Reader Recs: America’s Best BBQ Joints

15 May

A full rack of mouth-watering ribs at Central BBQ in Memphis (Photograph by Ken Fager, Flickr)

A recent post on the best BBQ joints in the U.S. elicited a surprisingly dramatic response. From coast to coast (and beyond), readers wrote in with alternating approval and admonishment. And no one seemed shy when it came to pointing out what should have made the list.

We learned a lot from the feedback, but one thing is clear: Whether it’s backyard brisket or a five-star ordeal, Americans are serious about their barbecue!

Before our stomachs start growling too loudly, here’s a recap of recommendations from our ever-enlightening Intelligent Travel community: 

Woodyard BBQ - Kansas City

Bryce recommends Woodyard BBQ in Kansas City (Photograph by Tamera Clark, Flickr)

Not surprisingly, much of the debate centered around Kansas City. According to Daniel, “the best BBQ in the world is in K.C. hands down.” Ian, another native Kansas Citian, likened having his hometown make the top ten list only twice to “calling our baby ugly.” A bevy of readers touted Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue and LCs, while Joe, Craig, and Jenny put their money on Rosedales. Don’t forget about Woodyard BBQ, adds Bryce.

Kansas City may have more BBQ restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the U.S., but Memphis is giving them a run for their money when it comes to being America’s barbecue capital. Dylon and Erica alerted us to Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous, as did John in Kansas City…yes, Kansas City. A Memphian named Joe gave us the inside scoop on Payne’s BBQ, while another local said Central BBQ offered the best “Q” in the city, “with a close follow-up being the Germantown Commissary.” And a reader named Amy rounded out the list of noteworthy Memphis establishments with A&R Bar-B-Que.

But Bill in nearby Knoxville claims that “the best BBQ you could ever eat is at a hole-in-the-wall-diner in Bluff City, Tennessee…named Ridgewood Restaurant. It is like no other.”

Farther south, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, The Shed in boasts quite the loyal following (thanks, Jared, Jeanne, and Deb!). Jeanne puts it simply: “I love this place.”

BBQ Sauce - Ridgewood Restaurant, Tennessee

At Ridgewood Restaurant in Tennessee, take home your own jar of the Bluff City joint’s famous BBQ sauce (Photograph by Amy C. Evans, Southern Foodways Alliance/Flickr)

Next door in Alabama, you’ll find Dreamland BBQ, a “definite top ten joint” — at least in one reader’s eyes. Kathy in Tennessee agrees, but “if they’d offer cornbread instead [of white bread] it would be fab!”

Florida might be outside the barbecue belt, but the Sunshine State can still hold its own. Chayna, a Texan in Orlando, praises the ribs at Taste Bud Bliss. If the name is any indication, others will, too. Outside Tampa, David Sexton recommends Johnson Barbecue, a nondescript outpost in the middle of “Plant City.”

The trend continues across the country, with people who live in places that aren’t exactly synonymous with BBQ giving good reports. “Oakland, California’s B-Side BBQ is amazing!” notes Letitia Johnson, and there’s always Phil’s BBQ for delicious down home-eats in San Marcos according to Chris in L.A.

If you’re in the Midwest, it’s come to our attention that Black Dog Smoke and Ale House in Urbana, Illinois and Slows in Motor City are also not to miss with two votes each.

For carnivorous Yankees, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que always hits the spot in Syracuse, New York – or so says Joshua G. The same goes for Blue Ribbon BBQ in Arlington, Massachusetts (thanks for the tip, Sebastian!).

Let’s not forget about the Mid-Atlantic. Chuck Jenkins recommends Chubby’s, just a hop, skip and a jump over the Mason-Dixon line in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and Norma in Virginia suggests Prince George Family Barbecue in tiny Disputanta.

Slow's BBQ - Detroit

Slow’s BBQ in Motor City (Photograph by Michigan Municipal League, Flickr)

Down in Tar Heel territory, you have to make the impossible choice: Lexington or Eastern style BBQ? Shannon Nicholson raves about Asheville’s 12 Bones Smokehouse and the “grass-roots, wood-smoked, pulled pork plates” at Hubba Hubba Smokehouse in Flat Rock. If that’s not enough, Jackie in Raleigh reveals her local favorite: Pit Authentic Barbecue. Don’t miss Lexington Barbecue in its namesake town either, she adds.

You’ll have to keep heading south for the country’s best ribs though, at least according to Barry in St. Louis. “I am from South Carolina and have tried BBQ in the famous Memphis, K.C., and St. Louis spots,” he notes, but “my favorite ribs are from a placed called Circle M BBQ in Liberty, South Carolina”

If you wind up in the Lone Star state and just can’t quite make it to Luling, Tony suggests Big Boys BBQ in Sweetwater. Hard Eight BBQ in Stephenville is on Jared’s radar. And Jon warns that “without Goode & Co. in Houston, your list is without even a micro-measure of credibility!” Point taken, Jon. And if you’re passing through Merkel, a stop at the Mesquite Bean is in order according to Brad.

So there you have it, folks. Nothing screams “America!” quite like barbecue. Like a summer night at a baseball game or a dollop of ice-cream on grandma’s apple pie, barbecue is more than food. It’s a bite into America’s cultural core — a taste of the ties that bind.

So hit the road, break out the bib, and get going.

Reader Recs: America’s Best BBQ Joints


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