When it comes to American BBQ, Melbourne has a lot to offer. Sometimes, less really is more. This tired cliche is perhaps best illustrated when it comes to the relative simplicity of kick-ass barbecue.
Smoke, fire, wood, and a whole lot of time are all that’s required to transform an ordinary cut of meat into something extraordinary.
The best American Smokehouses in Melbourne infuse techniques from the southern US to create that distinctive smoky taste and texture.
Whether it’s the hickory and spice of the Carolinas, the signature sauces of Kansas City, or the fall-off-the-bone tenderness of Texan BBQ, you’ll find it all at these American Barbecue restaurants in Melbourne.
By the way, for all you all hawk-eyed readers out there, we’ll be sticking to the American English spelling of barbecue in homage to our kin in the northern hemisphere. Saddle up, partner; let’s go check out the best American BBQ restaurants in Melbourne. I hope you’re hungry.
Cover Yourself In Sauce At Melbourne’s Best American BBQ Restaurants
Cooking a whole brisket, complete with a pepper-crusted bark, is a very different undertaking to chucking a quick snag on the barbie.
That's why when the craving for slow-cooked, smoked meats hits you. It's best to leave the hours of cooking time to the experts. When you're craving some Southern-style BBQ action, head to these Melbourne hotspots dishing up brisket, wings, ribs and all the sides.
Get your meat between bread with Melbourne's best burgers, or perhaps you want some late-night eats to bookend a night on the town. Nothing goes with barbecue like a fresh beer so check out Melbourne's top offerings on the craft beer front.
Southern Grace Diner
Boasting the first American style BBQ in Melbourne, Southern Grace Diner has been serving up all things BBQ since 2011. Resident smoker Lance Rosen was trained by the best during his barbeque-dominated road trip across America, returning to his home turf in Melbourne loaded with Texan smoking knowledge.
The concept for Southern Grace Diner is simple—meat and three vegs, but don’t mistake that for lacklustre. The meats are rubbed with spices and smoked on hickory pellets at low temperatures for up to 16 hours.
They haven’t forgotten about the humble sandwich either; our pick is The “Zee” Man—sliced beef brisket, smoked cheese, fried onion and BBQ sauce.
San Antone is the brainchild of BBQ legend Kevin Bludso of the Los Angeles institution, Bludso’s BBQ.
The menu’s smoked selection dishes up the usual fare expected from a BBQ joint—low and slow-cooked pork, beef and whole BBQ chickens.
Share plates include all that plus three sides: mac & cheese, coleslaw and onion rings. If that isn’t enough to induce a food coma, there are several starters like loaded nachos and texas chilli fries which are sure to set off those meat sweats.
Many Aussie BBQ chefs cut their teeth with a pilgrimage to the US, seeking the tutelage of top pitmasters on their home turf. Kevin Bludso, the owner of Bludso’s BBQ, which is widely regarded as the best barbecue joint in America, is the kind of guy they seek out.
Only this time, the master himself has come down under and set up shop in Melbourne. San Antone, which resides inside the Crown, is Bludso’s Australian outpost, where you can get a taste of some legendary barbecue three generations in the making.
Head chef Chris Terlikar has come a long way from his first smoker made out of a toolbox, dishwasher pipe and black heat-proof paint from Bunnings. Bluebonnet BBQ now boasts a smoke-guzzling machine producing 280kg of meat.
Terlikar spent 12 weeks touring the deep South of the USA before taking residence at New York’s Michelin-star yielding restaurant, PUBLIC. Bringing his learnings back to the land down under has resulted in one of the best American BBQ restaurants in Melbourne.
Ironbark and oak woods are used to smoke Bluebonnet’s beef brisket that’s rubbed in nothing but salt and pepper. Classic BBQ meats like pulled pork, ribs and lamb shoulder are joined by a more modern take on BBQ, including wood-roasted & miso-glazed duck breast. Come for the mouth-watering meat. Stay for the creative sides that ooze Melbourne influence.
