A close up image of tongs turning a rack of ribs on the grill

Western Kentucky BBQ Trail

  • Western Waterlands
  • Bluegrass, Blues & BBQ
  • Caves, Lakes & Corvettes
Approx. 3-4 Days

Take a mouthwatering journey through the heart of barbecue country to sample mutton and more slow-cooked goodness.

A tray of BBQ mutton, burgoo and other sides, with glasses of strawberry lemonadeJust like Kansas, Texas or Memphis, Western Kentucky has its own unique style of barbecue. Centered around Owensboro – known around here as the “BBQ Capital of the World” – Western Kentucky ’cue famously features pit-cooked mutton, sliced paper-thin and topped with a variety of “dips.” And if you don’t yet have a taste for mutton, don’t worry: our BBQ joints also serve up pork, chicken and other slow-cooked classics.

The Western Kentucky BBQ trail showcases restaurants all the way from Louisville to Paducah, each serving up its own tasty (and in several cases, award-winning) recipes. Better yet, time your trip with barbecue throwdowns like Fancy Farm Picnic or the International BBQ Festival for the feast of a lifetime – best washed down with a glass of strawberry lemonade.

Explore the Western Kentucky BBQ Trail

Roy's Bar-B-Que Photo

Roy's Bar-B-Que

101 Sarah Ln.
Russellville, KY 42276

Ole South Barbecue Photo

Ole South Barbecue

3523 Kentucky 54
Owensboro, KY 42303

Old Hickory Pit Barbecue Photo

Old Hickory Pit Barbecue

338 Washington Ave
Owensboro, KY 42303

Moonlite Bar B Q Inn Photo

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn

2840 W Parrish Ave
Owensboro, KY 42303

Dave's BBQ Tater Photo

Dave's Sticky Pig

206 Madison Square Drive
Madisonville, KY 42431

Thomason's Barbecue Photo

Thomason's Barbecue

701 Atkinson Street
Henderson, KY 42420

J & B Barbecue & Catering Photo

J & B Barbecue & Catering

48 S. Holloway St.
Henderson, KY 42420

Knoth's Bar-B-Q Photo

Knoth's Bar-B-Q

728 US Hwy 62
Grand Rivers, KY 42045

Hutchen's BBQ Photo

Hutchen's BBQ

601 North Main Street
Benton, KY 42025

Harned's Drive In Photo

Harned's Drive In

4421 Clarks River Rd.
Paducah, KY 42003

Starnes BBQ Photo

Starnes Barbecue

1008 Joe Clifton Drive
Paducah, KY 42001

Roy’s Bar-B-Que, Russellville

The Morgan family has run this popular BBQ joint for more than 35 years, ensuring that the fresh-off-the-pit pork, crispy fried catfish and everything else on the massive menu is just as good as it was when Ralph and Jolene Morgan opened for business in 1983.

Ole South Barbecue, Owensboro

Ole South Barbecue calls itself “Owensboro and Western Kentucky’s best-kept BBQ secret,” but we’re sure they wouldn’t mind us singing their praises. This no-frills restaurant features a menu chock-full of Owensboro’s finest, from barbecue pork, ham and mutton to burgers and burgoo – plus a buffet for diners who are too conflicted or hungry to choose.

Old Hickory Bar-B-Q, Owensboro

Founded by Charles “Pappy” Foreman back in 1918, this Owensboro institution is still owned and operated by the Foreman family six generations later. Old Hickory has been voted “Best BBQ” time and time again, and many locals will tell you there’s no better place to try the Western Kentucky specialty, mutton. Don’t leave without buying a jar of their house BBQ sauce. 

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, Owensboro

Anyone who worships at the altar of hickory-smoked BBQ should plan a visit to the legendary Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn. This Owensboro icon has been packing in crowds and racking up awards ever since it opened in 1963. Dine in, carry out or get down to business at the buffet, brimming with BBQ, catfish fiddlers and all the fixings.

Dave’s Sticky Pig, Madisonville

From pulled pork to brisket to bologna, you can’t go wrong at Dave’s Sticky Pig. Madisonville locals rave about the smoky baked beans, heaping sandwiches, succulent ribs and horseradish potato salad; chances are you will too.

Hanson Country Market, Hanson

The epitome of an old-time country store, Hanson Country Market offers everything from fresh barbecue to deli sandwiches to homemade sourdough bread. Bonus: the wooden rocking chairs on the front porch are a prime place to savor your post-BBQ afterglow.

Woodshed Pit Barbecue, Hopkinsville

Specializing in piled-high plate lunches of a meat and three sides for a few bucks, Woodshed is a great place for the whole family to chow down without breaking the bank. Staples like barbecue pork and mutton are always on offer, but the daily specials range from chicken and dumplings to country ham, with sides like fried okra and gravy-smothered mashed potatoes to round things out.

Thomason’s Barbecue, Henderson

Named to Southern Living magazine’s 10 Must-Visit Kentucky Barbecue Joints, Thomason’s keeps things gloriously simple. Order pork, mutton, beef and other meats by the sandwich or by the pound, but don’t pass up the chance to try chip – a regional specialty consisting of charred exterior “bark” pieces, chopped and topped with a tangy sauce. 

J & B Barbecue and Catering, Henderson

'Tis rare that side dishes get as much attention as the meat, but J & B Barbecue and Catering has elevated sides like skin-on potato salad to a fine art. Don’t worry: the sampler, pork and mutton plates get plenty of love, too.

Knoth’s Bar-B-Q, Grand Rivers

If a day at the lake has you hungering for a rib-sticking meal, then look no further than Knoth’s. The pared-down menu features burgers, hot dogs, a handful of sides and the main attraction, chopped pork shoulder, slathered in a sweet-and-tangy sauce. Note: Knoth’s is closed during the winter. 

Hutchens BBQ, Benton

Founded by W.C. Hutchens in 1947, Hutchens BBQ is such a Kentucky institution that it was mentioned in the 1980 Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter. Not all that much has changed over the years, and the iconic neon sign still welcomes hordes of visitors for the ’cue, fried seafood, big country breakfasts and more than a dozen sides. 

Harned’s Drive In, Paducah

Paducah locals swear by this cash-only BBQ joint, and have for more than 60 years. To give your BBQ a little extra kick, douse it in Harned’s famous hot sauce. And if you need a break from barbecue? Harned’s hot dogs and hoagies are also popular choices.

Starnes Barbecue, Paducah

Barbecue lovers from all over the world have traveled to the green cement mecca of pit-cooked meats known as Starnes. The menu is super simple: your choice of barbecued pork, beef, ham, turkey or bologna, with potato salad or slaw. The spiced, vinegar-based sauce (or "dip," as it's called locally) provides just the right amount of tang without hogging the spotlight from the meat.

A barbecue chef tends the pit inside a large grill

Explore Kentucky's Culinary Trails

Savor More Kentucky Flavor