Help me plan a BBQ road trip
December 9, 2009 5:25 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine are planning a "BBQ Road Trip." Hitting up five or six major cities in the South, with the aim of getting a representative taste of the various styles of American BBQ. What cities would you include on this list, and what restaurant in each city would you choose to go to?

Our idea for an itinerary, so far, is this:
--leave NYC
--St. Louis
--Kansas City
--Somewhere in North Carolina
--Back to NYC

Again, what we're looking for is a representative sampling of American BBQ. I don't think we'll have time to make it down to Texas, but I'm interested in hearing if there are other cities that might be better, along the general route I've outlined above.

Once you've identified a city that should be included, what's your favorite restaurant in the city?
posted by soonertbone to Food & Drink (57 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Kansas City has the classic KC Masterpiece restaurant, but Jack Stack is better. Gates is a less fancy, only slightly less delicious option.
posted by rebekah at 5:34 PM on December 9, 2009

Definitely include Memphis. I would go to Rendezvous and Cozy Corner for BBQ. Silky O'Sullivan's for beers (on Beale St, near Rendezvous - has drinking goats) and Raiford's for late night (only serves 40 oz. beers, light up dance floor). Also, Gus' Fried Chicken.

Atlanta doesn't really have a BBQ style, but Rolling Bones is good (downtown) and DBA BBQ opened recently and has gotten good reviews. You should also go to The Varsity by Georgia Tech and have some chili dogs and their frosted orange drink and chocolate milk poured over crushed ice.

I would try to go to Eastern NC to try some of their vinegar based sauces. King's BBQ in Kinston is good. Scott's BBQ in Hemingway, SC sounds pretty awesome.

Search previous threads. I know Memphis and KC have been covered.
posted by Frank Grimes at 5:36 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

in memphis, go to rendezvous. bbq ribs that you have to go down an alley to get to...
posted by nadawi at 5:36 PM on December 9, 2009

I would try to go to Eastern NC to try some of their vinegar based sauces.


Carolina BBQ is heavenly and I wish I could get it up here in Cleveland.
posted by starvingartist at 5:37 PM on December 9, 2009

I'll vouch for Cozy Corner in Memphis, but in Kansas City there's Arthur Bryant's and there's everything else.
posted by escabeche at 5:41 PM on December 9, 2009

There's a town in Southern Illinois called Murphysboro. Big into apple farming, they are. There's a bar/restaurant in said town called 17th Street Bar & Grill. They have won many awards for their BBQ, and I will attest it is quite tasty. The secret is in the apple wood smoke. It is about 2 hours southeast of St. Louis, so not too far out of your way on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
posted by newper at 5:42 PM on December 9, 2009

Dunno where you're planning to go in Memphis, but...

In order of my personal preference:
Three Little Pigs (Also, not BBQ, but they have the best bacon biscuit ever.)
Tops BBQ (They don't have fries, don't ask.)

And honourable mention, because Germantown is a suburb of Memphis..
Germantown Commissary (Park at the church across the street. They are always packed.)

Beware, the Corky's site has an obnoxious auto loading flash video.. that repeats. Ugh.
posted by defragmeout at 5:44 PM on December 9, 2009

you are aware there are two distinct styles of BBQ in north carolina. Western which is shoulder, Eastern which is whole hog. Eastern uses a sauce that is all vineagar, Western has some tomato.

For Western the classic locale is Lexington NC. For Eastern, well Kinston's not a bad place to start.

Atlanta doesn't have a classic style I'd skip it. Same with Saint Louis. You are missing Owensboro KY for Mutton and South Carolina for mustard based sauce. If you are willing to go to KC from NYC you'd be a fool not to go down to the Tx Hill Country for Brisket and hot links and a day or two hanging out in Austin.

I have a heard time naming names because we did are big BBQ tour nine years ago and I have no idea what's still good. Skyline in Aryden (near Kinston) was my favorite.

Check the food fora - there are tons of BBQ obsessives.
posted by JPD at 5:45 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ayden not Aryden.
posted by JPD at 5:47 PM on December 9, 2009

Judge Bean's in Nashville does Texas-style brisket and smoked sausage.
posted by runningwithscissors at 5:51 PM on December 9, 2009

Having lived in North Carolina for many years (but, sadly, no longer), I can send you to either the Lexington Barbecue in, oddly enough, Lexington or Stamey's Barbecue in Greensboro. Both offer classic North Carolina barbecue and I've greatly enjoyed both of them; Lexington is the prototypical place, but I like the hush puppies at Stamey's much better.

Oh geez, I just ate dinner but now I'm hungry for North Carolina barbecue!
posted by DrGail at 5:53 PM on December 9, 2009

Seconding Jack Stack in Kansas City.
posted by mayhap at 5:53 PM on December 9, 2009

(I should add that I know Atlanta isn't a big BBQ city, but my friend and I are both in love with Kevin Gillespie and want to hit up his restaurant while we're down there.)

Great answers so far, please keep them coming!
posted by soonertbone at 5:56 PM on December 9, 2009

Go here:

It's a transcendent experience.

