Austin’s Smokin’ Steakhouse
Why we love it: While Cleveland’s barbecue scene is just catching fire, owner Dan Campbell has been serving slow-cooked meat grilled on hardwood for 22 years. “When we first started, we were bringing the wood up from Texas on semi-trucks,” he says.
Try this: Each Monday, Austin’s has buy one, get one ribs ($18.99), which take about 14 hours to cook. 8121 Chippewa Road, Brecksville, 440-546-1003; 6535 Wilson Mills Road, Mayfield Village, 440-442-4340, austinsrestaurants.com
Hot Sauce Williams
Why we love it: It may have moved since Deborah Williams’ father and his four brothers began grilling in 1964, but Hot Sauce Williams hasn’t changed its core menu, nor its hard-to-miss pink-and-blue facade. “Consistency is what keeps us here,” says general manager Williams.
Try this: Unlike other local barbecue joints, Hot Sauce cooks its ribs ($13.99, two sides) outdoors over charcoal, adding an open-air taste. 7815 Carnegie Ave., Cleveland, 216-391-2230
Why we love it: With a Bertman’s Ballpark Mustard sauce and an Eastern European spice rub, Mabel’s has pioneered Cleveland’s barbecue flavor. “We wanted this to be something Clevelanders could say, ‘This is our style,’ ” says owner Michael Symon.
Try this: Half-slab of lamb ribs ($16) with a side of Cleveland Kraut created exclusively for Mabel’s. 2050 E. Fourth St., Cleveland, 216-417-8823, michaelsymon.com/mabels-bbq
Oak & Embers Tavern
Why we love it: Everything is made from scratch and its bourbon barbecue sauce complements its smoked meats. “Twelve bottles of bourbon go into each batch of our sauce,” says co-owner Gretchen Garofoli.
Try this: Made from ground beef, pork and chorizo, the half-pound smoked meatloaf ($13.50), topped with cheese and bourbon barbecue sauce is served with cheddar smashed potatoes. 8003 Mayfield Road, Chesterland, 440-729-4030, oakandemberstavern.com
The Proper Pig Smokehouse
Why we love it: Previously only on wheels, this brick-and-mortar store offers a fast-casual variety. “Even when the line is long, you can have your food in about 15 minutes,” says co-owner Shane Vidovic.
Try this: A three-meat platter ($16, two sides) with salt-and-pepper-rubbed brisket, butter-dipped smoked turkey and jalapeno cheddar sausage. 17100 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 440-665-3768, facebook.com/theproperpigsmokehouse