The South's Top 50 Barbecue Joints

The bar for top-notch 'cue has only gotten higher, and it shows in this year's list, which blends old-school icons and impressive newcomers.

Home Team BBQ in Charleston, South Carolina
Photo: Home Team BBQ

A lot has changed on the barbecue landscape since Southern Living published its last list of The South's Top 50 Barbecue Joints in 2019.

For starters, the global COVID-19 pandemic shut down dining rooms in the spring of 2020. Soaring food costs and labor challenges followed, putting many barbecue operations on the ropes and threatening the entire industry.

But the South's barbecue joints proved surprisingly resilient. We have witnessed a few sad departures of old favorites in recent years, but, remarkably, only one of the 50 restaurants on our 2019 list — B's Cracklin' BBQ — is no longer in business today. Fire destroyed the pithouse at B's Atlanta location in March 2019, and the remaining Savannah location closed the following year, but there is a silver lining: owner/pitmaster Bryan Furman has a new Atlanta restaurant in the works, and this time it will bear his full name: Bryan Furman BBQ.

Resilience and new beginnings are recurring themes on this year's list. Instead of widespread gloom, the past two years have brought a flourishing of barbecue entrepreneurship. Established restaurants have added new locations, and some have evolved into nascent multi-state chains. A parade of ambitious new players has entered the market, too, and they are transforming the long-running Southern barbecue tradition with their energy and creativity.

Yes, Texas-style smoked brisket continues its relentless march across the South, and many of the best new restaurants do put brisket at the center of their menus. At the same time, we're enjoying a vibrant new wave of barbecue diversity, as up-and-coming pitmasters blend traditional regional styles with flavors inspired by their family heritage and by the culinary diversity of the communities in which they live.

Five years ago, simply tucking smoked beef or pork inside a tortilla and calling it a barbecue taco seemed pretty cutting edge. These days, such combinations are run-of-the-mill, and pitmasters are increasingly looking around the globe for inspiration. At the core, though, they remain committed to the fundamentals: smoking top quality meats low and slow on wood-fired pits.

The bar for top-notch barbecue, in other words, has only gotten higher, and it shows in this year's list, which blends old-school icons and impressive newcomers. Taken as a whole, the rankings offer a capsule assessment of "The State of Southern Barbecue," and the state of barbecue in the South is indeed strong—and getting stronger each year.

Editor's Note: This list, which was compiled and ranked by Southern Living's Contributing Barbecue Editor, is distinct from our South's Best rankings, which was released back in March and was based upon a survey of our readers. You can think of that list as the "readers' choice" and this one as the "editor's picks." There is a lot of overlap between the two rankings, though. We Southerners love to argue about who cooks the best barbecue, but the cream tends to rise to the top.

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#50. Jenkins Quality Barbecue

Jenkins Quality Barbecue, Jacksonville Florida
Celeste Burns-for GoDaddy

830 N Pearl St

Jacksonville, FL

(904) 353-6388

jenkinsqualitybarbecue.com

What's the secret to the success of this long-running Jacksonville institution? The Jenkins family says "it's in the sauce." Indeed, the golden hue of that signature mustard-based preparation is bound to grab your attention, and if you opt for the hot version (and you really should), it'll put sweat on your brow and tears in your eyes. I think the real secret, though, is the big open brick pit on which they cook ribs, chicken, pork, and beef. The direct heat from burning oak logs imparts an inimitable crisp, smoky flavor to the ribs. Served over slices of white bread and smothered in that distinctive yellow mustard sauce, it's been a winning combination since 1957.

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#49. Swig & Swine

Swig & Swine
Robert Moss

1217 Savannah Hwy

Charleston, SC

(843) 225-3805

swigandswinebbq.com

With three locations in the Charleston area, Swig & Swine has become one of the anchors of the Lowcountry's vibrant barbecue scene. "All wood all the time" is owner Anthony DiBernardo's motto, and that wood-fired flavor can be found in everything from pulled pork and ribs to turkey and chicken wings. The thick-sliced prime brisket is always a solid choice, but the real treasures are the silky, smoke-tinged pork belly and DiBernardo's tangy take on South Carolina's signature side dish, hash and rice. Keep your eye on the daily specials board, too, which offers ever-changing novelties like Thai chili wings, pork steaks, and house-cured pastrami sandwiches.

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#48. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q
Hector Manuel Sanchez

1238 DeKalb Avenue Northeast

Atlanta, GA

(404) 577-4030

foxbrosbbq.com

In recent years, twin brothers Jonathan and Justin Fox have expanded their Atlanta footprint with new locations in The Works on the Upper Westside, a concession inside the Braves' baseball stadium, and a "Que-osk" in a converted shipping container on Ottley Drive. It was 15 years ago, though, that the original DeKalb Avenue restaurant opened just east of downtown, and that's where the brothers introduced the barbecue style of their native Texas to the people of Atlanta. Brisket, ribs, and sausage remain the heart of the menu, but plenty of creative combinations span the South's barbecue regions. "Chicken fried" ribs come with Alabama-style white sauce, tater tots are smothered with a layer of Brunswick stew, and jalapeno cheddar sausage is served with a scoop of pimento cheese. These days, the Foxes call that cross-regional blend "Atlanta Style", and it seems perfectly at home in one of the South's fastest growing metropolises.

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#47. Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous

Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous Barbecue
Robbie Caponetto

52 S 2nd St

Memphis, TN 38103

(901) 523-2746

www.hogsfly.com

Back in the 1940s, Charlie Vergos converted an old coal chute in his basement restaurant into a barbecue pit, and he started cooking pork ribs hot and fast over a charcoal fire. He finished the racks with a reddish-brown spice blend borrowed from his father's Greek chili recipe, and Memphis classic "dry rubbed" ribs were born. Nothing can quite compare to the Rendezvous's iconic setting, from the stylish red and green awning outside to the red-checked tablecloths and photograph-lined walls of the basement dining room. Start things off with a cold draft beer and an "appetizer plate" of ham, cheese, and sausage, then move on to a big basket of charcoal-crisped ribs. It's a barbecue experience found only in Memphis.

