What do you know about good ol’ American barbeque?
Rooted in Southern and Midwestern tradition, barbeque is built upon three components: meat, wood smoke, and sauce. The four dominating styles are Kansas City, Texas, Memphis and Carolina.
Although it doesn’t have a big presence here, solid American BBQ does exist.
I gnawed and gobbled my way through three of Singapore’s top BBQ joints to find the best ribs, brisket, burgers, and sides. Here are the findings from my “meat trail”:
When you think of American barbeque, the first restaurant that comes to mind is probably Meatsmith Telok Ayer.
Sister restaurant to Michelin-starred Burnt Ends, this perpetual buzzy establishment churns out contemporary Southern-style barbeque with an Asian influence.
The crowds flock here for their meat platters — smoked in Southern Pride smokers with hickory wood — and American draft beers. Portions aren’t enormous, so you can expect to feel full but not stuffed.
The 14-hour-smoked Beef Brisket (S$22) is as natural as it gets, save for a salt & pepper rub.
Though slightly tough, this brisket’s strong suit was a beautifully charred layer of melt-in-your-mouth fat.
My dining partner commented that the “smoke” wasn’t prominent enough, but that sweet and spicy BBQ sauce really helped to bring everything together.
Try getting every component, including the light and crunchy yuzu slaw, in one perfect bite.
Smoked for three hours, the Pork Ribs (S$17) was served with a glossy apple cider glaze and accompanying yuzu slaw.
The tender, pull-apart meat easily surpassed the brisket, leaving a trail of smoky-sweet deliciousness in its wake.
Somehow, the extra zingy pickle yuzu slaw was a much better counterbalance to the ribs’ glaze.
I now understand why the Meatsmith Cheeseburger (S$16) has such a cult following.
Sublime in its simplicity, this hearty combination of juicy double patties (a mix of beef short rib and brisket) with cheese, burger sauce, and house pickles on toasted potato buns is a strong contender for “CBD’s best cheeseburger”.
Swing by on Tuesdays for S$10 cheeseburgers — who can say no to that?
From the snacks menu, we settled for some juicy Pork Belly Burnt Ends (S$9), served with a mustard sauce and sharp beetroot pickles. I would’ve preferred for them to be a tad more charred and “burnt”.
Perhaps we should have opted for the popular Brisket Springrolls (S$9) or Pastrami Burnt Ends ($12), both of which can be found in the Meat Platter For 2 (S$90) and in the ginormous Mother Of All Platters (S$650).
I wouldn’t recommend the dry Corn Bread with BBQ Butter (S$4).
A bad batch, maybe, but you’re better off sticking to the Homemade Lemon Meringue Tart (S$7) or Smoked Peanut Butter Chocolate (S$3).
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Meatsmith Telok Ayer: 167/169 Telok Ayer Street, Singapore 068620 | Tel: +65 6221 2262 | Opening Hours: 11.30am – 3pm & 5pm – 10.30pm (Mon – Thu), 11.30am – 10.30pm (Fri – Sun) | Facebook | Instagram | Website
2. Smokey’s BBQ
Smokey’s is a true blue American smokehouse nestled in a lazy stretch along Joo Chiat.
Owned and operated by an American owner, Smokey’s prides themselves on using ingredients and equipment imported from the United States, like the custom-built smokers, mesquite and hickory wood.
True to their belief in delivering authentic American barbeque, only traditional methods are used to painstakingly smoke and slow-roast meats at low temperatures.
From the TV sets screening baseball and soccer matches to the checkered tablecloths and stars-and-stripes motifs, every inch of this laid-back establishment oozes American pride.
First up was the US Prime Beef Brisket (S$29) slathered in Original BBQ sauce. Marinated in Gordon Biersch Maibock, and smoked and slow-roasted for about 24 hours, these juicy slices of brisket had a deep, complex flavour.
The quick-changing texture of brisket warrants immediate consumption, so this isn’t something to linger over.
As for our sides, we chose chunky sweet potato fries and smoked beef rice. The latter, a non-greasy spin on chicken rice, managed to capture the essence of oily “brisket juice” in its entirety.
Bigger and meatier than their baby back counterparts, the hefty St Louis Pork Spare Ribs (S$43 for 2/3 slab) was a sight to behold.
Served with thick-cut fries and coleslaw, these deceivingly tender ribs boasted fall-off-the-bone meat, smothered in a spicy and syrupy BBQ glaze.
As with the other smoked meats, choose from a range of housemade BBQ sauces: Original, Sweet Caroline, Smokey’s Ghost or Hurricane.
Plowing through hearty, juicy and smoky chunks of rib meat may seem like a challenge, but every bite was seriously finger-licking good.
Looking to channel your inner caveman? A full slab is available for S$55.
The sandwich-burger hybrid BBQ Madness (S$29) on a toasted sesame bun came dangerously close to driving us crazy.
Heaving with pulled pork, brisket, bacon, cheese, and jalapeno, this immensely savoury mess of meat will awaken all your carnivorous tendencies.
I sought solace in the refreshingly sweet and crunchy coleslaw, a much-needed element of balance.
I highly recommend the Smoked Beef Chili (S$8/S$12) for starters. Imagine a warm and comforting spicy tomato stew, but a gazillion times better.
Topped with cheddar, sour cream, and ever-so-important pickled jalapenos (for that kick), this was one appetiser we slowly savoured by the spoonful.
If ice-cold beer is your calling, you’d better have some Wings (S$12 for six pieces) on hand.
