Nothing elicits a more spirited foodie debate than regional barbecue. Wet or dry rub? Pork butt, brisket, or whole hog? Memphis or Texas? Our editors tackled the idea of creating a list 30 of the best barbecue joints in America. Of course, prominent on the list are heavy hitters from Kansas City, Memphis, North Carolina and Texas. But also represented are fantastic smoke shacks from Louisiana, New York, Detroit, Southern California and even the Pacific Northwest. From timeless institutions run by old-school pitmasters who rarely sleep, to the innovative, newer joints building on family and regional traditions. Each of these 30 establishments embody the passion and patience required to produce outstanding barbecue. Listed in no particular order, please enjoy…
THE BAR-B-Q SHOP
The “Home of the Dancing Pigs,” this charming Midtown classic delivers ample portions of their signature barbecue spaghetti as well as excellent chopped pork shoulder with buttery Texas Toast. The heavily seasoned dry ribs are as good as any in Memphis (and therefore, among the world’s best).
10 US Highway 29/70 S, Lexington, NC 27295
The bodacious barbecue at Lexington Barbecue, established in 1962 by Wayne “Honey” Monk, is the quintessential Western North Carolina ‘cue, with impeccable slow-smoked pork shoulder, vinegar-based red barbecue sauce, and their signature red slaw (no mayonnaise). Guests can even select which part of the shoulder they’d like on their sandwich, and hushpuppies are a crowd favorite as well.
CLYDE COOPER’S BARBECUE
1782 Madison Ave, Memphis, TN 38104
Founded in 1938, Clyde Cooper’s Barbecue is as much a historic landmark as a casual joint for top quality ‘cue. One step through the door verifies the appeal and popularity of this downtown Raleigh darling, with old-timey photographs, a buzzing service counter and the sweet aroma of down-home cooking. Dive into your complimentary basket of crunchy pork skins before moving on to the main attraction. Barbecue comes chopped, sliced or spare-ribbed, and chicken barbecued, fried or chopped. The Brunswick stew remains a popular alternative to traditional barbecue plates.
BB’S LAWNSIDE BLUES & BBQ
1205 E 85th St, Kansas City, MO 64131
Besides wonderful barbecue from a more than 60-year-old pit, owner Lindsay Shannon’s BB’s Lawnside Blues & BBQ restaurant and nightclub dishes out Louisiana favorites such as gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. Smoked specialties include pork spare ribs, pulled pork and Italian sausage.
SLOWS BAR B Q
2138 Michigan Ave, Detroit, MI 48216
Slows opened in Corktown in 2005 and brought some much needed revitalization to the neighborhood. The thriving bar scene (with a variety of local beers on tap) and unique, modern design – heavy on the wood and exposed brick – are a definitely a draw, but it’s the quality barbecue and creative menu that keeps the place consistently on a wait. St. Louis style ribs, thinly sliced brisket, jambalaya and mac-and-cheese are among the highlights.
701 Mazant St, New Orleans, LA 70117
The Crescent City may not traditionally be thought of as a barbecue town, what with the abundance of other wonderful cuisines represented, but The Joint has been changing perceptions and building a devoted following since 2004. In February 2012, this premier New Orleans ‘cue spot moved a few blocks into a spiffier, more expansive location on Mazant Street in the Bywater neighborhood. Smoked specialties include the likes of baby back ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, and locally made Cajun sausage.
LOUIE MUELLER BARBECUE
206 W Second St, Taylor, TX 76574
Rubbed with salt and pepper then slow cooked four to six hours in 50 year-old pits, the brisket at Louie Mueller’s is legendary. This iconic Texas eatery also serves up sausages by the link and meat by the slice or pound, while a thin, tomato-based sauce is meant to “complement, not coat.” The prestigious James Beard Foundation honored Louie Mueller Barbecue with the America’s Classics Award in 2006.
ROLLIN SMOKE BARBECUE
3185 S Highland Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Though gluttony is not necessarily the first vice you’d associate with Sin City, one could hardly be blamed for overindulging at wildly popular West Side standout Rollin Smoke Barbeque. Chef Trey Holland imparts his southern roots into hickory-smoked barbecue — pulled pork, smoked hot links, ribs and short ribs — and down-home sides including jalapeño coleslaw, yams and bacon potato salad.
354 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
As barbecue became just another precious food trend in the Big Apple, many novelty restaurants with kitschy Southern décor, martinis and multiple novelty sauces sprouted up. Fette Sau was among the first in New York to give barbecue its proper due. Emphasizing their dry rub and maintaining meticulous smoking practices, Fette Sau boasts a fantastic variety of smoked pork and beef with some exotic cuts to boot. Bonus points for the fantastic bourbon list.
3106 Olive St , St Louis, MO 63103
The world’s best barbecue doesn’t always come from a century-old shack with an origin story about an eccentric (and possibly toothless) great uncle who didn’t sleep for tending the pit. A relative newcomer, Pappy’s Smokehouse opened in 2008 and has stolen the hearts (and stomachs) of St. Louis, as the long line attests. The star of the show would be their dry-rubbed Memphis-style ribs, slow-smoked over apple and cherry wood. They sell their fair share of pulled pork and barbecue turkey breast as well, accompanied by sweet potato fries and fried corn on the cob. When the meat is gone, they close up shop, so call ahead or plan your visit accordingly.