We all love it, and how to serve it says a lot about where we came from. As Southern gatherings go, a barbecue has no rival. Nothing brings a crowd together like smoky, succulent meat served with the classic sides–baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad–and gallons of sweet tea. Just about any time of year, with the possible exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas, we will happily convene around a red and white checked tablecloth, preferably one with squeeze bottles of homemade sauce and bowls of dill pickles for a centerpiece.
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This smoky goodness is also a delightfully democratic cuisine. Wherever you live, the best barbecue in town is the best barbecue in town. Everybody eats there, not only because the food is good, but because it tends to be affordable. And no matter what part of the South you come from, there's one way you would never eat barabecue: and that's alone. Food this good always brings us together.
From the storied Hattiesburg shack built by its namesake Leatha Jackson to the new-school Southern Soul Barbecue in St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, our list of the South’s Best Barbecue shows the dichotomy between our love for those still, smokey, picnic-tabled joints we’ve been frequenting forever and our appreciation of those bringing modern concepts and techniques to it like the stackers and sliders at 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Florida. And while we may argue and cheer for our favorite spot, whether it’s the one where we grew up at or the one we look to for comfort in a new hometown or even the one that we have deduced is the best after careful cross country research (we see you part-time barbecue scholars), they all make up their own patchwork quilt of traditions, and yet together they represent one of the most important squares in the South.