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#46. Hurtado Barbecue

Hurtado Barbecue
Robert Moss

205 E Front St

Arlington, TX

(682) 323-5141

hurtadobbq.com

In the space of just two short years, Brandon Hurtado went from cooking his first barbecue pop-up at a local brewery to moving into a permanent location in a former biker bar in downtown Arlington. Branding his style "Mexicue," Hurtado proudly incorporates the flavors of his Hispanic heritage into traditional Texas-style barbecue. The fundamentals are solid, like luscious brisket with a sharp peppery bark tender and pork ribs tinged pink with smoke straight down to the bone. Traditional sides get a few bold twists, too, like poblano mac 'n cheese, hatch chile cheddar grits, and zippy elotes that top yellow corn kernels with squiggles of bright orange hot sauce and a dusting of cotija cheese. Hurtado's not resting on his laurels, either. Just this summer he opened a second Hurtado Barbecue up north in Little Elm.

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#45. Truth BBQ

Barbecue tray
Ben Sassani Photography

110 S Heights Blvd.,

Houston, TX

(832) 835-0001

truthbbq.com

In the summer of 2015, Leonard Botello IV parked a used Klose offset pit next to a small red metal building along the side of U.S. 290, midway between Austin and Houston. There he opened the first Truth BBQ, and long lines quickly formed. Four years later, he headed east to Houston and opened a much larger version in the Heights neighborhood, and the long lines followed there, too. They're coming for what may well be the best brisket in Houston—thick sliced and with a great blocky texture—plus juicy turkey, savory brisket-laced boudin, and, on Saturdays, Carolina-style whole hog. Attention to detail shows in everything from the labels on the stout glass sauce bottles to the piquant array of housemade pickled vegetables that garnish the trays. An assortment of hearty sides—especially the creamy, cheesy tater tot casserole—finish things off with style.

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#44. Big T Bar-B-Q

Big T Bar-B-Q
Facebook/@Big-Ts-BBQ

2520 Congaree Road

Gadsden, SC

(803) 353-0488

bigtbbq.com

Two primary features define the Midlands South Carolina style of barbecue: pork dressed in yellow mustard sauce and hash and rice served on the side. Big T has exemplary versions of both, and though there are two satellites in the Columbia suburbs, it's worth a drive out to Gadsden to check out "the mothership." That's where Larry "Big T" Brown and his family cook the barbecue and hash for all three restaurants. They do it the old-school way, too, reducing logs to coals in a warped metal burn box, carrying them by shovel into the pit room, and scattering them beneath pork shoulders cooking on open metal pits. The meaty hash has wonderful dark, earthy notes plus a boost from a dose of the same golden-hued mustard sauce that dresses the pork. There's also a full slate of options like fried pork chops, fried whiting, and plenty of delicious sides.

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#43. Blood Bros. BBQ

Barbecue banh mi
Joey Garcia

5425 Bellaire Blvd

Bellaire, TX

(713) 664-7776

bloodbrosbbq.com

Many of the new arrivals on this year's Top 50 blend traditional Southern barbecue styles with other culinary traditions. Blood Bros. BBQ is a splendid example. Three natives of the Houston suburb of Alief, brothers Terry and Robin Wong and their friend Quy Hoang, started staging barbecue pop-ups at local bars in 2014. They opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant four years later and, in the process, created a unique style of Texas barbecue inspired by their neighborhood's culinary diversity. The Texas standards are solid—smoky brisket, tender sliced turkey, an excellent jalapeño cheddar sausage—but the more fusiony creations shine even brighter. Firm, smoky ribs are painted with a sweet and savory gochujang glaze, and brisket fried rice delivers heavenly bursts of smoky beef with each bite. A rotating slate of daily specials like pork vindaloo sausage and char siu banh mi sandwiches guarantee there's always something new and flavorful to discover.

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#42. Kibb's Bar-B-Que #2

Kibb's Exterior
Robert Moss

1102 E Harrison St.

Stuttgart, AR

(870) 673-2072

How does a small, off-the-beaten-path barbecue stand that few outside of Arkansas have even heard of make it onto a Top 50 list? The answer is simple: pork and beef sandwiches. Walter Kibble founded his first Stuttgart restaurant around 1980, and his family members now operate outposts in Pine Bluff and North Little Rock. All serve ribs and rib tips, burgers, and smoked bologna, but the barbecue sandwiches are what won me over. Sliced pork is tucked inside a warm toasted bun and dressed in thick, sweet brown sauce—a hallmark of central Arkansas 'cue. The beef version is even better, the meat sliced thin and chopped into shards that brim with rich hickory smoke. That sticky brown sauce comes in mild, medium, or hot varieties, and I advise the middle path, which will leave your tongue pleasantly tingling long after the last bite. Even in this era of endless bucket lists and pervasive social media, it seems, there are unheralded treasures left to find.

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#41. Peg Leg Porker

Peg Leg Porker in Nashville, TN
Courtesy of Peg Leg Porker

903 Gleaves St.

Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 829-6023

Peglegporker.com

In 2013, Carey Bringle brought West Tennessee-style barbecue to the heart of Nashville when he opened Peg Leg Porker in the Gulch. The response was so strong that he ended up adding an entire second floor with a broad dining room and balcony, then he installed a glass-walled aquarium-style smoker in the center of the downstairs patio. Dry rubbed ribs and pulled pork are still the specialties of the house, but the Yardbird—tender, juicy smoked chicken rubbed with the same secret blend as the ribs—is the real sleeper. Start things off with pimento cheese or a cup of bright red kool aid pickles, then round out your tray with hearty sides like gooey shells and cheese and smoked green beans studded with onion.

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#40. Cozy Corner

Sampling of BBQ and Sides Offered at Cozy Corner BBQ in Memphis, TN
Robbie Caponetto

726 North Parkway

Memphis, TN

(901) 527-9158

cozycornerbbq.com

Two years ago, Desiree Robinson—the matriarch of Cozy Corner—was inducted into the Barbecue Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. Under her watch, the restaurant her late husband Ray founded in 1977 has become an iconic example of Memphis's signature barbecue style. That means ribs and rib tips enrobed in sweet, tangy sauce and bursting with sharp, smoky flavor. The signature brown sauce comes in four varieties ranging in heat from mild to "super hot," and even the medium will leave your lips tingling. For sides there are beans, bright yellow slaw, and BBQ spaghetti, a fusion of tender noodles and savory barbecue sauce that's unique to Memphis. Cozy Corner offers a few touches all its own, too, like smoked Cornish hen and sandwiches that pile thin-sliced pork or beef on long sesame-topped sub rolls instead of the usual bun.

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#39. Burnt Bean Co.

