Where There’s Smoke, There’s Central City BBQ

About Central City BBQ


CCBBQ Pitmaster James Cruse is a three-time Hogs For The Cause Grand Champion.

CCBBQ Pitmaster James Cruse is a three-time Hogs For The Cause Grand Champion.

Winner Pitmaster James Cruse for Top 3 in Ribs at the BBQ World Championship in 2019 -Memphis in May with Aaron Burgau & Marc Bonifacic.

Winner Pitmaster James Cruse for Top 3 in Ribs at the BBQ World Championship in 2019 -Memphis in May with Aaron Burgau & Marc Bonifacic.

Marc Bonifacic, Donna Tran, James Cruse & Aaron Burgau at Hogs For The Cause.

Marc Bonifacic, Donna Tran, James Cruse & Aaron Burgau at Hogs For The Cause.

New Orleans’ favorite BBQ restaurant may be newer to the city than some, but it’s time-honored recipes were honed through decades of dedication to the culinary craft of BBQing. Central City BBQ became a reality as a result of decades of friendship between Aaron Burgau, award-winning Chef and owner of Restaurant Patois, and his Jesuit classmate Marc Bonifacic, a third-generation restaurant owner whose grandfather operated family-owned BBQ shop and passed their passion for and expertise in the art of BBQ’ing on to him.

Aaron and Marc have talked about the idea of developing and opening a restaurant together since the late 90’s, and 20 years later, the perfect location on 1201 Rampart St. finally opened up, giving them the ability to make their long-time dream a reality. They opened the doors of Central City BBQ in 2016 with the intention of serving up unmatched BBQ cuisine in a fun, funky setting that would also serve as one of the coolest, largest outdoor venues for concerts and events the city had to offer. Since it’s induction, Central City BBQ continues to accomplish all of these goals and more, welcoming three-time Hogs For The Cause Grand Champion and Top Three Ribs World Champion James Cruse Jr. to lead the team as its illustrious Pitmaster.

Stop by Central City BBQ today to experience how a passion for pork that just won’t quit culminates in the best damn smoked BBQ you’ve ever tasted, bar none.



Meet The Central City BBQ Crew


James Cruse
Award-winning Pitmaster

Central City is honored and delighted to call three-time Grand Champion winner of the renowned BBQing competition ‘Hogs For The Cause’ James Cruse Jr. our illustrious Pitmaster. You can usually find Cruse somewhere in the kitchen manning our smokers, managing our amazing back-of-the-house team, and cooking up what many call the most kick-ass BBQ in New Orleans.

While Cruse's professional background is in sales and project management, he has loved cooking bbq for family, friends, and customers over the last 22+ years. He has also competed on the professional bbq circuit for over 13 years, taking home hundreds of awards in national competitions like 3rd place in Ribs at The Memphis in May World Championship in 2019. Now that he has made his personal passion into a career, he enthusiastically shares that passion with others by teaching classes for the Barbeque Competitors Alliance in his spare time.


Marc Bonifacic
Managing Partner

BBQ is in Marc Bonifacic’s blood. Marc’s grandfather owned a 24-hour grocery/BBQ shop in Chicago called “Bonifacic’s BBQ,” and his specialty was smoked ribs that melted off the bone. His grandfather taught his dad everything he knew, and his dad passed along that knowledge and passion to Marc.

 Marc grew up in New Orleans and graduated from Jesuit, going on to attend Auburn University and earn his MBA from Tulane, a degree that he put into action by going into a career of finance. However, his passion for great BBQ never left him. That continuous love culminated in him developing and opening his dream project, Central City BBQ, in 2016. Now, he is able to have the best of both worlds and satisfy both his entrepreneurial spirit and his love for amazing BBQ. 


Aaron Burgau

Born in New Orleans, Aaron began his culinary career working with some of the city’s most honored chefs, including James Beard Award-winning Susan Spicer (Bayona and Mondo), and local legend Gerard Maras (Gerard’s Downtown). In 2006, he became the Executive Chef at Bank Cafe, and that same year was named one of the Top Five “Chefs to Watch” by Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine. In 2007, he partnered with longtime friend and entrepreneur Leon Touzet, to open Patois. Since then, Chef Aaron’s food has been recognized annually by The Times-Picayune and been featured in Garden & Gun magazine, among other national, regional, and local publications.

Chef Aaron has proven himself to be a master of a diverse range of cuisines, and he was thrilled for the opportunity to immerse himself in the South’s favorite comfort food delicacy by taking on Central City BBQ as a partner. Aaron plays an integral role in refining and elevating the menu offerings at Central City, and the restaurant is proud to have the award-winning Chef Aaron on board.


Donna Tran
General Manager

Donna has worked in the hospitality industry for over 15 years, and she defines herself as a “workaholic.” Her passion for cooking for and serving others stems from her belief that food brings people together and deepens the strength of bonds and relationships. She feels that GOOD food creates internal happiness and can change people’s day for the better, which is why she is always 100% committed to ensuring that the food and service people experience at Central City BBQ is always the best it can possibly be.


Turns out it’s not just our moms that think our BBQ is something special.



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Pitmaster James Cruse - 3 Time Hogs For The Cause Grand Champion including 2019



Pitmaster James Cruse - Top 3 in Ribs at the BBQ World Championship in 2019 -Memphis in May


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2019 Best of the Big Easy - Best BBQ Restaurant



Here’s what some pretty legit people and pubs have had to say about Central City BBQ:

Mastering the Fundamentals - Central City BBQ Racks It Up

Barbeque is a curious thing. It carries with it not just a method of cooking but also some serious cultural trappings. You don’t often see a restaurant spill out of its dining room to encompass patios, music stages, boat docks and play areas for the kids, but you will see this with barbeque joints, which often sprawl like smoky kudzu across rural landscapes.

Central City BBQ is the best barbecue restaurant New Orleans has ever seen

“The smoked meat is exemplary — if I had to pick two, it would be beef and boudin — and they’re flattered by sauces house-made with local ingredients, such as Steen’s cane syrup and molasses. Other details (like the salt) seem to borrow from the playbook of fashionable bistros. – Brett Anderson, NOLA.com

But never has New Orleans seen a barbecue restaurant as fully formed as Central City

“Burgau, best known for his French-leaning Southern bistro cooking at Patois, brings a touch of erudition to the proceedings — the kitchen is stocked with Maldon sea salt — but Central City isn’t about pushing barbecue into a higher tax bracket. For proof that New Orleans barbecue has finally arrived, pull up a bar stool.” 

Saints' Marcus Williams offered free food at Central City BBQ

Today we reached out to The New Orleans Saints rookie, Marcus Williams to show our respect and admiration the best way we could think of…with BBQ!

“What can ease the pain of blowing a win in a playoff game? How about a plate of smoked meat. Central City BBQ wants to show the rookie Saints player Marcus Williams that there are no hard feelings about how the game went Sunday night. They invited him into the restaurant to have some barbecue on the house.”    


Game Time!

Grab a roadie for the walk to the Dome and remember that no matter the outcome of the game, the pits at Central City BBQ will still be smoking after the final whistle blows.

– Offbeat Magazine

Top 10 barbecue restaurants in New Orleans

The most fully realized barbecue restaurant New Orleans has ever seen is the subject of a full, bean-rated review.  – Brett Anderson, NOLA.com

Don’t worry, we’re not letting the compliments go to our heads (much). We still measure our success each and every day the same way – by the experience that YOU have when you walk through our doors and feast on our food!

We’d love to hear about yours – please leave us review if you’d like!