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A variety of barbecue dishes like smoked chicken and ribs.
A variety of dishes from the menu.
Smokin J’s BBQ

Where to Eat Barbecue in San Diego Right Now

Chow down on pulled pork, tender brisket, and more

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A variety of dishes from the menu.
| Smokin J’s BBQ

San Diego might not be known as a barbecue hot spot but there’s still a strong and growing contingent of smoked meat pros specializing in various styles of American barbecue, turning out their own interpretations on pulled pork, brisket, beef ribs, and chicken. Read below for top options around town where the smoker is always on.

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Heritage Brewery & Barbeque

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By popular demand, Heritage has added the traditional barbecue platters served at its award-winning original San Juan Capistrano outpost to the menu at its brewery restaurant in Oceanside, which also holds a secret cocktail speakeasy. The barbecue specialist now offers its acclaimed brisket, pulled pork, and more a la carte and stuffs the smoked meat into tacos and sandwiches.

A large patio outside a restaurant.
Heritage Brewery & Barbecue.
Kimberly Motos

Smokin J's BBQ

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With restaurants in Poway as well as the Miramar area, Smokin J’s is run by the George brothers, including pitmaster Jeremy, a veteran barbecue pro. Grab some family and friends and try one of their sampler platters, which features a pound each of brisket and pulled pork as well as a whole chicken, toasted buns, and four sides including mac n’ cheese and “bean crack”, a mix of navy beans smoked and smothered in barbecue sauce with nuggets of pork belly.

Abbey's Real Texas BBQ

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This Miramar restaurant has become a hub where local business workers go for their barbecue fix, meaning it can get pretty busy during the noon hour. Lunch specials ring in under the $10 zone and include your choice of sandwiches loaded with beef brisket, pork shoulder, ham, chicken or kielbasa.

A tight photo of a plate of meat.
Combo plate at Abbey’s Real Texas BBQ.
Abbey’s Real Texas BBQ

Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs

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The East County outpost of this well-admired barbecue spot is a sprawling campus for dining as well as entertainment. Serving mostly Texas-style smoked meat, the restaurant’s original outpost is in North Park and there’s another branch inside Petco Park.

A photo of meat and sides.
Barbecue at Grand Ole BBQ in Flinn Springs.
Grand Ole BBQ

Buckboard's BBQ & Brew

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A popular catering company since 1999, this is Buckboard’s brick-and-mortar and a popular joint for ribs. Don’t miss out on sides like hush puppies with smoked jalapeño cream cheese, mac ‘n cheese balls with pasilla chile dipping sauce and a corn muffin with maple butter.

The Pioneer

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The sides at this La Mesa restaurant are just as important as the barbecue. Find beans with smoked bacon and pork belly, and crunchy, addicting onion rings. Feed the whole gang by ordering family meals with a selection of meats and sides to satisfy everyone.

Smokey and The Brisket BBQ

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Getting good marks in La Mesa, this spot smokes meat ‘round the clock, offering prime brisket, giant beef ribs, and smoked chicken a la carte along with sandwiches and barbecue-topped flatbreads.

An exterior photo of Smokey and the Brisket.
Smokey and the Brisket in La Mesa.
Courtesy photo

Corbin's Q

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Barbecue and craft beers make a tasty pairing at this El Cajon destination. The speciality is California-style barbecue tri-trip, smoked over red oak. Order the tri-tip in sandwiches and atop salads but don’t sleep on the smoked wings.

BBQ House Bar & Grill

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Open since 1991, the restaurant features a menu item that you can’t find anywhere else: a barbecue burrito. There are different versions: one lets you choose your own meat, one is made with rib tips, and the third is a riff on a Sloppy Joe with chopped up burnt ends. All come wrapped in a large flour tortilla with coleslaw and beans.

A tight photo of meat and fries.
Ribs and fries from BBQ House Bar & Grill.
BBQ House Bar & Grill

Grand Ole BBQ Y Asado

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Reopened in an even grander form in 2022, this North Park meat dealer is still slinging fantastic Texas barbecue from its mostly open-air corner spot. With tri-tip, spare ribs, hot links, and more at lunch and dinner (at least until they sell out) Wednesday through Saturday, Sundays are reserved for Argentine-style barbecue delicacies like chorizo sandwiches, skirt steak, and blood sausage.

