Read on as we consign ourselves to weight gain in pursuit of the 10 Red Hot Best barbecue restaurants in Northern Michigan as chosen by our readers.

Blue Tractor

423 South Union, Traverse City | 231.922.9515
South Union Street’s sweet and smoky vapor trail of spice-rubbed pork butt, slabs of baby back ribs and juicy briskets leads to a cozy booth at the Blue Tractor. Hung with oxidized farm implements, barn wood and galvanized bucket lights, a temple to slow-smoked American comfort cuisine is this year’s winner for Red Hot Best Barbecue. Michigan craft brews from the likes of North Peak and Founders pour forth to complement a menu of smokehouse staples like chicken with bourbon chipotle sauce, slow-roasted beef brisket with buttermilk mashed potatoes and pulled pork shoulder with crunchy slaw. Giant burgers, deep dish pizzas and beer-friendly bar snacks like pimento cheese with bacon jam or fried pickles round out the chow list.

Sparks BBQ


201 East Front St. &439 East Front St. (carryout), Traverse City | 231.633.7800
The pit meisters at Spark’s are riding national buzz for their signature BBQ sundaes (Sans ice cream!)


415 Main St., Frankfort | 231.352.4702
The Benzie frenzy is all about house-smoked dry-rubbed St. Louis cut ribs.


10914 US31, Honor | 231.227.1227
Smoked pork and brisket unite in the two-handed Smokestack sammy.


108 South Waukazoo, Northport | 231.386.5511
Pound a pint under Garage’s al fresco awning while swallowing pulled pork sliders with slaw.

Sparks BBQ


658 SW Bay Shore Dr., Suttons Bay | 231.866.4445
House-brewed ales like the Rough Sawn Amber pair perfectly with pulled pork tacos.


1201 East Front St., Traverse City | 231.357.1237
Tackle the three-meat plate paired with fried okra and jalapeño beans.


1108 East Eighth St., Traverse City | 231.929.9288
Eighth Street’s old-school diner pit smokes Dearborn hams and pork butts for signatures like the Whole Hog breakfast binge.


101 Main St., East Jordan | 231.222.2583
Get your smoke lakeside with a plate of burnt ends and jalapeño pickles or tender St. Louis ribs with housemade sauce.


1418 Bridge St., Charlevoix | 231.547.7447
Barbecue kingpin, Adam Kline, dishes up pulled pork masterpieces and spicy brisket tacos from his Charlevoix mothership.

Bonus! CorDwood BBQ

448 E. Front St., Traverse City
Sidle into the smoky halo that hangs over Cordwood’s Little Fleet bbq truck and order up waffle fries and a What What: juicy, slow-smoked brisket stacked with dill pickles, white onion and a splash of housemade sauce.

Traverse food and drinks editor Tim Tebeau writes from Petoskey. // Dave Weidner is a freelance photographer based in Traverse City.

Northern Michigan Restaurants

Photo(s) by Dave Weidner