Barbecue tray
Ernest Servantes

108 S. Austin St.

Seguin, TX

(830) 609-7189

burntbeanco.com

If you see a pork steak on the specials board at Burnt Bean Co., order it. Two inches thick with a black pepper crust and sweet, tangy glaze, it's a big old honker, and a delicious one, too. The rosy circle of meat next to the bone is so tender it almost melts in your mouth. This new Texas arrival opened in 2020 inside an old storefront in downtown Seguin, and co-owners Ernest Servantes and Dave Kirkland quickly earned kudos—and long lines—for the consistent quality of their Central Texas staples, like beefy brisket with a salty sweet fat cap, meaty pepper-studded ribs, and hot links sausages with a crisp snap to the casing. Their cowboy beans, swimming in rich broth with lots of shredded beef, are as good as you'll find anywhere in Texas.

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#38. Home Team BBQ

Home Team BBQ in Charleston, South Carolina
Home Team BBQ

126 Williman St

Charleston, SC

(843) 225-7427

hometeambbq.com

Home Team came along at a time when smoke and fire were starting to lure chefs away from fine dining kitchens and into barbecue pithouses. Among the early converts were Aaron Siegel and Taylor Garrigan, veterans of acclaimed downtown Charleston restaurants who set out in 2006 to open a barbecue joint. They applied classical culinary techniques to traditional wood-cooked barbecue, which was jarring to some old timers, but the combination soon won over a new generation of diners. Unconstrained by regional boundaries, the offering is based on a foundation of pork, chicken, brisket, and ribs cooked over red oak on Lang and Oyler pits. They're augmented by contemporary combinations like smoked carnitas tacos, pit-cooked pastrami sandwiches, and Home Team's now-famous chicken wings, which are smoked on the pit, flash fried, and topped with tangy Alabama-style white sauce. With six restaurants across the state, Home Team has grown into a South Carolina barbecue empire, but the large dining room and big outdoor patio at the William Street location in downtown Charleston is the best venue for sampling Home Team's inventive blend of old and new.

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#37. Bar-B-Q Center

34. Bar-B-Q Center
Robert Moss

900 N Main St.

Lexington, NC

(336) 248-4633

barbecuecenter.net

With a dozen barbecue joints serving a town of just 19,000 residents, Lexington, North Carolina, might be the most barbecue-dense place in the South. The Bar-B-Q Center embodies the town's long-running tradition, with roots stretching back to an era when barbecue was routinely found alongside hamburgers, hot dogs, and ice cream at drive-ins across the country. Back in the 1950s, in fact, the restaurant was named the Dairy Center, for ice cream was front and center before hickory-cooked pork stole the show. You can order that pork in any of the standard Lexington variations—chopped, sliced, or "coarse chopped" (cut into chunks)—and on a sandwich, as a tray (with slaw and hushpuppies or rolls), or as a plate (a tray plus French fries). The restaurant's "red slaw" is a classic example of the region's signature side, dressing finely chopped cabbage with the same combination of vinegar and tomato as the region's iconic barbecue sauce. Save room for the famous banana split, a towering concoction big enough for an entire family and a throwback to the restaurant's original ice cream roots.

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#36. Hite's Bar-B-Que

Hite's Bar-B-Que in West Columbia, SC
Facebook/@Hites-BBQ

240 Dreher Rd.

West Columbia SC 29169

(803) 794-4120

hitesbbq.com

More meat market than restaurant, Hite's is an old-fashioned take-out operation that's open Fridays and Saturdays only. Since 1957, they've been cooking whole hogs, ribs, and chickens on open pits in the big screened-in pit house. As the cords of split oak and hickory stacked in the back attest, they're cooking on all wood, and you can taste it in every smoky bite. The rest of the Midlands South Carolina essentials are there, too: tart yellow mustard sauce, pints of savory slow-simmered hash, and takeout containers of banana pudding. Grab a bag of skins if you see one (they go fast). Instead of deep frying, the pig skins are crisped up on the pit and chopped into big shards that deliver an incredible punch of smoke beneath each jaw-rattling crunch.

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#35. LC's Bar-B-Que

LC's Bar-B-Que in Kansas City, MO
Hector Manuel Sanchez

5800 Blue Parkway

Kansas City, MO

(816) 923-4484

lcsbarbq.com

Kansas City lost one of its barbecue kings when L. C. Richardson passed away in February 2021, but his granddaughter, Tausha Hammett, has kept the fires burning in the big metal smoker with smoke-blackened doors that sits just behind the front counter. Burnt ends—the crisp, smoky bits trimmed off the end of briskets—are a Kansas City specialty, and LC's has long served the best version in the city. The tender, chewy morsels have a delightful salty, smoky bark from the pit, and they're drenched in tangy sauce and piled atop a layer of sliced white bread to soak up all the goodness. Follow them up with a combo sandwich, with tender beef and slightly salty ham layered between two slices of white bread. The soft bread, smoky meat, and tangy brown sauce meld together with each bite, offering a splendid taste of Kansas City's inimitable barbecue style.

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#34. Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ in Austin, TX
Courtesy of Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

11500 Manchaca Road

Austin, TX

(512) 221-4248

valentinastexmexbbq.com

Many are rolling slow-smoked meats inside tortillas these days, but Miguel and Modesty Vidal got into the Tex-Mex-BBQ fusion game early. Valentina's started as a roving operation then found a semi-permanent spot south of Austin, where the couple parked their pits and serving trailer alongside two open-air sheds with long picnic tables underneath. Carnitas tacos tuck long, tender strands of pork inside warm flour tortillas fresh from the griddle. Fajitas deliver strips of smoky cerveza-marinated beef with great crisp edges, and they're topped with creamy guacamole and sweet sauteed peppers. Each bite sparkles with the bright flavors of cilantro, tomatillo, and lime. Impressive side dishes like bacon-accented charro beans and juicy smoked corn dotted with cool crema round out what has now become a beloved new style of Texas barbecue.

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#33. LeRoy & Lewis

LeRoy and Lewis tray
Courtesy of LeRoy and Lewis

121 Pickle Rd.

Austin, TX

(512) 945-9882

leroyandlewisbbq.com

In 2017, Evan LeRoy and Sawyer Lewis added their barbecue operation to the collection of food trucks in the Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden complex. They deliberately steered away from the classic "Texas trinity" of brisket, ribs, and sausage because, as LeRoy put it at the time, "Everybody else does that." Instead, they went New School, and the results are delicious. Smoked beef cheeks have a splendidly silky texture beneath a pepper-rich bark. Tender barbacoa is chopped into fine juicy shreds and finished with crumbled queso fresco and jalapeno salsa. LeRoy looked eastward for inspiration, too, embracing South Carolina-style whole hog, yellow mustard sauce, and slow-simmered hash served over white rice. Be sure to include a side order of the house-made kimchi. Juicy, funky, and brimming with spicy heat, it's a surprisingly wonderful accompaniment for a big platter of smoked meats.

