Who Will Choose the South’s Best Barbecue Joint?
"If you don't vote," the old saying goes, "you can't complain." Which is poppycock. You can complain all you want. You don't even need a voter registration card for that.
Just ask the folks in Memphis. Earlier this year, when Southern Living's April Issue came out, they hit the roof when they saw that a Nashville restaurant, Peg Leg Porker, had been declared the Best Barbecue Joint in Tennessee in our South's Best for 2019.
Memphians howled at the injustice, decried our poor culinary judgment, and cursed our naugahyde palates. Someone even threw a nasty comment my way on Twitter, which is the last place you'd expect such negativity.
That ire was echoed in a column by the Memphis Commercial Appeal's food and dining reporter Jennifer Chandler, who insisted that "no other city's barbecue can compare" before taking a small degree of solace in the fact that Peg Leg Porker's owner/pitmaster, Carey Bringle, had grandparents who lived in Memphis, and he was greatly influenced by the Bluff City's inimitable style. That prompted Nashville's Tennessean to jump into the fray and gloat over Chandler's "five stages of Southern Living grief" as she came to terms with the decision.
But let's set the record straight. Southern Living didn't declare any barbecue restaurant to be the best in Tennessee. Southern Living's readers did that—some 65,000 of them—and they did so by casting ballots in our annual reader's poll for the Best of the South. We just tally the votes, folks.
Now voting time has come around again, and the polls for the 2020 edition of South's Best are officially open.
Think the ribs at Cozy Corner or Rendezvous edge out the dry rubbed racks at Peg Leg Porker, or that the sauce-slathered pulled pork at A&R or Payne's puts the rest to shame? Now's your chance to weigh in. If you're not as familiar with Tennessee but have strong feelings about the barbecue in Georgia, the Carolinas, or even down in Texas (warning: the list of worthy candidates there is long), then follow the link and get clicking.
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If you flip around that old adage, it implies that if you do vote then you are fully entitled to complain when your preferred candidate doesn't come out on top, and I suppose you could do that. But what good would it do? As any political operative will tell you, it's one thing to cast a single ballot. It's another to mobilize your family, neighbors, and friends and insist that they throw their votes behind whichever fine barbecue joint you think is the best in your state, and the best in the entire South, too.
By the way, I just cast my vote for the best barbecue restaurant in Tennessee. I won't tell you which one it is (these ballots are secret, after all), but I can reveal that it is located in Memphis. Please don't tell Carey Bringle.