We’re in the mood for food, and nothing beats the winter blues like smoked meats and comfort food sides. Pair with a warm flannel and a crisp pilsner, and winter goes by 54% faster, that’s just science.
Luckily, you all have very strong opinions on barbeque, so we’ve taken your suggestions from our social media poll to heart and curated this list of the Best BBQ restaurants in Greater Des Moines. Bring your appetite, plenty of wet naps, and leave your white shirt at home.
One of the old stalwarts of the Des Moines BBQ scene and favorite of catered company lunches across the metro, Smokey D’s has racked up over 90 state BBQ championships and more than 1,000 local, regional, and national awards. Portion size is not a problem here, and if your fried appetizers don‘t come with an extra side of ranch, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Located in an unassuming strip mall in Waukee is Kue’d, winner of the Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ World Championship - one of the most prestigious BBQ competitions in the world! If you want melt-in-your-mouth burnt ends, you’re in the right place. Their loaded smashed potatoes might be the best side dish around, and on this list, that’s saying something. Kue’d serves up serious BBQ that is seriously good.
Whatcha Smokin BBQ + Brew
This one is a bit of a drive outside of Des Moines in Luther, but so many people voted for it that we’d be remiss to leave it off. And trust us, it’s worth the drive. Housed in a renovated gas station (fun fact: all the best BBQ comes from renovated gas stations. See: Joe’s KC), Whatcha Smokin serves up Central Texas-style BBQ. Their tender meats have the perfect bark that makes you involuntarily grunt with pleasure. Even if we expanded the radius to the best BBQ in the state, Whatcha Smokin still makes the list.
Known for their famous 24-hour smoked brisket, Flying Mango serves up date night BBQ with a Caribbean twist. Come for the brisket, stay for the red beans and rice and cajun catfish.
Big Al’s promotes itself as “True Southern BBQ made by an Asian man.” We don’t care who makes this BBQ; it’s tremendous. The décor has strong funky 70’s lounge vibes, but what we’re really there for is the pulled pork, jalapeno creamed corn, and the smoked breaded tenderloin. In a state where tenderloins are practically menu mandatory, this one stands out, having been named one of the Top 5 in the state by Iowa Pork Producers.
Just a short drive east of Des Moines is this amazing little BBQ joint recently awarded “Best Ribs in the State” by The Food Network. And with rotating specials like fried flatbread tacos, hot smoked ham and cheese, and pepper jack cheeseburgers topped with smoked short ribs, you’ll find something to tickle your ribs at Moo’s, guaranteed.
Short E’s in Johnston earns tall praise for its BBQ nachos, tacos, and over a dozen different BBQ sandwiches. With a generous kid’s menu and a nice patio replete with TVs, this is comfortable neighborhood barbeque that will become one of your go-tos anytime you’re near.
Cactus Bob’s in Johnston serves up unpretentious, mouth-watering BBQ like baby back and St. Louis style ribs. And if you like what you ordered, you can take the flavors home with you. Their “general store” sells everything from sauce to candied jalapenos.
Rolling Smoke is one of those places, that when the photos show up in your social feed, you sit there and stare transfixed for a while. Oh, is that just me? Located in Pleasant Hill, their signature dishes include photogenic sandwiches like the Rolling Ace (smoked brisket topped with bacon, gouda, and an over-easy egg and sauce) and the Hot Pig (pulled pork with slaw and aioli).
The ubiquitous BBQ giant has eight locations around the metro, each specializing in a different area, from bacon to pork chops to jambalaya. The secret sauce here is their wings, waffle fry nachos, and their BBQ melts: all served on Texas toast. You’ll have enough food that you might as well ask for a to-go box at the beginning of your meal.