This article is presented in partnership with Visit Columbia.

Columbia’s blues and barbecue scene heats up in September, as locals and visitors alike head in to enjoy both during the iconic Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival. 

In its 13th year, the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival is a celebration of great live music and great food. Drawing 29 musicians from across the country, region and local area, the three-day festival takes place at Stephens Lake Park on two stages; plus, you might catch a busker or two on the side. Barbecue is the flavor of the fest with several options from local and regional pit masters, but other food fare options will be available. This year’s event runs from September 27-29, and includes acts like Mandolin Orange, Maren Morris, the Mavericks and Mid-Missouri’s own Burney Sisters and The Kay Brothers, among other talents. Should you need to burn a few calories, the Betsy Farris Memorial Run has several distance options to help you get fit and stay healthy, a lifestyle of the late Betsy Farris, Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival director from 2009-2016. 

From food trucks to brick and mortar, the owners at Big Daddy’s BBQ, 1205 N. Garth Ave., have been serving up their family-style Southern barbecue for seven years in Columbia. For many of their customers, pulled pork is the way to go; serve it atop the pulled pork nachos and you’ve got a game changer. Lately, however, Lloyd and Fontella Henry have introduced Columbians to rib tips. It’s a cut of the rib that often gets left behind, but in cities like Chicago, St. Louis and Memphis, these tender and meaty bits are hot. At Big Daddy’s, the Henry’s feature family recipes from Mississippi, except for the sauce. The sauce is Lloyd’s creation, and only he knows the recipe.

Since 1998, the simple menu at Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q, 3804 Buttonwood Drive, hasn’t changed much. Known locally for its Sandwich Special, a 4-ounce pulled pork sandwich with two sides, this barbecue joint goes through a cord of hickory wood every week and smokes pork, beef and poultry in its 5,000-pound smoker that runs 24/6. (They take a day for cleaning.) The sides range from their signature Smoked Pit Beans (beans amped up with some of their mild barbecue sauce, chopped beef brisket and a little brown sugar) to a special horseradish cole slaw recipe owner Mark Brown got from a roadside diner for $200 and a couple of backstage passes to a Barry White concert, back in the day when he was a tour bus driver for rock bands like KISS, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac, among others.

Family was the first guinea pig for the chefs at CoMo Smoke & Fire, 4600 Paris Road Ste. 102. Over time, they honed their barbecue recipes in their home kitchen and opened the restaurant doors five years ago. They call their barbecue “CoMo style.” Take the CoMo SlowMo: It’s brisket, turkey and pork mixed together with a sweet barbecue sauce and topped with creamy slaw and dill pickles on a jalapeño bun. It’s the sloppy Joe’s barbecue cousin. For a little something extra, add the super creamy mac and cheese to any sandwich, or check out the Bama sauce—it’s an Alabama mayo-based barbecue sauce with a little horseradish kick, but you have to ask for it.

Everything on the menu at
Lutz’s BBQ, 200 E. Nifong, was kitchen-tested for quality long before it became available to customers — consistency is key to great barbecue for the resident pit master, Burl Lutz. Once a barbecue circuit competitor, Lutz developed his tried-and-true recipes over time, from his American Royal award-winning sauces to the burnt ends, even the potato and sweet potato chips are crafted meticulously in-house and come in a host of flavors. The brisket is tender and full of flavor, and wings are always a great choice. But, the scratch-made gumbo is also a must try that runs under the barbecue radar.

A barbecue staple in Columbia since 2006, Smokin’ Chicks has gone through an evolution or two, from a restaurant environment to catering to its recent acquisition by Fresh Ideas, a food service management company headquartered in Columbia. The barbecue that clients and customers have come to love will be available through the company’s regional Slow Jam BBQ line for catering and events, but locally it will still be Smokin’ Chicks, From wings and ribs to brisket, pulled pork and turkey, meats are coated with a special dry rub, then smoked for hours to perfect a tender barbecue. Fresh Ideas CEO Matt Clervi says this barbecue is a cross between Memphis and Texas styles—a mouthwatering hybrid.