The best barbecue in Shanghai

Slow-cooked ribs, smoked brisket, skewers and more

Photograph: courtesy Cages
We’ve all found ourselves chowing down shaokao at the end of a night on the town, and when it comes to Xinjiang lamb skewers we’re spoilt for choice. But when you've got a hankering for a different style of barbecue like say American, Korean or Japanese, Shanghai has plenty of places to tend to those needs too. Here's some of the city's top spots to get your fix of pork ribs, wagyu, brisket and more.

American

The Smokehouse x The Camel

The Smokehouse x The Camel

A stalwart for sport-watching in Shanghai The Camel has also recently added a menu of low and slow-cooked meaty treats to its repertoire. They come courtesy of Matty Waters, a pitmaster from Kansas City who's doing an admirable job of curing heavy heads through his hometown eats that include the likes of house-made sausages, mac ‘n’ cheese bombs, pork ribs and of course burnt-ends – those cubed brisket trimmings, that here come atop a beef patty inside a sandwich that’s finished with pickled slaw and a handful of candied jalapeños.

Bubba's Food Co.

Bubba's Food Co.

Shanghai vet Ken Walker has been a well-known name in the city’s grilled and smoked meats scene since he first introduced what might have been the city’s only Texan-style smoker back in 2006 (Bubba’s). Now, his Bubba’s brand – reborn in Shankang Li last year – continues to fill carnivorous crowds with comfort eats from his native state of Texas, like smoked brisket, ribs, stacked burgers, hot gut sausages and the rest. Each table comes with a bottle of Walker’s own signature barbecue sauce, which should be slathered on your meats to get the full Bubba’s experience.

The Bourbon Cookhouse

The Bourbon Cookhouse

Heading into Minhang and Hongqiao for a feed may be a faraway concept to some, but when you’re pigging out over Bourbon Cookhouse’s Southern-style meats that are rubbed and smoked for 24 hours, and fired with cherry and hickory wood, you’ll get the appeal. Platters stacked with meat that scream ‘get in my belly’ are the highlight here – think chunks of prime beef and pulled pork coated in barbecue sauce, while things like burnt ends even make their way into the spaghetti. 


Of course, the restaurant isn’t called the Bourbon Cookhouse for nothing; there are over 40 bourbons to wash everything down with, as well as house infusions and barrel-aged cocktails made with the namesake whiskey.

Garlic Barbecue

Garlic Barbecue

Nearly two years ago a group of Turkish guys (also behind upmarket Turkish restaurant Garlic) took their knowledge of all things meaty and grilled, and segued into the Texan barbecue game. The result is a (still) packed-out restaurant that sells out regularly to feed a queue that never fails to wrap around the block, even though the team have two enormous steel smokers at their disposal. Although not traditionally Texan, healthier sides like kale and mango salad or baked broccoli do well to offset the severe case of the meat sweats you’re about to be diagnosed with.

Cages

Cages

Cages is normally known around Shanghai for its giant 100-inch TV screens and batting cages, but on a Thursday the sports bar is all about the barbecue. Each week from 5pm, Chef Jason Oakley shows off his Southern smoking skills with a killer spread of meats, sides and sauces. The basic platter includes bread, slaw, pickles and a choice of meat – either 150g (88RMB), 300g(138RMB) or 500g (188RMB) – with the option to add on sides like baked beans and potato salad for 28RMB each. Big groups can go all in on their gluttony with the pitmaster platter (588RMB) that feeds four to six and features chicken quarters, half a rack of pork ribs, brisket, hot link sausages and more.

Brazilian

Latina

Latina

This churrasco chain is one of the city’s go-tos for Brazilian barbecue. It’s a place made for carnivores where waiters carve up all-you-can-eat meats from menacingly long skewers tableside that’ll leave you bursting at the seams. Keep that in mind when the eyeing up the buffet stations loaded with more mains, salads, sides and desserts. There’s also the option to tack on two hour free-flow drinks – option C (120RMB) includes classic cocktails like mojitos and caipriñhas.

Japanese

High Yaki

High Yaki

Hundo’s Justin Xu is at it again making the hard look easy with another restaurant standing out in Shanghai’s sea of Japanese izakayas. Here, the interior is smart and sleek, while the calling cards are the delightfully fatty cuts of high-grade dry-aged wagyu from striploin to ribeye and a full-blooded M5 tomahawk steak. Prices for those may be on the steeper side (reasonably so) and sure there are ways to make the experience cheaper like ordering the yakitori – but really, that’s not why you came here, so forget about savings for a night and give in to those deepest fatty beef-fuelled fantasies.

YaKingTori

YaKingTori

Shanghai isn’t exactly short of yakitori spots, at times it feels like you can’t walk a block without passing one. But when not you’re not looking to break the bank YaKingTori should be on your radar. The quality of meat and veg make it a cut above some of the regular Japanese grilled skewer haunts and, as a bonus, the highballs are only 35RMB. Its location close to Jingan’s nightlife spots and Found 158 also make for great place to kick off a night out.

Ember

Ember

At luxury Japanese joint Ember grilling is an artform and wondrously marbled slices of wagyu are the artworks. Here you’ll most likely be dropping four figures to eat, with two options: option A, the more expensive (1,280RMB) counter-seated Nikku Kappo set menu, and the less pricey option B (880RMB) with a set menu that’s centred around yakiniku served in small private rooms. Both are worth the extra spend, as is a complete splurge when supplementing it with restaurant’s signature wagyu tenderloin sandwich (an extra 328RMB).

Korean

Fafu Korean Barbecue

Fafu Korean Barbecue

By far the place you’ll have the most fun on this list, Fafu does everything you’ll want from a good Korean barbecue: platters of meat, crispy kimchi pancakes, a host of soups, but it’s their signature frozen sochu that really gets the night accelerating into a tailspin. Beaten to a slush with a mallet tableside, and all too easy to chuck back, you’ll find it near impossible to say no to another round.

Botong Sikdang

Botong Sikdang

When the journey out to Koreatown is a trip too far, this popular Korean barbecue joint from the BELLOCO group (Jeju Izakaya, Professor Lee) is an excellent substitute. You’ll just have to brave the queues (usually an hour or, shudder, even longer) which both branches are famous for alongside big glistening trays of sliced pork belly and banchan. Here, the meat rightfully takes centre stage, but every lead needs a strong supporting act which Botong Sikdang has in its excellent bibimbap, spicy tteokbokki and a Moments-worthy volcano cheese egg that’s served flowing out from a sizzling stone bowl.

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