Tulsa’s Best BBQ Houses: An honest look at why Tulsa may be the BBQ Capital of the World.

By on July 4, 2015

Contributors: Brian McCullough, Brian Schwartz, Mitch Dees, Valerie Grant (photos).
Consultant: Special thanks to Joe Price

There is something about Tulsa that attracts and keeps artists of diverse backgrounds who continue to develop our distinct culture.  And, correspondingly, there is something about Tulsa that produces champions of Q. So, this is TulsaFood’s most ambitious and unashamedly forthright declaration of the best BBQ in the Tulsa Metro Area and why buying a plane ticket to travel here just to sample what we do is money well spent. We have broken this list up into six categories to highlight how these establishments stand out on their own: People’s Choice, Best Undiscovered, Best Food Truck/Trailer, Best Local Chain, Best Old Timers, and Best Award Winning.  Here it is, one of TulsaFood’s most controversial top lists of all time:

 

People’s Choice

Tulsans voted in an independent poll and these three are the people’s favorites: Burn Co, Mac’s, and Trails End

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Burn Co.

Adam Myers and Robby Corcoran are the minds behind this concept that has developed the largest cult following of any BBQ house in the state. The duo is up and working by 4:30AM preparing to serve (what many believe to be) the city’s best ribs and house made sausages at lunch.

The bark that these guys put on their ribs is ridiculous and the open kitchen reveals the crew cooking these beauties on 12 Hasty-Bake grills set underneath an enormous vent hood in the center. Adam and Robby are proud of every rack they send out – and rightly so. The crispy charcoal fired crust blends with the tender smokey meat that clings to the bone just enough to give your teeth something to pull while your taste buds say thank you.

1738 South Boston Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74119
(918) 574-2777

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Mac’s

Every day people drive past at least 14 different BBQ restaurants to get to Mac’s in Skiatook. They drive from Nowata.  They drive from Tulsa.  They drive from Owasso.  They drive from the city and they drive from the sticks. Why?  Maybe it’s their commitment to sourcing only the highest quality of beef and pork.  Maybe it’s the addicting flavor combination of the original rub and award winning sauce created by founder Mike McMillian back in the early 80’s.  Maybe it’s because Mac’s has always been family owned and operated so it feels more like sitting down to eat in a good friends home than simply grabbing a bite at a restaurant.  Maybe it’s just damn good and there’s no reason to over think it.  Mike McMillion has won his fair share of highly coveted competition titles with his technique and recipes including the American Royal and Jack Daniels Invitational.  Mac’s celebrates its 30 year anniversary this year.  30 years.  We suggest you get out there and experience what 3 decades of pure BBQ domination tastes like.

1030 W Rogers
Blvd Skiatook, OK
74070
918-396-4165

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Trails End

If you live in Owasso, you know all about it. Trails End BBQ and Grill was founded in 1997 by a man named John Cash. There is little doubt that the people’s choice votes Trails End received is not only a result of consistent quality Q he pulls out of his Southern Pride smoker everyday, but also because of the endless contributions to the community that John has made over the years. Those in the Owasso community have lost count of how many times John has fed (at his time and expense) so many people whether in celebration or grieving – ball teams, families who have lost loved ones, families in need around the holidays, community events, and the list goes on. Recently John was featured on Trisha Yearwood’s show on Food Network.  It couldn’t have happened to more down-to-earth, generous dude.

We love John’s pulled pork and broccoli salad.  Here is our ritual, feel free to copy: (1) Order the pulled pork with a side broccoli salad and fried okra. (2) Ask for a side of the hot BBQ sauce. (3) When plate is delivered tell your server “thank you”, then eat a couple pieces of the fried okra. (4) Remove the top bun. (5) Dump the broccoli salad on the pulled pork. (6) Generously apply a 50/50 combination of the Trails End house mild and hot BBQ sauce. (7) Place the top bun back on the sandwich (8) Enjoy.

