While Richmond isn’t particularly known for their BBQ, that doesn’t mean there aren’t places worth trying. And in fact, my top pick I truly believe is one of the best Texas style BBQ restaurants on the entire east coast. This is where to find the best BBQ in Richmond, Virginia.
I have organized this list in my order of preference. But like anything, individual tastes differ. So, if you prefer North Carolina style pulled pork to Texas style brisket, then you probably won’t agree with my #1. And neither of us would be wrong.
#1. ZZQ Texas Craft Barbeque
I said it the first time I ever came here, and I’ll say it again after trying many other BBQ joints around Richmond. ZZQ has the best BBQ in Richmond, and I’d put it on a list of the best Texas BBQ in the eastern United States.
Chris Fultz was born in Austin and raised outside Dallas before moving to Virginia to pursue a master’s degree at UVA. He was working as an architect in Richmond when he met and started dating Alex Graft in 2011, but BBQ had already been on his mind. Two years later, the two of them opened ZZQ Texas Craft Barbeque in Scott’s Addition.
Staying true to his Texas roots and deep love for the Central Texas style barbeque of Lockhardt and Austin, the brisket is the star of the show. And the smoked meats are served on a tray with butcher paper and meant to be shared. The beef ribs are worth trying and they offer prime rib and pastrami on certain days.
They open at 11, and a line often starts forming just before hand. It’s not uncommon for things to sell out later in the day, so I suggest going early. The biggest complaint I hear about ZZQ is about the price, and it is certainly the most expensive on this list. But it is also the best. So, weigh those based on whatever importance you assign to them.
What to Order: Some of the best brisket outside of Texas and the bacon ribs on Sundays
#2. Deep Run Roadhouse
I’m going to start with a bold and potentially controversial statement.
Deep Run Roadhouse doesn’t make the best of any one thing. But it might make the 2nd best of everything.
The prices are also reasonable, and so what that means for me is that Deep Run Roadhouse is the best overall BBQ in Richmond, VA for the money.
It’s a haul from downtown Richmond, but worth the drive. It’s an especially popular catering choice for any sized party, including weddings (I hope no brides ruined their dress with sauce!).
The Train Wreck Bowl is popular, but a little much for me (choice of meat, over mac & cheese, cowboy beans, and cornbread, topped with onions and jalapenos). Personally, I recommend building a platter with ribs, pulled pork, and brisket with a side of hush puppies or Texas caviar.
What to Order: Nothing here is my #1, but everything here is solid. They are also an excellent choice for catering.
My #3 pick is directly across the street from my top choice. But if you don’t know where to look, you might miss Smohk, as it is tucked behind Strangeways Brewing.
The specialty sandwiches are decent, and the brisket makes a case to be the 2nd best in Richmond behind ZZQ. The burnt ends appetizer is a great way to start. But I think this is the only place in town that does a smoked ribeye and so either the sandwich or platter with a side of Brunswick Stew should be on your radar.
What to Order: Brisket and smoked ribeye with beer from Strangways Brewing
#4. Freakin BBQ
Freakin BBQ has been serving wood-only barbeque since 2010, when the owner Jay brought his passion for North Carolina style BBQ to Richmond. I recommend you skip the brisket. And the pulled pork is fine, yet exponentially better when adding the vinegar-based BBQ sauce. What I really suggest coming for are two things that you can’t find at every other BBQ joint in town – the smoked wings with a heavy dose of dry rub and the lambchops. Freakin BBQ also hosts happy hour Fridays with DJs as well as karaoke nights.
What to Order: The smoked wings and the lambchops
#5. Redemption BBQ & Market
Redemption BBQ & Market serves up authentic Virginia style BBQ, with meat from local farms. The menu can change slightly based on availability.
If you don’t know what Virginia BBQ is, don’t fret. Very few people do. My family owned a BBQ restaurant for decades and I didn’t even know Virginia had a BBQ style.
