The South’s Best BBQ Joints In Every State 2019
Southerners famously use barbecue as a barometer of character. In Memphis, are you a Central BBQ or Payne’s person? In Austin, are you the kind of fan who will brave the line at Franklin Barbecue or give up in the face of a challenge? And don’t even get us started about which bottle is the one true sauce. In this year’s BBQ Joints by State category, the readers made their opinions clear as to which one should represent their state despite close difference of opinion. In Alabama, Dreamland’s original Tuscaloosa location prevails another year, as did 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Florida. In Texas, they still care about their old-school institutions like The Salt Lick, but South Carolinians have pledged their allegiance to Rodney Scott’s new King Street outpost. Whether you agree with this year’s selections or not, we’re still all winners to wake up in a region that’s home to the best barbecue in the country. And that’s not up for competition.
Check Out The South’s Best BBQ Joints In Every State
It might have 10 outposts scattered around the South, but the red-walled Tuscaloosa location is our readers’ pick. And that’s where John “Big Daddy” Bishop started it in 1958. Ribs with white bread and an orange-hued sauce are the go-to order, and no visit is complete without a cup of whipped cream-topped banana pudding. —Robert Moss
McClard’s has been serving their ribs alongside tamales (a Delta delicacy) in Hot Springs since 1928.
Florida: 4 Rivers Smokehouse
In the span of just a decade, 4 Rivers Smokehouse has grown from a single restaurant in Winter Park into a burgeoning barbecue empire. Slow-smoked brisket anchors a broad menu at the chain’s 14 locations, joined by wide-ranging selections such as Memphis-style pulled pork and California tri-tip. —Robert Moss
Georgia: Southern Soul
St. Simons Island
This is a repeat winner for good reason: Georgia-style pulled pork and tangy Brunswick stew, ribs, and smoked chicken wings, cooked on hardwood-fired pits. It’s all served a few miles from the ocean in a converted 1940s-era gas station with a laid-back coastal vibe and craft brews on tap—the ideal spot for a sunny afternoon. —Robert Moss
Kentucky: Old Hickory
At this sixth-generation-owned Owensboro institution, make sure to try the barbecue mutton.
Louisiana: The Joint
If you’re visiting New Orleans you’re likely not primarily in search of barbecue, but if a local takes you to The Joint, don’t put up a fight. It’s not just good barbecue for New Orleans, it’s good barbecue for anywhere.
Mississippi: The Shed
An Ocean Springs original, The Shed also doubles as a blues venue for local and touring musicians.
This St. Louis-based chain has become the go-to for the best example of the city’s namesake style where the ribs are basted in a sweet and tangy sauce.
North Carolina: Buxton Hall
Come to Pitmaster Elliott Moss’ Asheville Valhalla for the Carolina-style, whole-hog barbecue and stay for James Beard Award-nominated pastry Chef Ashley Capps’ rotating selection of pies.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma Joe’s
Born out of the Oklahoma State Fair, Joe Davidson took his smokers from the fairgrounds to his own brick and mortar store over 25 years ago and now has five more locations including one in Dayton, Florida, and Omaha, Nebraska.
South Carolina: Rodney Scott’s
In 2018, Rodney Scott earned the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the South, making it the first time a pitmaster had achieved the title. For those that have been to his family’s restaurant in Hemingway, South Carolina, or to his smokehouse on King Street in Charleston, it’s clear that Scott has a winning, time-honed technique.
Tennessee: Peg Leg Porker
In Tennessee, a Nashville joint prevailed over barbecue capital Memphis. At Peg Leg Porker in the city’s Gulch neighborhood, kool-aid brined pickles are on the menu as well as the Memphis Sushi plate—a cheeky name for the traditional sausage and cheese plate.
Texas: The Salt Lick
The iconic pit entices guests’ appetites as they walk through the door. Picture live oak logs burning beneath metal grates loaded with slabs of ribs and briskets and sausages dangling down from the hood above. Fans love the brisket (they serve almost a million pounds a year), but the real stars are the beef and pork ribs. —Robert Moss
Virginia: Pierce’s Pitt
This Williamsburg-based smokehouse serves hickory-smoked Tennessee-style barbecue despite its location, which its owner Julius (Doc) Pierce brought with him in 1971.
Washington, D.C.: Federalist Pig
In a town that talks about pork of a different kind, the Federalist Pig serves up a pan-Southern array of barbecue from Carolina-style pork to Texas brisket.