The ultimate guide to barbecue in the Des Moines metro
Smokey D's owner Darren Warth and Chef Shad Kirton talk about their love of competitive barbecue and the piles of trophies they've won with their brisket. Register File Video
Nothing beats tender, smoked meats cooked low and slow for hours until the meat falls apart in your hands and melts in your mouth.
Iowa may not have our own barbecue style like North Carolina, Memphis, St. Louis and Kansas City, but that doesn't mean we don't have some great Q here in our own backyard.
What we do have is amazing pork, beef and chicken from Iowa farms just minutes away. And we have plenty of talented chefs and pitmasters who know how to transform that meat into juicy, smoky goodness.
In this comprehensive barbecue roundup, we included only locally and regionally owned barbecue restaurants within 45 minutes of the Des Moines metro. It's all here. Let this guide lead you to the best ribs, brisket, chicken, pulled pork, smoked turkey and sausages in central Iowa.
B Fabulous BBQ & Catering
A barbecue tradition over 40 years in the making, "BFab" has combined four regional influences including Texas brisket and Kansas City pork and chicken. The menu features a variety of smoked meats and sides, crispy Southern-fried chicken, nine zesty make-your-own sauces and barbecue infusions like brisket-stuffed mac and cheese and pulled pork tacos with pepper jack and slaw.
Location: 600 Linn St., Slater
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Back Alley Smokehouse
With a full lineup of smoked meats like pulled pork, brisket, ribs and twice-smoked ham, Back Alley in Carlisle is worth the trip to the countryside. Enjoy a variety of sides, dry-rubbed pork and chicken wings, and sandwiches. Try a Texas brisket burger — a half-pound patty topped with smoked brisket, pepper jack and jalapeños for something different.
Location: 90 School St., Carlisle
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Contact: (515) 989-4410; Facebook
Big Al's BBQ and Catering
Big Al Laudencia has been serving up his Kansas City and St. Louis inspired hickory-smoked barbecue since 2012. Enjoy St. Louis-style ribs, brisket, pulled pork and smoked wings in a variety of combos, platters and sandwiches. But save some room for sides like burnt ends baked beans and jalapeño creamed corn.
Location: 1810 Army Post Rd., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
New to central Iowa's barbecue scene is Boxcar BBQ in Bondurant. It's next door to Reclaimed Rails Brewing Company, and Boxcar is happy to deliver to the brewery. Ribs, pulled pork and brisket are the things here, with plenty of sides, sandwiches and apps to choose from with railroad-themed names. Try a barbecue panini like the One Stop —made with mac and cheese and pulled pork.
Location: 103 Main St. S.E., Bondurant
Hours: Monday, 4 to 8 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 4 to 9 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Contact: (515) 979-5468; Facebook
Cactus Bob's BBQ Corral
Up to 20 hours is required for Cactus Bob's barbecue to smoke with hickory wood. There's no shortage of barbecue options on this menu. From Texas-style beef brisket, juicy ribs (baby backs and St. Louis), chicken (whole or boneless breast), pork butt, pulled pork, turkey and Italian sausage, Cactus Bob's even throws in Saucy Pig (pulled pork in barbecue sauce) and Sloppy Bob (ground sausage in barbecue sauce).
Choose from sandwiches, baskets, platters and dinners in a variety of combos. But don't forget about the smoked wings. But don't forget about the sides, sauces and barbecue sliders.
Location: 5955 Merle Hay Rd., Johnston
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Claxon's Smokehouse & Grill
In the business of barbecue for over two decades, Claxon's in Altoona uses a hickory and oak combo to smoke its meats to juicy perfection. Many kinds of meat make the menu in dinners and combos — baby back ribs, smoked prime rib (also Cajun grilled), pork loin and pulled pork, chicken, sliced and chopped brisket, turkey, andouille sausage, double-smoked ham and, of course, burnt ends.
More than 15 sides and apps help round out the menu like the Burnt End Wedge — an 8-ounce crunchy and smoky burnt brisket end served over Parmesan toast and Claxon's own Orange Voo-Doo sauce.
Location: 3131 8th St., S.W., Altoona
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Contact: (515) 967-7979; claxonbbq.com
For almost 20 years, Flying Mango has been winning hearts with its Caribbean-inspired seafood and, of course, its signature smoked meats. Goodies include pork tenderloin, Memphis-style ribs, 24-hour beef brisket, chicken, pork chops, and andouille sausage. Be sure to check out the Bass-Ackwards chicken wings and the Redneck Surf-N-Turf—Cajun catfish and loin back ribs with red beans and rice and cornbread.
Location: 4345 Hickman Rd., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 5 to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 to 10 p.m.; closed Sundays and Mondays.
Harvey's Diner and Pub
For a short drive to the Hotel Pattee in Perry, you can sample Harvey's popular barbecue items like smoked dry rubbed pork spare ribs, beef brisket with a sea salt and cracked pepper rub with a sweet-spicy molasses barbecue sauce, and smoked center-cut pork chops. Save room for sides like "pit" beans made with smokey barbecue sauce and burnt ends, and daily pies, cakes and other desserts by pastry chef, Tricia Foster.
