The only way to get your body into shape for summer is to go hard on the American barbecue food. Forget bikini bodies, Sydney is a city rapidly falling for ribs of a different variety. Here’s a meat-eater’s dream list of the city’s best American BBQ restaurants.
Hot, cold or cured, this Chippendale eatery has you covered, however you like your meat. Luke Powell, former head chef at Tetsuya’s, is now the owner of LP’s Quality Meats and he knows how to smoke ‘em. Order the more-ish cold cuts, the melt-in-the-mouth short ribs, whatever, just don’t leave without tasting the six hour smoked lamb belly stuffed with merguez sausage.
No one does hospitality like the Merivale Group, and with their signature classy fitouts and slick waitstaff, together with the culinary talents of Dan Hong in the kitchen, Papi Chulo is turning out some of the best American barbecue in the city. We love that the Manly location has inspired some brilliant seafood dishes like kingfish ceviche but the real magic is on the smoked BBQ menu, where the meat has been slow cooked for at least six hours.
If the televised live feed of orders being assembled in the Jazz City BBQ kitchen is intended to trigger menu envy and lure you back for seconds, it does its job well. Here, your chopped brisket tastes better because it’s served in a moody, neon-lit dining room, the sultry sounds of blues music floating in the background. This is as close to a Louisiana dive bar as you’re going to get this side of the planet.
The menu at Panama House traipses Central and South America to bring you brilliant barbecue dishes, complimented by the best Latin booze. Wash down a rack of New Orleans sticky black ribs with a pisco sour or dive straight into a plate of southern fried chicken with creamed corn.
It’s summer all year round in the open-air garden at Sweethearts and there’s a huge grill menu to go along with it. If your inner carnivore kicks in towards the end of the week, pop in for Rack’O’Ribs Thursdays, where you can down the entire rack dripping with house-made barbecue marinade for just $20. This place is serous about its sauces, too, so skip your usual tomato sauce in favour of chili caramel, citrus aioli or a trio of mustards.
The Oxford Tavern has a new girl on the floor. Gone are the topless waitresses and seedy clientele. Black Betty is a huge outdoor smoker and she’s pulling in a new crowd. Order pulled pork and brisket by weight - they’re not as fatty as the Americans like them, but the shiny blackened skin is up there with the best of them. Housemade beans are a saucy, smoky sensation and are exactly what you need to accompany the meat-fest.
Hurricane’s brought American barbecue to Australia before we knew we needed it and now, more than a decade later, it’s still serving up great protein across eight outlets in New South Wales and Queensland, where people have finally woken up to smell the brisket. We love the lack of pretension, the Flintstone-sized portions and the fact that you’re encourages to jump in, boots and all, with the provision of a bib.
Hartsyard in an inner-city homestead that’s American from its crispy, golden fried chicken to its oyster po’ boys. The dining room is like walking into a Southern backyard barbecue; homestyle offerings include hickory smoked pork and buttery, meltingly sweet American-style scones that accompany the mains.
It’s got more 50’s American kitsch than you could poke a stick at (the only thing that’s missing is the skating waitresses). Visit for burgers served with åpickles and crinkle-cut crisps, spicy Creole gumbo or a seat at the long red formica bar with an old-fashioned banana split.
Their motto is “cocktails first, questions later” so even though Hinky Dinks does the whole 50’s themed checkerboard lino floors, red bar stools and quiffed bar staff thing to perfection, they’re not lightweights when it comes to drinks. This is not the place for a plate full of ribs, but we love the retro bar food like the Hinky zinger burger, with spicy fried chicken, lettuce and mayonnaise and the squid po’ boy, served with roquette, red onion and paprika mayonnaise.