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A beef rib fresh off the smoker held by black-gloved hands.
Heritage Barbecue’s beef rib
John Troxell

21 Road Trip-Worthy Barbecue Destinations Outside of Los Angeles

For all the smoked meat that’s worth the drive

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Heritage Barbecue’s beef rib
| John Troxell

One of the best things about Los Angeles’s barbecue scene is that it knows no bounds — stylistically, geographically, or otherwise. Because of the region’s deep history with slow-cooking meat using smoke — and LA proper’s reluctance to allow offset smokers at restaurants — some of the best places to score some ‘cue are actually well outside the county bounds. That makes places like Cold Spring Tavern, known for its more than century-old tri-tip cooking traditions, perfect for a day trip, while out in Bakersfield some of the biggest players are turning the idea of authenticity happily on its head. From Native American-influenced smoked meats in Tehachapi to the burnt ends and pork belly over cheese fries found in Orange County, here’s where to road trip for all kinds of barbecue outside of Los Angeles; if you want a little closer to home, there are separate lists for in-and-just-around LA barbecue restaurants, as well as Los Angeles-area underground stands and pop-ups.

The latest CDC guidance for vaccinated diners during the COVID-19 outbreak is here; dining out still carries risks for unvaccinated diners and workers. Please be aware of changing local rules, and check individual restaurant websites for any additional restrictions such as mask requirements. Find a local vaccination site here.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Mo's Smokehouse BBQ

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1005 Monterey St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
(805) 544-6193
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Saucy charred ribs, lots of grilled meats, and some serious tri-tip make Mo’s a staple dining option for San Luis Obispo County. Homemade potato chips, jalapeno fries, fried green tomatoes, and barbecue beans round out the trimmings menu.

2. Jocko's

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125 N Thompson Ave
Nipomo, CA 93444
(805) 929-3686
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Central Coast meat fanatics flock to Jocko’s for its nearly 100-year legacy of all things beef. This is one of the best places for grilled and smoked delicacies from the cow, served with Portuguese linguica sausage and native local pinquito beans.

3. Far Western Tavern

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300 E Clark Ave
Orcutt, CA 93455
(805) 937-2211
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Dining at Far Western Tavern feels like eating back in time. The Santa Maria-style steakhouse and smoke spot is one of the region’s best stops for smoked meat, including ribs and the all-important tri-tip.

4. Priedite Barbecue

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406 Bell St
Los Alamos, CA 93440

Don’t be put off by the distance from Los Angeles because Priedite is some of the state’s best barbecue. Working with a focus on Texas meat-smoking traditions (and made on a new off-set smoker), owner Nick Priedite has managed to make his stand behind Bell’s in Los Alamos an attraction all its own.

An overhead shot of barbecue in a tin tray with sides to match around the edges, against the ground.
Priedite Barbecue
Farley Elliott

5. Hitching Post 2

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406 E Hwy 246
Buellton, CA 93427
(805) 688-0676
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There may be no more famous place to watch the smoke and flames slowly cook steaks, ribs, and tri-tip than at the Hitching Post II — an offshoot of the also-charming Hitching Post I in far Casmalia. At this more approachable second effort, expect dining room views to the meat on the grill, plus heavy pours of wine and lots of talk about the movie Sideways. Be sure to order the artichokes too.

6. Cold Spring Tavern

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5995 Stagecoach Rd
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
(805) 967-0066
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For a bite of California history (and tri-tip) get to the coastal highlands above Santa Barbara. There, in the shade and dappled sun, sits Cold Spring Tavern, a former stagecoach stop with a more than 130 year history. The place sells out most weekends of its most treasured dish: tri-tip, best eaten with cold beer in hand.

Cold Spring Tavern’s outdoor open grill with lots of tri-tip on top.
Tri-tip from Cold Spring Tavern
Farley Elliott

7. Willow Ranch

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27770 Lagoon Dr
Buttonwillow, CA 93206
(661) 764-6605
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This Buttonwillow diner-style staple does a bit of everything, from steaks to seafood, but real ones know to make for the mesquite barbecue. Of particular note is the deep pit beef, a shredded and slow-smoked dish that’s almost gone extinct in California.

A tri-tip and sauce sandwich with a side on a diner plate.
Tri-tip sandwich
Willow Ranch

8. Salty's BBQ & Catering

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9425 Rosedale Hwy
Bakersfield, CA 93312
(661) 587-8437
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Ribs are the route to go at Salty’s, with two locations across the Bakersfield area. Here the pork is smoked and then finished on a grill for extra char, perfect for different bites — and best served with sauce.