8888 North Garnett Road
Owasso, OK 74055
(918) 272-7427

Best Undiscovered

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Donny Teel’s (AKA Buffalo’s)

Drive north on Peoria past schools and muddy lots and you cross the city line at 56th Street. A straggle of low-slung shops and junked cars is Turley, maybe a bar or two (one had a big painting of a frog on the outside wall, with the legend “It’s always hopping!”). At some point Peoria — basically a country road by then, with a lot more cows than houses — becomes Highway Eleven, and just after you come to the Sperry town line there’s a Daylight Donuts shop. In the parking lot of that donut shop you will see a white food trailer.

Out of this trailer comes, arguably, the best barbecue in Tulsa. Donny Teel devotes his life to barbecue competitions and if there’s a big competition anywhere in the U.S.A. he just hitches up his trailer and drives there. Chances are he’ll win first prize. He’s won dozens of awards and once or twice he’s won the BBQ equivalent of the World Series. If, however, there is no contest, you have the chance to buy those award-winning ribs here. You should always phone to make sure he’s in town. We were lucky we called ahead because though it was early in the day his daughter told us, “you better hurry we have only one rack left.” She said she’d hold them for us and, wow, we were grateful she did.

Donny also well deserves to be listed in our “Best Award Winning Category” and “Best Food Truck/Trailer” below.  So we will credit him here:

If you want to experience what the championship standards are for look, texture, and taste of ribs and brisket this is well worth the drive.  Go find out for yourself why Donny is a favorite to win any pro BBQ competition he enters.

Check out this badass resume:

  • Jack Daniels BBQ World Championship
    • Grand Champion
  • American Royal BBQ (Worlds Largest BBQ Contest with 500+ teams)
    • Grand Champion
    • Reserve Grand Champion (2 times)
  • Grand Champion Side Dish Contest (2 times)
  • 40+ Grand Championships in 8 States
  • Scored 717.1430 out of 720.0000 Possible Highest Score in a KCBS contest
  • Best Pork Cook Team of the Year 2006

201 N Highway 11
Sperry, OK 74073
(918) 288-6200

 

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Boston Deli Grill & Market

The name can be deceiving because this deli serves up some of the best ‘que around. At lunch time they feature deli meats smoked on a Hasty-Bake charcoal grill for their amazing sandwiches. In the evening when they transform into a full service restaurant, they serve too many things smoked on a Hasty-Bake charcoal grill to list. For us, the ultimate magic happens on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Wednesday they serve their BBQ mix plate for two (featured above), which includes house made smoked sausage, Hasty-Bake smoked ribs, brisket and chicken. It’s life changing, we assure you! On Saturday starting at 5pm, stop in for their Hasty-Bake smoked rib plate or get them by the rack to go! Tip: You can get baby back ribs in the market almost all week to take home.

6231 E 61st St,
Tulsa, OK 74136
(918) 492-4745

Best Food Trucks

IMG_7386Mike’s BBQ

Most of the people we talk to about Mike’s BBQ say they have seen the truck, but have never stopped to order anything. Listen, you should stop by the next time you pass by Mike’s BBQ food truck. Mike and his truck are normally parked outside of the Fiesta Mart in South Tulsa at 91st and Delaware, but you can always locate the truck by going to his Mike’s BBQ Tulsa Facebook page. In 2013, TulsaFood dubbed Mike the King of South Tulsa BBQ for many delicious reasons. The brisket, ribs and pulled pork are always on point and smoked to perfection. He doesn’t use any sauce, just pecan wood smoke, low and slow. Our personal favorite is the pulled pork sandwich with extra bark and a side of coleslaw. Try piling the slaw onto your sandwich with some of Mike’s Sweet Baby Rays BBQ Sauce and grub! Tip: If you are wanting to place a large order, all you have to do is call a day in advance and Mike will hook you up!

Friday and Saturday
91st & Delaware
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74137
(918) 809-3208 (Call in for Catering or for Location)

 

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The Rub Truck makes our list for a few different reasons.  First of all co-owner/pit-master, Joel Bien, is just getting started and is already making a name.  It’s impressive when you see a newcomer in the BBQ world work hard and begin to compete professionally in this town.  Secondly, we really like his sauces.  They are distinct; the BBQ particularly is more savory, complex and less overly sweet than we experience so often in this region.  And third, The Rub Truck has had the guts to go in with The Dogfather, Josh Lynch, and open Tulsa’s first food truck park, The Park in the Pearl.  So Joel, a born and bred Tulsan who loves to smoke meat (and is actually very good at it), has created distinctive sauces, and has opened a food truck park in under a year.  Pretty impressive.

