In the States there’s really no such thing as “American” barbeque – only Texan, Alabaman, Virginian and so on. Each state has its own 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 really 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.

Related pages:
Red Gum BBQ, Red Hill
Best Steak in Melbourne
Best Burgers in Melbourne

Bluebonnet Barbecue Brunswick East

Owner Chris Terlikar learned his craft from pitmaster Tom Micklethwait in Austin, Texas. Naturally, he smokes a mean salt-and-pepper brisket. But Bluebonnet's real strength is that Terlikar was a talented chef before he started dabbling in barbeque. Everything he creates is gold, from miso brussel sprouts to a thick pork cutlet, smoked for a couple of hours and finished on the grill to produce a devastating layer of crackling.

124-126 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
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Meatmaiden

This dim basement is a cross between a barbeque joint and steakhouse. From the former genre, there's 20-hour Rangers Valley brisket and saltbush lamb shoulder with confit garlic yoghurt, both smoked over ironbark. From the latter, steaks from O'Connor Beef and Rangers Valley dry-aged in-house. Meatmaiden lives up to its name.

The Basement 195 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
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Up In Smoke

Chef Shayne McCallum and his team take influences from various places, but there's a definite Texan and Tex-Mex slant to the menu here. Alongside the classic brisket, you'll find chicken-jalapeno sausages; grilled corn with habanero mayo; and pulled-pork tacos. All the meats are prepared in a beastly $20,000 smoker imported from the States.

28 Hopkins Street, Footscray
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Fancy Hank’s

Fancy Hank's got smoking in 2012, when decent barbeque was still rare in Melbourne. Back then it was a mobile catering operation. It still does that on request, but for the full experience it's best to visit the HQ, where Texan-style brisket; mustard-y, South Carolina-inspired pork shoulder and smoked chicken are all pulled from Puffing Billie, a two-and-a-half-tonne offset smoker.

Level 1 79 Bourke Street, Melbourne
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Bluestone American BBQ

Pitmaster Al Malel had two barbeque educations: his Uruguan grandfather's lessons on the asado, and watching American-style YouTube tutorials. This experience guides the menu at Bluestone, where Black Angus brisket is rubbed in salt and pepper à la Texas, but short rib is served with the herby South American sauce, chimichurri. Also on offer: Cuban pulled pork and applewood-smoked chicken with Alabama-style white, mayonnaise-based sauce.

470 Sydney Road, Coburg
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Le Bon Ton

Most of the chefs and the pitmasters on this list have completed a Southern pilgrimage of some length, but Le Bon Ton's Will and Mick Balleau actually grew up in New Mexico. They're not purists, though. The meats here are smoked over Aussie ironbark and could be dressed with Louisiana-style honey mustard or Alabama-style white sauce.

51 Gipps Street, Collingwood
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The Gem Bar and Dining

This unassuming pub is often overshadowed by the nearby Le Bon Ton. It shouldn't be – The Gem was one of the earliest entrants on Melbourne's barbeque scene (2006) and still excels at Carolina-style pork shoulder and Texas-style brisket and chicken.

289 Wellington Street, Collingwood
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Dexter

Apart from the cooking style – low and slow – there's little here that's authentically American. And actually, that's what makes Dexter such an interesting spot. Borrowdale pork ribs are glazed with apricot, rather than the usual apple. Tender Valley brisket comes with the usual slaw, plus a side of moreish bone marrow. Then, of course, there's the famous meat doughnuts, an unholy pairing of sweet and savoury.

456 High Street, Preston

Burn City Test Kitchen

Like Fancy Hank's, Steve Kimonides and Raphael Guthrie got their start in catering, before turning their test kitchen into a small restaurant in 2017. Their “Melbourne-style” barbeque borrows techniques from different US states, but they take the most inspiration from Texas (salt and pepper only). Pepperberries and other native ingredients are sometimes used to impart a local flavour.

A 31 Vernon Street, South Kingsville

Bad Shepherd Brewing Co.

Apart from the fresh beer, Carolina pulled pork and 10-hour Texan brisket are two big draws at this converted warehouse. Still, don't look past the cheeky "Canadian pig candy", or maple-glazed pork ribs.

386 Reserve Road, Cheltenham
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Big Boy BBQ

Lance Rosen has driven all across the barbeque belt and even wrote a book (Temples of BBQ) about the experience, but at Big Boy, Kansas City is his biggest focus. That means relatively complex spice rubs and thick, tomato- and/or molasses-based sauces. There's two locations to try it out: the CBD and Caulfield South.

764 Glenhuntly Road, Caulfield South