The Absolute Best Ribs In The U.S.

If you eat meat, you almost certainly love ribs. And if you don't eat meat, it's not likely you're reading this. So let's hear it for the most delicious part of the pig or cow! Barbecued, braised, or baked, baby back or spare, there's little that can compare to the experience of devouring a plate of expertly-prepared ribs. The perfect rib falls off the bone, melts in your mouth, and tantalizes your palette with a delicate flavor mixture of tangy and sweet.

With so many regional styles of ribs across the United States and no shortage of rib joints boasting that their signature dish is the best, narrowing it all down to a best-of list might seem like a daunting task. Thankfully, we've done the heavy lifting for you and compiled a list of the absolute best ribs in the country. To discover where you can find them, read on.

Pappy's Smokehouse - St. Louis

Foodies tend to develop hardcore, unshakable opinions, especially when it comes to their local cuisine. You'd better not mess with Tex-Mex-style tacos, Chicago-style sausage, New England-style chowder, or New York-style pizza! That's why it was remarkable how quickly the people of St. Louis accepted the radical new rib-cooking style of Pappy's Smokehouse co-founder Mike Emerson and his pitmaster Skip Steele. 

As reported by St. Louis Magazine, "Prior to the arrival of Pappy's in 2008, locals tended to grill (or boil and then grill) pork spare ribs before slathering them with a sweet, tomato-based sauce." Then, along came Emerson and Steele, audaciously dry-rubbing and slow-smoking their ribs. And thus, a legend was born. It didn't take long for Pappy's Smokehouse to earn the Food Network-bestowed honor of Best Ribs in the U.S. Here's to always remaining open-minded, and open-mouthed, to better receive a forkful of delicious barbecued ribs.

Bludso's Bar & Que - Los Angeles

Los Angeles isn't necessarily the first place one thinks of when it comes to barbecue. Still, traditionalists can rest assured because Kevin Bludso, responsible for the finest beef ribs in Tinseltown, is originally from Texas. As legendary food writer Jonathan Gold tells readers of the LA Times, Bludso's Lone Star State roots mean that he "specializes in thick hunks of slow-cooked cow ringed deeply where the smoke has penetrated." The original Bludso's, which was located in Compton, closed down in 2016, giving way to the present-day location with its gastropub feel. 

Luckily, the ribs are the same, and the customers are equally satisfied. This rave review, posted by a customer on Google, is typical of the appreciation that Blusdo's tends to attract: "The pork ribs were my favorite, the rub was sweet and savory and tasted so good it didn't even need BBQ sauce!" It's definitely a relief to know that Bludso's ribs have survived the gentrification of barbecue with their world-class taste intact.

Louie Mueller Barbeque - Taylor, Texas

Texas Monthly rhapsodizes about Louie Mueller BBQ's signature dish, the gigantic beef rib, in a manner worthy of the state's literary son Larry McMurtry: "A prehistoric sampling of fatty deliciousness so rich that one bite has been known to induce dizziness and swooning ... the most primal experience Texas barbecue has to offer." If that description makes Louie Mueller BBQ sound like a church and portrays customers as devout zealots who partake in eating ribs as a religious rite, well, then at least it's a cult that's very well-fed. 

Louie Mueller BBQ has both tenure and pedigree. According to the restaurant's website, Pitmaster Wayne Mueller currently calls the shots at the family institution in Taylor, Texas, which was founded by his grandfather in 1949. The James Beard Foundation awarded Louie Mueller BBQ with the prestigious American Classic award, reserved for restaurants that "serve quality food that reflects the character of their communities."

Twin Anchors - Chicago

Not many rib joints score even an entry in the famously elitist Michelin Guide, let alone a coveted star. But the Twin Anchors restaurant — a Chicago institution since 1932 — makes it into the handbook's snooty pages. Twin Anchors is designated with L'Assiette Michelin, or the Michelin Plate, which indicates a restaurant that serves "quality food."

Okay, so that seems like the equivalent of a participation trophy, but the Michelin Guide does praise Twin Anchors' "legendary" ribs: "Fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs are the real deal, made with a sweet and spicy rub, served with their own 'zesty' sauce." 

Chicago may be known more for its Polish sausage and deep-dish pizza; however, rib fans who feel stranded in the Midwest — and think they have to venture south of the Mason-Dixon line to get the real deal — are wrong. If you can't trust praise from a guide so stingy that it only awards its highest star rating to 13 restaurants in the entire country, who can you trust?

Roper's Ribs - St. Louis

A solid indication that a barbecue joint is confident regarding the quality of its ribs is if the name of the establishment actually contains the word "ribs." The Roper's menu does list items other than ribs, but as St. Louis Magazine advises visitors to the restaurant, "a thick plume of hickory smoke clairvoyantly signals you to abandon any other options and simply succumb to a tasty slab of the namesake dish at Roper's." 

