The South's Top 50 Barbecue Joints: The Backstory

This week, we published my list of the Top 50 Barbecue Joints in the South. But, really, it should be called "a working list" of the Top 50 joints.

Let me explain. For the past nine months I’ve been traveling the highways and backroads for Southern Living in search of the best barbecue that each part of the South has to offer. In a region with such a broad and diverse barbecue tradition—and with so many square miles to cover between El Paso and Baltimore—this a rather daunting undertaking, and I will admit that there are still a few places on my short list that I haven’t gotten to yet.

But I think I’ve finally put enough slow-smoked pork, ribs, and brisket under my belt to declare, at least, a provisional list of the best barbecue joints in the South. The selection, I will admit, does tilt a little heavily toward Tennessee and my home patch of the Carolinas, and I will concede a strong bias toward those who cook over wood following traditional methods. But many of the newer barbecue joints in the South are roadtrip-worthy, too, and a fair number of them have managed to win me over.

Note that the list is not (necessarily) in straight order of merit, but there is a logic to the grouping:

The Top 10: The South’s best barbecue restaurants are so different in style and technique that it’s impossible to declare that any single one is the absolute best. I do feel confident enough, though, to call out the top of the class. The first 10, labeled "Top Pick", are in alphabetical order and are my (current) picks for the 10 Best BBQ Joints in the South.

The Rest of the Best: After the Top 10, there are plenty of other worthy establishments that all Southern barbecue lovers should try. The next 40, presented in alphabetical order, are the rest of the best.

My travels are far from complete, and this list is still a work in progress. What have I missed out on so far? Please let us know: I need a few more entries on my short list to keep me busy for the rest of the year.

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