Can You Find Real Barbecue in NH?
Sure thing! If you know where to look.
One might think finding good barbecue in New Hampshire is unheard of, or even downright crazy to talk about. With strong roots in southern American culture, you wouldn’t expect there to be much up here in the North. However, there are some fabulous BBQ joints in the Granite State that will give all those missing that good old Southern BBQ a place to cure their hankering for some low-and-slow cooked meat. Many of the New Hampshire pit masters and restaurant owners have unique stories of how they got their start and what inspired them to live a life dedicated to sauces and cuts of meat. One thing that unites them all is their passion for the culture, technique and sense of community.
Most of these BBQ spots offer the choice to “make it your way” (in terms of region) as far as sauces go, which range from Texas to the Carolinas, though a majority of the meat you’ll find will be dry or with a rub. At all of these places, you’re sure to get your fill of brisket, pulled pork, ribs, racks, chicken and more. Don’t forget to grab a piece of cornbread and some slaw too. After all, truly good BBQ can be partially judged by the quality of its sides.
There’s likely a great BBQ spot near you, but you may even want to take a statewide tour after you finish reading this. No matter where you go, expect to be treated like family when you walk in the door, and leave feeling full and satisfied, the smell of smoke and spice filling your senses. You won’t be left disappointed.
One of the more well-known restaurants, Goody Coles Smokehouse & Catering Company has a big following with loyal customers who say the BBQ is straight out of the South. Co-owner Holley Lenihan, who’s originally from Texas, wanted to bring her and her husband’s love of BBQ to the area. They first opened Goody Coles in Exeter in 2003, and after a few years, they expanded and moved to Brentwood. There they continued their method of smoking all their meat for 12 hours using 100-percent hickory wood, which creates a welcoming smell as you walk into the building. While everything on their menu is great, folks rave about the brisket and the cucumber salad. Make sure you grab some sweet tea to complete your order.
KC's Rib Shack
Another go-to for many in the Granite State, KC’s Rib Shack is sure to satisfy, and is the perfect place to bring the family or gather with friends. Starting out with only a few thousand dollars in their pockets, owner Kevin Cornish and his business partner took a risk that turned into the now 20-year-old establishment. The BBQ joint lives in one of the oldest barns in the Manchester area, but you wouldn’t know it until you walk up the stairs. Expect a rustic feel with a good sense of humor (meat jokes) and lively atmosphere. One of their claims to fame is “The Shovel,” an order of over 6 pounds of different meats barbecued to perfection and brought to your table on, you guessed it, an actual shovel (pictured above). If you’re a real meat lover and want a few more options, The Cardiac Sam, a heaping sandwich of chicken, pork, bacon and more serves up a large portion of the animal kingdom. Or maybe the BBQ Sundae is more appealing to your palate — it includes layers of baked beans, slaw and pulled pork topped with a rib (pictured top right). You won’t leave this place hungry. Keep an eye out for their bigger and better bar area coming in the near future.
The people behind Kirby’s Q are newcomers to the BBQ restaurant scene, but have the chops to prove themselves players in the game. Owner Ken Urbanski had been smoking meat for almost 30 years, mostly cooking for friends and family when he decided to let the public try his cooking. Now just over a year old and situated close to the Vermont border in Alstead, Kirby’s is worth the trip. They take pride in their commitment to ensuring their customers have a wonderful experience. When you walk in, you immediately feel welcomed and the smell of the food entices you to order everything off the menu. If you’re unsure of what to try, the 3 Amigos is the way to go. The dish includes samples of the pulled pork, brisket and pulled chicken. The collard greens are a must-try too, and have become the talk of the town, along with their "world famous" cheesecake for dessert. For the future, Kirby’s Q is working on incorporating craft beer into the menu, expanding their soft catering and eventually will provide a fun outdoor space in the warmer months for the community to come and enjoy live music and good food.
Moat Mountain Smoke House & Brewing Co.
Most know Moat Mountain as one of the state’s earliest craft breweries, which is how they started back in 2000, but several years later the smokehouse and tavern were born. Situated in the bustling tourist town of North Conway, the pub can seat 174 and is a bright but rustic space. Many rave about the brisket and pulled pork, though we think anything you choose will pair well with their line of beers. Moat Mountain sources ingredients from the local surrounding area, and has a list of farms and businesses on their menu with which they work. This is a great spot to visit if you are touring the White Mountain area.
A must-stop on your way up to the mountains on Route 16 in West Ossipee, whether you’re with family, traveling by motorcycle or even snowmobiling through in the winter months. Yankee Smokehouse has been around for 35 years and started in a small building with an outdoor pit. Since then, they’ve expanded the restaurant and added a bar, but have kept most of the original menu items throughout the years. People come for the classics, such as the ribs and the pork, but the pizzas are very popular too, and most include their smoked meats and BBQ sauce. Their bloody marys are fantastic and come with (of course) big slices of bacon. Yankee Smokehouse also does regular fundraising with different organizations in the community and is expanding their catering business.
