The South's Best Butt
Chopped, pulled, shredded, or sliced, there's nothing like a pork sandwich from the pit. And everyone's got an opinion on which one is boss hog. One thing's for sure: These 20 barbecue joints do it right. See if your favorite made the list, and get exclusive 'cue-pons, here
A&R serves tamales, bologna, and barbecue spaghetti, but the star is the sloppy chopped-pork sandwich, twitching with tangy slaw and bathed in a sauce that doesn't obscure the robust smokiness of the meat. aandrbbq.com
Get the 'Cue-pon: Bring the June issue of Southern Living, and get a free side with the purchase of a large pork sandwich.
Allen & Son BBQ
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
If a foreigner was studying for a barbecue exam, the Allen & Son flash card would surely get a workout. Keith Allen's restaurant straddles the dividing line between western and eastern Carolina 'cue, and idiosyncratically borrows from both traditions. They use a thin, vinegar-based sauce, the same as Eastern pitmasters, but cook only shoulders, considered the Piedmont's domain. 919/942-7576
The Bar-B-Q Shop
It's not hard to find an expertly smoked pork shoulder in Memphis, but this sandwich has won accolades for its accoutrements, including a mustard-tinged sauce, a fiery hot sauce, and sturdy Texas toast. dancingpigs.com
North Augusta, South Carolina
South Carolina is the only state with four distinct sauce regions, and BBQ Barn offers them all, including the thick mustard variety rarely found beyond Palmetto State borders. 803/278-7202
Get the 'Cue-pon: Mention Southern Living, and get a free dessert with the purchase of a drink and a large plate. (Limit one per table.) Valid only through the month of June.
Bozo's Hot Pit Bar-B-Q
Bozo's had a bit part in Walk the Line, the 2005 Johnny Cash biopic, but the western Tennessee restaurant has long been famed for its treatment of pork shoulders, which emerge moist and tender from the pit, bearing the faintest trace of smoke. 901/294-3400
Get the 'Cue-pon: Mention Southern Living, and get a free small drink with the purchase of a sandwich or plate.
The Brick Pit
On its website, The Brick Pit features testimonials from a car dealer, a banker, and a bonsai artist. But it doesn't take a professional palate to appreciate their succulent pulled pork, slathered with a thick tomato sauce. brickpit.com
Get the 'Cue-pon: Bring the June issue of Southern Living, and receive a free sweet or unsweetened tea with the purchase of a pork sandwich.
Windsor, North Carolina
Sandwiched between two flaps of crisp cornbread, Bunn's minced Boston butt is so good it may explain why the Russell family rebuilds every time the coastal restaurant suffers a hurricane-inflicted flood. 252/794-2274
Georgia Pig Bar-B-Que
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Wayne Anderson chops oak-smoked meat and crunchy bits of bark before saucing with his tangy original sauce. 954/587-4420
Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q
Multiple locations across the South
A multiunit chain might provoke skepticism from purists, but Jim 'N Nick's produces a phenomenal pork shoulder with traditional methods many have written off as too time-consuming. Committed to freshness and sustainability, the restaurant just launched its own heritage pork-raising program, and none of the 28 locations even has a freezer. jimnnicks.com
Get the 'Cue-pon: Bring the June issue of Southern Living, and get a free drink with the purchase of a sandwich or plate.
Lexington, North Carolina
A prickly, red slaw tops the pork shoulder at Jimmy's, a Lexington mainstay that specializes in chewy, hickory-scented meat. 336/357-2311
Get the 'Cue-pon: Bring the June issue of Southern Living, and get a free drink with the purchase of a pork sandwich.
There aren't any pretensions at Leigh's, where the terrific hickory-kissed pork shoulder is chopped to order and sauced with vinegar. 270/488-3434
Get the 'Cue-pon: Bring the June issue of Southern Living, and get a free drink with the purchase of a pork sandwich and a side.
Lexington, North Carolina
The defining Piedmont barbecue joint—known locally as The Monk's Place—chops its shoulders and slaw into an extraordinary mixture of sweetness and smoke. 336/249-9814
Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint
Patrick Martin's open-faced sandwich, what he calls a Redneck Taco, piles hickory-smoked pork, slaw, and Piedmont-style tomato sauce atop a plate-size hoecake. martinsbbqjoint.com
Get the 'Cue-pon: Bring the June issue of Southern Living, and get a "throwback soda" (like bottled RC Cola, Sundrop, or Cheerwine) with the purchase of a pork entree.
Marooned in beef territory, Neely's is known by locals as The Brown Pig. The 85-year-old restaurant crowns ground smoked shoulder with mayonnaise, lettuce, and the signature sauce on a hamburger bun. 903/935-9040
The flat disks of cornbread that book-end Papa Kayjoe's pork sandwich are fried to order in lard, in keeping with pitmaster Devin Pickard's philosophy that barbecue ought to be a celebration of swine fat. "I know when folks think of grease they think of unhealthy," he famously told a Southern Foodways Alliance oral historian in 2008. "But the key to good barbecue is grease." 931/729-2131
Get the 'Cue-pon: Mention Southern Living, and get a free drink with the purchase of a pork sandwich. (Limit one per customer.)
Arguments rage over the best barbecue in Memphis, but the field narrows when you talk sandwiches. At Payne's, where lunch is so popular it's punctuated by the nonstop slap of a cleaver on the chopping block, the pork sandwich is graced with smoke-tinged bark, a robe of tomato-based sauce, and mustard slaw yellow as a buttercup. 901/272-1523
Get the 'Cue-pon: Bring the June issue of Southern Living, and get one free drink, side of beans, or side of chips with the purchase of a pork sandwich.
In a state known for barbecue, Dallas is rarely a player. But Pecan Lodge has reset 'cue expectations with killer pulled pork developed to satisfy the owners' Carolina nostalgia. pecanlodge.com
Get the 'Cue-pon: Bring in the June issue of Southern Living, and get a free signature Tumbleweed cookie with the purchase of a pork sandwich.
Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge
Shelby, North Carolina
Longtime customers know to request their sandwiches with "outside brown," the dark, chewy bark that lends textural zing and a woodsy demeanor to chopped meat. bridgesbbq.com
Get the 'Cue-pon: Mention Southern Living, and get a Red Bridges Barbecue song on CD and BBQ sticker.
Saucy's Walk-up Bar.B.Q.
The reclaimed shipping container that houses Saucy's may be the ultimate 21st-century symbol. But the meat served from within is smoked according to long-standing low-and-slow traditions, then swabbed with sauces such as mustard-jalapeño. saucysbbq.com
Get the 'Cue-pon: Mention Southern Living, and get a free side with the purchase of a pork sandwich.
Little Rock, Arkansas
In 1937, Allen Sims and his wife, Amelia, opened a cafe, and quickly became known for great barbecue and their tangy, brown Sims Sauce, which they apply to every serving of chopped pork. simsbarbeque-ar.com