A large outdoor patio with picnic tables. Kimberly Motos

Cali BBQ

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Spring Valley’s popular choice for barbecue, which also has locations on El Cajon Boulevard and in Barrio Logan, offers a menu loaded with specialties like ribs, tri-tip, rib tips, chicken, pulled pork. Feeding a big crowd? Consider the Tailgater BBQ Feast packed with enough meats to feed four to five guests plus mac ‘n’ cheese, beans, slaw, potato salad and cornbread.

A photo of food on a board.
A series of sides and entrees from Cali Comfort BBQ.
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Coops West Texas BBQ

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Still going strong after almost a decade, pitmaster Bradley “Coop” Cooper is the definition of a pro when it comes to smoking meats, specifically his ribs and brisket. Craving fried chicken with your barbecue? Also check out Da Chicken Coop, his adjacent fried chicken shack.

Meat in an oven.
Grilling meat at Lone Star Style: Coop’s West Texas BBQ.
Lone Star Style: Coop’s West Texas BBQ

El Barbecue

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Bringing barbecue to Sherman Heights, this industry-friendly spot offers an eclectic menu that ranges from classics like beef back ribs and pulled pork to Scottish salmon served with charred lemon aioli.

Bowlegged B.B.Q

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This longtime spot on Mount Hope focuses on East Texas-style barbecue. Owned and operated by the Stance family, the menu incorporates family recipes passed down from generation to generation. Head in and dig into ribs, tri-tip and brisket. Save room for dessert like the lemon cake.

A photo of a meat sandwich with a knife next to it.
A barbecue sandwich from Bowlegged B.B.Q.
Bowlegged B.B.Q

Modbom Cocktails & Coffee Bar x Papalo Kitchen

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Originally launched at Little Thief, chef Drew Bent’s Sonoran-style barbecue outfit is now centralized in the East Village where Papalo operates in tandem with this recently-opened coffee and cocktail bar. Bent offers breakfast burritos in the mornings and his house-smoked barbecue platters as well as burgers Wednesday through Sunday while on Mondays and Tuesdays, the chef cooks up zero-waste woodfired pizzas.

Smoked mole barbecue chicken, cornbread with citrus coconut butter, creamy pinto beans, and saffron rice.
Smoked mole barbecue chicken, cornbread with citrus coconut butter, creamy pinto beans, and saffron rice.
James Tran

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Heritage Brewery & Barbeque

By popular demand, Heritage has added the traditional barbecue platters served at its award-winning original San Juan Capistrano outpost to the menu at its brewery restaurant in Oceanside, which also holds a secret cocktail speakeasy. The barbecue specialist now offers its acclaimed brisket, pulled pork, and more a la carte and stuffs the smoked meat into tacos and sandwiches.

A large patio outside a restaurant.
Heritage Brewery & Barbecue.
Kimberly Motos

Smokin J's BBQ

With restaurants in Poway as well as the Miramar area, Smokin J’s is run by the George brothers, including pitmaster Jeremy, a veteran barbecue pro. Grab some family and friends and try one of their sampler platters, which features a pound each of brisket and pulled pork as well as a whole chicken, toasted buns, and four sides including mac n’ cheese and “bean crack”, a mix of navy beans smoked and smothered in barbecue sauce with nuggets of pork belly.

Abbey's Real Texas BBQ

This Miramar restaurant has become a hub where local business workers go for their barbecue fix, meaning it can get pretty busy during the noon hour. Lunch specials ring in under the $10 zone and include your choice of sandwiches loaded with beef brisket, pork shoulder, ham, chicken or kielbasa.

A tight photo of a plate of meat.
Combo plate at Abbey’s Real Texas BBQ.
Abbey’s Real Texas BBQ

Grand Ole BBQ Flinn Springs

The East County outpost of this well-admired barbecue spot is a sprawling campus for dining as well as entertainment. Serving mostly Texas-style smoked meat, the restaurant’s original outpost is in North Park and there’s another branch inside Petco Park.

A photo of meat and sides.
Barbecue at Grand Ole BBQ in Flinn Springs.
Grand Ole BBQ

Buckboard's BBQ & Brew

A popular catering company since 1999, this is Buckboard’s brick-and-mortar and a popular joint for ribs. Don’t miss out on sides like hush puppies with smoked jalapeño cream cheese, mac ‘n cheese balls with pasilla chile dipping sauce and a corn muffin with maple butter.

