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Chances are, your wedding reception is going to be a classy affair with a three-course menu. So why not go more casual the night before? One idea: cue the 'cue. Here's a list of our top big-city barbecue restaurants that double as an awesome (and delicious) rehearsal-dinner spot.
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This Nashville institution—voted the best barbecue spot in town by locals for three years in a row—is currently in the process of building an event space to host private dinners. (In the meantime, their patio is available for a buy-out, but it's not ideal for those who don't want to take a risk with the weather.) There will be space for 140 guests standing or up to 80 seated. As for the 'cue, the meat is smoked low and slow every day over local white oak wood.
Price: from $10 per person for protein, three sides, and bread. (Note: prices mentioned are for food menus only.)
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It's not everyday you find a barbecue restaurant with vegetarian, soy-free, and gluten-free options. But this chef-driven spot—the brainchild of Ryan Rogers—in Louisville's NuLu neighborhood is not your average barbecue restaurant. Choose between a variety of meat—pulled pork, brisket, chopped chicken, baby back pork ribs, and even crispy smoked tofu for your vegetarian friends—plus traditional stick-to-your-rib sides like mac and cheese and collard greens. The restaurant is available for buy-outs when it's closed (Sundays and Mondays); otherwise, you can reserve a smaller section that seats up to 50 people.
Price: from $17 per person (minimum and rental rate may apply, depending on time of year and day).
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Head to this bi-level Manhattan restaurant for a taste of Texas in New York—brisket, sausage, ribs, and more are smoked daily over Post Oak wood, which comes straight from deep in the heart. A spacious, downstairs room is available for group events, and you can choose between family-style meals, buffets with carving stations, and seated dinners (up to 110 guests) and cocktail receptions (up to 225 standing). As for the menu, the possibilities are almost endless, including almost 20 types of meat and more than a dozen sides (don't miss the corn pudding and cucumber salad). There's even a stage for live music—just ask their coordinator to help you pick the right band for your event.
Prices: from $25 per person.
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We have owner Charlie McKenna's South Carolinian grandmother Lillie to thank for passing along her Southern cooking skills to her grandson. The result: Lillie Q's (the "Q" is for his father, Quito), where you can sample classics like shrimp and grits, plus pulled pork and baby back ribs smoked over peach wood and lump charcoal. Custom, family-style menus can include pulled pork and tri-tip, Southern-style cole slaw, and desserts like brioche bread pudding with candied pecans and chocolate bourbon sauce. Need a favor idea? His sauces and dry-rubs became such a hit that he bottled them (from $8/bottle).
Price: from $120 per person.
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Maple Block Meat Co.
Culver City, California
Last summer, this Culver City restaurant received the news of a lifetime: the barbecue editor (yes, there is such a thing) of Texas Monthly named its brisket the best in the state of California. They use Texas-built smokers to make everything from that award-winning meat to chopped pork shoulder. More intimate private parties can be held on the patio, which seats up to 36, while a complete buyout can fit up to 70.
Price: from $45 per person for the patio; from $25,000 for complete buyout.
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Kansas City, Missouri
This new restaurant combines the best of wood-fire grilling and barbecue, with award-winning pitmaster Rob Magee running the show. The private event space can hold up to 48 seated guests, who will love digging into buffet-style meals that can include hickory-smoked brisket, housemade chipotle cilantro sausage, apple coleslaw, and potato salad. Add-ons such as honey-glazed spare ribs and the "best chicken wings on the planet" are also available for additional cost.
Price: from $16.95 to $26.95 per person (includes two meats, three sides, and cornbread).
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Chef Tim Byres—whose latest book, Smoke: New Firewood Cooking, won a James Beard award—is the brainchild behind this modern barbecue joint in the stylish Belmont Hotel. Family-style and buffet meals showcase dry-rubbed pork spare ribs, coffee-cured beef brisket, and Carolina-style pulled whole hog, plus sides like hominy and cheddar casserole, and blue cheese and cabbage slaw. A private back room can hold 55 people, or 110 for a complete buyout; there's also a small patio, which can seat 24.
Price: from $30 per person.