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#32. Dreamland Bar-B-Que

Dreamland Bar-B-Que
Hector Manuel Sanchez

5535 15th Avenue East

Tuscaloosa, AL

(205) 758-8135

dreamlandbbq.com

There are now eleven Dreamland locations in three states, but there's nothing like a visit to the flagship restaurant in Tuscaloosa, a red-painted cinderblock building with a gently sloping roof that founder John "Big Daddy" Bishop built in 1958. The newer locations offer everything from fried green tomatoes to BBQ chicken wraps, but at the original the menu is slim—just ribs, sausage, and chicken with a handful of sides. With ribs like these, who needs fried green tomatoes? They're cooked hot and fast over a hickory fire the way Big Daddy did it a half century ago, giving the long, thin slabs a wonderfully chewy texture with crisp bits of char around the edges. They're served with slices of white bread and cups of dark yellow sauce that's sharp with mustard and has enough peppery heat to leave your lips tingling—a true rib-lover's dream.

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#31. Helen's Bar BQ

Helen's Bar BQ
Robert Moss

1016 N Washington Ave.

Brownsville TN 38012

(731) 779-3255

When you order a rib sandwich at Helen's, it comes bones and all on a soft hamburger bun with plenty of fiery red sauce. How do you eat such a messy package? Slowly and carefully, savoring each nibble of smoke-kissed rib meat. The Helen behind this no-frills Brownsville joint is Helen Turner, who does everything from shoveling coals in the screened-in pit room to serving customers at the tiny order window between the kitchen and the dining room. Ribs, "bar-b-que" (that is, slow-smoked pork shoulder), and bologna are the meat options, with beans, slaw, and potato salad for the sides—all classic elements of West Tennessee barbecue.

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#30. Sam Jones Barbecue

Sam Jones BBQ in Winterville, NC
Denny Culbert

715 W Fire Tower Rd

Winterville, NC

(252) 689-6449

samjonesbbq.com

At his six-year-old restaurant in Winterville, North Carolina, Sam Jones straddles the old and the new. In 1947, his grandfather, Pete Jones, founded the world-famous Skylight Inn just six miles down the road in Ayden. 75 years later, the whole hogs are cooked the exact same way in Winterville as they are in Ayden: on open pits fired with hardwood coals. The finished pork is chopped along with bits of crisp skin on a giant wooden block and liberally dressed with vinegar and Texas Pete. The slaw and square-cut cornbread adhere to the Jones family's original recipes, too. But apparently not all North Carolinians prefer chopped whole hog these days, and Jones caters to contemporary tastes with everything from ribs and smoked turkey to fried catfish and chicken fingers. The large-format restaurant has a high-vaulted ceiling and plenty of booths and long tables plus new-fangled innovations like draft beer taps and credit card machines. It's proven such a hit that Jones opened a second location of Sam Jones Barbecue in Raleigh last year, bringing his family's classic Eastern North Carolina style barbecue all the way to the state's capital city.

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#29. Killen's Texas Barbecue

Plate of food from Killen's
Courtesy of Killen's BBQ

3613 Broadway

Pearland, TX

(281) 485-2272

killensbarbecue.com

When restaurateur Ronnie Killen opened Killen's Barbecue in 2013, Texas was still in the early days of its craft barbecue renaissance. Though many more players joined the scene in the years that followed, Killen's remains solidly in the lead pack. One reason for that is the brisket, which has a superbly firm but juicy texture and a great peppery bark, but the snappy hot links and smoky thick-sliced turkey—an underappreciated barbecue meat—are equally worth attention. Killen's stands out for its signature desserts, too, especially the sweet croissant bread pudding and hefty blocks of carrot cake draped in gooey cream cheese icing.

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#28. Old Hickory Barbecue

Old Hickory Barbecue
Hector Manuel Sanchez

338 Washington Ave.

Owensboro, KY

(270) 926-9000

oldhickorybar-b-q.com

Owensboro, Kentucky, is the barbecued mutton capital of the world, and no one has been cooking it longer than Old Hickory. Since 1918, six successive generations of the Foreman family have smoked mutton alongside pork, chicken, beef, and turkey, and they're still using hickory coals to fire the big cinderblock pits with sliding metal doors in the cookhouse behind the restaurant. After a good dunk in thin Worcestershire-laced "dip", the long, tender strands of smoked mutton are chewy, smoky, and sublimely delicious. Old Hickory's burgoo is an outstanding version of the classic Kentucky barbecue stew, too, featuring mutton, pork, chicken, and vegetables slow simmered until it's smooth, tangy, and very satisfying.

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#27. Prime Barbecue

Holding a barbecue tray
Courtesy of Prime BBQ

403 Knightdale Station Run

Knightdale, NC

919-373-8067

prime-bbq.com

In just the past two years, the Raleigh-Durham Triangle has welcomed a flurry of promising new barbecue restaurants. The most impressive of the crop is Prime Barbecue in Knightdale, ten miles east of Raleigh. Owner/pitmaster Christopher Prieto built off a successful career as a barbecue caterer and cooking instructor to create a gleaming haven for barbecue fans. Though smack in the middle of pork and vinegar sauce territory, Prieto turned to his roots for inspiration. The result is juicy brisket with a perfect peppery bark, smoky ribs speckled with black pepper and caramelized sugar, and a splendidly savory "barbecue rice" that's browned with onions and bacon fat and simmered in beef stock along with slivers of sausage. (It's his mother's recipe.) It's all served in a sleek new building with tall windows, shiny white tiles, and lots of black and orange accents—a prime setting for some seriously delicious barbecue.

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#26. Kreuz Market

BBQ meats
Wyatt McSpadden

619 North Colorado St.

Lockhart, TX

512-398-2361

kreuzmarket.com

You can't talk about Central Texas barbecue without discussing Kreuz Market. The current location on North Colorado Street, with its swinging double front doors and cavernous pit room, was built in 1999, but the business dates all the way back to 1900, when Charles Kreuz Sr. purchased a downtown Lockhart meat market and renamed it Kreuz Market. A century later, amid a hanging cloud of fragrant smoke, the countermen pull giant hunks of brisket, shoulder clod, pork ribs, and bone-in pork loins from the big brick pits and slice them on a round wooden table right in front of you. Though the restaurant gave in to modern sensibilities a few years back and started offering patrons plastic forks and squeeze bottles of sauce, it's still perfectly polite to eat the sliced beef and pork with your fingers. The barbecue is so tender, smoky, and delicious, you don't really need sauce, either.