Location: 1112 Willis Ave, Perry
Hours: Open everyday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Head up to Ames for this legendary barbecue establishment that’s been in operation since 1970. The extensive menu has a wide variety of hickory-smoked meats like baby back pork ribs, beef, turkey, chicken, ham, pork loin and Hickory Park’s homemade Polish sausage in dinners, platters, combos, sandwiches and even salads. Barbecue may be central to this high-volume restaurant, but if you’re into ice cream, this is also a great place for sundaes, shakes, malts, splits, floats, and cones.
Location: 1404 S. Duff Ave., Ames
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
With 10 years under its belt and seven locations, each with its own special take on barbecue, Jethro's has become a great place to enjoy its signature barbecue and more name-inspired dishes focusing on Cajun seafood, steaks, bacon and pork. Try smoky ribs, brisket, pulled pork, pit ham, burnt ends and wings in dinners, combos, platters and sandwiches. But don’t forget about Jethro’s Sunday brunch when you can have barbecued meats alongside your eggs and toast.
- Jethro's BBQ - 3100 Forest Ave., Des Moines; (515) 279-3300
- Jethro's BBQ n' Bacon Bacon - 1480 22nd St., West Des Moines; (515) 868-0888
- Jethro’s BBQ n' Jambalaya - 9350 University Ave., West Des Moines; (515) 987-8686
- Jethro’s BBQ n’ LakeHouse - 1425 S.W. Vintage Pkwy., Ankeny; (515) 289-4444
- Jethro's BBQ n' Pork Chop Grill - 5950 N.W. 86th St, Johnston; (515) 421-4848
- Jethro's BBQ Steak n' Chop - 1301 Buckeye Ave., Ames; (515) 598-1200
- Jethro’s n' Jakes Smokehouse Steaks - 2601 Adventureland Dr., Altoona; (515) 957-9727
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Jimmy's Barbeque Pit
This little spot with big barbecue in Boone offers pork spare ribs, sliced brisket, pulled pork, ham, chicken, turkey, rib tips and pit bits. And they’re available in sandwich, dinner or combo form with sides and Texas toast. Order ahead for quick and convenient pickup. For something different, try a smoked potato.
Location: 717 Story St., Boone
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sundays.
This smokehouse in Waukee is owned and operated by Shad Kirton, winner of TLC’s ‘BBQ Pitmasters’ show, Season 2. There’s lots of meat here — racks of ribs, pulled and sliced pork, sausage, burnt ends, turkey, chicken and brisket. Kue’d sports a full line of sides including apple crisp and cheddar au gratin potatoes. But don’t forget about the Church Lady Cakes.
Location: 245 Hickman Rd., Waukee
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Le's Chinese Bar-B-Que
For a unique and international twist on the usual smoky goodness, this Chinese barbecue serves up crispy and juicy barbecued duck, chicken and pork. And they’re available in noodle soups, with fried rice and mixed vegetables or by the pound. In addition to Chinese barbecue, traditional dishes are also offered, like General Tso’s chicken and beef with broccoli.
Location: 1600 2nd Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Contact: (515) 244-6111; Facebook
People in Newton know this little spot has some great barbecue. From a small meal with one meat and one side to a full feast for two that includes smoked ham, ribs, bacon, brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, chicken breast, two 6-ounce sides and two slices of toast (over two pounds of food), you can go all the way here. But there are plenty of options, including family meal deals, sandwiches, burgers, sides and nibbles.
Location: 1220 W. 18th St. S., Newton
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Rolling Smoke Barbecue
For barbecue with an Alabama influence, this Pleasant Hill smokehouse opened in November 2018, serving pulled pork, pulled chicken, pork loin, double-smoked sausage, brisket, burnt ends, smoked prime rib, wings, ribs and pork loin in platters and combos, appetizers and sandwiches. Sides are sold in single servings, pints and quarts for catering, takeout and dine-in. Look for daily specials and plenty of sweet treats like banana cream pie and peach cobbler.
Location: 1225 Copper Creek Dr., Pleasant Hill
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 8:30 p.m.; closed Mondays.
MORE ULTIMATE GUIDES:
- Where to eat chicken wings in Des Moines: 2018 edition
- The ultimate pizza restaurants of Des Moines: 2018 edition
- Mexican food in the metro: 2018 edition
ShortE’s opened in Johnston last year and has brought its Southern-style all wood smoked barbecue the masses with both fast-casual and table service. Hand-carved barbecue choices range from ribs, pulled pork, chopped and sliced brisket, ham, turkey, chicken, burnt ends and sausage in dinners, platters and sandwiches, served with a choice of sides like broccoli slaw and seasoned tots.
There are even wraps, salads and tacos made from smoky barbecue. One item to watch for is ShortE’s Bacon Bomb — ground sausage wrapped in smoked bacon and filled with cream cheese, cheddar and jalapeños.
Location: 8805 Chambery Blvd., #250, Johnston
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; closed Sundays and Mondays.
