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Best BBQ Restaurants in Asheville—A Local's Perspective

Despite a seldom-discussed boom in the healing crystal industry, Asheville’s economy relies firmly upon tourism. As a local, there's a good side to this, and a bad.


On one hand, half the drivers around here have no idea where they’re going. But on the bright side, restaurants of every shape, size, stripe, and specialty sprout out of Asheville’s streets like mushrooms after an invigorating rain.


We have curry. We have Iberian tapas. We have Indian, Nepalese, and eclectic Caribbean.


Today, I write of none of these genres, instead favoring the absolute pinnacle of cuisine itself: BBQ. Or maybe barbecue (or barbeque). Some say bar-b-que, others say bar-b-q or BBQ.


I suppose that’s what comes of appropriating words from the Spanish. No matter what you call it though, BBQ in Asheville is a key thread in our culinary fabric. We're talking meat cooked low and slow, flavorful sauces, and exceptional sides.


Yes, there's plenty of great BBQ in Asheville, NC, to choose from. So if I may, I invite you to read on, and familiarize yourself with the five best.


best barbecue in Asheville - meat on grille
Image from Unsplash

To start off, I’d like to introduce what I consider the standard for barbecue in Asheville. Diehard fans of 12 Bones may vigorously disagree on this point. Fret not, you saucy rib-lovers. 12 Bones is also on this list of Asheville’s best BBQ.


Luella’s menu is a course on variety, offering wings, loaded potatoes, salads, ribs, and of course their proper barbecue plates.


Ranging from turkey to brisket, this category includes the startling addition of tempeh. That’s right, the stuff that’s not tofu, but isn’t meat either. I take this unexpected dish not as a slap in the face, but as a demonstration of the restaurant’s flexibility. Vegetarians can enjoy some of the best BBQ in Asheville, too.


Luella's sports two locations, north and south. The former lies in proximity to Weaver Park—an excellent place to cut the children loose for an hour—while its sister sits in Biltmore Park, the heart of south Asheville.


Hours: 11am to 9pm, daily.


best barbecue in Asheville - sliced steak
Image from Unsplash

When I tell my fellow locals that I write pieces about Asheville, we both understand that “Asheville” doesn’t end at the city limits; far from it.


That’s how I justify writing about a barbecue restaurant in Asheville which is actually found in Candler, about twenty minutes west of downtown. Who knows, you might find yourself out there. If not, Doc Brown’s food truck may find you.


Notwithstanding how exactly you find yourselves in the grip of the Doctor, I must advise you that: 1. Barbecue is not doctor endorsed; and 2. Diners are advised to call ahead of their visit, as the most popular menu items run out fast.


Among these lie the old Doc’s ribs, dressed in your choice of three different preparations. Pair it one of their four varieties of coleslaw. That's right, four. Surely that should be enough for all you coleslaw enthusiasts out there.


Hours: 11am to 8pm, Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays.


best barbecue in Asheville - ribs
Image from Unsplash

It is a sad fact that not every restaurant in Asheville makes it. I have seen more good eateries fizzle out of existence than I care to remember. That’s the dark side of such a competitive environment.


But some restaurants do grow and prosper. They swell into institutions, staples of the Asheville food scene.


12 Bones is one of those staples, perhaps the staple of staples of barbecue in Asheville, and if you can find your way to a table at this wildly popular smokehouse, you'll learn exactly how its reeling in the locals.


In short: its barbecue done right. Meat, sauce, sides, service; you'll be leaving with a smile. Plus, their menu includes an assortment of specialty sandwiches, and some downright killer ribs, both sure to keep things interesting time after time.


Hours: Their south location is open 11:30am to 8pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays, and noon to 6pm on Sundays. Closed Mondays. Their RAD location is open 11:30am to to 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.


best barbecue in Asheville - barbecue platter
Image from Unsplash

This past June, I found myself out at Lake Julian to watch the dragon boat races when with not so much as a thunder-crash, it began to rain. Quite a lot, actually.


The ground melted into mud, the lake swelled. Your clothes stuck to your back as if you had fallen into a pool, and had only recently extradited yourself from that unpleasantly moist situation.


Now, the event was supposed to have been catered by a pair of food trucks, but one had been forced to depart due to logistical issues. Luckily, the one that remained was serving Black Bear BBQ.


One taste of their pulled pork, and I was committed to traveling up the metaphorical beanstalk. One month later, and I can report that I’ve found the goose that lays the golden brisket, and the golden ribs, too.


Along this same line, Black Bear offers specialty, cane-sweetened sodas. One may not regard soda as terribly important to one’s barbecue experience. I counter with the fact that among these sodas lies a delectable blueberry flavor, which tastes something like cobbler.


Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 11am to 6pm.


best barbecue in Asheville - barbecue platter
Image from Unsplash

As an Ashevillian, I am enamored with everything small-batch, local, independent, and grassroots. Simply put: if it’s not made by three guys and their pet goat, as a principle, I’m not interested.


But Moe’s Original BBQ beats this principle. Despite being a national chain, Moe’s brings to the table everything that makes a local restaurant dang good. And sometimes that’s as simple as having great food.


Moe’s menu includes all the badges of barbecue: chicken, turkey, and pork. These are the dishes wherein to show off one’s talents, and Moe’s does just that. If their fundamentals are strong, Moe’s goes the next mile with some items more unconventional barbecue. A few examples catfish and a rotating cast of sides and specials, counting meatloaf and hash brown casserole among their number.


Moe’s is a local favorite, its gravel lot swelling from the hours of 11am-1pm daily. But even during its busiest times, eating at Moe’s is worth the wait.


Located close by to upscale shopping in Biltmore Village, and the Biltmore Estate itself, Moe's not only got their menu down, but location too.


Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11am to 8pm. Sundays noon to 8pm.


Bonus Round: If you find yourself in a small town near Asheville, namely Woodfin or Hendersonville, be sure to check out Moe's barbecue outposts.


Businesses Mentioned

Luella’s Bar-B-Que, North Asheville

(828) 505-7427

501 Merrimon Ave, Asheville, NC 28804

Luella’s Bar-B-Que, South Asheville

(828) 676-3855

33 Town Square Blvd, Asheville, NC 28803

Doc Brown’s BBQ

(828) 633-6901

1320 Smokey Park Highway, Candler, NC 28715

12 Bone’s Smokehouse RIVER

(828) 253-4499

5 Foundy Street Suite 10 Suite 10, Asheville, NC 28801

12 Bone’s Smokehouse SOUTH

(828) 687-1395

2350 Hendersonville Rd, Arden, NC 28704

Black Bear BBQ

(828) 298-1035

800 Fairview Rd, Suite C8, Asheville, NC 28803

Moe’s Original BBQ

(828) 505-8282

4 Sweeten Creek Rd, Asheville, NC 28803


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