If you must order something other than ribs at Roper's Ribs, regulars advise that you try a snoot or two. "What is a snoot?" you may well ask. Why, it's a grilled pig nose, of course. Ribs and snoots apparently pair as naturally as wine and cheese for fans of St. Louis' regional cuisine. As one Facebook reviewer says, "The Ribs fell off the bone and the Snoot cracked perfectly with an amazing chew." As it turns out, while you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, you certainly can turn a pig's nose into a delicious side dish.

Hill Country Barbecue Market - New York City

Hill Country Barbecue Market has locations in New York and Washington D.C. Decent barbecued ribs in the Northeast? You could be forgiven some skepticism. Pizza, sure. Clam chowder, of course. Lobster, yes, please! But barbecue? Even Hill Country's name seems like a rather desperate evocation of Texas for cred. But The Infatuation says Hill Country serves up "some of our favorite barbecue in [Washington] DC," and while that may seem like damning with faint praise, the restaurant's ribs have attracted national attention as well. 

The Daily Meal names Hill Country's ribs as one of the 35 best in the U.S.: "They're peppery, tender but don't fall off the bone, and delicately scented with wood smoke." So live a little, foodies! Cast aside any preconceived notions of regional culinary specialties. Grab a slice of pizza in the South, a plate of nachos in the Midwest, and a serving of Texas-style ribs at Hill Country Barbecue. Chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised and pleasantly sated.

The Shed Smokehouse & Juke Joint - Knoxville

You could claim The Shed's dry-rubbed ribs aren't world-class; however, its faithful patronage, which includes biker gangs, would suggest otherwise. According to the Knoxville News, a Harley-Davidson dealership located next to The Shed in Maryville, Tennessee has given this restaurant a sizable motorcycle-riding clientele: "A blend of cherry and oak create the real wood-smoked barbecue that has become popular for motorcyclists and locals alike." 

If the ribs don't clog your arteries enough, you could add on the Fatboy Burger, which, according to the newspaper, is made up of no less than three kinds of meat. Those who prefer to get around on four wheels are also fans of The Shed's ribs. Reviewers on Yelp call the restaurant's famous dish "amazing," "nice and moist," "very tasty," "juicy," and with "the perfect char." One naysayer derides them as "burnt skinny," though the majority of customers rave about the food at this restaurant. Most are also intrigued by The Shed's unique atmosphere, perpetuated by its loyal bikie customers.  

Ray Ray's Hog Pit - Columbus, Ohio

Guy Fieri visited Ray Ray's Hog Pit in an episode of "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" called "College Town Champs." The platinum-haired chef gave thumbs up to Ray Ray's St. Louis Cut Spare Ribs, noting that the food truck's owner, James Anderson, actually raises his own pigs. If you're a Fieri devotee, his endorsement is likely all you need. Ray's Ray's Hog Pit has four locations in Ohio, three of which are food trucks. 

Food Network fan writes, "We go out of our way to get Rayrays bbq .. Best dry rubbed ribs." If you need further evidence of the pre-eminence of Ray Ray's ribs, Gayot awarded their food truck a Best Columbus Barbecue Restaurants award. Ray Ray's website speaks reverently of the "honesty of oak" in describing its barbecue process, which involves a dry rub and up to 16 hours in a hardwood smoker. Beware of inflation, however: Ray Ray's lists its St. Louis Cut Spare Ribs and Baby Back Ribs as "market price by the pound." 

Bogart's Smokehouse - St. Louis

Many famous barbecue spots can trace their roots back to other esteemed barbecue spots. Bogart's, located in St. Louis, is another enterprise from Skip Steele, pitmaster of the legendary Pappy's (which also makes our list). Some barbecue fans claim this newer venture actually outshines the original. Among those fans is the Riverfront Times, which raves about Bogart's entire menu, but "especially the ribs, whose apricot glaze is caramelized with a propane torch." 

Bogart's Smokehouse boasts a 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor, with customers frequently citing the ribs as a highlight: "Their ribs are amazing and coated in what I believe is a light apricot glaze." For those who might be concerned about all this talk of apricots, given the fruit's reputation for undesirable gastrointestinal effects, rest assured: It's only whole apricots that have laxative powers, so there's no need to worry about them in glaze form. Chow down on as many Bogart's ribs as your heart and stomach desire!

Franklin Barbecue - Austin

Texas has given us many great things: Richard Linklater, Mike Judge, Willie Nelson, and the Longhorns, to name just a few. Another notable Texan contribution, courtesy of Aaron Franklin, can be found at Franklin Barbecue on Austin's East 11th Street — barbecued pork ribs. According to Bon Appetit, "The quiet sleeper is the pork ribs, cooked in a custom-made rotisserie." 

As the magazine reports, the local secret has gotten out to the rest of the world, resulting in hungry customers who think nothing of waiting two hours in line for a crack at the menu. If you're willing to get to Franklin Barbecue at 8 in the morning or earlier, perhaps with a fold-out chair and a good book, you too can get a taste of those ribs and see if all the hype is worth it or, to quote Texas-born Matthew McConaughey, just "all right, all right, all right."

