Can You Get Real Barbecue at non-BBQ restaurants?

REAL Smoked Beef Brisket, from Rudy's Country Store & Bar-B-Q
REAL Smoked Beef Brisket, from Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q

Have you ever had real barbecue at non-barbeque restaurants – the type of restaurants that don’t smoke meat themselves, but instead ship it in from… wherever?

Perkins® Restaurant & Bakery

For example, have you been to a Perkins® Restaurant yet this summer? As you’re being seated, they hand you, along with their regular menu, a menu of “Smokehouse Specials.”

They used phrases like “Tender slow-smoked beef brisket” and “pit-smoked pulled pork,” plus include sides of baked beans and slaw, so it sure looks like they know what they’re talking about.

And I have to admit, it all looks fantastic. The photos make their meats look perfect, and the tag line “Where there’s smoke, there’s flavor” lends credibility to the idea that their barbecue may be the real deal. But, is it?


Arby’s® has a Smokehouse Brisket Sandwich. I tried one a year ago, minus the smoked gouda cheese, mayo, and crunchy fried onions (I wanted a brisket-only experience). Their promotional materials say it’s smoked “over 13 real hours.” It did have a real smoke flavor, but it didn’t have me running back for more. In fact, I haven’t had one since. Hmmm…

Firehouse Subs®

Firehouse Subs®’ King’s Hawaiian Pork & Slaw Sandwich is very good (without the cheese, please). The pork is always tender and moist. If you like pulled pork sandwiches, you’ll like this one.

They had a brisket sandwich for a short period of time, and I did return for another one more than once. Again, I skipped the cheese and other items that just didn’t make sense on a smoked brisket sandwich. It was moist, tender, and pretty good, considering it wasn’t smoked on-premises.

Bob Evans®

Bob Evans®’ Wildfire Barbecue Sauce is fantastic – one of my favorites, actually. It’s sweet with a hint of onion, and a little bit of spice. You may want to take a bottle home.

What is your experience?

Can you get real barbecue at non-BBQ restaurants?
Do you know if Perkins® is delivering the real deal this summer?

I would like to know your opinion, so leave a comment below.

Bart's Signature


8 thoughts on “Can You Get Real Barbecue at non-BBQ restaurants?”

  1. I almost did not make it past looking at the Rudy’s brisket! Yum Yum! I have never really found anything I consider BBQ someplace where they don’t do it themselves.

    1. Neither have I, Amanda, but I’m really curious about Perkins. Hopefully, someone will let us know how it is.


  2. I live in a small town and the closest any of those are to where I live is about an hour. I do have subway (though I don’t usually eat BBQ there). I’m curious about your opinion.

  3. I don’t know if I’d consider the BBQ at those places to be real BBQ. Nothing beats home-cooked/”real” BBQ restaurant-style BBQ. It’s apparent to me that certain people and places take their time to make their BBQ. My uncle, for instance, will spend hour marinating his meats and smoking them. I doubt that big chain restaurants care that much–they are just in it to make an extra buck.

    1. I agree, Timothy, most of it probably isn’t real. However, I’ve also noticed restaurants trying to be more authentic in recent years. They describe how many hours the meat was smoked, and use terms like “pit-smoked.”

      If their suppliers truly are doing it right, you should expect the barbecue to have a rich smoke flavor when delivered to your table. However, my own vacuum-packed meats, frozen and brought out months later, are still better than anything I’ve ever had at a non-BBQ restaurant, so maybe they’re skimping a little after all.

      Thanks for your input!

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