Nestled along the river in downtown Nashua, Riverside has all your BBQ staples: pulled pork, ribs, brisket, chicken with some other Southern flair such as catfish and dirty rice. They are a great addition to the downtown community and bring a welcoming and casual atmosphere. Originally owner Dave Manganello wanted to open a German restaurant after spending time in the country while his father was stationed nearby. After going to school for business management, Manganello came back with a question about what he wanted to do. It turns out that what he enjoyed the most was making BBQ for friends and family. It’s a great place to stop by, have a bite and cold beer, and is walking distance from all the other downtown shops and stops.
Huntspoint Meat & BBQ Restaurant
Johnny Love and Lovely Love (yes, those are their real names) started their meat distribution business in New York City’s Hunts Point, Bronx. They pride themselves on providing the highest quality meat available to some of the world’s best pit masters and BBQ competitions. Their meat has won countless awards and has been featured at competitions around the globe. After creating partnerships with pit masters and cooks, they started to master smoking the meats themselves and opened a business of their own. They still sell meat in their shop or to order, so you can cook it the way you want, but it’s worth it to stay and eat what they whip up. All sides are made from scratch with no preservatives, and their rubs and sauces are award-winners in their own right. We highly recommend getting the BBQ Kobe beef brisket and some homemade apple slaw.
Finding Even More Barbecue
It turns out there are quite a few barbecue restaurants in the state — far more than writer and photographer Jenn Bakos could fit into the main story. Here are some other great places she recommends:
Smoke Shack Southern Barbeque & Ice Cream
146 King St., Boscawen
Slow-cooked Carolina BBQ in central New Hampshire. A good place to stop in the summer months. They have a second location at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
95 Brewery Ln., Portsmouth
Founded in 2007 and located in the thriving city of Portsmouth, Mojo’s is great if you’re looking to catch some sports, hang with friends and happen to have a hankering for BBQ. In addition to great food, there’s a fun and lively atmosphere that brings out a good crowd and fans on game nights. Many talk about their pulled pork sliders and their daily specials.
89 Fort Eddy Rd., Concord
A Capital City favorite. Owner Matt Gfroerer learned all the pit master tricks of the trade while living in Texas and used to be the general manager at KC’s Rib Shack — so you know it’s good. Editor's note: We definitely know it's good – Smokeshow's BBQ Blend was a 2016 Best of NH Editor's Pick.
Gabi’s Smoke Shack
217 Rockingham Rd., Londonderry
Gabi’s is both a stationary building and a mobile kitchen with a hickory smoker. Come by to get some Texas-style BBQ meats and definitely try the mac and cheese.
Pit Stop Smokehouse
1041 Rte. 12, Westmoreland
A great BBQ stop in the Monadnock Region. There’s a large variety of menu items to choose from, many of which include meat from the smoker. All the sides and sauces are homemade.
416 Emerson Ave., Hampstead
If you love seafood and BBQ, then this is a good place to go to get your surf and turf cravings satisfied.
For quick barbecue flavor at home, try some of these sauces made right here in New Hampshire.
Big Pete’s Barbecue Sauce Bradford
The family-owned Appleseed Restaurant makes its own BBQ sauce that you can purchase at the restaurant or through Blackwater Mustard Co. We also recommend Blackwater’s mustards, which were a Best of NH Editor’s Pick in 2017.
Stump Chunks, Hooksett
It makes sense that a kindling and firestarter company would be into BBQ. They have three Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest accolades to their name, including a first place win in the vinegar division for the Step 3 Brand Camp Fire sauce.
Calef’s Country Store, Barrington
This charming general store offers its own line of sauces that include apple cinnamon, Vidalia onion and sweet bourbon glaze.
Ledgetop Sugar House, Boscawen
Owner David Boudrias has been making maple syrup here since 1977, and he translated these skills into creating their maple BBQ sauce using dark maple syrup. See the website for a list of stores that sell the sauce.
LaBelle Winery, Amherst and Portsmouth
Wine isn’t the usual beverage associated with BBQ, but maybe it should be. The Red Wine Cocoa BBQ Sauce is a part of LaBelle’s Winemaker’s Kitchen line of products.
Swineheart’s Signature Sauces, Meredith
We chose MacDaddy’s Rollin’ Smoke BBQ as a Best of NH Editor’s Pick back in 2014, and now you can bring a taste of their cooking home with their line of Swineheart sauces. No matter what region you swear by, there’s a sauce for you — from Carolina and New England styles all the way to the Southwest and even Hawaii.
About the Writer/Photographer
Frequent New Hampshire Magazine contributor Jenn Bakos both photographed and wrote this month’s cover story “Granite State Barbecue.” This month’s “Informer” photos are also hers. She is a Seacoast-based food, lifestyle and wedding photographer who travels all around New England for her work. She enjoys exploring the Granite State and beyond, and everything small business and farm-to-table. In her free time she likes to hike and kayak.
Though this is the first time Bakos did double duty as photographer and writer for New Hampshire Magazine, she's shot many of our food stories, including our search for the state's best pizza and the global cuisine feature. See more of her work on Instagram and at her website.