The Best Barbecue in Southwest Missouri
From Texas-style brisket and Memphis ribs to our own mouthwatering Ozarks-style barbecue, we’ve got it all. Our region’s barbecue personality is growing, so we created a guide to help you navigate the meaty world of barbecue in Springfield, Missouri.
by Julianna Goodwin
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1331 E. Division St., Springfield, 417-862-4646
This Kansas City–style barbecue joint has been a staple in Springfield since 1970. It was started by Jesse Williams, who did not have a background in this style of grub but did have a knack for it. Jesse Williams was an excavator in Kansas City. He was looking for a new business opportunity and someone was selling a “turn the key operation,” says his son Steve Williams. Jesse bought it, learned how to smoke meat and commuted between Springfield and Kansas City for a couple of years—sleeping on a cot in the restaurant before finally moving to the Queen City. Steve started working at the restaurant in 1981, while he was attending Drury University. He took over the business in 1984 and has been running it ever since, carrying on the family legacy.
That legacy includes juicy, perfect meats smoked over green hickory using a combination of direct heat and indirect heat. Trying the baby back and spare ribs are a must, and the brisket and pulled pork are also best sellers among Crosstown customers. Still growing after all these years, they opened a food truck last September at 3850 S. Campbell Ave. Check out our interview with Steve Williams about the lasting legacy of Crosstown.
The Extras: The barbecue sauces are made in house and are for sale. Choose from regular or spicy.
3309 E. Sunshine St., Ste. E., 417-720-4925
2100 W. Republic Road Suite 100, 417-771-5200
Bob Craver had been passionate about barbecue for two decades. He’d smoke meat in his backyard and invite friends and family over to savor the smoky goodness. Then, in 2013, he left the insurance industry to start a food truck and his meats, especially his juicy brisket and burnt ends, sold out daily. That was the impetus to open a brick and mortar on Sunshine Street in 2015. Four years later, a location on Republic Road followed. He wanted more smoker space so he could expand his catering business, and it worked. Craver makes his own rubs, sauces and sides. He calls his style a crash between Memphis and Kansas City, but really he just created his own style. The brisket and pork are smoked 16 to 20 hours. Then the burnt ends are seasoned again and smoked another two hours. Since day one, Craver has kept the menu simple because the meat is the star—and he’s passionate about quality. Whatever you buy is fresh that day.
The Extras: Makes four homemade sauces: sweet, spicy, original and mustard.
Big D's BBQ
1550 Missouri 248, Branson, 417-337-5100
Dana Peterson is driven by passion, smoke and creativity. He’d been competing on the barbecue circuit and decided to dive into his passion in 2017 when he left his career in the financial industry to open a food truck. A year later, he had a location inside the Starlite Theatre in Branson. The following year, he opened a brick and mortar, which has become a destination restaurant. What makes this place different is Dana doesn’t follow one style of barbecue but has a peppering of favorites—and he and his wife, Linda, travel the world to find ideas that they incorporate into their menu. The ribs are Memphis-style, slow cooked over cherry wood. His brisket is Texas-style smoked over pecan wood with a dry rub. And the pork is Carolina-style. He’s won the Best of Branson award in the barbecue category four years in a row—every year they’ve been in business. They offer six fun specials each week, such as brisket gumbo or their BeefyChanga, a chimichanga made with brisket and smoked mac ‘n’ cheese, topped with smoked queso and pit beans. Still have room for dessert after all that? Linda is known for her signature smoked bacon-bourbon pecan pie.
The Extras: You can buy regular rub, brisket rub and sweet or bold barbecue sauces. Or buy a box with a combo of sauces and rub.
943 N. Main Ave., Springfield, 417-368-0000
This neighborhood gem is one of the oldest restaurants in Springfield. While the location has been a business since 1903, starting as a grocery store, it became a cafe in 1926. The barbecue has been going strong since 1971. Over the years, Pappy’s has had several owners, including the latest, Wayne and Susan Raider, who bought it in 2019.