Big Bob Gibson - Decatur, Georgia

When the name of a restaurant could also be the name of a person, you never know if the title refers to an actual person or a corporate creation. For example, did you know that, per Denny's own website, there was never any real Denny? Scandalous! Thankfully, according to Southern Living – which, in 2019 named Big Bob Gibson as one of the South's Top 50 Barbecue Joints — there was indeed a flesh-and-blood Big Bob Gibson. 

He began practicing the barbecue arts way back in 1925, and today, his eponymous restaurant is run by pitmaster Chris Lilly, who married into barbecue royalty by getting hitched with Big Bob's great-granddaughter. Today, many of the Big Bob faithful cite this Decatur establishment's ribs — topped with the restaurant's signature white sauce — as a favorite. As one Zomato reviewer raves, "The ribs were definitely the best part — the best ribs we've ever had! ... We will definitely be back for more ribs!"

The Salt Lick - Driftwood, Texas

There aren't many restaurants where you can — or would want to — literally see how the sausage is made, but The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas is on the list. According to Imperfect Women, "When you first walk into the restaurant you get to see ... the actual fire pit where they are smoking the brisket, sausage, turkey, and pork ribs. The smell will instantly make your stomach growl!" Once you've been primed by the sights, sounds, and smells of said world-famous ribs, it'll be time to dig in. 

If pork isn't your thing, The Salt Lick also offers beef and even bison ribs, actualizing the aphorism, "Use every part of the buffalo." On Sundays, you can grab yourself a half-rack of baby back ribs, served with a side of potatoes au gratin, beans, and green bean casserole. So many kinds of ribs, so little space in the stomach!

Phillips Bar-B-Que - Los Angeles

When talking ribs in the Greater Los Angeles Area, it comes down to Bludso's (which also appears on this list) and Phillips. Although Phillips locations shrank from three to one post-COVID pandemic, the original restaurant on Crenshaw Boulevard in Mid City remains. According to Time Out Los Angeles, hungry lunchtime queues for this Que were common to all its outposts. 

The magazine evocatively describes Phillips' spare ribs as "tender and smoky ... with a sauce that ranges from mild to spicy (though your hands get dirty either way)." Customers are fans of the ribs, and the restaurant boasts a 4.3 overall rating on Google. "Phillips is #1 in L.A.," raves one user. "You cannot find meaty, tender ribs consistently anywhere else. I have never had a bad batch." With both Bludso's and Phillips' ribs being among the best in the country, there's no need to choose one over the other.

Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue - Kansas City, Missouri

According to The Kansas City Star, Russ Fiorella's Smokestack BBQ only had five or six items on the menu when it opened in 1957. His son, Jack, expanded that menu considerably in 1974 when he opened Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue. In addition to brisket and steaks, there are, of course, ribs. The rib offerings alone include hickory-smoked pork spare and beef ribs, and even lamb ribs — a rarity in the barbecue joint world. 

Foursquare users go veritably rib-crazy in their reviews. Nearly every variety is cited as a favorite, so it's difficult to come up with a consensus. "Crown Prime Beef Rib, that's why you come here," one review insists. "You've gotta try the lamb ribs," counters another. The beautifully terse three-word review, "Get some ribs," sums it up the best. It's no wonder that many recommend the Jack's Sampler as a way to condense as much variety of ribby goodness as possible into one meal.

Wagner's Ribs - Porter, Indiana

Wagner's is one of three Midwestern joints to make our list. Chicago's Twin Anchors, one of the other Midwestern restaurants on our list, is but a scenic drive along Lake Michigan away from Wagner's location in Porter, Indiana. The Daily Meal considers Wagner's ribs to be one of the 35 best in the U.S., describing them as "super-tender, falling off the bone, and — shockingly — grilled instead of smoked." 

Reviewers on Yelp chime in with largely warm reviews. "The ribs are as good as any you will find across this planet," raves one Yelper, "and that's saying a lot since I've given reviews coast to coast and in probably a dozen countries." Here's an added bonus: after stuffing yourself with Wagner's ribs, you can walk off the excess calories at the nearby Indiana Dunes National Park, whose website tips its cap to Wagner's, telling visitors that the "restaurant is known for the most award-winning fall-off-the-bone ribs in Indiana." Grilled ribs and sand dunes — what more could anyone ask for in a lunchtime excursion?

City Market - Luling, Texas

What constitutes a scandal in the world of Texas barbecue? Seemingly, the use of a gas-fired smoker instead of wood. As Texas Monthly reports — with all the salaciousness of a British tabloid dishing on the royal family ("We didn't want to believe this at first...") — City Market recently committed the cardinal sin of using a gas barbecue to keep up with demand over the weekend, resulting in some subpar brisket. 

Thankfully, this list is only concerned with ribs, and on that front, according to the magazine, City Market still reigns supreme: "The pork ribs, which showed a half-inch smoke ring, were the best thing on the menu: semisweet, meaty, and flavorful, with a perfect salty exterior." Whew! We don't think we could have handled any more barbecue scandal. Hopefully, everything settles down at City Market, or, at least, until the next time someone inevitably tries to douse their ribs in ketchup.