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#25. Rodney Scott's Whole Hog Barbecue

Rodney Scott's Whole Hog Barbecue in Charleston, SC
Andrew Cebulka

1011 King St

Charleston, SC

(843) 990-9535

rodneyscottsbbq.com

You don't have to drive to South Carolina anymore to sample the acclaimed Pee Dee style of whole hog barbecue, for Rodney Scott has expanded to three locations in Birmingham and one in Atlanta (plus another on the way in Nashville.) His restaurant on King Street in Charleston, though, is where he first transplanted the techniques he learned at his family's operation in tiny Hemingway, South Carolina, to a downtown urban setting. It's a full sit-down restaurant with an expanded menu (including ribs, chicken, turkey, and—yes—even brisket) plus craft beer on tap, but the core of his operation is the same as up in Hemingway: burn oak down to coals, fire the pits, and cook whole hogs for 12 hours before finishing them with a fiery vinegar-pepper mop. That whole hog barbecue is the rightful star of the show, but the prime rib sandwich is worth attention, too. Made from pit-smoked and thin-sliced ribeye piled high on a soft roll, it's sloppy, smoky, and utterly delicious.

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#24. Southern Soul Barbeque

Georgia: Southern Soul Barbeque
Andrew Thomas Lee

2020 Demere Road

Saint Simons Island, GA

(912) 638-7685

southernsoulbbq.com

There's no one thing that makes Southern Soul a must-visit barbecue destination. Instead, it's the accumulation of small virtues. There are delicious slow smoked meats, of course—brisket, chicken, turkey, and sausage, all cooked over oak on Oyler and Lang pits. Sweet and smoky honey-basted ribs are particular crowd favorites, and Southern Soul's rich, tangy version of Georgia's traditional Brunswick stew is a delight. With walls bedecked with old license plates and long picnic tables under a tall metal awning out front, the converted gas station has a laid-back, retro beach vibe. The specials board always offers something new and interesting, too, like pit-braised Georgia lamb po boys and smoked wings tossed in tangy lemon piccata sauce. Roll it all together and you have an irresistible barbecue oasis just a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

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#23. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

Half Chicken Plate Big Bob Gibson's
Big Bob Gibson's

1715 6th Ave SE (US Highway 31)

Decatur, AL

(256) 350-0404

bigbobgibson.com

The splendid housemade pies at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q — especially the meringue-topped coconut cream — might alone merit a Top 50 slot. But there's much more that's worthy of note, too, like history, influence, and celebrity. The restaurant dates back to 1925, when Robert "Big Bob" Gibson started cooking pork shoulders and chicken in his backyard. The restaurant single-handedly created an entire sauce category with the now-iconic Alabama-style white mayo-based barbecue sauce, which was invented by Big Bob himself to finish his pepper-studded chicken. These days, pitmaster Chris Lilly, who married Big Bob's great-granddaughter, not only carries on the family tradition but has become a nationally known competition champion, grilling guru, and brand spokesman. Back in Decatur, though, he and the crew still cook top-notch pork, ribs, brisket, and turkey the old-fashioned way on big brick pits fired by blazing hickory logs. Did I happen to mention the pies?

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#22. McCabe's Bar-B-Q

Arnie McCabe of McCabe’s Bar-B-Q
Arnie McCabe of McCabe’s Bar-B-Q. Peter Frank Edwards

480 North Brooks Street

Manning, SC

(803) 435-2833

When it comes to national attention, McCabe's has generally flown below most barbecue gurus' radar screens. South Carolina insiders know, though, that its barbecue buffet is the best in the state and, by extension, the best in the entire South. Everything on the small steam table is delicious: fried chicken, collards, stewed cabbage, hushpuppies, coleslaw. The real stars, though, are the wood-cooked whole hog, which is pulled into long strands and dressed with a peppery vinegar sauce, and the rich, savory hash and rice, South Carolina's iconic barbecue side.

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#21. 2Fifty Texas BBQ

2Fifty Texas BBQ
Robert Moss

4700 Riverdale Rd.

Riverdale Park, MD

2fiftybbq.com

One of the best of the recent crop of Texas-style joints is found not in the Lone Star State but a thousand miles away along the tree-lined streets of Riverdale Park, Maryland. Fernando González and Debby Portillo moved from their native El Salvador to the D.C. suburbs in 2018. They started selling slow-smoked meats at the local farmers market then set up a permanent operation in an old corner store. González cooks thick-sliced brisket, half racks of meaty St. Louis-cut ribs, and jalapeño-infused sausage over oak on a custom 1,000-gallon offset smoker, and that trinity can hold its own against anything found down south in Texas. What really sets the offering apart, though, are the side dishes, which are inspired by the couple's Central American roots. Meltingly tender fried plantains, watermelon drizzled with fruity red Chamoy sauce, greens beans with a tangy chili-lime kick from Tajin seasoning: who knew barbecue sides could be so exciting?

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#20. Stamey's Barbecue

Stamey's
Legendary barbecue mentor Warner Stamey taught the Lexington style to countless Piedmont cooks, and that means cooking pork shoulders on closed brick pits fired by all-hickory coals. His grandson Chip Stamey carries on the family tradition at this Greensboro institution, where they cook it slow but chop and serve it lightning fast thanks to a streamlined menu and well-oiled operation. There's no ribs, chicken, or Brunswick stew here, just pork served chopped or sliced on plates and sandwiches with fries and baked beans for sides. But you can—and should—top off your meal with Stamey's famous peach cobbler. Stamey's: 2206 High Point Rd., Greensboro, NC 27403; (336) 299-9888; stameys.com. Photo: Denny Culbert

2206 West Gate City Blvd

Greensboro, NC 27403

(336) 299-9888

stameys.com

When you eat at Stamey's, you are tapping into a full century of North Carolina barbecue history. The restaurant was founded by Warner Stamey, the famed Piedmont barbecue mentor, who taught the Lexington style to dozens of aspiring restaurateurs. After operating restaurants in Shelby and Lexington, Stamey ended up in Greensboro, where he opened the current Stamey's on Gate City Boulevard in 1953. His grandson, Chip, and great-grandson Craver, carry on the tradition today, cooking pork shoulders on closed brick pits fired by all-hickory coals. Those coals are scattered with a shovel under the cooking meat, and that direct heat method imbues the pork with deliciously juicy and subtle smoky flavor—the hallmark of the Piedmont North Carolina style.

