In the last decade or so, Portland has developed a thriving barbecue scene, with a good mix of restaurants and food carts offering smoky, seasoned meats like ribs, brisket, sausages, and pulled pork, all coated in or accompanied by a variety of sweet, spicy, and tangy sauces. Despite being far from the traditional heartlands of American barbecue, Portland has gained recognition from Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn, who claims that the city is home to some of the best Texas-style barbecue outside of Texas. Now, Portland’s barbecue landscape is in a state of flux, as killer spots such as the People's Pig, Bark City, and Holy Trinity have dropped from this map as they’ve closed up shop. Still, things look positive, as newcomers pull their carts into town looking to impress barbecue lovers with their own pitmasters’ secrets and skills. For a look at Portland’s equally dynamic Korean barbecue scene, find highlights here.Read More
14 Standout Barbecue Restaurants and Carts in Greater Portland
Where to find excellent American barbecue around the city and its suburbs
This carrot-colored cart is the latest to join the fray here in town, and it's pulling no punches. These smoked meats come throughly saturated with big oak smoke and heavy seasoning, and it's the sort of thing real barbecue lovers chase. And chase it they must, as Ferttie's has a busy schedule, popping up all over the Hillsboro area — and even further, out at wineries in the Willamette Valley. Eating pork belly burnt ends smoked over Oregon white oak for seven or eight hours, or slices of tender, juicy brisket smoked for nearly twice that while overlooking panoramic vistas and sipping syrah at Abbey Road Farm in Carlton, is an almost unforgettable experience. If In-N-Out in Keizer is worth a day trip, this is a no-brainer.
Wolf’s Head Smokehouse
While Beaverton’s diverse cart pod BG’s Food Cartel is home to not one, but two barbecue carts, we like Wolf’s Head for its variety of stellar sauces and meticulous smoking technique. Pitmasters Jason Wittek and Roy Doty combine barbecue methods from Texas to the Carolinas, serving oversized chunks of pork belly burnt ends, brisket, ribs, chopped pork, and sausage. Wolf’s Head stands out with its selection of sandwiches, burgers, and even a mac-and-cheese-stuffed brisket burrito. Its also spawned a burger cart three carts down in the same pod, while offering a tighter menu of nachos, wings, and barbecue sandwiches at Providence Park during Timbers games.
The cheery, bright cafe that put vegan barbecue on the map in Portland serves faux meats like smoked tempeh ribs with hush puppies, barbecue beans, and “macnocheeese.” The platter of vegan barbecue meats is always a safe bet, but regulars often opt for sandwiches or burritos with macnocheese and smoked soy curls. Homegrown Smoker also runs limited one-offs, including “crunchwrap Thursdays” where a different crunchwrap is created each week.
Formerly known as Jeka’s, Smoke Squad has relocated into the Munchies Food Pod in Tigard, where the aromas wafting by from the massive smoker lure in patrons from other nearby carts. Smoke Squad smokes tri-tip and spare ribs super slow, over a mix of oak and fruit woods. Owner Jacob Nicholson isn't beholden to any particular region’s barbecue rubs or sauces of choice, instead preferring to put their own spin on barbecue, using techniques from a variety of regions.
Think the jam-packed barbecue corridor between North Interstate and Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard doesn’t have room for yet another meat smoker? Wonderboy begs to differ, offering its smoked meats in a traditional meat-plus-sides format, or incorporated into loaded BBQ nachos, tacos, or a wild “mac and meat” featuring queso, pickled peppers, and green onions with choice of smoked meat. House-made sauces are similarly nontraditional, including tangy raspberry and mango pineapple sauces.
In December 2015, pitmaster Matt Vicedomini made his mark on Portland’s barbecue scene, smoking Texas-style, pink-ringed brisket, marbled with fat and fall-apart tender. He now operates out of the Prost Marketplace on Mississippi, additionally venturing into Thai food and BBQ taco territory. All the Texas-style meats are up for grabs in half- or full-pound portions, including brisket, turkey, pork belly, jalapeno sausage, and beef ribs available only by advanced reservation. Alongside these meats are Matt’s sauces, like the tangy peach mustard and spicy-sweet cherry chipotle. Matt’s BBQ is open seven days a week for outdoor dining at the pod, takeout, or delivery.