Smokey’s buffalo wings are marinated, fried and tossed in a housemade sauce of your choice. Choose from Buffalo Sauce in varying spice levels (mild, spicy, extra spicy), BBQ, Carolina, Ghost, and Hurricane.
Spicy Buffalo sauce is the norm, but we got to try the fiery yet super shiok Ghost and Hurricane sauces, which made those post-meal trips to the bathroom #worthit.
The wings themselves were moreish and salty, with a lemony sourness and a gradual buildup of spice.
Don’t forget the classic side of homemade blue cheese dip. Much like tartare sauce, this mild and creamy concoction helped to drastically tone down the heat.
Head down on Wednesdays for S$1 buffalo wings!
Though not yet available on the menu, we were floored by the beer-battered Onion Rings (price TBC). Served with a cajun ranch dip, these earth-shatteringly crisp babies weren’t in the slightest bit flimsy or limp. Hands down the BEST onion rings I’ve ever tried, without a doubt.
Smokey’s BBQ: 73 Joo Chiat Place, Singapore 427790| Tel: +65 6345 6914 | Opening Hours: 3pm – 1am (Daily) | Facebook | Instagram | Website
3. Red Eye Smokehouse
Tucked away in an unassuming street near Lavender MRT is Singaporean-owned Red Eye Smokehouse.
As maintained by founders Jan and Willa since day one, Red Eye believes in smoking only quality, responsibly-sourced meat from reputable farms.
Wood pellets are used, which enables meats to be smoked at a lower and more consistent temperature for longer periods of time. The spice rub and brines are shrouded in secrecy, tweaked and customised to suit different types of meat.
Years of experience and observation have yielded a style of barbeque unique to Red Eye. It is a craft AND a science, dictated by more than time and temperature.
Before making your way to the self-service counter, take some time to ruminate on their philosophy — “Eating is Believing”. It goes without saying that barbeque is taken seriously here.
They offer both standardised BBQ Plates and meats by weight, but isn’t it more fun to customise your own platter of assorted brisket, pork, and ribs?
The 365 days grain-fed, antibiotic and hormone-free US Brandt Beef Brisket (S$15 per 100g) is sourced from a small independent Californian farm.
This point cut of brisket was tender and flanked by a creamy layer of fat. Its melt-in-your-mouth quality was top-tier, surpassing all others by way of richness.
Next up, the flat cut was a lot leaner and meatier, charred to reddish pink perfection.
My personal favourite was the karubi cut, which had the best fat-to-meat ratio.
I mean, look at those layers. Every flavour-packed bite was exquisite, executed with all the splendour and fervour of a professional Pitmaster.
Pair your brisket with some tangy Smokey Chipotle or fruity Extra Hot Habanero sauce for an added boost.
Prepared using Duroc pork from Spain, the Smoked Pork Ribs (S$7 for 1/2 slab) felt very “Asian”, reminding me of bak kut teh or pork you find in zi char restaurants.
Juicy and meaty without being fall-off-the-bone or drenched in BBQ sauce, it’s perfect for an unglamorous gnawing session.
Available on Red Eye’s latest Lunch Menu, The B.M.C. (S$18) comes with fatty smoked brisket plate, mushroom sauce, and Emmental cheese on a sweet, lightly toasted brioche bun.
The rich mushroom sauce was a bit too overpowering and could’ve been balanced out by some sort of vegetable or coleslaw.
All in all, this makes for one hearty, cheesy, meaty and potentially jelak meal.
Let me gladly move on to this memorable platter of Sides. All sides cost S$5 per half portion or S$8 per full portion.
Their luscious Bone Marrow Butter Mashed Potatoes never fail to make it onto Instagram. Warm, decadent, and exceedingly buttery, it was an absolute joy to eat.
I was also glad to see some mild and crunchy Coleslaw.
What happens to the leftover bits of brisket? They end up in the explosively flavourful Burnt-End Beans, yielding an end result so utterly lip-smacking you’ll be reaching out for more.
Baked beans won’t be the same once you try this.
We were informed of how great it tasted alongside the Maple Corn Bread with Honey Butter, and sure enough, it was a sweet-savoury dream come true.
Take dense, crumbly cornbread and top it off with a serving of robust baked beans for a sweet, tangy, and smoky match made in heaven.
I will return just for this outstanding combination alone.
Another fun lunch option is the Build Your Bowl (S$15). Select a base, meat, toppings, and sauce for a protein bowl that’ll fuel you up for the day.
Here’s what we ended up with: Cajun-spiced Brisket Dirty Rice (made from brisket drippings and gravy), Carolina Pulled Pork, Tomato & Cucumber Salad, Fajita Peppers, Cornbread Croutons, Sliced Jalapeno, Habanero Aioli, and an interesting Angel BBQ sauce from Alabama, the only US state to produce a white BBQ sauce.
Mexican and Southwestern flavours took centre stage in this super balanced bowl, amplified by a punchy heat and sour tang. My only gripe? We should’ve swapped the slightly dry pork for Diced Smoked Chicken.
Red Eye Smokehouse: 1 Cavan Road, Singapore 209842 | Tel: +65 6291 0218 | Opening Hours: 12pm – 3pm, 5pm – 10.30pm (Tue – Sat), 12pm – 3pm, 5pm – 9pm (Sun) | Facebook | Instagram | Website
It’s high time you injected a little Southern flair into your life. Why not take a break from your usual Korean BBQ, mookata, or yakiniku? Get down and dirty with some American barbeque: your tastebuds will thank you for that.
And so, here’s what I think:
Best Ribs : Smokey’s
Best Brisket: Red Eye
Best Burger: Meatsmith
Disagree with this final outcome? Try them out, and you can be the judge.