Whether you daydream of being a pitmaster or are just a fan of brines, rubs, smoke rings and burnt ends, Thurston County has plenty of tasty options. From festivals to food trucks, there’s barbecue waiting just around the corner.

close up of meat on a black girll
The South Sound BBQ Festival takes place at Lacey’s Huntamer Park on July 13, 2024. Two weeks later, visit the Nisqually Valley Barbecue Rally at Yelm Community Park on July 26. Photo courtesy: South Sound BBQ Festival

Free Family Fun at Two Thurston County Barbecue Festivals this July

Wallow in all things ‘cue at the South Sound BBQ Festival on July 13 or Nisqually Valley Barbecue Rally on July 26. Both events are free, all ages, family-friendly fun, and celebrate community, summer and the joys of gathering around a grill.

Sponsored by the Lacey South Sound Chamber, the South Sound BBQ Festival is held at Lacey’s Huntamer Park from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., with the beer garden open from noon until 8 p.m. There will be entertainment on stage, kids’ activities, a chicken wing eating contest, vendors and voting for your favorite grill-master. Follow the BBQ Festival on Facebook for the latest additions, updates and information about how to sign up as a participant.

Two weeks later, the Nisqually Valley Barbecue Rally sets up at Yelm City Park. Courtesy of the Yelm Chamber of Commerce, organizers expect more than 10,000 attendees hungry for food and fun. The Rally runs from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m., with the beer garden open from 5 to 9 p.m. Sign up to compete in the Amateur Andy or Youth Burger Challenge competitions or enroll your kiddos in the youth music talent show.

Email events@laceysschamber.com with questions about the South Sound BBQ Festival or info@bbqrally.com with questions about the Nisqually Valley Barbecue Rally.

sliced brisket on a white cutting board
Can’t wait for the festivals? Support your local pitmaster at one of Thurston County’s many barbecue spots for dine-in, to-go, catering and delivery options. Photo courtesy: Nisqually Barbecue Rally

Eat Globally, Dine Locally Thanks to Thurston County’s Dine In, Take-Out or Barbecue Delivery

Can’t wait for the festivals to kick off? No problem! Thurston County has some great takes on barbecue that can be enjoyed any time. This list is by no means comprehensive but here are a few fun spins on this timeless classic.

South Bay BBQ

619 Legion Way SE, Olympia

Family-owned in downtown Olympia, South Bay BBQ offers everything from Taco Tuesday to a Prime Rib dinner, all with their signature barbecue flair. They have outdoor seating, to-go options and are open Tuesday through Saturday.

Ranch House BBQ

10841 Kennedy Creek Road SW, Olympia

With nearly 45 years on the competition barbecue circuit under their belts, Ranch House BBQ Pitmaster Amy Anderson has taken home Grand Championship titles in Washington, California, Arizona and Nevada State BBQ Championships. She also earned a Grand Championship at the Canadian International and the world championship in Ireland in 2000. Dine in, take some home or have their team cater your next get-together.

OG’s Smokehouse BBQ


OG’s Smokehouse BBQ sets up shop around Olympia, so follow your nose (or find their schedule on Facebook) to some tasty grub. Fan favorites sell out quickly, so show up early and hungry. Why cook in this heat? Let the OG take care of family dinner tonight.

Flaming Pig BBQ

111 Tumwater Boulevard SE, B-102, Tumwater

If reading all this makes you hungry, you’re in luck. Flaming Pig BBQ will let you order online and for pickup and delivery. Otherwise, swing by for Happy Hour from 2 to 4 p.m., Taco Thursday or just a heaping portion of yummy food. You can even pick up sauces to enjoy at home later.

sliced brisket on a white cutting board with a knife next to it
There are even globally influenced barbecue restaurants in Olympia, such as Hawaiian plate lunch flavors or Korean barbecue with an international flair. Photo courtesy: Nisqually Barbecue Rally

Hops on the Hill

1870 Barnes Boulevard SW, Tumwater

Few pairings are better than beer and barbecue. Open seven days a week, Hops on the Hill will cure your Texas-style barbecue cravings from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. You can even add barbecued meat to other items, so why not? Mac and cheese with brisket, BBQ sliders or a full pan of nachos topped with smoked turkey…yes, please.

Jerk Juicy BBQ & Catering

202 Yelm Avenue W, Yelm

Another Texas-style barbecue stop, Jerk Juicy BBQ & Catering, uses real wood-smoked meat to wow customers. They cater, sell by the pound, and offer dine-in and to-go. You can also order online to skip the wait or sign up for their newsletter to follow upcoming appearances. Check out the deceptively named burrito, which comes filled with the meat of your choice, mac and cheese and topped with house-made Jerk Juicy Sauce.

Steele Barrel BBQ

1506 W Yelm Ave, Yelm

With a motto of “explore, devour, repeat,” Steele Barrel BBQ is Yelm’s flavor fiesta. Offering everything from a pulled pork breakfast burrito to Angus sirloin cheeseburgers, brisket fries to street corn salad, they fulfill their motto every day and have the five-star reviews to prove it.

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

1350 Marvin Road NE, Ste. H, Lacey
5312 Littlerock Road SW, Ste. 101, Tumwater

We tend to associate barbecue with the South, Southwest and Texas, but Hawaiian barbecue is not to be missed. L&L Hawaiian Barbecue in Lacey and Tumwater brings the classic plate lunch to diners stateside. A plate lunch typically includes rice, macaroni salad, fish, chicken and a third deliciously prepared protein. Taste the aloha and broaden your barbecue horizons without leaving home.

New Gangnam Korean BBQ

7131 Martin Way E, Olympia

Whether you choose the spicy pork or chicken BBQ box for lunch or one of their 14 different types of Korean BBQ, New Gangnam is a global spin on the genre with so many options that choosing just one is almost impossible.

Summertime’s open windows bring in the fresh scent of blooming flowers, newly mowed grass and your neighbor’s barbecue grill. There’s nothing better than the smell of meat, veggies and even fruit caramelized, charred, seared, sautéed or shish-ka-bobbed over an open flame…with plenty of s’mores for dessert. Head to one of these scrumptious events or restaurants in Thurston County for your fill of barbecue.

Looking for more? Check the Lacey South Sound Chamber website for more local summer happenings.