2022 Best of Lake Erie: Barbecue

Dive into mouthwatering dishes at destinations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.

True Underdogs: Underdog BBQ
The story of Underdog BBQ is almost as good as the food. Glenn Stearns came to town as part of a Discovery TV series, Undercover Billionaire, and with just $100, started the restaurant in 2019. Upon his return in 2021, he sold the restaurant to kitchen manager Ashley Messenger for the same price it cost him to start it — $100. The restaurant features a variety of smoked meats and scrumptious sides. “My go-to combo is pulled pork and chicken,” Messenger says. “Our mac and cheese is killer.”
Erie, Pennsylvania, 814-790-4001, underdogbbq.com

Casual Dining: Breakwall BBQ
For a decade, residents and visitors to Ashtabula County know to make a stop at Breakwall BBQ for delicious smoked meats and refreshing drinks. The building doesn’t look like much from the street, but the inside — and on the patio — offers great views of a busy lakefront and mouthwatering sandwiches, local beer and craft cocktails. Breakwall is also a venue for live entertainment, from bands to open mic nights.
Conneaut, Ohio, 440-599-2264

Southern Style: Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que started in 1983 as a concession stand made from 55-gallon drums cut in half. Five years later, it put down roots in Rochester, New York, and now has six locations. It’s regularly heralded as one of the best barbecue places in the state, and its sauces and rubs can be found in local Whole Foods stores — or are available for purchase through the website. What’s the secret to success? If you ask John Stage, owner and founder, it’s taking traditional southern barbecue flavors and adding his own unique signature.
Buffalo, New York, 716-880-1677, dinosaurbarbque.com