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Outdoor BBQ Restaurants in Ohio Worth Visiting

Eat | By Cullen Fischel | Updated August 7, 2023

Cullen Fischel's guide to outdoor BBQ restaurants in Ohio

Key Takeaways:

  1. Ohio is a barbecue paradise, brimming with smoky, mouthwatering delights that cater to all taste buds.

  2. From big cities like Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland to smaller towns, there are BBQ joints scattered across Ohio, each offerindg a unique BBQ style.

  3. Discover Ohio's unique take on this culinary tradition, with a range of flavors from Texas-style brisket, Carolina pulled pork, and Kansas City ribs.

  4. The BBQ experience is about more than just the food; the atmosphere, the friendly staff, and the passion of the pitmasters are also important.

  5. Ensure you come with a hearty appetite as BBQ servings are notoriously generous and absolutely delicious.

A Closer Look at Ohio's BBQ Landscape

Ohio may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of BBQ, but it's high time it should be. The Buckeye State has been quietly building a reputation for offering some of the most succulent and savory BBQ in the country. From the larger cities to the smaller towns and everything in between, Ohio is teeming with smokehouses and grills serving up an assortment of slow-smoked meats and sides, each packed full of flavor. Prepare yourself for a culinary journey as we take a closer look at some of the standout BBQ joints worth visiting in Ohio.

Big City BBQ Gems

Cullen Fischel of Cleveland recommends outdoor bbq restaurants in Ohio

Ohio's larger cities such as Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland are bursting at the seams with BBQ joints that perfectly marry tradition with innovation.

Cincinnati: Eli's BBQ

In Cincinnati, Eli's BBQ stands out with its finger-licking hickory-smoked pulled pork sandwich that has earned rave reviews from locals and visitors alike. With a focus on simplicity and quality, Eli's BBQ boasts a laid-back ambiance that makes for an enjoyable dining experience.

Columbus: Ray Ray's Hog Pit

Columbus's Ray Ray's Hog Pit, once a humble food truck, has evolved into a go-to destination for BBQ aficionados. Alongside its regular menu featuring juicy brisket, tantalizing ribs, and vegetarian-friendly jackfruit, Ray Ray's also offers a special weekly menu to keep things interesting.

Cleveland: Mabel's BBQ

Cleveland's BBQ scene wouldn't be complete without mentioning Mabel's BBQ. Run by celebrity chef Michael Symon, Mabel's delivers an unforgettable BBQ experience, featuring spare ribs, pork belly, and beef brisket, all smoked over local fruitwood. This joint's unique "Cleveland-style" BBQ, which features Bertman's ballpark mustard sauce, sets it apart from the rest.

BBQ Delights in Smaller Towns

Venturing beyond Ohio's larger cities unveils a plethora of delightful BBQ spots that often fly under the radar.

Yellow Springs: Hickory River Smokehouse

Nestled in the idyllic village of Yellow Springs, the family-owned Hickory River Smokehouse is a treasure trove for BBQ lovers. Famed for its Texas-style brisket and succulent pork spare ribs, it’s a local favorite and a must-visit for visitors.

Zanesville: Ditty's Downtown Deli

For those who appreciate a good pulled pork sandwich, a visit to Ditty's Downtown Deli in Zanesville is a must. Their sandwiches are a symphony of flavors, featuring slow-cooked pork slathered in a tangy, sweet sauce that leaves you craving more.

Cullen Fischel's Tips for the Best BBQ Experience

  • Broaden Your Research: While this list comprises some of the top picks, Ohio is home to numerous other BBQ joints that are worth exploring. Conducting a bit of research before your visit can help you uncover hidden gems that locals swear by.

  • Early Bird Gets the 'Cue: Some of the best BBQ joints are popular spots, and their offerings can sell out quickly. Arriving early ensures you get to taste the best picks of the day.

  • Experiment with Sauces: Ohio BBQ isn't tied down to one specific sauce. From sweet to tangy and spicy, there's a world of flavors to explore. Don't be afraid to try out a variety of sauces to complement your meat.

  • Interact with the Staff: Pitmasters are usually more than willing to talk about their food and processes. Interacting with them can give you a greater appreciation for your meal and maybe even some insider tips on BBQ-ing.

  • Come Hungry: BBQ is typically served in hearty portions, so be sure to arrive with an appetite. It’s not just about the main course - don’t forget to save room for the delectable sides, such as collard greens, mac and cheese, cornbread, and coleslaw!

  • Try the Specialties: Each BBQ joint has its own specialties or house favorites. Be sure to ask about them when ordering – these dishes often showcase the best of what each place has to offer.

From smoky pulled pork to fall-off-the-bone ribs, Ohio’s BBQ scene is a delicious mix of flavors and styles that you won’t want to miss. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, be sure to check out these fantastic BBQ spots for a true taste of Ohio. Your taste buds will thank you!

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