A Texan barbecue expedition convinced Chris Terlikar, head chef and owner of Bluebonnet Barbecue, that some things are just too good to be left in the Lone Star State.
Now, Melburnians flock to this Brunswick East restaurant and gather under the vaulted ceiling and distressed-brick walls of the dining room or around the bar constructed from reclaimed railroad sleepers for a taste of iconic southern smokehouse staples.
The kitchen’s 500-gallon, 280-kilogram beast of a woodfired rotisserie smoker, cranks out a relentless stream of black Angus beef, bourbon-glazed pork ribs, and sausage made daily in-house, plus much more.
Fancy Hank’s takes barbecuing very, very seriously. Notice their spelling of ‘barbecue’, for instance, which is pulled from the way of the OG pitmasters back in the states. What started as a humble pop-up consisting of an open grill and a few park benches in Carlton’s Princes Park is now a Melbourne institution housed in a magnificent Art Deco building at the top of Bourke Street.
Fancy Hank’s 2-tonne smoker, appropriately named Puffing Billy, smokes the finest quality free-range meats through a 16-hour process. The traditional Southern cooking style and fresh local product promise mouthwatering meat and a slew of snacks and sides to round out your meal.
Do you think about what you’re going to eat 22 hours before you eat it? Fancy Hank’s does. That’s how long the folks at this BBQ joint treat their selection of Victorian free-range produce to the low and slow experience in their two-tonne, custom-built smoker.
Out in the restaurant, the space is bright, the banter is top-notch, and the bar is stocked with local beer, wine and spirits. What more could you want from one of the best American Smokehouses in Melbourne?
Le Bon Ton
This New Orleans inspired bar and smokehouse strikes an ideal balance of fresh, tender seafood (including fish from the Louisiana Gulf Coast) and glistening pit-smoked meat done the Texas way. Think freshly shucked oysters, flight-worthy Bon Ton tacos and Berkshire pork belly with a creole honey mustard.
Le Bon Ton also has several signature cocktails featuring flavours from the South, ice-cold frothy beers, smooth whisky and complex absinthe to balance out the smoky, meat-heavy menu at this Melbourne BBQ restaurant.
While their menu draws inspiration from all over the American South, the Cajun and Creole flavours native to New Orleans and the Louisiana Gulf Coast define the barbecue experience at Le Bon Ton.
Their pit-smoked meats are treated to the low and slow experience for a full twelve hours, and their extensive bar features a range of exotic absinthes. If you’re having trouble choosing from the extensive a-la-carte menu, the Southern Pride share plate is sure to satisfy all BBQ lovers. Le Bon Ton offers some of the best American BBQ Melbourne has to offer.
Since 2015, Meatworks Co has been a pleasure palace of meaty goodness, serving meat with Western and Eastern flavours. While Meatworks Co knows their way around a Weber and a pair of tongs, they promise to cater to everyone with their simple yet considered dishes.
Apart from the slow-roasted braised and smoked meats, there’s a range of salads, sides, seafood and vegetarian options.
Whether you’re hungry for beef brisket, pulled pork, some of the best ribs in the city (heck, you can order the platter and get a little of everything), Meatworks Co. has got you sorted.
The space—a converted mechanic’s shop with a steampunk/canteen vibe—is bright and filled with the aroma of slowly smoking meat and the various glazes and spices with which they are encrusted.
Oh, and just so you know, nothing goes at Meatworks Co. without Betsy’s say so. Betsy is the 450kg, jet black, hand-built beast of a smoker responsible for the barbecue delights upon which you are gorging. Be sure to thank her on the way out.
Meat is Meatmaiden’s passion (shocker), and the gloomy dungeon in the heart of the CBD only confirms their love affair with all things smokey. Their smoker, brought over from the States and filled with ironbark from the Blue Mountains, takes centre stage alongside the dry-aging meat cabinet that’s used to trap in as much tenderness and flavour as they can muster.