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#19. Palmira BBQ

Palmira BBQ
Courtesy Palmira BBQ

99 S Market ST

Charleston, SC

(843) 473-4832

palmirabbq.com

Last fall, an impressive newcomer arrived on the Charleston scene when pitmaster Hector Garate opened Palmira BBQ inside the Port of Call Brew and Food Hall. The offering blends the culinary traditions of Garate's native Puerto Rico with those of the Carolinas and Texas, with whole hog barbecue as the headliner. Mildly smoky with juicy, short-chopped strands, it's made from heritage breed hogs raised by local farmer Marvin Ross of Peculiar Pig Farm and cooked on custom metal pits that Garate welded himself. That splendid pig is joined by tender, smoky beef cheeks, peppery chopped barbacoa layered on crisp tortillas, and sausages infused with fragrant Caribbean flavors. The sides are every bit the equals of the meats, especially the orange sofrito-laced beans and Garate's own spin on South Carolina's classic hash and rice, which he makes from smoked hogs heads. It's a fascinating blend of the traditional and the progressive, and it's found just a few steps away from Charleston's bustling and historic City Market.

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#18. Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge

Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
Randy McNeilly at McNeilly photography

200 E. Dixon Blvd.

Shelby, NC

(704) 482-8567

bridgesbbq.com

Like most restaurants, this Shelby institution had to make a few pricing adjustments to accommodate the recent bout of inflation. A splendid BBQ sandwich, which cost $4 the last time we published this list, will run you $4.25 today. But you still get a thick layer of hickory smoked pork and vinegar-tinged red slaw tucked inside a warm griddled bun. That barbecue is cooked fresh each day on old-school brick pits fired with hickory wood. It's served in a setting with grand retro style, too, from the big brick and metal sign outside with "Bridges Barbecue Lodge" in looping white script to the inlaid wood ceiling and turquoise-backed booths in the dining room. Be sure to add one of Mama B's pimento cheese sandwiches to your order. With ruby-studded cheese slathered between two slices of toasted white bread, it's a delicious complement to classic Piedmont-style barbecue.

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#17. Smitty's

Smitty's Market, Lockhart, TX
Smitty's Market, a drafty turn-of-the-century warehouse in historic downtown Lockhart is one-of-a-kind when it comes to involving customers. In this Texas-style joint, eager customers line up in a soot-stained corridor, and as you get closer to the cash r. Photo: Chris M. Rogers, Article: Matt Lee and Ted Lee

208 South Commerce Street

Lockhart, TX

(512) 398-9344

smittysmarket.com

Ordering barbecue at Smitty's Market in downtown Lockhart is like taking a step back in time. You enter the pit room amid a haze of post oak smoke, and you order "lean beef" (shoulder clod), "fat beef" (brisket), sausage, ribs, and pork chops by the pound. You do so at a small counter just feet away from a blazing fire that feeds smoke into an ancient brick pit. They've been cooking barbecue in that old meat market since 1924, and though there have been a few ups and downs over the years, the quality of the slow-smoked meats has rebounded recently. The lean beef shoulder has a wonderful smoke-infused bark, and the horseshoe-shaped hot links pop with savory, slightly spicy flavor. The bone-in pork chop is the real standout, though, with a disc of thick, juicy loin meat and a spur of tender dark meat along the bone that's tinged red with sweet post oak smoke — a Central Texas classic.

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#16. Grady's Barbecue

Grady's Barbecue in Dudley, NC
Facebook/@gradysbbqnc

3096 Arrington Bridge Rd.

Dudley, NC 28333

(919) 735-7243

Mom-and-pop barbecue joints once dotted the North Carolina countryside, but these days Grady's is one of the few left. The modest white-painted building sits in the narrow fork where two country roads meet, and customers line up around the small brown-paneled dining room to order at the kitchen window. Out back, a pile of split oak and hickory logs waits under a tin-roofed shed behind the pit room, where Stephen Grady—now well into his 80s—cooks split hogs overnight on open brick pits. His wife, Geri, still makes all the sides from scratch, including steamed cabbage, collards, and black-eyed peas. A tender, smoky chopped pork sandwich with coleslaw is a perfect Eastern North Carolina lunch, and don't skip on the fried chicken, either.

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#15. Scott's Barbeque

Scott's-Parker Barbeque in Lexington, TN
Facebook/@scottsparkersbarbeque

10880 Highway 412 West

Lexington, TN 38351

(731) 968-0420

West Tennessee once had a thriving whole hog tradition, but Scott's BBQ in Lexington, a town of 8,000 in the center of Henderson County, is one of the last remaining spots that still cooks their pigs whole. You can also call it B.E. Scott's or Scott's-Parker Bar-B-Q, if you choose, for multiple conflicting signs hang outside the long wooden restaurant and the adjoining cinderblock pit house. They reflect the restaurant's lineage, since founder Early Scott handed the business over to his protege Ricky Parker in 1989. Ricky's son Zach carries on the tradition today, and though smoked chicken and BBQ-topped nachos snuck onto the menu a few years back, the core of the operation remains the same: slaw-topped sandwiches for five bucks a pop and barbecue for $9.75 a pound. Pulled fresh from the pit and chopped fine, the pork is superbly juicy with a rich dose of wood smoke flavor, and the bright orange pepper-laced sauce adds a perfect finishing zip.

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#14. Arthur Bryant's Barbeque

Arthur Bryant's Barbeque
Hector Manuel Sanchez

1727 Brooklyn Avenue

Kansas City, MO

(816) 231-1123

arthurbryantsbbq.com

The roots of Arthur Bryant's signature style stretch back to Henry Perry, Kansas City's original barbecue king. Perry taught the trade to Charlie Bryant, who taught it to his brother Arthur, who eventually took over Charlie's restaurant and moved it to its current location on Brooklyn Avenue. Arthur Bryant passed away in the 1980s, but the counter men still carve tender folds of smoked beef on stainless steel slicers, and they pile it on brown butcher paper, brush it with sauce, and slap three or four slices of white bread on top. The splendid fries are still cut by hand, and Bryant's original sauce is unique among Kansas City joints. More orange than brown, it's mildly hot with a bit of a gritty texture from an array of spices, which give the perfect boost to a giant open-faced beef sandwich. It's just one of the many reasons that Arthur Bryant's has remained an essential institution to this day.

