopped-up brisket end—might be the best barbecue greens you’ll eat in this lifetime. Yes, you’ll be crazy full by the end of it all, but if Thanksgiving happened in summertime, it would taste like Emma’s sweet potato pie.
Meat snobs used to scoff that Seattle had no good barbecue. Then Jack Timmons set up a custom-built offset smoker outside his SoDo roadhouse (with subsequent spin-offs Downtown and in Amazonia). Timmons is a Texan—so brisket’s naturally the star, though you can't go wrong with the meats or sides (oh, hey Frito pie). Chairs don’t match, service is happy and harried, but the many tenderizing hours meat spends in that smoker—not to mention the gleeful geekery surrounding wood choice, sauce minimalism, and once-a-week gargantuan beef ribs—renders this all very charming.
Whether you find the name eye-rolly or hilarious, it’s hard to argue with the barbecue that originates, rather unexpectedly, from this narrow old Pike/Pine storefront. Owner Zac Johnson jumped through permitting hoops galore to install two commercial smokers upstairs that yield tender dry-rubbed brisket, pulled pork, and St. Louis–style ribs, all of which radiate the subtle flavor of Johnson’s many-spiced house rubs. His sauce hits that not-too-sweet spot between vinegar and Kansas City–style versions.
The guys behind Wood Shop BBQ delve into the Tex-Mex side of smoked meat in this food truck and cart. Look for them at summer Marymoor concerts and food truck meccas like Chuck’s Hop Shop. Meat-laden tacos and enormous burritos come with your choice of barbacoa (smoky), carnitas (unctuous), or chicken (flavorful). At Oaky’s, as in life, everything is better with queso—its version of the signature Tex-Mex dip melds processed white cheese and chile peppers to velvety, chip-coating perfection. The stuff has proved surprisingly versatile, garnishing everything from chimichangas to brisket chili.
At this SoDo legend you order a shredded barbecue beef sandwich at a takeout window, sit in the parking lot, burn your lips off—and love every goopy minute. Firephobes: Order it mild; it tastes like a sloppy joe. A second location debuted in West Seattle back in 2016, but the barbecue joint has since opened a headquarters in Kent and is eyeing a much bigger goal: a nationwide franchise.
The family behind the Raney Brothers BBQ food truck now serves its pulled pork sandwiches and grinders in an actual restaurant literally across the street from Jack’s BBQ—ballsy. The brick-and-mortar menu is meaty in the extreme, filled with burgers, melts (aka smoked meat chopped, mixed with celery and onion, and grilled with melted cheese), and a sandwich concoction known as “the Dude”: a heap of barbecue meat on top of a slab of meatloaf, garnished with slaw, grilled onions, and cheese. The fries might be as beloved as the carnivorous creations. Heads up: It’s 21 and over only.
A popular barbecue food truck begat an equally popular restaurant in the Central District, with a bar full of local beer and cocktails with house-smoked ingredients. The lineup of pulled pork, brisket, and mac and cheese bowls is the work of unabashed barbecue geek Matt Davis, a former furniture maker with a degree in wood technology. The barbecue is great, but the sprawling next-door patio is even better.