Order the must-try dry-aged O’Connor pasture-fed porterhouse or leave it up to the experts and order The Maiden’s Mood set menu to ensure you get the best of what head chef Tom Johnson and his exceptional produce has to offer.
When it comes to world-class barbecue, smoke is more than just a means to an end; it’s an integral ingredient. That’s why the folks at Meatmaiden source their Ironbark wood chips from the Blue Mountains of NSW.
Their steaks, Wagyu beef from coastal Tasmania, are dry-aged in a custom cabinet for up to 40 days to make sure when you sink your teeth into a T-Bone it’s the best damn cut of meat you’ve ever eaten. Not a big fan of shortcuts, these fellas. But boy, does it show.
Up In Smoke
Smoke is the name of the game at Up in Smoke, and they aren’t playing around. The centrepiece of the masculine and sleek smokehouse is their $20,000 smoker that burns throughout the night to produce a selection of bold BBQ dishes.
The food is American with a local twist. Start at the crunchy fried chicken with a Sriracha maple mayo or mozzarella sticks with plum sauce before diving into the meats and sandwiches.
And on the sixth day, the meat gods declared “let there be smoke”, and barbecue was born. And it was good. Or something like that. The folks at Up In Smoke are devout worshippers at the altar of smoke and fire, producing some of the finest barbecues in Melbourne every day of the week.
Located in a refurbished Footscray garage, this smokehouse features ten rotating taps showcasing unique Australian craft beers, a bar slinging mean cocktails, and their tank of a smoker pumping out some of the best ribs, brisket, and chicken wings you ever did see. Up in Smoke offers some of the tastiest American BBQ Melbourne has to offer.
Bluestone American BBQ
Bluestone BBQ’s Chef Alvaro Mall Trevisanut infuses the low and slow traditions of American BBQ with his Uruguayan heritage to create a unique take on the smokey flavours we all know and love. There's Yearling short rib with chimichurri, Cuban style pulled pork with lime mojo and sides like cornbread with aged cheddar and jalapeno butter.
If in doubt, there are a range of Pitmaster Feasts that are sure to induce an irrecoverable meat coma.
Drawing inspiration from both North and South America, Bluestone American BBQ is a truly international culinary experience. Leaning on the traditions of the US barbecue belt, the Uruguayan heritage of the head chef, and the distinct influences of Australia’s trendiest city, this Melbourne smokehouse will not disappoint.
Every dish is generously sized and intended to be shared. So whether it’s pulled pork with a Cuban twist, chicken chops straight out of the country towns of Alabama, or Texas-style brisket, bring your friends, family, and your appetite along to this one-of-a-kind barbecue restaurant.
Dexter’s mantra is simple. Source the best meat, and treat it in the right way. Although this new kid on the block isn’t afraid to mix things up—the “non-traditional mastery” doesn’t just smoke their meat and slap on any old glaze. Instead, the team breaks down their meats in-house and sous-vide, chargrill or smoke them. First up on your order should be their short caramel rib or dry-aged cheeseburger.
Any smokehouse classifying themselves as a ‘meat project’ with popular dishes including salted caramel short ribs and hot meat doughnuts has my attention. Dexter is a favourite among Melbourne BBQ lovers; they’ve been featured in Timeout’s best cheap eats, praised as one of the city’s most exciting and one of the nation’s best venues, and their burgers have been listed among the top three in Melbourne.
Can we just come back to hot meat doughnuts for a minute, though? No idea what they are.
Burn City Test Kitchen
Ex-sommeliers Steve Kimonides and Raphael Guthrie’s Burn City Test Kitchen takes the best Texan smoking techniques and mashes it with a local Melbourne spin. Native ingredients like pepper berries and thyme impart the meat with an Aussie flavour, and of course, the wine list is top-notch—we wouldn’t expect anything less from two seasoned sommeliers.