The new owners have expanded the patio and transformed it into a popular live music venue on Friday nights.
Regulars don’t just come for tunes, though. They come for the juicy pulled pork and the ribs that are smoked over hickory. The St. Louis–style ribs are smoked for seven hours. “The meat just falls off them,” says Wayne. The pulled pork sandwich is a hit, but so are the nachos topped with the shredded meat. They don’t follow a specific barbecue style, they just do what their hungry Ozarks fans have been loving for decades.
The Extras: Barbecue sauces, traditional or southern style, for sale by the quart or pint. Rubs are for sale. Live music every Friday.
Multiple locations in southwest Missouri
Forget what you think you know about barbecue because low and slow does not apply here. Here, it’s fast and hot. Brad Leighninger has made a living revolutionizing the industry and a heck of a name for himself in the barbecue arena. Leighninger has taken home 50 grand championships including all the coveted crowns: World Champion at Memphis in May; twice named Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) Team of the Year; first place in Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational BBQ in pork; and Reserve Grand Champion at American Royal.
As he brought home big wins, Leighninger and three friends started a food truck, then a restaurant, and just kept growing. There are now locations in Branson, Nixa and Springfield, and they sell franchise opportunities. Here’s how this cooking method is different: Leighninger cooks with high heat over 55-gallon drums using Missouri hardwood coals. The method has become known as Ozarks barbecue, with brisket, burnt ends, pulled pork and St. Louis–style ribs as standouts.
The Extras: They have amazing sides including Poblano Cream Corn Brûlée.
504 N. West Bypass, Springfield, 417-368-0039
In 2016, friends Mike Egger and Brandon Grame teamed up to open this Bubba’s BBQ. But for years before that, Grame and his grandfather had been involved with competitive barbecue.
Today, the cooking style at Bubba’s BBQ is a blend of Texas and Kansas City—because Grame is originally from Kansas City. To achieve their signature flavor, the two use hickory wood and smoke in small batches throughout the day and night. “It takes longer and is a headache, but it’s better,” says Egger.
As pitmasters, Egger and Grame work well together, specializing in baby back ribs and burnt ends. Egger also recommends trying their pulled chicken, which is moist and offers something different than your typical red meat favorites. The spot offers sandwiches too, and their signature offering is the Cowboy, featuring brisket, fried onion petals and pink lightning sauce. That’s a sweet house-made sauce flavored with a little horseradish and garlic.
The Extras: Mild, spicy and gold sauces are bottled and for sale at Hy-Vee and Price Cutter. Meat available by the pound. Sides available by pint or quart to go.
Where to Buy for Your BBQ
If you want to be the master of your grill, it starts with quality meat. Luckily, you can find succulent cuts and creations at one of the local butcher shops and area farmers markets.
1537 W. Battlefield Road, Springfield, 417-886-6328
Hörrmann Meats carries meat from local producers processed at their plant. This is the place to score a plethora (about 30) of hand-made sausages and bratwurst including unusual options like chicken andouille, gyro brat or Thai sausage.
Schuchmann Meat Company
4406 S. Campbell Ave., Ste. 100., 417-771-5339, 1845 E. Turner St., 417-409-3036
Come here to shop for Wagyu beef, tomahawk steaks, veal chops and a selection of homemade burgers and brats, including black and blue burgers. They also sell seasonings, sauces and gourmet products.
Worden’s Meat Co.
Locations in Springfield, Joplin, Webb City, Republic and Lamar
This is the spot to stock up for a big party or buy in bulk. There are great deals on ground beef, hamburgers, meat bundles and awesome weekly specials. Check Facebook for the latest deals and bundles.
Local farmers markets
Markets like Farmers Market of the Ozarks, Greater Springfield Farmers Market, Ozark Farmers Market and C-Street Market (plus many more!) offer locally raise meat from 417-land producers, so you can support small while you grill big.