9. Best Bar-BQ

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915 Harvard Blvd
Santa Paula, CA 93060
(805) 229-7668
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Whether or not this shop lives up to its hyperbolic name is up to the individual diner, but there’s no denying that locals love this casual restaurant for tri-tip sandwiches served with lots of sauce on grilled bread, split links, and more.

10. Porkchop and Bubba's BBQ

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1230 H St suite a
Bakersfield, CA 93301
(661) 520-4227
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As the name implies, the award-winning Porkchop and Bubba’s is keen to think pork-first, but don’t let the smoked wings and killer sides go by without a taste.

11. Angry Barnyard BBQ

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916 18th St
Bakersfield, CA 93301
(661) 326-4800
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This relative Bakersfield newcomer has stiff competition across Kern County, but that doesn’t stop the shop from cooking up some of the most inventive fare in the area. Of particular note is the so-called trailer trash casserole, made with Frito chips and a choice of meat, as well as the big hoss sandwich with brisket and pimento cheese.

12. Calabasas Custom Catering

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5947 Fallbrook Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
(818) 521-7261
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The weekend smoke from the Santa Maria-style pit is visible from the parking lot at Calabasas Custom Catering, this ongoing pop-up and catering outfit in Woodland Hills. The tri-tip is the speciality of the house, but fans flock for the chicken, too.

Smoke rolls from beneath a barbecue tent in a parking lot.
Smoke from Calabasas Custom Catering
Farley Elliott

13. Smokehouse on Main

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24255 Main St
Santa Clarita, CA 91321
(661) 888-4585
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Pan-Southern comforts rule at this Santa Clarita-Newhall spot on Main Street, with options for saucy ribs and slow-cooked prime brisket, as well as sides like hoecake, tots, garlic rice, and even deep-fried okra.

A square plate of ribs and links with sides like asparagus behind.
Smokehouse on Main
Smokehouse on Main

14. Redhouse BBQ

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426 E Tehachapi Blvd
Tehachapi, CA 93561
(661) 822-0772
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This popular Tehachapi spot trades in the usual barbecue fare, while also offering monthly samples of meats like bison as part of owner Mano Lujan’s Native American heritage. Be sure to score some fry bread, too.

15. Copper Top BBQ

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442 N Main St
Big Pine, CA 93513
(661) 220-4513
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Barbecue restaurants line Highway 395 as it climbs north on the eastern side of the Sierra mountain range, but none are as famous as Copper Top. Once considered to be the most popular barbecue restaurant in the state (according to Yelp, anyway), this longtime staple serves up smoky ribs and lots of tri-tip with plenty of cowboy accoutrements.

A hand reaches over to turn ribs on a smoking grill.
Copper Top BBQ
Farley Elliott

16. Leadbelly's Barbecue

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711 N Placentia Ave
Fullerton, CA 92831
(714) 646-9560
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Orange County eight-year favorite Leadbelly’s is the kind of spot that has no qualms about putting slow-cooked pork belly on top of fries or loading up takeout platters with brisket, burnt ends, and links. There’s no end to the meat (or the inventiveness with it) here.

17. Smoqued California BBQ

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128 N Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866
(714) 633-7427
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Orange County’s Smoqued is famous, at least as far as barbecue restaurants go. For smoked chicken, thick slices of Texas-style unsauced brisket, and skillets filled with macaroni and cheese, there are few more worthy places around.

18. Heritage Barbecue

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31721 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

The former pop-up Heritage Barbecue has gone legit in Orange County, and is among the only places fully licensed to use an off-set smoker at a standalone restaurant. The lines are long, the hype is real, and the sense of fun is palpable at Heritage, one of California’s shining barbecue stars.

heritage barbecue plate ribs tortillas corn
Heritage Barbecue
Brian Feinzimer

19. Smoke Tree BBQ Palm Springs

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1775 E Palm Canyon Dr #405
Palm Springs, CA 92264
(760) 778-6521
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Smoke Tree is perhaps the best-known Palm Springs-area stop for barbecue, from barky ribs and brisket to sides like macaroni and cheese and potato salad, perfect for a hot day.

20. Ruff House BBQ

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This busy underground pop-up holds both backyard services and events at local breweries and other businesses around greater Oxnard. Stop by on a designated day for ribs, brisket, and other Texas-focused cooking.