The barbecue at Burn City Test Kitchen draws inspiration from all over the southern US. But if you had to isolate one state which most inspires the flavours and technique at this Melbourne smokehouse, Texas would be it.
The brisket burger, with 14-hour smoked beef brisket and pickles dripping with mustard and jammed between a soft milk bun, is as close to the quintessential American smokehouse meal you’re going to get outside of the US.
From weddings to work functions to dining-in at the South Kingsville restaurant, whenever you tuck into Burn City’s barbecue, you’re in for the real deal.
The Gem Bar and Dining
If tall cans of beer, shrines to the King, and barbecue so tender you can pull it apart with your fingers are your thing, head over to Collingwood and visit The Gem. They’ve been the stalwart for American BBQ in Melbourne since they opened their doors in 2006, serving up all things Americana with remarkable authenticity.
You can’t go wrong with their Texas-style barbecue, so get the crew together, grab a table in the dining room and let the Pitmaster curate you a platter of some of the best BBQ in Melbourne.
Bad Shepherd Brewing Co.
You may know them as one of Melbourne’s most recognisable craft beer brewers, but you’d be remiss to think Bad Shepherd Brewing Co.‘s bag of tricks ended there.
Their flagship brewpub in Cheltenham offers some of the best BBQ in Melbourne, with the same dedication that goes into their award-winning beer shining through loud and clear in their signature dishes.
If being led into temptation ends at a table with a plate piled with barbecue next to an ice-cold IPA, consider me tempted.
Third Wave Café
If it’s a barbecue-for-breakfast kind of day, Third Wave Café is the place to be. Their signature Green Eggs combine scrambled eggs and slow-roasted lamb shoulder and is one heck of a way to kick off your day.
They’re open all day, every day, but you’ll want to stick around for supper to get the full American Barbecue experience. Rumour has it their fall-off-the-bone tender pork ribs, served with two different kinds of BBQ sauce, are the best in town.
The Hack in Port Melbourne is a bright and airy venue for G-rated drinking and dining. This huge old pub, built-in 1860, is the perfect setting for a neighbourhood bar and eatery where smoked meat and classic American sides are the names of the game, and they have two styles of house barbecue sauce available to offset the protein hit.
FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants
A traditional American barbecue usually includes side dishes like potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans or macaroni and cheese. Chuck Smith is a cook at Smoke Shack, a barbecue restaurant in Columbus, Ohio.
The Best American BBQ Dishes
- Mac And Cheese. An easy homemade mac and cheese that is made from scratch.
- BBQ Chicken Wings. Crispy baked chicken wings smothered in a sweet and tangy homemade barbecue sauce.
- Classic BBQ Sauce.
- Pulled Pork Sandwich.
- Burnt Ends.
- Baked Beans.
- Creamy Potato Salad.
The original barbecue styles are thought to be those that originated in the easternmost colonies, like the vinegar-based “whole hog” barbecue found in Virginia and North Carolina.
The word barbecue comes from the language of a Caribbean Indian tribe called the Taino. Their word for grilling on a raised wooden grate is barbacoa. The word first appeared in print in a Spanish explorer's account of the West Indies in 1526, according to Planet Barbecue.
The word barbecue originates from a term Taíno Indians used to refer to their wooden cooking structures; Spanish explorers later added it to their vocabulary via barbacoa. ... When in doubt, go for the slightly ambiguous abbreviation, BBQ.
In the States, there’s no such thing as “American” barbeque – only Texan, Alabaman, Virginian and so on. Each state has its tastes and traditions. And in many cases, there are several regional styles within a single state.
This is hard to tell from Melbourne, where barbeque (or “barbecue” if you want to be authentic) is often a mishmash of styles. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that the meat is good quality and it’s cooked low and slow in a proper smoker. We’re doing well on both fronts.
When meat is cooked this way, there’s only one result: charred, succulent and profoundly flavoursome. Don’t forget your favourite hot sauce and a side of mac’n’cheese, potato salad or slaw.