The Pioneer

The sides at this La Mesa restaurant are just as important as the barbecue. Find beans with smoked bacon and pork belly, and crunchy, addicting onion rings. Feed the whole gang by ordering family meals with a selection of meats and sides to satisfy everyone.

Smokey and The Brisket BBQ

Getting good marks in La Mesa, this spot smokes meat ‘round the clock, offering prime brisket, giant beef ribs, and smoked chicken a la carte along with sandwiches and barbecue-topped flatbreads.

An exterior photo of Smokey and the Brisket.
Smokey and the Brisket in La Mesa.
Courtesy photo

Corbin's Q

Barbecue and craft beers make a tasty pairing at this El Cajon destination. The speciality is California-style barbecue tri-trip, smoked over red oak. Order the tri-tip in sandwiches and atop salads but don’t sleep on the smoked wings.

BBQ House Bar & Grill

Open since 1991, the restaurant features a menu item that you can’t find anywhere else: a barbecue burrito. There are different versions: one lets you choose your own meat, one is made with rib tips, and the third is a riff on a Sloppy Joe with chopped up burnt ends. All come wrapped in a large flour tortilla with coleslaw and beans.

A tight photo of meat and fries.
Ribs and fries from BBQ House Bar & Grill.
BBQ House Bar & Grill

Grand Ole BBQ Y Asado

Reopened in an even grander form in 2022, this North Park meat dealer is still slinging fantastic Texas barbecue from its mostly open-air corner spot. With tri-tip, spare ribs, hot links, and more at lunch and dinner (at least until they sell out) Wednesday through Saturday, Sundays are reserved for Argentine-style barbecue delicacies like chorizo sandwiches, skirt steak, and blood sausage.

A large outdoor patio with picnic tables. Kimberly Motos

Cali BBQ

Spring Valley’s popular choice for barbecue, which also has locations on El Cajon Boulevard and in Barrio Logan, offers a menu loaded with specialties like ribs, tri-tip, rib tips, chicken, pulled pork. Feeding a big crowd? Consider the Tailgater BBQ Feast packed with enough meats to feed four to five guests plus mac ‘n’ cheese, beans, slaw, potato salad and cornbread.

A photo of food on a board.
A series of sides and entrees from Cali Comfort BBQ.
Google Images

Coops West Texas BBQ

Still going strong after almost a decade, pitmaster Bradley “Coop” Cooper is the definition of a pro when it comes to smoking meats, specifically his ribs and brisket. Craving fried chicken with your barbecue? Also check out Da Chicken Coop, his adjacent fried chicken shack.

Meat in an oven.
Grilling meat at Lone Star Style: Coop’s West Texas BBQ.
Lone Star Style: Coop’s West Texas BBQ

El Barbecue

Bringing barbecue to Sherman Heights, this industry-friendly spot offers an eclectic menu that ranges from classics like beef back ribs and pulled pork to Scottish salmon served with charred lemon aioli.

Bowlegged B.B.Q

This longtime spot on Mount Hope focuses on East Texas-style barbecue. Owned and operated by the Stance family, the menu incorporates family recipes passed down from generation to generation. Head in and dig into ribs, tri-tip and brisket. Save room for dessert like the lemon cake.

A photo of a meat sandwich with a knife next to it.
A barbecue sandwich from Bowlegged B.B.Q.
Bowlegged B.B.Q

Modbom Cocktails & Coffee Bar x Papalo Kitchen

Originally launched at Little Thief, chef Drew Bent’s Sonoran-style barbecue outfit is now centralized in the East Village where Papalo operates in tandem with this recently-opened coffee and cocktail bar. Bent offers breakfast burritos in the mornings and his house-smoked barbecue platters as well as burgers Wednesday through Sunday while on Mondays and Tuesdays, the chef cooks up zero-waste woodfired pizzas.

Smoked mole barbecue chicken, cornbread with citrus coconut butter, creamy pinto beans, and saffron rice.
Smoked mole barbecue chicken, cornbread with citrus coconut butter, creamy pinto beans, and saffron rice.
James Tran

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