This barbecue restaurant began in 2006 in a trailer in a driveway. Since then, Smokey D’s has become known for its competition barbecue (the owners compete on the National BBQ Circuit). Enjoy award-winning ribs, chopped pork, pulled chicken, turkey, pit ham, smoked sausage, sliced brisket and burnt ends in platters and sandwich baskets. If you’re extra-hangry, you can order the Farm Boy — a 5-pound concoction of two slices of white bread topped with a pork tenderloin, spud sticks, bacon, country gravy cheddar cheese and green onions.
- 5055 N.W. 2nd St., Des Moines; (515) 243-2747
- 1210 Locust St., Street Level, Des Moines; (515) 288-1000
- 601 Locust St., Skywalk Level, Des Moines; (515) 282-4501
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Locust Street locations: Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; closed Saturdays and Sundays.
Located in the food court at Merle Hay Mall, Stu’s has plenty of barbecue to keep you going as you shop. Sample pulled pork, beef brisket, turkey and pork loin in sandwich form. Lots of side dishes round out the menu board like chili-cheese fries and cole slaw. Splurge on some BBQ Nachos — crispy tri-colored corn chips topped with chopped pork, barbecue sauce, house beer cheese sauce, and banana and jalapeño peppers with a side of salsa.
Location: 3800 Merle Hay Rd., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Contact: (515) 331-6620; Facebook
The BBQ Joint
Need a quick lunch in downtown Des Moines and hankering for some barbecue? This place has you covered. New to the food court in the Partnership Building, this counter covers the basics like beef brisket, chopped pork, smoked turkey and burnt ends sandwiches with toppings like cheese, bacon and slaw. Sides like cornbread muffins with honey butter and smoked jalapeno corn are also there for the choosing.
Location: 700 Locust St., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed Saturdays and Sundays.
Contact: (515) 369-4227; Facebook
The Fletcher Full Service Kitchen + Bar
This neighborhood Ankeny restaurant, with its giant space in a former supermarket, serves up a widely varying menu that includes barbecue smoked daily. Enjoy ribs, brisket, chicken, and pulled pork on platters with The Fletcher's signature sauce, cole slaw and house-cut fries. There's a limited supply every day, so once it sells out, there won't be more until tomorrow.
Location: 1802 N. Ankeny Blvd., Ste. 100, Ankeny
Hours: Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; closed Mondays.
Contact: (515) 963-9632; the-fletcher.com;
Pizza and barbecue? Why not? Try the pulled pork pizza made with barbecue sauce, smoked pulled pork, bacon, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Barbecued baby back ribs are available by the half rack or full rack and come with sides like mac and cheese and potato salad. Look for other barbecue items like pulled pork and pulled chicken sandwiches, and pulled pork bacon-cheese fries. Twisted Pizzaria recently opened a new location in the Merle Hay Mall food court.
Location: 3801 S.W. 9th St., Des Moines
Hours: Sunday through Tuesday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Uncle Wendell's BBQ Catering and Bakery
At this sassy little spot on Ingersoll, the prices are subject to change according to the customer’s attitude. Assorted meats like ribs, pulled pork, pulled and whole chicken, and sliced brisket are available in sandwiches and dinners. But make sure you try the hot pepper cornbread and the Fire and Ice cucumber salad.
Location: 2716 Ingersoll Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sundays and Mondays.
Contact: (515) 288-3207; Facebook
Whatcha Smokin BBQ & Brew
Take a trip to Luther and feast on “smokey treats” and sip on a wide range of Iowa craft beer. And those treats include double-smoked sausage, Iowa pork loin, brisket and pulled pork or chicken. Choose from Pit Master plates or sandwiches, and pick some sides like Camp Ground beans, cast iron corn bread and cheesy potatoes. Ribs, burnt ends, smoked chicken halves, burgers and prime rib are available as nightly specials.
Location: 403 Iowa Ave, Luther
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Wobbly Boots Roadhouse
Wobbly Boots in Clive mixes the barbecue styles of Memphis, Kansas City, St. Louis, Texas, and the deep south for its dry-rubbed hickory-smoked barbecue. There’s lots of variety here, with meats like baby back ribs, hand-pulled pork, turkey, sweet Italian sausage, applewood smoked ham, brisket, burnt ends and chicken. From dinners, plates, sandwiches and appetizer samplers, the options are endless. Wobbly Boots even smokes meatloaf and prime rib. But make sure you start out with some smoked Wobbly Wings in a choice of sauces and flavors.
Location: 1301 N.W. 114th St., Clive
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Woody's Smoke Shack
Woody's Smoke Shack is back with all of the same award-winning smoked meats and sides people have come to expect from this little barbecue spot near Drake. Barbecue aficionados can choose from sandwiches, platters and meals of sliced Texas-style beef brisket, twice-smoked pit ham, pulled smoked chicken or whole chicken, pulled pork, baby back ribs, pork loin and turkey (turkeys need a 3-day advance notice). Almost 20 kinds of sides round out the menu including new kinds of baked beans and potato salad.
Location: 2511 Cottage Grove Ave., Des Moines
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Sundays.
Contact: (515) 277-0005; woodyssmokeshackdm.com;
Do you have a favorite barbecue restaurant within 45 minutes of Des Moines and you don't see it on this list? Email Brian Carlson to have your favorite barbecue spot added.