Philly’s Best BBQ Spots: A Guide to Sides

A truly great barbecue joint should be judged by how it handles dishes other than its main attraction.

MO-Varney-bbq-940

Clockwise from top left: Burnt end baked beans from Fette Sau, burnt ends from Percy Street and collard greens from Sweet Lucy’s | Photo by Jason Varney

Even in this Yankee city, barbecue is a summertime staple. And while any dilettante can find good ribs in Philly these days (and brisket, too), a truly great barbecue joint should be judged by how it handles dishes other than the main attraction. Here’s a brief guide to going deeper at the region’s best barbecue spots.

Percy Street Barbecue // Michael Solomonov’s rib joint is run by longtime loyalist (and chef/partner) Erin O’Shea. And sure, you can get good brisket here (or a pork belly sandwich with pickled carrots and cilantro on a long roll, which is kind of like a Vietnamese banh mi after a summer spent in the Deep South). But the secret score at Percy Street is the brisket’s burnt ends. These barky bits cut from the end of the brisket can be had either with O’Shea’s excellent baked beans (which can be ordered right off the menu) or, if you’re lucky (and ask nice), all on their own. 900 South Street, Bella Vista.

Pig Daddy’s BBQ // It’s weird how Pig Daddy’s reminds me of being in New Mexico, where in every strip mall there’s a Chinese restaurant that serves tacos and meatball subs alongside lo mein, or a Mexican restaurant that also serves sushi and Jamaican meat pies. Pig Daddy’s does Southern BBQ plus Cuban sandwiches, po’ boys, Mexican food, poutine and Buffalo wings. But the best of the oddballs here is the Texas Tommy — a double-smoked foot-long sausage on a steak roll, topped with Cheez Whiz and Pig Daddy’s chili (because yeah, they also make chili). 693 Burmont Road, Drexel Hill.

Fette Sau // When you look at the menu at a barbecue place, you generally look at the ribs first, then maybe the brisket, the chicken, the sides, the booze, the dessert, the coat-check policy, and then, after all that, the hot links. Next time you’re at Fette Sau, do yourself a favor and reverse that list: Let the unimaginative gorge on the ribs and pulled pork while you get yourself a couple of Nicolosi hot links right out of the smoker, a side of the burnt end baked beans, and a shot of Bulleit with a beer back to wash it all down. 1208 Frankford Avenue, Fishtown.

Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse // The ribs, the brisket, the chicken — all good. But then, the ribs, the brisket and the chicken are good at a lot of the BBQ joints in town. To really judge a barbecue operation, do so by its collard greens. And the spicy greens at Sweet Lucy’s are excellent — especially when slapped on top of some pulled pork and covered in melted provolone in a ’cue-shack take on the classic Philly roast pork sandwich. 7500 State Road, Northeast Philly.

Zachary’s BBQ // Zachary’s puts some serious work into chicken, offering it pulled (and tossed with a little barbecue sauce and some sweet spice), wood-roasted on the rotisserie or Southern-fried. And should you want to go even further into the menu, Zachary’s also does some excellent smoked turkey breasts (a rarity around here). 1709 Markley Street, Norristown.

Originally published in the June, 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.


IN THIS SECTION