Smokin’, Rubbin’ and Carvin': Wisconsin's Best Barbecue

By Jerry Huffman
Special to

To enjoy great barbecue means wear an old shirt. Memorable barbecue is messy. The juice runs down your chin, flavors and smells blend seamlessly, and side orders run the gamut from classics like beans to cole slaw to fried pickles.

Forget Memphis and Kansas City, you can find great barbecue tucked in all around Wisconsin.

Blowin’ Smoke Barbeque – Waunakee

This classic small-town, one-of-a-kind barbecue joint offers very comfortable setting with tables inside or outside. Sandwiches rule with daily classics like beef, pork, chicken or turkey. Better yet, try a combo.

Owned by a former construction worker, Blowin’ Smoke started out as a food cart but has grown into its own restaurant with stunning food. It's well worth the drive from Madison.

Insiders know: Add coleslaw to almost any barbecue sandwich. Better yet, add the slaw and ask for extra napkins. Blowin’ Smoke has some of the juiciest sandwiches you’ll find this side of Kansas City.

Smoke Shack – Milwaukee  

With only 47 seats, the Smoke Shack is a local gem. Most meats are cooked “dry” so you can choose your own sauce, and the menu also has gluten free options.

Desserts are eye catching – a Bacon Bourbon Brownie or Purple Door Whiskey Ice Cream may be worth the trip on their own.

Insiders know: Go early. It’s not unusual for the Smoke Shack to run out on busy nights.

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Casey’s BBQ & Smokehouse – Egg Harbor 

In the land of all things cherry, the good folks at Casey’s BBQ + Smokehouse in Door County distinguish their barbecue by using cherry wood in their smoker. It’s a unique touch as the cherry wood gives the meat a sweeter taste and a rosy finish.

Insiders know: Casey’s Beef Brisket Chili, served year-round, was a two-time winner at the Fish Creek Winter Festival's chili cook-off. 

Bob’s Bitchin’ BBQ – Dodgeville

In that inevitable question of which came first, the chicken or the egg, that answer at Bob’s is the sauce. For thirty years the owners had been making small-batch sauce orders for friends, and that success led to the restaurant.

You can order your favorites “wet,” or “dry,” meaning it’s cooked with sauce or add your own. Our suggestion? Try the new barbecue sauce made with Sprecher Root Beer. A fried pickle appetizer seems intriguing, too.

Insiders know: At Bob’s they take great pride in local sourcing for products including their signature sauces.

Old Southern Barbecue Smokehouse – Hayward, Rice Lake and Hudson

Dave Anderson has been the face, if not the name, of Wisconsin barbecue for many years. No longer associated with Famous Dave’s, a chain of local barbecue restaurants he founded, Anderson has opened another growing barbecue chain of “joints” across northern Wisconsin. Twelve sides are on the menu to complement your favorite meats.

Insider’s know: The name of the game at Old Southern is speed. No long, dawdling meals here. Eat in or take out, but they keep the product moving.

More Finger-Lickin'-Good Barbecue Spots

In an unscientific poll of other foodies who aren’t shy about their opinions, we came up with a few more options to consider.

Speed Queen – Milwaukee

At 12th and Vine for forty years, Speed Queen boasts the largest barbecue pit in Milwaukee.

Double B’s BBQ – West Allis

They cook it low and slow at this classic old-school joint. Plus, this place gets big points for taking the time to put the pecans for the pie in the smoker first.

Smoky Jon’s – Madison

This Capital City favorite was chosen as one of the "Top 100 BBQ Places in America" in 2016.

J&J Barbecue – Nelson

What could be finer than barbecue along the Mississippi River at this combination general store and barbecue restaurant?

Eddie B’s – Eagle River

They smoke their own ribs in-house and serve them up in Eagle River’s oldest building.


Find more great places to eat in our directory, or check out these 7 Pizza Places to Try Something New.

Jerry Huffman is a regular contributor to Travel Wisconsin. One of his truisms in life is that anything can be made better by adding the right barbecue sauce. 

This entry was posted in Fast Food Restaurants Other Specialty Foods