Skinner's Ribs & BBQ
US 60 and Farm Road 241, Rogersville, 417-753-2845
You might say Skinner’s was a pioneer in the food truck industry. In 1997, Jeff Felton opened his food truck in a converted 1976 camper trailer, parked on land that’s been in the family for decades. Felton had always loved to smoke meat. Eventually enough people convinced him it would sell, and it did. He had one meat on the menu at first: pulled pork. “And it evolved from there,” says his niece Deidre Dean, who bought the restaurant five years ago.
Dean started working at Skinner’s when she was 15. She eventually went to culinary school and worked in fine dining at Harvest and Touch, but she left to buy the family business. When she took over, Dean bought a new food truck and upgraded the smokers. She doesn’t follow any specific barbecue styles, just does what she likes. Everything is smoked over oak, and she still uses her uncle’s rub recipe. The pulled pork is country-style, so the butt is sliced into strips, which makes it a little different because the smoke flavor can better permeate the meat. But Dean’s personal favorite is the brisket, although she sells a lot of baby back ribs. “It was important for me to carry on the family legacy,” Dean says.
The Extras: All sides are homemade, and The potato salad and macaroni and cheese are favorites.
Hard Knox BBQ
2931 E. Battlefield Road, 417-720-4811
In 2019, friends Tyler Thompson and Pat Duran went from competitive barbecue team members to restaurant partners. Duran has a long history in the restaurant industry, fell in love with competition barbecue and decided to sell the smoked meats. They teamed up with Jeremy Smith, one of the founders of City Butcher, and Hard Knox BBQ was born.
“We like to say we are doing Ozarks-style barbecue,” says pitmaster Alex DeArmon. “Ozarks is a barbecue alley, so we take influences from everybody and make it our own.” At Hard Knox, they use pecan and charcoal, which imparts a more delicate flavor, so the meat still shines. The burnt ends, pulled pork and smoked chicken thighs are favorites. DeArmon says the key to their success is the consistency of working with a small team. They take a lot of pride in homemade sides too, like pit beans and street corn.
The Extras: Barbecue sauces and rubs for sale at the restaurant or Pits N Grills on East Sunshine.
Fat Daddy's Family Bar-B-Cue
6020 US Hwy 160, Forsyth, 417-546-4604
John Winkert was a firefighter in Peculiar, Missouri, when he started taking part in barbecue competitions. “I got hooked on it,” he says. “I like meat, and I like to eat.” He competed several times in the former Rock N Ribs barbecue festival in Springfield, placing in the top 10.
In 2006, Winkert left his job with the fire department to venture into the restaurant world. He is still a volunteer fireman in Forsyth, but he’s also the person behind Forsyth’s Fat Daddy’s Family Bar-b-que, where the barbecue staples are burnt ends and Texas-style brisket. Those are “to die for,” he says. They use fresh, never-frozen meat and they smoke with hickory wood. They even smoke prime rib, one of their most popular dishes served only on Friday nights.
The restaurant is more than barbecue, though. It’s home cooking. Every side except the potato salad is homemade. The shoestring onion rings are customer favorites. Winkert developed his pit bean recipe in 1982 and has been using it ever since because it’s a hit.
The restaurant serves breakfast too, featuring Winkert’s house-smoked bacon and sausage. They use that same bacon on the smoked bacon topped brownies.
Even after 17 years in the business, Winkert still watches barbecue shows and gets excited about smoking meats. He has a partnership with a satellite food truck at Indian Point, the Uptown Hog at 2601 Indian Point Road, which sells his brisket and ribs.
The Extras: Winkert makes his own rubs. The three barbecue sauces to choose from include sweet, mild and hot.
Some local barbecue spots offer their homemade sauces in bottles. How do you know which special sauce you want to buy and bring home? Don’t worry. We can help.
What's your preferred spice level? Depending on your tolerance for tongue-tingling spice to a more mellow mouthful, these sauces should provide the perfect flavor regardless of how much heat they bring. From left to right we recommend:
For Some Hot Stuff
From Hard Knox BBQ
Traditional sauce that brings the heat.
