The Omaha BBQ scene is changing. Renowned for its unique blend of tradition and innovation, it has a storied past that sets the stage for its current revival. This transformation, led by new visionaries, stands on the foundation laid by long-standing BBQ establishments that have shaped Omaha’s culinary identity.

The Legacy of Omaha’s BBQ Culture

For decades, Omaha’s BBQ scene was defined by several iconic establishments, each contributing to the city’s rich barbecue heritage.

The Foundations of Omaha’s BBQ Tradition

  • Metoyer’s BBQ: A cornerstone of North Omaha’s African American community for over three decades, Metoyer’s BBQ was celebrated for its Kansas City-style ribs, brisket, and chicken, all flavored with a special sauce from the Cain River region of Texas. This family-run joint left a lasting impact on the local BBQ culture.
  • Amarillo BBQ: Situated in Bellevue, Amarillo BBQ enjoyed nearly 30 years of popularity, attracting celebrities like Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, and Garth Brooks. It was a testament to the widespread appeal of Omaha’s BBQ.
  • Jim’s Rib Haven: Established in 1967, Jim’s Rib Haven garnered national attention, including praise from the New York Times, for being among the best BBQ in America. It stands as a symbol of enduring quality and tradition in Omaha’s BBQ scene.

Historically, establishments like Metoyer’s BBQ, Skeets, Amarillo, Perks BBQ, and Jim’s Rib Haven had laid the groundwork future pitmasters like Blane Hunter to change Omaha’s BBQ culture forever.

The Emergence of a New Barbeque Era

Despite the closing of several renowned establishments, Omaha’s BBQ scene found new life with the arrival of Blane Hunter. Hunter, a world-class pitmaster, brought a fresh perspective and expertise that reinvigorated the city’s BBQ landscape.

Blane Hunter of Porky Butts BBQ: A Catalyst for Change

a butcher block full of smoked meats and bbq

  • Porky Butts BBQ: Hunter’s establishment in 2019 marked a pivotal moment in Omaha’s BBQ history. His unique Texas-Omaha style BBQ, honed from over 27 years of experience, was quickly embraced by the locals and ignited a passion among upcoming BBQ restaurateurs.
  • Influence on New Ventures: Hunter’s influence extended beyond Porky Butts BBQ. He played a crucial role in nurturing a collaborative BBQ community, offering guidance to aspiring pitmasters and contributing to the establishment of several new BBQ joints.

Blane Hunter has played a pivotal role in revitalizing the Omaha BBQ scene, yet he is not alone in this endeavor. Let’s introduce the other trailblazing pitmasters who are shaping the future of Omaha’s barbecue landscape.

New Pioneers in Omaha’s BBQ Scene

Mission Ave BBQ

Scott Fogle, trained in Austin’s famed BBQ restaurants, opened Mission Ave BBQ in Bellevue, specializing in Central Texas-style BBQ. This BBQ restaurant in nearby Bellevue quickly became known for its authentic flavors and simple yet profound approach to BBQ.

sliced smoked bbq brisket on a butcher block

J’s Smokehouse

Transitioning from a food truck to a full-fledged restaurant, J’s Smokehouse in Papillion is a family-owned venture known for its Texas-style-craft barbecue and beautiful bark.

a slice of smoked brisket being held in a hand.

Smokin Barrel

Initially a food truck, Smokin Barrel found a permanent home near Millard Airport. This move allowed for a focus on refining their BBQ offerings, with the truck remaining a central part of their operation.

Ribs, turkey, brisket, and pork on a butcher block

 Omaha BBQ, A Journey of Evolution

The renaissance of Omaha’s BBQ scene is a story of resilience and creativity. The rich history laid by establishments like Metoyer’s, Amarillo, and Jim’s Rib Haven provided a strong foundation for new innovators like Blane Hunter and others to build upon. Today, Omaha stands not only as a city with a deep-seated BBQ tradition but also as a hub of culinary innovation, where old flavors are preserved and new ones are constantly being discovered. This dynamic blend of the old and the new continues to make Omaha a significant destination on America’s BBQ map.

Read more about the best new restaurants in Omaha.