The South's Best Barbecue in Every State 2022

The Joint Barbecue in New Orleans, LA
Photo: Cedric Angeles

Southern Living readers love their barbecue, and they hold strong opinions about which joint serves the best in each state. Their picks this year are a mix of old-school classics and relatively new arrivals, and the 2022 lineup changed a bit from past years' surveys. Five of the restaurants selected are at least a half-century old (with two dating back to the 1920s), but there are plenty that were founded in the 21st century too. Whether you're partial to Texas' tender smoked brisket, the Carolinas' spicy whole hog, or even Kentucky's flavorful mutton, the best joints in each state offer plenty of tempting slow-smoked options. Be sure to grab extra napkins.

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02 of 18

Alabama: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

26. Big Bob Gibson
Rush Jagoe

Decatur
This is the birthplace of Alabama-style white sauce, which Big Bob himself invented to serve with his barbecued chicken almost a century ago. Led today by fourth-generation pitmaster Chris Lilly, the Decatur restaurant still does things the old-fashioned way. That means cooking pork shoulders, ribs, briskets, turkeys, and chickens—of course—on long brick pits fired solely with hickory coals. Don't forget a slice of scratch-made coconut cream pie.

bigbobgibson.com, 256-350-6969, 1715 6th Ave SE (US Highway 31), Decatur, AL 35601 (one other location in Decatur)

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Arkansas: McClard's Bar-B-Q

McClard's Bar-B-Q hot springs arkansas
McClard's Bar-B-Q

Hot Springs
Shortly after Southern Living readers declared McClard's Bar-B-Q number one in Arkansas in 2020, the fourth generation of the McClard family sold the business to restaurateur Lee Beasley. Little else has changed at this Hot Springs institution, which was founded by Alice and Alex McClard in 1928. Come for the hickory-smoked beef and pork, open-faced rib sandwiches, and Delta-style tamales.

mcclards.com, 501-623-9665, 505 Albert Pike, Hot Springs, AR 71913

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Florida: Jenkins Quality Barbecue

Jenkins Quality Barbecue
Robert Moss

Jacksonville
Willie Mae and Melton Jenkins opened the first Jenkins Quality Barbecue in 1957, and their family now operates three locations around Jacksonville. All serve hefty slabs of ribs and half chickens that are cooked on open brick pits, slathered in thick yellow mustard sauce, and served atop slices of white bread. Ask for the hot version of the sauce if you dare.

jenkinsqualitybarbecue.com, 904-353-6388, 830 North Pearl Street, Jacksonville, FL 32202 (two other locations in Jacksonville)

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Georgia: Wiley's Championship BBQ

Wiley’s Championship BBQ in Savannah, GA
Peter Frank Edwards/Redux

Savannah
In 2008, successful caterer and competition barbecue cook Wiley McCrary opened his popular Savannah restaurant. McCrary has since passed away, but big platters of pulled pork, brisket, and smoked chicken are still the main draw today, and fans rave about the nachos—house-made potato chips loaded with pulled pork, gooey cheese, jalapeños, and tangy barbecue sauce.

wileyschampionshipbbq.com, 912-201-3259, 4700 Highway 80 East, Savannah, GA 31410

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Kentucky: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn

Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Owensboro
Kentucky is famous for its barbecued mutton, and Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn (located in Owensboro) is a big reason why. Since 1963, the Bosley family's restaurant has been smoking mountains of that meat along with beef, pork, and chicken. Diners can eat as much as they wish from two brimming buffets. Also try Moonlite's outstanding version of burgoo, Kentucky's signature barbecue stew.

moonlite.com, 270-684-8143, 2840 West Parrish Avenue, Owensboro, KY 42301

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Louisiana: The Joint

The Joint Barbecue in New Orleans, LA
Cedric Angeles

New Orleans
Since 2004, The Joint has been turning out great barbecue just a block from the Mississippi River in New Orleans' Bywater neighborhood. In a funky wooden building painted with vivid brown-and-yellow stripes, diners dig into large platters of smoky brisket, baby back ribs, pork, and chicken. Regular daily specials offer regional-hybrid delights such as pit-smoked Cuban sandwiches, brisket cheesesteaks, and smoked-corn grits.

alwayssmokin.com, 504-949-3232, 701 Mazant Street, New Orleans, LA 70117

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Maryland: Blue Pit BBQ

Maryland: Blue Pit, Baltimore barbecue
Blue Pit

Baltimore
A relative newcomer, Blue Pit started off as a whiskey bar in 2014 and later added its slate of meat options. Big metal platters are piled with slow-smoked pulled pork, coffee-rubbed brisket, and bourbon-glazed ribs. Their bratwurst is made with local Anthem Golden Ale. The setting is bare-bones, but there's an impressive list of craft cocktails and rare bourbon and rye whiskeys.

bluepitbbq.com, 443-948-5590, 1601 Union Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21211

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Mississippi: The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint

The Shed BBQ in Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Fred Salinas/The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint

Ocean Springs
The Shed is a perennial readers' favorite, and you'll see why when you pull into the gravel parking lot. It's a sprawling compound with a hodgepodge of wooden buildings and tin-roofed sheds adorned with old license plates and grinning cartoon pigs. Diners wolf down platters of ribs, brisket, and pulled pork at long picnic tables, and there's plenty of cold beer—plus live blues on weekends.