For Something Not Quite So Spicy
Original Big & Bold
From Big D’s BBQ
Big flavor with a hint of a spicy zip.
For Less Spice, More Tang
From Whole Hog Cafe
A bit of southern spice and a vinegar tang.
For Less Spice, More Sweet
From Gettin’ Basted
A classic with the perfect sweetness level.
For Those with a Mustard Tooth
Gold BBQ Sauce
From Bubba’s BBQ
That mustardy North Carolina vibe.
City Butcher and Barbecue
3650 S. Campbell Ave., 417-720-1113
2940 E. Sunshine St., 417-350-1519
Since 2014, City Butcher and Barbecue has been known for its Texas-style barbecue, specifically the brisket, burnt ends and homemade smoked sausage. Customers can choose from Austin Andouille, Texas Hot Link, Jalapeño Cheddar and a seasonal sausage. Founders Cody Smith and Jeremy Smith worked in fine dining before opening this joint. Then the Sonnemaker family came in as silent partners to help with the business side and eventually bought the restaurant. But they still honor the original recipes and tradition.
Meat is smoked in small batches and when it’s gone, it’s gone. For something different, try the mouth-watering smoked turkey. They smoke over hickory and oak, and everything is homemade from the meats to the sauces. The barbecue sauce is the original recipe but it became tedious to make it in-house, so they gave the recipe to Ott’s to produce.
The Extras: Buy their smoked meat by the pound to go. All sides are available to go in 8-ounce, 16-ounce, 32-ounce or larger catering sizes up to full pan. Try the jalapeño cheesy corn, beans or potato salad (all homemade).
2002 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, 417-886-9979
David Campbell, owner and pit master, had humble beginnings. In 1995, Campbell needed a job and was passionate about barbecue, so he rented a trailer and set it up to sell smoked meats. He called it BBQ 2 Go and quickly built a booming business. In 1996, a location on Campbell became available; he snagged it and has been there ever since. The restaurant has won the Best Barbecue category in various newspaper and magazine awards. But his coolest claim to fame is competing on a barbecue cookoff for the Travel Channel and taking home the $10,000 prize! “It was quite an experience,” he says.
Ribs, burnt ends, beef brisket and pulled pork have kept people coming back from more than 25 years, and he smokes them using a blend of hickory (for flavor) and oak (for heat). And the horseradish slaw is legendary. Campbell credits an old friend for the recipe. The friend drove tour buses and was driving singer Barry White when they stopped at a restaurant in the South. The friend paid the cook $50 for the horseradish slaw recipe and shared it with Campbell. Campbell says it should be called the Barry White slaw.
The Extras: Buckingham’s sauces are for sale at Hy-Vee, all Harter House locations and Price Cutter in Ozark sell their pit beans.
Heady Bar-B-Cue Co.
573 E. Elm St., Republic, 417-732-4227
Kevin Heady and his wife used to travel around to concerts selling their barbecue to hungry partygoers. It was a successful but exhausting gig.
“We got tired of tearing down the tent,” he says. So, they decided to open a spot in Republic, and they’ve been in business since 2013. The first venture was so popular, they had to expand to a larger location. Kevin runs the kitchen, and his wife runs the front of the house.
Their style is a cross between Texas and Kansas City. Most of their meats are not sauced. The best-selling items are the brisket and pulled pork, both smoked 13 hours overnight. The meats are dressed in a homemade rub and he uses a combination of hickory and cherry to smoke the meats. There’s a nice selection of homemade sides including options you don’t see every day, like pea salad. They also have playful menu items like a brisket burrito and pulled pork quesadilla. The menu is extensive, and they’re even known for their deep-fried pies in cherry, apple, lemon, pecan or chocolate.
The Extras: Buy Heady’s barbecue sauce by pint or quart.
Best of the Rest
Dig into the meaty goodness at one of these other super-tasty 417-land barbecue joints.
25124 DeMott Dr., Joplin, 417-781-9800
Don’t miss the: Texas-style brisket, which is dry rubbed and then smoked over oak.
