Food Road Trips: Barbecue Spots
If you think meats cooked slow and low isn’t an Ohio thing, you haven’t visited these places.
Cincinnati > Athens > Senecaville > Sunbury: 343 (map it)
Texas, Kansas City and the Carolinas are all synonymous with slow-and-low cooking, incredible dry rubs and mouthwatering sauces. But there are more than a few spots across the Buckeye State that have done their research when it comes to great barbecue, gathering a mix of styles to present their take on traditional favorites like beef brisket and pork and invent signature creations that play on the flavors we love.
1. Lucius Q • Cincinnati: This rustic-meets-urban spot opened in 2018 and has already garnered attention for its barbecue favorites, creative sides and weekend brunch. Customers gravitate toward the signature sandwiches such as the Pendleton Porker (pulled pork stacked with sausage, Burnt Bellies, bacon-onion jam and Queen City Gold sauce). And Lucius Q’s signature sauces — inspired by South Carolina, Alabama, North Carolina and Kansas City styles — offer a tour of tastes. “We call ourselves Midwest barbecue,”says co-owner Aaron Sharpe. “We’ve taken the best barbecue from around the country … combined that and put that here in the heartland.” 1131 Broadway St., Cincinnati 45202, 513/421-4227, luciusq.com
2. Eli’s BBQ • Cincinnati: Eli’s BBQ has two dine-in and four carry-out locations across Cincinnati and northern Kentucky to choose from, but back in 2011, owner Elias Leisring was selling his pulled pork sandwiches for $5 near Cincinnati’s Fountain Square. Today, his restaurants serve up slow-cooked meats and sandwiches like the 2 All-beef Dogs (a pair of frankfurters “flash-fried and bunned” with barbecue sauce, coleslaw and pork crispins). Eli’s BBQ also sells its signature sauce and dry rub online. “I have a friend [who lives] in California,” says manager Tom Bender. “He goes on and buys barbecue sauce every couple months.” 3313 Riverside Dr., Cincinnati 45226, 513/533-1957, elisbarbeque.com
3. Kiser’s Barbeque • Athens: Ohio University graduate Sean Kiser opened this college-town spot in 2009 to turn up the heat on Athens’ barbecue offerings. “Some people were used to Applebee’s barbecue,” he says. It’s clear Kiser has done his research, too, drawing on flavors from across the U.S., with seven barbecue sauces that range from a mild sweet red to extra hot ghost sauce and sandwich toppers like North Carolina-style creamy slaw. Kiser also likes to try new things, such as his barbecue-stuffed grilled cheese sandwich: thick-cut Texas-style bread with your choice of meat, sharp cheddar cheese, pickles and thick-cut bacon. 1002 E. State St., Athens, 740/594-7427, kisersbarbeque.com. As of February 2021, Kiser's Barbeque is temporarily closed.
4. Cid’s Smokehouse Grill • Senecaville: Mack “Cid” Chiesa’s seasonal roadside barbecue stand is an unassuming powerhouse. Signature menu items include the Loaded Baked Potato (butter and cheese layered over pulled pork, barbecue sauce, sour cream and green onions) and The Pickle (a Claussen dill pickle encased in cream cheese, dried beef and an onion mix wrapped in Black Forest ham). As far as the barbecue goes, the dry rub and slow-and-low cooking approach means there’s really no need for sauce. “We’re one of the only ones that still do it through the smoker: the 14 hours that it takes to get done right,” Chiesa says. 13647 Clay Pike Rd., Senecaville 43780, 740/705-2555, cidssmokehousegrill.com
5. Oak Hill Barbecue • Sunbury: It’s hard to miss Oak Hill Barbecue’s flame-painted exterior, but the great barbecue is what keeps people coming back. Owner Clint Long was a country club chef for years before he launched this stand that serves up menu items ranging from smoked German bologna sandwiches to burnt ends over mashed potatoes to Korean barbecue spring rolls. If you’re on the hunt for traditional barbecue fare, the beef brisket is a must. “People have raved about it being some of the best they’ve had, and they’ve traveled the world,” Long says. 60 N. Columbus St., Sunbury 43074, facebook.com/oakhillbarbecue