The South's Best BBQ Joints 2011
Take a culinary trip around the South to discover our favorite stops for each BBQ style.
Best Southern BBQ
The South is the most rewarding place in the world for food lovers to road trip: You can measure the distance you've traveled in the flavors you encounter. And no Southern food is more tenaciously regional than barbecue. Here, we dish up what we consider to be perfect plates of barbecue in four major regional styles.
Carolina Style BBQ
Carolina 'cue is pork barbecue, pulled from a shoulder or whole hog, sauced with either a vinegar-, mustard-, or tomato-based sauce, and served with a side of coleslaw. Wilber's, Lexington Barbecue No. 1, Skylight Inn, and Scott's Bar-B-Que are masters of the Carolina craft.
Wilber's, Goldsboro, NC
In true Carolina tradition, Wilber's has been turning out stellar whole-hog barbecue since 1962. You'll find an open fire out back producing the warmed charcoal that finishes the hogs on their 12-hour turn. The pork is then pulled by hand, chopped, moistened with apple cider vinegar, and seasoned with red chile flakes. The combination of chopped pork, a fried chicken thigh, creamy-tart slaw, potato salad, and hush puppies is the joint's perfect indulgence.
4172 Highway 70 East, Goldsboro, NC; 919/778-5218; wilbersbarbecue.com
Lexington Barbecue No.1, Lexington, NC
10 Highway 29-70 South, Lexington, NC; 336/249-9814
Skylight Inn, Ayden, NC
4617 Lee Street, Ayden, NC; 252/746-4113
Scott's Bar-B-Que, Hemingway, SC
2734 Hemingway Highway, Hemingway, SC; 843/558-0134; thescottsbbq.com
Sweatman's Bar-B-Que, Holly Hill, SC
1313 Gemini Drive, Holly Hill, SC; no phone; cash only
Texas Style BBQ
The emphasis in Texas-style 'cue is on the meat. Smoky-moist brisket and spicy beef sausage take center stage, while the sauce usually serves as a side dip. Smitty's Market, Black's Barbecue, City Market, Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, and Sonny Bryan's show how it's done.
Smitty's Market, Lockhart, TX
Smitty's Market, a drafty warehouse in historic downtown Lockhart is one-of-a-kind when it comes to involving customers. In this Texas-style joint, eager customers line up in a sooty corridor, and as you get closer to the cash register, you are in the smokehouse. You've got ringside seats to the choreography of the pitmasters as they traffic sausages, briskets, and ribs into and out of two brick pits. After you make it through the line, dive into the deliciousness of a perfect plate: ¼ pound smoked brisket (not the lean), 1 "hot link," ¼ pound pork ribs, white bread, pickle, piece of cheese, and crackers.
208 South Commerce Street, Lockhart, TX; 512/398-9344; smittysmarket.com
Black's Barbecue, Lockhart, TX
215 North Main Street, Lockhart, TX; 512/398-2712; blacksbbq.com
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, Austin, TX
401 West Second Street, Austin, TX; 512/494-1500; lambertsaustin.com
City Market, Luling, TX
633 East Davis Street, Luling, TX; 830/875-9019; lulingcitymarket.com
Sonny Bryan's, Dallas, TX
2202 Inwood Road, Dallas, TX; 214/357-7120; sonnybryans.com
Memphis Style BBQ
The Memphis barbecue style is always pork with a sweet tomato-based sauce. The pulled pork sandwich is the top contender of the style, usually topped with coleslaw. We love Memphis masters A&R Bar-B-Que, Charlie Vergos Rendezvous, Interstate Barbecue, Cozy Corner, and Payne's BBQ.
A&R Bar-B-Que, Memphis, TN
A&R Bar-B-Que, a storefront a couple miles from Graceland, is the polar opposite of the total pit-immersion in Central Texas–it may just be the most sparkling joint in America. All it takes is a bite of the rib tips–smoky-moist, dry-rubbed, slicked with a tangy sauce–to know you've arrived at the heart and soul of Memphis 'cue. The ribs are textbook with a peppery exterior, but meaty and tender on the inside. And the sandwich, in true Memphis style, has a scoop of coleslaw on top of the pork. If your mouth isn't already watering, the perfect plate of half slab pork ribs, rib tips, and a chopped pork sandwich is sure to do the trick.
1802 Elvis Presley Blvd., Memphis, TN; 901/774-7444; aandrbbq.com
Charlie Vergos Rendezvous, Memphis, TN
52 South Second Street, Memphis, TN; 901/523-2746; hogsfly.com
Interstate Barbecue, Memphis, TN
2265 South Third Street, Memphis, TN; 901/775-2304; interstatebarbecue.com
Cozy Corner, Memphis, TN
745 North Parkway, Memphis, TN; 901/527-9158; cozycornerbbq.com
Payne's BBQ, Memphis, TN
1762 Lamar Avenue, Memphis, TN; 901/272-1523
Kansas City Style BBQ
Kansas City barbecue is pork ribs and beef brisket served with fistfuls of piping-hot fries. The sauces are usually tomato-based with sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors. It perfectly compliments one of the style's most popular selections, burnt ends. Our favorite Kansas City joints are Arthur Bryant's BBQ, Gates Bar-B-Q, Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue, Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue, and Woodyard Bar-B-Que.
Arthur Bryant's BBQ, Kansas City, MO
Arthur Bryant's BBQ in the 18th & Vine District is the place for K.C. 'cue. There's a seriousness of purpose to the pitmen and carvers, and their work is on display as they hustle between the pit and where you order. K.C. celebrates its sauce more than any other region, so if you don't want everything sluiced, specify each part of your order. The counterman assembles the meats on red butcher paper, slices of white bread on top, and rolls it into a bundle. By the time you leave, there won't be anything left except a swatch of butcher paper. Order the perfect plate: half slab (short end), burnt ends, ½ pound brisket, and fries.
1727 Brooklyn Avenue, Kansas City, MO; 816/231-1123; arthurbryantsbbq.com
Gates Bar-B-Q, Kansas City, MO
1221 Brooklyn Avenue, Kansas City, MO; 816/483-3880; gatesbbq.com
Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue, Kansas City, KS
3001 West 47th Avenue, Kansas City, KS; 912/722-3366; oklahomajoesbbq.com
Fiorella's Jack Stack Barbecue, Kansas City, MO
13441 Holmes Road, Kansas City, MO; 816/942-9141; jackstackbbq.com
Woodyard Bar-B-Que, Kansas City, KS
3001 Merriam Lane, Kansas City, KS; 913/362-8000; woodyardbbq.com