21. Smokey Lips BBQ

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The offset smoker in the driveway is a dead giveaway as to what’s going on inside this nondescript Cathedral City house. Here, a former corporate hotel chef works a menu of barbecue classics done with varying spices and other tweaks and turns, working up everything from traditional meat platters to smoked al pastor and cheesy jalapeno cornbread. This may be the best new barbecue to happen to the Coachella Valley in years.

1. Mo's Smokehouse BBQ

1005 Monterey St, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Saucy charred ribs, lots of grilled meats, and some serious tri-tip make Mo’s a staple dining option for San Luis Obispo County. Homemade potato chips, jalapeno fries, fried green tomatoes, and barbecue beans round out the trimmings menu.

1005 Monterey St
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

2. Jocko's

125 N Thompson Ave, Nipomo, CA 93444

Central Coast meat fanatics flock to Jocko’s for its nearly 100-year legacy of all things beef. This is one of the best places for grilled and smoked delicacies from the cow, served with Portuguese linguica sausage and native local pinquito beans.

125 N Thompson Ave
Nipomo, CA 93444

3. Far Western Tavern

300 E Clark Ave, Orcutt, CA 93455

Dining at Far Western Tavern feels like eating back in time. The Santa Maria-style steakhouse and smoke spot is one of the region’s best stops for smoked meat, including ribs and the all-important tri-tip.

300 E Clark Ave
Orcutt, CA 93455

4. Priedite Barbecue

406 Bell St, Los Alamos, CA 93440
An overhead shot of barbecue in a tin tray with sides to match around the edges, against the ground.
Priedite Barbecue
Farley Elliott

Don’t be put off by the distance from Los Angeles because Priedite is some of the state’s best barbecue. Working with a focus on Texas meat-smoking traditions (and made on a new off-set smoker), owner Nick Priedite has managed to make his stand behind Bell’s in Los Alamos an attraction all its own.

406 Bell St
Los Alamos, CA 93440

5. Hitching Post 2

406 E Hwy 246, Buellton, CA 93427

There may be no more famous place to watch the smoke and flames slowly cook steaks, ribs, and tri-tip than at the Hitching Post II — an offshoot of the also-charming Hitching Post I in far Casmalia. At this more approachable second effort, expect dining room views to the meat on the grill, plus heavy pours of wine and lots of talk about the movie Sideways. Be sure to order the artichokes too.

406 E Hwy 246
Buellton, CA 93427

6. Cold Spring Tavern

5995 Stagecoach Rd, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Cold Spring Tavern’s outdoor open grill with lots of tri-tip on top.
Tri-tip from Cold Spring Tavern
Farley Elliott

For a bite of California history (and tri-tip) get to the coastal highlands above Santa Barbara. There, in the shade and dappled sun, sits Cold Spring Tavern, a former stagecoach stop with a more than 130 year history. The place sells out most weekends of its most treasured dish: tri-tip, best eaten with cold beer in hand.

5995 Stagecoach Rd
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

7. Willow Ranch

27770 Lagoon Dr, Buttonwillow, CA 93206
A tri-tip and sauce sandwich with a side on a diner plate.
Tri-tip sandwich
Willow Ranch

This Buttonwillow diner-style staple does a bit of everything, from steaks to seafood, but real ones know to make for the mesquite barbecue. Of particular note is the deep pit beef, a shredded and slow-smoked dish that’s almost gone extinct in California.

27770 Lagoon Dr
Buttonwillow, CA 93206

8. Salty's BBQ & Catering

9425 Rosedale Hwy, Bakersfield, CA 93312

Ribs are the route to go at Salty’s, with two locations across the Bakersfield area. Here the pork is smoked and then finished on a grill for extra char, perfect for different bites — and best served with sauce.

9425 Rosedale Hwy
Bakersfield, CA 93312

9. Best Bar-BQ

915 Harvard Blvd, Santa Paula, CA 93060

Whether or not this shop lives up to its hyperbolic name is up to the individual diner, but there’s no denying that locals love this casual restaurant for tri-tip sandwiches served with lots of sauce on grilled bread, split links, and more.

915 Harvard Blvd
Santa Paula, CA 93060

10. Porkchop and Bubba's BBQ

1230 H St suite a, Bakersfield, CA 93301

As the name implies, the award-winning Porkchop and Bubba’s is keen to think pork-first, but don’t let the smoked wings and killer sides go by without a taste.