theshedbbq.com, 228-875-9590, 7501 HWY 57 Ocean Springs, MS. 3956

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Missouri: Pappy's Smokehouse

Pappy's Smokehouse
@schrommdotcom

St. Louis
Pappy's brought Memphis-style barbecue to St. Louis, and big slabs of ribs smoked over apple and cherry wood have won over locals and tourists alike. They cook those ribs fresh each day, along with plenty of pulled pork, chicken, brisket, and turkey, often selling out before closing time.

pappyssmokehouse.com, 314-535-4340, 3106 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103 (Location also in St. Peters)

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North Carolina: Buxton Hall BBQ

Buxton Hall BBQ in Asheville, NC
Cameron Reynolds

Asheville
Since 2015, Buxton Hall has been cooking old-school eastern North Carolina-style whole-hog barbecue in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Pitmaster Elliott Moss serves his spicy pulled pork alongside a few specialties from his native South Carolina, such as hash and rice and chicken bog. Cheffy creations here include barbecued mussels with pit-smoked tomatoes. Character points: Buxton Hall's Depression-era building used to house a roller-skating rink.

buxtonhall.com, 828-232-7216, 32 Banks Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801

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Oklahoma: Oklahoma Joe's

Oklahoma Joe’s Tulsa Oklahoma
Valerie Wei-Haas

Tulsa
Smoker manufacturer and competition champ Joe Davidson opened his first restaurant in 1995. Now there are four Oklahoma Joe's locations in the Tulsa area plus a fifth in Omaha, Nebraska. Ribs and brisket anchor the menu, along with a few Oklahoma specialties like barbecued bologna and hot links. Regulars love the crispy burnt ends and the massive BarbeQulossal sandwiches.

okjoes.com, 918-894-4447, 6175 East 61st Street, Tulsa, OK 74136 (Multiple locations in Oklahoma and Nebraska)

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South Carolina: Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ

BBQ and Fixins at Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ in Birmingham AL
Patrick McGough

Charleston
In 2017, Rodney Scott brought his family's traditional burn-barrel style of cooking to Charleston as he opened the first Rodney Scott's Whole Hog BBQ. Now, with two locations in Birmingham and one in Atlanta, you can order Scott's ribs, chicken, or even beef brisket in three states, but the original pit-cooked whole hog mopped with a fiery blend of vinegar and red pepper is what made this chef a star.

rodneyscottsbbq.com, 1011 King Street, Charleston, SC 35222 (More locations in Alabama and Georgia)

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Tennesse: Peg Leg Porker

36. Peg Leg Porker
Alyssa Jiosa Cox

Nashville
This restaurant pays homage to West Tennessee-style barbecue: dry-rubbed ribs, tender pulled pork, and juicy smoked chicken served with indulgent sides such as pork-studded smoked green beans and creamy shells and cheese. Owner and pitmaster Carey Bringle even has his own house brand of Tennessee whiskey called Peg Leg Porker Bourbon.

peglegporker.com, 615-829-6023, 903 Gleaves Street, Nashville, TN 37203

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Texas: Franklin Barbecue

Franklin Barbecue in Austin, TX
Drew Anthony Smith

Austin
After serving only takeout for about a year and a half, Franklin Barbecue reopened for indoor dining in November, and the infamous line of hungry fans was longer than ever. People are queuing up for flawlessly smoked brisket; tender pork ribs; and rich, meaty sausage with the perfect snap to the casing. The unmatched quality of Aaron Franklin's slow-smoked meats has made him a genuine barbecue celebrity.

franklinbbq.com, 512-653-1187, 900 East 11th, Austin, TX 78702

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Virginia: Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que

Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que williamsburg virginia
Corey Miller Photo

Williamsburg
Virginia has really upped its barbecue game in the last few years, but Southern Living readers are sticking with an old favorite that just celebrated its first half century of business. Opened in 1971 by Julius "Doc" Pierce, this Hampton Roads place features pulled pork, smoked half chickens, and ribs cooked over oak and hickory coals and served with Pierce's original tomato-based sauce.

pierces.com, 757-565-2955, 447 East Rochambeau Drive, Williamsburg, VA 23188

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Washington, D.C.: Federalist Pig

Federalist Pig, Adams Morgan, Washington DC
Federalist Pig

Adams Morgan
I personally think Federalist Pig deserves a "best of" award for its name alone, but the real reason Southern Living readers flock to Rob Sonderman's joint in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood is the array of slow-smoked meats, especially the ribs, chicken wings, and pork shoulder. It's located just 2 miles north of the White House in an artfully shabby place with a corrugated-metal front painted red, white, and blue—an apt setting for capital 'cue.

federalistpig.com, 1654 Columbia Road, Washington, DC 20009 (Two locations in Maryland)

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West Virginia: Rollin Smoke BBQ

Rollin Smoke, Charleston West Virginia
Rollin Smoke

Charleston
It's no longer rare to catch a whiff of barbecue smoke while wending through the mountains of West Virginia, thanks to a new crop of roadside trailers dotting the state. Rollin Smoke was originally one of them, but now the red trailer has been parked permanently alongside the Elk River outside Charleston and a barbecue joint has been built around it. Pulled pork, brisket, chicken, and ribs are the mainstays along with a variety of brick-oven pizzas. You can eat them all on a big deck overlooking the peaceful water.

681-265-0690, 4008 Crede Drive, Charleston, WV 25302

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