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#13. Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue

Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
John Davidson

200 N. Elm St

Tomball, TX

(832) 761-0670

tejaschocolate.com

The sausage game is strong at Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue, and it has helped transform an artisanal bean-to-bar chocolate shop in downtown Tomball into an acclaimed barbecue destination. The chili relleno links pack fine-ground beef, fire roasted poblanos, and cubes of queso blanco inside a snappy sausage casing, and there's a rotating array of other flavors, like barbacoa, boudin, and kielbasa. The other smoked meats are excellent, too. Beneath a thick salt-and-pepper bark, the first bite of prime brisket explodes with flavor, and flawless ribs have a fine smoky taste beneath a subtle peppery glaze. And, yes, there are plenty of hand-made chocolates for dessert.

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#12. Cattleack Barbeque

BBQ Brisket from Cattleack Barbeque in Dallas
Robert Moss

13628 Gamma Rd

Dallas, TX

(972) 805-0999

cattleackbbq.com

Cattleack Barbeque has limited hours—10:30 am to 2:00 pm on Thursdays and Fridays plus the first Saturday of each month—but diners make the most of them. What started out as a post-retirement hobby for Todd and Misty David quickly grew into a thriving barbecue business, and the couple ended up taking over the space next door and adding a big dining room. The crowds line up for Cattleack's brisket, which has a superb texture beneath a tangy, peppery bark, and also for the hefty beef ribs . . . and for the pork ribs and for the turkey and sausage, too, all of which are sliced fresh to order and piled onto paper-lined red trays. With burnt end beans, cheesy chipotle corn, and hatch chili mac & cheese, the offering is classic Texas, but Todd David also has a North Carolina-style direct heat cooker and has made whole hog barbecue a menu regular as well.

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#11. A&R Bar-B-Que

Basket of ribs in front of Memphis sign
Kortney Powell

1802 Elvis Presley Blvd.

Memphis, TN

(901) 774-7444

aandrbbq.com

Memphis is famous for its slaw-topped barbecue sandwiches, and A&R serves the best in the city. The first bite of chopped pork explodes with flavor, and the tender meat merges into the warm, soft bun while yellow-tinged slaw adds cool, crisp pops. The rib sandwich is even better—a short, meaty slab wedged, bones and all, between two slices of plain white bread, with plenty of slaw and A&R's signature reddish brown sauce. The Pollard family cooks their pork shoulders and ribs on charcoal-fired pits, and their sauce is thick and only moderately sweet—the perfect partner for some of the best smoked pork in the South.

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#10. Lewis Barbecue

Lewis Barbecue in Charleston, SC
Andrew Cebulka

464 N Nassau St

Charleston, SC

(843) 805-9500

lewisbarbecue.com

When John Lewis moved east from Austin in 2016 and opened a Central Texas-style joint in the heart of Charleston, he accomplished something remarkable. No, not winning over a bunch of pork-eating Carolinians to the glories of slow-smoked brisket, though that was impressive enough. The real feat was establishing a genuine Texas-style craft operation—complete with prime-grade brisket, ribs, and sausage cooked on giant offset smokers — that's open seven days a week, doesn't sell out before dark, and doesn't make guests wait for hours in line. The thick-sliced brisket is world-class, too, with rich marbling and a flawlessly smoky bark. For my money, though, the house-made green chile cheddar sausage steals the show, offering a big punch of smoke balanced by gooey cheese and a surge of chile heat. With a slate of tequila cocktails and Shiner Bock on tap, it's a welcome Texas oasis in the heart of the Holy City.

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#9. Fresh Air Barbecue

Fresh Air BBQ
Robert Moss

1164 Highway 42 South

Jackson, GA

freshairbarbecue.com

Yes, there is such a thing as Georgia-style barbecue, and it can be found in its purest form at Fresh Air in Jackson. The moment you step through the front door, your nose fills with the tempting aroma of oak and hickory smoke from the old L-shaped brick pit that's right behind the counter. No brisket or ribs appear on the menu board at this Peach State icon, which dates back to 1929. Barbecue here means one thing and one thing only: chopped pork dressed in a thin, spicy red sauce. You can get it on a "regular" plate with stew, white bread, and saltines, or make it a "special" by adding a cup of finely diced slaw. That stew is of the Brunswick variety, of course. With fine shreds of beef and kernels of corn enrobed in a thick tomato-laced broth, it's as fine a version of that classic Georgia barbecue side as you'll find anywhere.

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#8. Lexington Barbecue

Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, NC
Robbie Caponetto

100 Smokehouse Lane

Lexington, NC 27295

(336) 249-9814

lexbbq.com

Barbecue fashions may be shifting elsewhere in the South, but in Lexington, North Carolina, they're sticking to the traditional Piedmont style, which originated there a century ago. Named after the town itself, Lexington Barbecue remains the premier place to sample that distinctive style. Wayne Monk opened the restaurant in 1962, and more than a half century later his family is still cooking pork shoulders on closed brick pits directly over glowing oak and hickory coals. Whether you order it chopped, sliced, or coarse chopped is totally up to you, but expect it to be generously dressed in "dip"—the local term for the region's signature sauce. With a thin vinegar base tinged red with ketchup, that sauce adds the perfect zip to the pork's subtle smoky richness, and it gives the region's signature "red slaw" its distinctive color, too.

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#7. Archibald's Bar-B-Q

Archibald’s BBQ Mix Plate of Sliced Pork and Ribs
Mix Plate of sliced pork and ribs with white bread at Archibald’s BBQ. Robbie Caponetto

1211 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Northport, AL

(205) 345-6861

archibaldbbq.com

Ribs are the name of the barbecue game in Alabama, and the best ribs in the state—and perhaps in the entire country—can be found just over the river from Tuscaloosa at Archibald's. They cook them hot and fast over a hickory fire on a big brick-and-cinder block pit, imparting a firm, meaty bite with delightfully crisp, charred bits around the edges. The ribs are served doused in spicy, orange-hued vinegar sauce with slices of white bread laid over the top—perfect for creating impromptu sandwiches or soaking up the savory sauce. Now run by the grandchildren of founders George and Betty Archibald, the restaurant remains a bare-bones operation, serving just ribs and sliced pork with potato chips, beans, and slaw for sides. With such meaty, smoky slabs like these, though, do you really need anything more?

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#6. Franklin Barbecue

Franklin Barbecue
Dominique Lafond

900 East 11th St.

Austin TX 78702

(512) 653-1187

franklinbarbecue.com

The roots of today's craft barbecue movement can be traced to December 2009, when Aaron and Stacy Franklin parked a retrofitted Aristocrat Lo-Liner camper and a 500-gallon offset pit on the side of an I-35 access road and started selling slow-smoked meats. In March 2011, they moved into a blue and white cinderblock building on East 11th Street, and eager fans, drawn by wall-to-wall social media and television coverage, lined up for three hours or more to see what the fuss was about. Two best-selling cookbooks and a PBS TV show later, Aaron Franklin has become an international barbecue celebrity, but his restaurant remains at the top of its game. That means tender, juicy prime brisket brimming with black pepper, smoky pork ribs, and rich, meaty housemade sausage with a perfect snap to the casing. Yes, you still have to wait in an hours-long line to try it, but you wouldn't have the full Texas craft barbecue experience without it.

