Adrian Miller’s brand-new book “Black Smoke: African Americans and the United States of Barbecue” is a rare union of rigorous scholarship and joyous readability. It’s a combo that’s congruent with his aim toward both the restoration and celebration of the “glorious past, vibrant present, and expansive future” of Black barbecue culture. The 18-page bibliography is fascinating all by itself, ranging from 1913’s “Dishes and Beverages of the Old South,” to Bobby Seale’s “Barbeque’n with Bobby,” to a cookbook from the Seattle Indian Services Commission. And Miller writes with humor, too, referencing Wakanda alongside the Smithsonian, cracking wise and deploying vernacular like “grubbing.” The reader also feels respected — it’s barbecue explained, not mansplained, with the foundational role of women and the intersections of native foodways made plain. (And, happily, Miller’s jokes aren’t free of barbs, e.g., when he allows that, “Some of my best friends are articulate white people who … happen to make fantastic barbecue.”)

Find out more about the Seattle place that made the top 20 list

The author of two previous works — “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time,” which won a 2014 James Beard Book Award, and “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas” — Miller was a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and has served on the board for the Southern Foodways Alliance. But the thing in his bio, Miller says, that people latch on to — what they immediately want to hear more about — is his certification as an official Kansas City Barbeque Society judge.

Likewise, among the history, insight, profiles and almost two dozen recipes found in “Black Smoke,” the attention-getter is bound to be The List. Here it is, in all its meaty glory — including Seattle barbecue gem Lil Red’s Takeout & Catering (find more on that place’s greatness right this way) — with new notes from Miller about why he loved each place. With a refreshing lack of barbecue-analytical overkill, he explains that he didn’t have any particular criteria. He merely ate at more than 200 Black-run barbecue places all across the country, and then, “It was just a matter of reflecting on the places that were memorable,” he says. Watch for Miller to appear in Netflix’s “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America,” debuting May 26. And hey — get yourself a copy of “Black Smoke.”

Adrian Miller’s Top 20 Black-owned Barbecue Joints in America

“Before you head to one of these places, please check to see if they’re open …” Miller notes, “and tell them that I sent you!”


Texas 202 Barbeque of Maryland, Brandywine, Maryland: “Amazing brisket and ribs, but please note, the ownership has changed. I don’t know the latest.”



Ashley’s Bar-B-Que, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: “A no-frills takeout spot with fantastic ribs and a salivating sweet, tomato-based sauce.”

Gates Bar-B-Q, multiple locations in the Kansas City, Missouri, area: “All of the standards are good, but ask if mutton is available. Gates makes my favorite bottled commercial barbecue sauce.”

LC’s Bar-B-Q, Kansas City, Missouri: “The burnt ends and sliced pork shoulder are transcendent. Sadly, the owner L.C. Richardson recently died, but the restaurant remains open.”

Q’s Tips and Wings, Chicago, Illinois: “Fantastic turkey barbecue including turkey tips and hot links. My twin sister April, who lives in Chicago, seconds this choice!”


Backyard BBQ Pit, Durham, North Carolina: “Tasty turkey versions of Eastern North Carolina barbecue in addition to the region’s classic dishes. A favorite spot of ‘American Idol’ contestant Clay Aiken.”

The Bar-B-Q Shop, Memphis, Tennessee: “The original home of barbecue spaghetti. This is a local delicacy that should be experienced, along with the savory ribs.”


Cozy Corner Restaurant, Memphis, Tennessee: “A great spot for barbecue oddities like bologna and quail. In fact, the only thing that’s odd would be failing to try it. Owner and co-founder Desiree Robinson was inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2020.”

Dreamland Bar-B-Que, multiple locations in Alabama: “I love the original spot in Tuscaloosa where the menu for a long time was spareribs, white bread, and beer. Obviously, the thing to get is ribs.”

Grady’s BBQ, Dudley, North Carolina: “Located in rural North Carolina, this restaurant makes sublime pork shoulder the old-school way with a mellow vinegar flavor, along with mouthwatering side dishes like hush puppies and butter beans.”

Jenkins Quality Barbecue, multiple locations in Jacksonville, Florida: “You’ll marvel when your slab of ribs arrives on a row of white bread and drenched in one of the best mustard barbecue sauces around.”

Payne’s Bar-B-Que, Memphis, Tennessee: “Serves the Platonic form of chopped pork shoulder sandwiches with a mustard-based slaw.”

Rodney Scott’s BBQ, Charleston, South Carolina: “One of the few places left to get legit whole hog barbecue with a tangy vinegar-based sauce.”



Burns Original BBQ, Houston, Texas: “This place made chef Anthony Bourdain’s shortlist when he visited H-Town. Spectacular ribs and hot link sausages.”

Fargo’s Pit BBQ, Bryan, Texas: “So many captivating items on their menu, but it’s the smoky chicken, succulent rib tips, and soul food side dishes that do the trick.”

Patillo’s BBQ, Beaumont, Texas: “Operating for more than a century, it’s one of the oldest barbecue joints in Texas. Go for the chopped brisket sandwich served with a rich, dark brown sauce.”

Ray’s BBQ Shack, Houston, Texas: “The chicken and ribs are soul-satisfying, but make sure you dine there on a Thursday so that you may wolf down the smoked oxtails.”


Bludso’s Bar & Que, Los Angeles, California: “A true taste of Texas in California. The go-to items here are the sliced beef brisket and the ribs. Bludso’s ships nationwide, so you don’t have to hop a plane to LA. Owner Kevin Bludso recently appeared on the Netflix special ‘The American Barbecue Showdown.’”

Lil Red’s Takeout & Catering, Seattle, Washington: “An interesting and enchanting mix of Caribbean-accented barbecue. Get the ribs with jerk barbecue sauce, and save room for the banana pudding and the rum cake.”

West Alley BBQ and Smokehouse, Chandler, Arizona: “Jim ‘J.D.’ Dandy has a barbecue pedigree that traces back to enslaved cooks. Many dishes on the menu will hit the spot, and I recommend the pork shoulder.”