Big R’s BBQ & Pies
1220 E. 15th St., Joplin, 417-781-5959
Don’t miss the: Ribs. The baby back ribs are massaged with homemade rub, smoked over hickory and served unsauced.
Oscar’s Famous Ribs
302 Veterans Boulevard, Branson, 417-294-7197
Don’t miss the: Baby back ribs with a dry rub, smoked over hickory and oak.
Ol’ Hickory Artisan Butchery & Premium Smokehouse
640 East 32nd Street, Joplin, 417-952-2117
Don’t miss the: Brisket burnt ends that are smoked for 20 hours.
Pickin Porch Grill
Branson Craft Mall, 694 Missouri Hwy. 165, Branson, 417-334-1223
Don’t miss the: Smoked pork tacos. Three corn tortillas are stuffed with juicy smoked pork topped with coleslaw, then drizzled in house made chipotle lime aioli and barbecue sauce.
Brickstreet BBQ & Subs
206 N. 1st St., Ozark, 417-511-4113
Don’t miss the: Ozark Cuban, all the classic elements of a Cuban: ham, smoked pork, pickles, cheese and spicy mustard served on a buttery, toasted hoagie.
Boone’s BBQ Barn
5260 S. Scenic Ave., Bolivar, 417-326-7008
Don’t miss the: Pulled pork plate, which comes with two sides (hashbrown casserole is a must). The pork is smoked for 18 hours over hickory.
Missouri Mike's BBQ and More
2833 W. Chestnut Expwy, Springfield, 417-771-5018
Don’t miss the: Burnt Ends, AKA Meat Candy. They use the point of the brisket because it has more marbling. It’s dry seasoned and slowly smoked.
Star Bar Grill
100 Fall Creek Dr., Branson, 417-320-5015
Don’t miss the: Taneycomo Trio: ¼ pound pulled pork; ¼ pound brisket; 3 St. Louis style ribs and two sides. Top with one of their seven sauces.
Bourbon & Beale
2639 S. Glenstone Ave., Springfield
Don’t miss the: Three meat combo: your choice of pulled pork (yes, please!), brisket (a must), barbecue chicken, smoked sausage, bone rib, fried shrimp, chicken tenders or fried fish.
Danna’s Bar-B-Que & Burger Shop
963 Missouri Hwy 165, Branson, 417-337-5527
15 Hope Way, Branson West, 417-272-1945
Don’t miss the: BBQ nachos with your choice of smoked meat (the pulled pork is awesome) served over crispy tortilla chips, with melted cheese, barbecue beans, jalapenos and sour cream.
Take a BBQ-Based Road Trip
Looking for some of the best places to stop for char-grilled goodness when you're on the road? We've got you covered, check out our recommendations for some must-visit barbecue joints.
Penguin Ed’s B&B (230 South East Ave., Fayetteville, 479-521-3663)
The Fillin’ Station (6741 State Highway 13, Lampe, 417-779-2727)
Crumpie’s 11-Point Smokehouse (Mo-142, Couch, 417-938-4771)
Big Ben’s BBQ Station (2817 The Loop, Carthage, 417-237-0752)
Hog Tide Bar-B-Que (417-986-4227)
The Bar-B-Q Joint (416 S. Neosho Blvd., Neosho, 417-312-8811)
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (three Kansas City locations)
Q39 (1000 W. 39th St., Kansas City, 816-255-3753)
Arthur Bryant’s (1727 Brooklyn Ave., Kansas City, 816-231-1123)
Bogart’s Smokehouse (1627 S. Ninth St., St. Louis, 314-621-3107)
Sugarfire Smoke House (various locations)
Pappy’s Smokehouse (3106 Olive St., St. Louis, 314-535-4340)
Memphis’s Central BBQ (various locations)
Charlie Vergos Rendezvous (52 S. Second St., Memphis, 901-523-2746)
Corky’s Ribs & BBQ (various locations)
Got another suggestion for a great place to stop for barbecue on the road? Let us know!
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