1230 H St suite a
Bakersfield, CA 93301

11. Angry Barnyard BBQ

916 18th St, Bakersfield, CA 93301

This relative Bakersfield newcomer has stiff competition across Kern County, but that doesn’t stop the shop from cooking up some of the most inventive fare in the area. Of particular note is the so-called trailer trash casserole, made with Frito chips and a choice of meat, as well as the big hoss sandwich with brisket and pimento cheese.

916 18th St
Bakersfield, CA 93301

12. Calabasas Custom Catering

5947 Fallbrook Ave, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Smoke rolls from beneath a barbecue tent in a parking lot.
Smoke from Calabasas Custom Catering
Farley Elliott

The weekend smoke from the Santa Maria-style pit is visible from the parking lot at Calabasas Custom Catering, this ongoing pop-up and catering outfit in Woodland Hills. The tri-tip is the speciality of the house, but fans flock for the chicken, too.

5947 Fallbrook Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

13. Smokehouse on Main

24255 Main St, Santa Clarita, CA 91321
A square plate of ribs and links with sides like asparagus behind.
Smokehouse on Main
Smokehouse on Main

Pan-Southern comforts rule at this Santa Clarita-Newhall spot on Main Street, with options for saucy ribs and slow-cooked prime brisket, as well as sides like hoecake, tots, garlic rice, and even deep-fried okra.

24255 Main St
Santa Clarita, CA 91321

14. Redhouse BBQ

426 E Tehachapi Blvd, Tehachapi, CA 93561

This popular Tehachapi spot trades in the usual barbecue fare, while also offering monthly samples of meats like bison as part of owner Mano Lujan’s Native American heritage. Be sure to score some fry bread, too.

426 E Tehachapi Blvd
Tehachapi, CA 93561

15. Copper Top BBQ

442 N Main St, Big Pine, CA 93513
A hand reaches over to turn ribs on a smoking grill.
Copper Top BBQ
Farley Elliott

Barbecue restaurants line Highway 395 as it climbs north on the eastern side of the Sierra mountain range, but none are as famous as Copper Top. Once considered to be the most popular barbecue restaurant in the state (according to Yelp, anyway), this longtime staple serves up smoky ribs and lots of tri-tip with plenty of cowboy accoutrements.

442 N Main St
Big Pine, CA 93513

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16. Leadbelly's Barbecue

711 N Placentia Ave, Fullerton, CA 92831

Orange County eight-year favorite Leadbelly’s is the kind of spot that has no qualms about putting slow-cooked pork belly on top of fries or loading up takeout platters with brisket, burnt ends, and links. There’s no end to the meat (or the inventiveness with it) here.

711 N Placentia Ave
Fullerton, CA 92831

17. Smoqued California BBQ

128 N Glassell St, Orange, CA 92866

Orange County’s Smoqued is famous, at least as far as barbecue restaurants go. For smoked chicken, thick slices of Texas-style unsauced brisket, and skillets filled with macaroni and cheese, there are few more worthy places around.

128 N Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866

18. Heritage Barbecue

31721 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
heritage barbecue plate ribs tortillas corn
Heritage Barbecue
Brian Feinzimer

The former pop-up Heritage Barbecue has gone legit in Orange County, and is among the only places fully licensed to use an off-set smoker at a standalone restaurant. The lines are long, the hype is real, and the sense of fun is palpable at Heritage, one of California’s shining barbecue stars.

31721 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

19. Smoke Tree BBQ Palm Springs

1775 E Palm Canyon Dr #405, Palm Springs, CA 92264

Smoke Tree is perhaps the best-known Palm Springs-area stop for barbecue, from barky ribs and brisket to sides like macaroni and cheese and potato salad, perfect for a hot day.

1775 E Palm Canyon Dr #405
Palm Springs, CA 92264

20. Ruff House BBQ

Oxnard, CA

This busy underground pop-up holds both backyard services and events at local breweries and other businesses around greater Oxnard. Stop by on a designated day for ribs, brisket, and other Texas-focused cooking.

21. Smokey Lips BBQ

Cathedral City, CA

The offset smoker in the driveway is a dead giveaway as to what’s going on inside this nondescript Cathedral City house. Here, a former corporate hotel chef works a menu of barbecue classics done with varying spices and other tweaks and turns, working up everything from traditional meat platters to smoked al pastor and cheesy jalapeno cornbread. This may be the best new barbecue to happen to the Coachella Valley in years.

Related Maps