The Best BBQ in the Twin Cities (Ranked by a Texan)

best bbq in the twin cities

As somebody born and raised in Texas, one of my greatest fears when moving to Minneapolis revolved around one question:

Could I actually find good barbecue in the Twin Cities?

Now, that might seem like a silly piece of criteria for moving to a place. As a responsible adult, I should be much more concerned with grown-up subjects. Say the cost of living, the density of Fortune 500 companies and their impact on my local job prospects, etc., etc…

And yet I just couldn’t shake this fear that The Great North wouldn’t be able to satisfy those BBQ cravings which, for better or worse, seem ingrained in in my DNA.

ESPECIALLY because true BBQ is one of those things you just can’t fake. That charred perfection that can only be achieved by hours upon hours of slow smoking fresh cuts of meat over real wood… There’s no shortcuts. Nor substitutes.

Thankfully, this Texan found himself some top-notch barbecue options which have kept him happily planted in the Twin Cities for the past decade.

So yee-haw! Today, we’re ranking the best bbq in the Twin Cities!

Map of the best barbecue in Minneapolis – St. Paul

The best BBQ in the Twin Cities: Black Market StP

black market st paul

My personal favorite BBQ in the entire Twin Cities also happens to be the smallest BBQ spot in the entire Twin Cities. Black Market StP is accurately named; for years, the owner parked his smoker in front of his own house, and the dinning area was his front lawn.

These days, he drives his smoker over to an abandoned auto shop at the end of St. Paul’s High Bridge, sets up folding tables in the parking lot with a beautiful view of the St. Paul skyline, and gets to serving some of the most incredible BBQ in the entire Twin Cities.

It’s a setup that feels more like a speakeasy turned neighborhood block party than an actual restaurant, and that’s half the fun!

The whole event runs for just two hours starting at 5 PM every Friday and Saturday night, and you’ll want to order online, as early as possible. In Black Market’s timeline, that that means days in advance. (Be warned – everything is made to order, and this underground operation has become so popular that the menu sells out as early as Sunday or Monday for the upcoming weekend.)

Speaking of which, the menu is as tiny as the operation. You’ll usually find just five items – baby back pork ribs, beef brisket, beef short ribs, pork shoulder, and smoked beans. But no matter what you choose, it’s all incredible, and it’s all smoked for hours over locally sourced Minnesota black cherry wood. (Although for dessert, they did start carrying Bebe Zito ice cream, our personal pick for the best ice cream in the Twin Cities.)

black market stp

The most popular (and legit) barbecue restaurant: Old Southern BBQ

Old Southern BBQ is operated by award-winning pit master Dave Anderson. If that name sounds familiar but you just can’t pinpoint why, you may recognize him from his more common moniker – Famous Dave.

And while he sold Famous Dave’s a while ago (and it’s since took on a corporate life of it’s own) Old Southern BBQ is a return to Dave’s roots. And what a return it is! Dave is now churning out small-batch BBQ just like the good old days, along with his award winning sauces. It’s a fantastic addition to to the Twin Cities barbecue scene, and definitely some of the best around. 

The newest BBQ in Minneapolis: Stormking Brewpub and Barbecue

Here’s the lowdown on Stormking Brewpub’s unusual setup. It’s located in Minneapolis’s trendy North Loop neighborhood, and it’s half brewery taproom, half Texas BBQ.

All the ‘cue is smoked by Jordan Smith, the creator of one of the Twin Cities’ most popular coal fired pizza spots – Black Sheep Pizza. After he started serving Texas BBQ in the back of his pizza joint, it developed a cult following and eventually moved into the old ONE Fermentary taproom.

The craft beer now comes from Rapids Brewing Company, an operation out Grand Rapids, MN with a decorated history all of it’s own. (Their head brewer got his start at Alaskan Brewing Co.)

Back to the BBQ. You order it off the whiteboard scribbled menu, and the counter service brings it out to your table. (A table that we can only hope is packed-full with lots of tap beer!) Stormking calls it Texas BBQ, and I’ll give it my Texan seal of approval – the smoked brisket is the main event, and they even offer burnt ends for that authentic touch.

Best southern variety: Smoke in the Pit

Smoke in the Put just has that look of a great local BBQ spot. A tiny, ramshackle old building with a vinyl tarp for a sign, and an indoor space that consists of almost zero tables but an old drive through window to place your order. (That said, they recently painted the tired exterior with a beautiful, inspiring mural overlooking George Floyd Square.)

The family that runs this spot hails from Little Rock Arkansas, and their southern recipes create some of the best smoked meats around. The brisket and pork sandwiches are both wonderful, as are their unique take on smoked wings. And I know this is an article about BBQ, but no discussion of Smoke in the Pit would be complete without mentioning their fantastic fried catfish, available in either fillet or nugget form.

Most unique: Animales Barbecue Co.

Animales is a tiny little food trailer permanently parked between Able Brewery and MN Nice Cream, which basically makes the area the perfect 3D trifecta. (Dinner, Drinks, and Dessert!)

Take your pick from ribs, pork belly, beef cheeks, and a rotating selection of southern sides to go with. Animales does them all great.

And if you’re noticing a Mexican flair to this place’s name, you’re right on. In a spark of genius, Animales uses their expertly smoked meat for tacos, too. And I’d argue their birria tacos are actually the best thing on the menu!

  • Address: 1121 Quincy St NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
  • Website: Animales

Most popular MN style BBQ: Scott Ja-Mama’s Hot Barbeque

If you’re driving around the Lakes Nokomis/Southwest Minneapolis area at night, you might find yourself like an insect in the night – inexplicably drawn to the neon glow of Scott Ja-Mama’s window sign. It promises Hot Barbeque, which somehow always sounds oh-so-perfect on any Minnesota night. 

Once inside, the space looks like a hole-in-the-wall restaurant collided with your grandparent’s living room. There’s stuff everywhere, but pay close attention and you’ll notice most of that stuff includes awards and recognition for Scot Ja-Mama’s famous food.

The menu at Scott’s is small. Small enough the whole thing can fit on a tiny, handcrafted whiteboard. But it covers all the classics. From what I’ve gathered, the specialties are ribs and chicken. The ribs are baby back style – they’re slathered in sauce, but interestingly, don’t seem smoked. (I suspect these are the low, slow, oven variety.) Maybe not the true Texas-style BBQ that I’m used to, but the Minnesota locals seem to love it nonetheless.

Best smoked northern BBQ: Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue

Ted Cook’s is a small little BBQ shop in the Powderhorn neighborhood of South Minneapolis. With a history that dates back to 1968, this place is one of the original great BBQ joints in our city.

It’s changed hands a few times over the years and Ted Cook has sadly passed on, but this restaurant still carries on his tradition of smoking all its meats over hickory and cherry wood. The result is legit BBQ that can hit the spot, whether you’re carving ribs, (or rib tips!) smoked chicken, pulled pork, or even hot links.

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