Best Old Timers

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Elmer’s Barbeque

Tulsa has been a BBQ town for decades and although only a few of the legacy bbq joints remain, Elmer’s is still around and it is still amazing. The restaurant has been kicking out 100% hickory smoked meats since 1983. When you step into Elmer’s you can’t help but notice the jazz memorabilia and instruments that line the walls and wonder if you’ve actually visited a Jazz museum. Our saxophone playing, President Clinton, has even sampled the que here. At Elmer’s, it is all about the Badwitch. This famous sandwich is piled high with a sampling of Elmer’s finest meats which include chopped beef, smoked bologna, and a hot link. If that wasn’t enough it also comes with a rib on the side. The picture above is the deconstructed Barwich with buttered toast. And trust us “It be bad”***, just look at the bark on those ribs!

4130 S Peoria Ave,
Tulsa, OK 74105
(918) 742-6702

IMG_1550Albert G’s

23 years ago, in 1992, owner Chuck Gawey turned a refurbished gas station at 27th and Harvard into a legendary Tulsa House of BBQ.  Since then, for many Tulsans Albert G’s signature rub and sauce on their high grade beef and pork has come to define “what bbq should taste like.”  The TulsaFood crew was just in for lunch at their new downtown location a couple days ago and we could barely get in the building the place was so crammed full.  It’s impossible to maintain that level of loyalty over more than two decades in the BBQ business in this town unless you are doing it right and doing it with care.  Their beef is 100% Angus slow smoked while you were sleeping the night before, so you can’t go wrong ordering anything off the menu from a cow. Albert G’s easily makes this top list as one of the best classic destinations for historic Q in town.

2748 S. Harvard
(918) 747-4799

412 E. 1st Street
(918) 728-3650

Best Local BBQ Chain

IMG_1532Rib Crib

Rib Crib loves BBQ and they know how to share it. Although they have grown into nine states over the last 25 years, they started right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The original “BBQ Shack” on Harvard is still in business and surely reminds the restaurant chain of simpler times. Since the 90’s they have evolved their brand while also playing a large role in promoting their love of BBQ culture locally in Tulsa. Every year Rib Crib presents the Tulsa area with the Rock ’n Rib Festival, which showcases BBQ from a handful of competitive teams from across the country. Pictured above is the Pitmaster’s Choice. This plate of smokey ‘que includes chopped brisket, pulled pork and a rib. Since it’s difficult to get good Carolina style BBQ in this region, we enjoy the Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwich made with smoked pulled pork and topped with coleslaw and their Carolina mustard sauce. Rib Crib has created jobs for thousands and thousands of people, been consistently generous in the community, while delivering solid BBQ over 2.5 decades.  This is definitely a company that Tulsa is proud to call our own.

New Downtown Location
302 E 1st St, Tulsa, OK 74120
(918) 938-7090

Best Award Winning 

IMG_1185Oklahoma Joe’s

We are fortunate enough to have one of Anthony Bourdain’s “13 places to eat before you die” right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We concur and advise you to drive to Oklahoma Joes at once, if you’ve never been, and get yourself some of the best BBQ in the country. It is not surprising their pecan wood-smoked meats and BBQ are so impressive, since founder and Oklahoma native Joe Davidson holds a mind blowing amount of barbecue championship titles. In fact, he’s won more than 300 events including the American Royal, Jack Daniel’s, and Memphis in May. The Oklahoma based franchise is also proud to be a family run company. Tip: You’ve got to try our favorites like the burnt ends, ribs, and pulled pork. Also, if their fried okra isn’t already “award winning,” it should be because yeah, it is that good.

333 W Albany St,
Broken Arrow, OK 74012
(918) 355-0000

TulsaFood.com Staff

About TulsaFood.com Staff

TulsaFood’s mission is to inspire it’s readers to visit local restaurants, experiment with new cuisines, and enjoy amazing dining experiences in the Tulsa area. We achieve this through our commitment to publishing consistent, relevant, and excellent writing, photography, and videography that highlights our city’s incredible food culture.

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