Miss Delta Restaurant and Bar
North Mississippi has no shortage of dining choices, but this cozy Southern restaurant offers a solid roster of po’ boys, catfish sandwiches, gumbo, and other Southern staples alongside some especially smoky barbecue. The smart play here is the Meat Sweats, a full platter of pulled pork, spare ribs, andouille sausage, blackened chicken, and brisket. This is big, oak-smoked flavor with a barbecue sauce that hits tangy with lingering pepper notes.
The Smokin’ Oak Pit
With the The Smokin’ Oak Pit opening in 2017, Vancouverites no longer need cross the Columbia to Northeast Portland to get their hands on some slow-smoked barbecue. Daily specials include pork belly burnt ends on Tuesdays, and big beef ribs on Wednesdays, but the brisket is the main attraction here. The sauces are served warm and both the brisket sauce and the barbecue sauce really take the brisket to its full potential. Folks over 21 can enjoy the selection of a hundred-ish whiskies in the lounge side to the left, while younger folks and families with kids have their own dining section. Its size also makes it especially capable of handling larger parties.
After transitioning from a cart in Northwest Portland, Botto’s BBQ is now bringing its back-to-basics mantra of “salt, pepper, and smoke” over on Southeast Milwaukie Ave, in the former Pok Pok Wing space. While the juicy and tender brisket and gooey mac and cheese are the main attractions here, the cheesy brisket hash is an absolute must. Botto’s also offers more obscure barbecue classics such as Brunswick stew.
From the team behind Laurelhurst Market, this family-friendly Sellwood restaurant brings Carolina-style chopped pork shoulder alongside barbecue favorites like St. Louis-style ribs and smoked brisket from Brandt Beef. Aside from smoked meats, it also fries chicken and hush puppies, however, the under-the-radar hit is the silky, creamy grilled polenta with creamed corn and tasso ham. Those looking for vegetarian items can find smoked tempeh sandwiches and meatless sides and salads.
Podnah’s Pit BBQ
Rodney Muirhead, the man behind Podnah’s, expanded the awareness of Portland’s barbecue scene when he opened his shop in 2006. Since then, Podnah's has appeared on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, and was named the best barbecue in the state by the Food Network. The $36 Pitboss Platter is still the crown jewel here. The monster plate comes with Texas-style brisket, Carolina-style pulled pork, ribs, a sausage link, a pair of sides, and cornbread.
Har-B-Q has taken up residence at Culmination Brewing, and specializes in smoked wings and pork shoulder seven days a week, while also dishing out tons of specials and sandwiches. Platters of meats are available here, but the limited specials like smoked beef cheek chilaquiles or various fried chicken sandwiches showcase the talent in the kitchen, and absolutely merit strong consideration.
Pitmaster Kevin Koch taught himself how to make the Kansas City-style barbecue of his childhood, first opening Lawless BBQ as a kind of ghost kitchen before moving into the Little Beast Beer Garden in October 2021. There, diners can find his Kansas City-style barbecue sauces atop tender ribs, pork belly burnt ends, or as optional dips for brisket that’s smoked for 13 hours. Fans of saucier, sweeter barbecue without especially assertive smoke flavor will be happily licking their fingers here.
Though Grasslands is based in Hood River, it regularly travels even as far north as Seattle, with regular pop ups in Portland, most often at Ruse Brewing. This is masterfully cooked barbecue, with elements of the Northwest integrated in the form of crystal hops used in sausages, and all meats being smoked over Oregon white oak. The pork belly burnt ends get a little twist in the form of a ginger soy glaze, while the mac and cheese has a bright zip from the hatch chiles, rounding out platters with great complexity and obvious attention to detail.