Finding America’s Best Barbecue Joints

Thursday, August 5, 2010

There are only a handful of things I credit America as giving to the world: spaghetti westerns, national parks, those stupid roller skate heel shoes, and barbecue. Let’s face it, America is a nation in its infancy, but one thing that we’ve got totally figured out is down-home, face-covering barbecue restaurants. The meat has been roasting for hours, it’s swimming in sauce, and it’s all there for your pure, unadulterated pleasure. There just isn’t anything better than an Adam Richman session over a pile of ribs. No, make that a pulled pork sandwich. Wait . . . brisket. Yeah, let’s go with brisket.

A while back the research team over at Budget Travel must have jumped when the memo came through about finding the best barbecue joints in America. Here’s the thing: every city has a “best bbq” place, and every area has that little roadside dot on the map where all the locals go to chow. How do you decide where to start? I recommend looking past the beans and cornbread; it’s all in the name.

While Abe’s Bar-B-Q is the don’t-miss roadside shack deep in the heart of Mississippi, it’s got no pop for me. I need more sex appeal in the name to get me in the doors. Even a place named Dink’s Pit Bar-B-Que in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, with its cowboy paraphernalia lining the walls, just doesn’t have enough pizazz.

What catches my eye from the list are the Cajun-style sausages and fall-of-the-bone BBQ pork ribs of The Joint. That name has attitude. It says, “look, if you want a filet, piss off.” That’s what makes a good barbecue place. It was also one of New Orleans’ first restaurants to open post-Katrina, and it hosts the International Bar-B-Q Festival every second weekend in May.

What screams barbecue more than a place called Fat Willy’s Rib Shack in Chicago? “Baby back rib dinners come loaded with coleslaw, garlicky grilled Texas toast, and a choice of hearty sides like baked beans and collard greens.” That sounds like a food coma of the very best kind.

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