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#5. Goldee's Bar-B-Q

Goldee’s Barbecue
Will Milne/Goldee’s Barbecue

4645 Dick Price Rd.

Fort Worth, TX

goldeesbbq.com

Long line queuing up an hour or more before opening? Check. Cooler of free beer while you wait? Check. Succulent brisket, ribs, and sausage slow-smoked over post oak? Check. So what puts Goldee's out ahead of the other worthy new arrivals on Texas's craft barbecue scene? It comes down to sheer quality. Every single thing they serve is top notch, right down to the slices of white bread that come with each order, for the loaves are baked fresh in house. This remarkable offering is the handiwork of five young but accomplished pitmasters who learned the ropes at some of Texas's most acclaimed barbecue joints before banding together to open their own spot in the early months of 2020. The slim menu focuses on the Texas essentials: moist, pepper-crusted brisket, tender ribs with a tangy glaze, juicy turkey, and peppery sausage links. The sides also keep it simple—potato salad, coleslaw, splendid pinto beans in a rich tomato-studded broth—with one glorious exception: a thick, succulent pork hash served over rice. It's a side dish borrowed from South Carolina, but with a spicy Texas twist that's all its own.

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#4. Skylight Inn

Skylight Inn
Baxter Miller

4618 South Lee Street

Ayden, NC 28513

(252) 746-4113

skylightinnbbq.com

In recent years, pitmasters as far away as Texas have begun emulating Skylight Inn's distinctive style of whole hog barbecue, but no one has quite managed to equal it. Perhaps it's the sheer amount of wood they use to fire the open brick pits (just check out the chaotic mounds of split oak behind the old pit house.) Or perhaps it's how they dress the hogs once they're cooked, pulling the meat and seasoning it with salt, cider vinegar, and Texas Pete while chopping it with cleavers on a giant wooden block. And then there's Skylight's signature finishing touch: bits of skin, crisp from the pit, that are chopped right into the meat, adding a delightful extra crunch to each tender, smoky bite. Founder Pete Jones opened the restaurant as a roadside barbecue and burger joint in 1947, and his son Bruce, nephew Jeff, and grandson Sam carry on the wood-cooked legacy today. The essential order remains a paper tray of splendid chopped barbecue topped with a square of cornbread and another small tray of sweet mayo-dressed coleslaw. It's as fundamental as North Carolina barbecue gets.

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#3. Louie Mueller Barbecue

Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX
Wynn Myers

206 W 2nd St.

Taylor, TX 76574

(512) 352-6206

louiemuellerbarbecue.com

Louie Mueller still sets the standard for the Central Texas "meat market" style of barbecue. The setting is a classic, especially the still-unairconditioned main room where you order meats by the pound at a long wooden counter and, if you choose, eat them at a battered table amid the warm haze of fragrant post oak smoke. Those of a less historic bent can find air conditioning and newer picnic-style tables in the big dining room next door, but either way they'll enjoy slow-smoked meats pulled from the warming pit and sliced fresh to order. Mueller's has long been heralded for its succulent brisket, and rightfully so, for the lushly marbled beef has a caramel-like sweetness to each bite. The turkey is smoky and tender, and the hot links spout a geyser of fatty juice with the first bite. The real showstoppers, though, are the beef ribs. Louie Mueller's grandson Wayne, who leads the operation today, introduced these massive slabs of silky prime-grade beef to an eager Texas market, and they've since become as famous as the brisket.

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#2. Snow's BBQ

Snow’s BBQ
Robbie Caponetto

516 Main Street

Lexington, TX

(979) 542-8189

snowsbbq.com

A visit to Snow's is a rare barbecue experience. For starters, the restaurant is open just one day a week (on Saturdays.) Service starts at the early hour 8:00 am, and eager fans begin lining up outside the carving room in the dim light of dawn. They're there to sample some of the best smoked meats anywhere and also to meet a genuine barbecue star. Octogenarian pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz started cooking barbecue more than a half century ago at City Meat Market in Giddings, and she was recruited by owner Kerry Bexley in 2003 to oversee the pits at Snow's. Those pits, a combination of square metal-lidded direct heat cookers and long offset smokers, produce some amazing meats: firm sausage with a great snap to the casing, hearty spareribs, brisket tinged almost purple with smoke. The two best bites, though, are the chicken and pork shoulder, which are rare finds in the heart of Texas beef country. Eight bucks buys a half chicken with pepper-laced skin and juicy meat inside, and Snow's pork shoulder steak, with a concentrated dose of smoke in its mahogany bark, is simply out of this world.

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#1. Scott's Bar-B-Que

Scott's BBQ
Alex Holt for Getty Images/The Washington Post

2734 Hemingway Hwy.

Hemingway, SC 29554

(843) 558-0134

On my most recent visit to Scott's Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, I noted two new signs affixed to the blue metal roof. One bears the restaurant's name in hand-drawn letters along with a pig and the words "Pit Cook." The other displays a color photograph of Roosevelt "Rosie" Scott and declares, "The Bar-B-Que Legend, Gone but Not Forgotten." The restaurant's founder passed away in December 2020, but the Scott family is carrying on the patriarch's legacy with pride. That legacy is the best barbecue to be found anywhere in the South.

There are plenty of restaurants with fancier decor, broader menus, and more high-tech cooking methods, but there's simply no barbecue bite that can compare to Scott's Pee Dee-style whole hog. The process begins with cutting down white oak and pecan trees and splitting the logs in the big lot behind the old country store. Once seasoned, the logs are reduced to embers in a giant burn barrel, its sides warped by years of heat, then carried by the shovelful into the cookhouse and scattered beneath whole hogs on smoked-blackened cinder block pits. After 12 hours, the pigs are flipped and mopped with a pepper-laced vinegar sauce that bubbles and simmers around the meat. Pulled by hand into long, tender strands, the succulent pork has a fiery red pepper bite followed by the sweet, smoky essence of hardware smoke. Scott's has been at the top of Southern Living's list since we started ranking the joints in 2018 (before that the Top 50 were presented alphabetically), and its unparalleled whole hog barbecue keeps it in the number one slot once again in 2022.

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