But obviously Virginia ham is popular, so you can probably guess that the BBQ is very pork centered. After that, there aren’t really any set rules, but rather you will find the BBQ in different regions has similarities with their neighboring states.
Often, the barbeque is differentiated by the regional sauce used, and tends to be more wet (saucy) than other places. Redemption makes sauces representing various regions of Virginia:
- Central Virginia: Tangy, sweet, and savory tomato and vinegar sauce made with mushroom ketchup, a British precursor of Worcestershire sauce.
- Southside Virginia: Thin and tangy vinegar, tomato, and mustard sauce (spicy version also available)
- Northern Virginia: Tomato based sauce sweetened with apples
Redemption offers more than just the best Virginia BBQ though, with daily specials, great burgers, and they are well known for a pretty good Chicago style deep dish pizza that is made only on Fridays. It’s the only place I know of in the area that serves this. There are only a few tables, and it is popular for take-out.
What to Order: Virginia style BBQ and Chicago style deep dish pizza on Fridays
#6. Smokey Mug
This was probably my best surprise when it comes to Richmond BBQ. The Smokey Mug is a coffeeshop, Texas style craft BBQ joint, and Tex Mex kitchen all in one. I wasn’t really sure what to expect when compared to the more traditional BBQ spots in town.
While you can order individual meats like the pulled pork and brisket by weight (pork spare ribs and pork belly burnt ends available Fri-Sun), Smokey Mug’s true strength is their uniqueness.
The coffee shop side opens at 7am, and serves coffee, bagels, and a few breakfast items. The breakfast burrito and breakfast sandwich on bagel can come with bacon, chorizo, or the pulled pork. Sometimes there is an additional option like suadero (a cut of beef commonly found in Mexico but not so typical in the US).
But at 11am the BBQ side opens, and this is where things get exciting. The brisket taco comes on a homemade flour tortilla with refried beans. The chopped brisket sandwich is smoked to achieve the perfect bark, and topped with the mustard sauce, pickles, and red onions might be one of the best sandwiches in Richmond. And the pork belly burnt ends are a treat you won’t find elsewhere. Despite being a Texas style, the pulled pork is some of my favorite in the city and goes well with the sweet espresso BBQ sauce.
What to Order: Breakfast sandwiches (or Burrito) for breakfast and the Chopped Brisket Sandwich at lunch
#7. Jadean's Smokin' Six O
Jadean’s has been making BBQ in Richmond since 1976, a lifetime longer than any other place on this list. And it’s probably the spot that feels the most like a neighborhood hangout, where you will see the same people stopping in. It’s a place you’d be a regular at.
From a purely smoked meat perspective, Jadean’s is quite average. But if that’s your only criteria, I think you’d be missing out on what this place offers.
First, it was easily my least expensive meal on this list, with generous portions in the three-meat platter and two sides costing $19. Buying meats by the pound are also the least expensive on this list. And secondly, I like that they deviate from the basics on their daily specials menu which can feature things like soft shell crabs. And they serve baby back ribs, which aren’t very common in the area.
If you want a hipster vibe or expensive BBQ, skip Jadean’s. But if you want a neighborhood spot that provides great value, this is the place for you.
What to Order: Daily specials, BBQ at a great value, and Banana Pudding
In full disclosure, I tried to go to Ronnie’s a couple times, and they were closed (open only Fri-Sun). I normally wouldn’t list a place I hadn’t been to, but I felt it deserved a place holder. When I am in town next, I will make every attempt to stop by and place it in my rankings above. But for now, you get an Instagram picture and only what I’ve heard from others. I hate doing this, but I have heard great things and would rather have it here in some capacity than leaving a deserving spot off.
Ronnie’s BBQ is a family affair, as Ronnie Logan Sr and nearly his entire family run this spot. This is definitely a no-frills place, which is exactly how BBQ joints should be. Ronnie’s is known in the area for their ribs.
What to Order: The ribs