PS. Daddy D'z in Atlanta is ok. All the police officers and ambulance drivers eat there, so you know it's good.
posted by socratic at 5:58 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd also recommend skipping Atlanta as it's not terribly well known as having a distinct BBQ style. I'd either expand to both sides of North Carolina, go to the Owensboro area, or dipp into Alabama. There's very good BBQ around Birmingham; it was the only thing I liked about the dismal couple of months I lived there. Big Bob Gibson in Decatur, AL north of Birmingham is very famous. I believe Moonlight is the place most people go in Owensboro. There's a place in Waverly, KY (abut an hour away from Owensboro) called Peak Brother's Bar-B-Que that in addition to having very good mutton also has a pepper-crusted BBQ ham that is truly life changing and transcendent. Waverly is truly an epic middle of nowhere hole (I can say that, I've got family there) but my god, that ham.

Also, I've never eaten at Corky's in Memphis, but I've eaten at their outposts in Nashville and was never very impressed. Now, partly that may be because growing up as far east as Nashville, I have a preference for more Carolina-esque tangy sauces. Partly though, Corky's is a chain and is thought of by many fast food style BBQ. It's very likely better at the source, but I thought I'd mention it. I bet you can do better in Memphis.
posted by mostlymartha at 5:59 PM on December 9, 2009

More Sweatman's praise.
posted by socratic at 6:00 PM on December 9, 2009

I know it's a little further out, but you'll be missing out by not going to Texas for some real Texas BBQ!
If you did get a chance to go to Texas, I'd check out Lockhart, a small town outside of Austin. There are several good places there. Kreuz's Market and Black's are pretty famous.
posted by ishotjr at 6:03 PM on December 9, 2009

I'll vouch for Sweatman's as well.
posted by JPD at 6:03 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ok, in Alabama, I've only been to Huntsville, but Gibson's is good.
posted by ishotjr at 6:06 PM on December 9, 2009

I seriously hope you're a member at and have Jane and Michael Sterns' book. Roadfood is kinda my bible.
posted by paanta at 6:14 PM on December 9, 2009

3rding Jack Stack, Delicious.
posted by SarahElizaP at 6:19 PM on December 9, 2009

you are aware there are two distinct styles of BBQ in north carolina. Western which is shoulder, Eastern which is whole hog. Eastern uses a sauce that is all vineagar, Western has some tomato.

For Western the classic locale is Lexington NC. For Eastern, well Kinston's not a bad place to start.

If you can do only Western NC or somewhere Down East, go to Lexington. If you can hold this trip off 'til next Fall, go to Lexington during their barbecue fest.
posted by NoMich at 6:21 PM on December 9, 2009

ok whoever said skip atlanta is overruled. Fat Matts ribshack on piedmont is by far my favorite BBQ place in the USA.

fat matts

and if there is any chance to get to texas be sure to catch the "worst bbw in texas" which is simply astounding.

worst bbq in texas (rudys)

egad, im hungry now.
posted by chasles at 6:25 PM on December 9, 2009

We did Cozy Corner in Memphis this summer. I've been raised on BBQ and it was the best I've ever had. Anywhere. The BBQ chicken was sublime and they had a sweet potato pie that was beyond words. We went about 2pm and were the only diners so we really got to talk to the lovely folks that run it. They showed us some of their tricks. My 2 yr old son danced and played with their daughter of the same age and she showed him how to dip his bread in his sauce. It was priceless! One of the highlights of a two week trip. My husband is a BBQ nut and he almost had tears rolling down his cheeks. It was that good, both for the stomach and the soul!

As for Atlanta, Rolling Bones is very good and I agree that you have to go by the Varsity when you are in town. Your arteries will be screaming but it is worth the 7 minutes that the grease will take off your life. Be sure and get a Frosty Orange!!
posted by pearlybob at 6:34 PM on December 9, 2009

If you could alter your travel routes: Moonlite BBQ in Owensboro, KY. Such an excellent meal of BBQ and sides.
posted by deezil at 6:45 PM on December 9, 2009

if you're looking for somewhere to stop between atlanta & memphis, tuscaloosa home to the original dreamland barbeque. it's so good my parents used to get it shipped to them out of state.

have fun, this sounds like an incredible trip!
posted by thisiswater at 6:52 PM on December 9, 2009

NC cue:

There are 2 different types of NC cue- eastern and western. Eastern is everything east of I-95 and is whole-hog pork meat. The sauce is almost all vinegar with some spices added, maybe hot peppers as well.

Western-NC-Style (also know as "Lexington"-style, after the city whose core group of highly-rated Western-NC-Style BBQ restaurants perfected and popularized the genre) BBQ differs from Eastern-Style in two distinct ways: 1) it's always made from pork shoulders only, ala' Memphis-style, and not from whole-hog carcass, and 2) unlike Eastern-Style which uses vinegar and the barest traces of hot pepper and miniscule amounts of flavorings, Western-NC/Lexington-Style uses a ketchup and vinegar based sauce with spices and sugar.

Here is a link to one of the best discussions/disputes on cue in NC (this will only make things harder for you, I'm sorry: bbq
posted by TheBones at 6:59 PM on December 9, 2009

See, the problem with Atlanta is that it's big enough and diverse enough that it has decent representation of all the major styles. Fox BBQ, for example, has some damned decent Texas-style BBQ.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:01 PM on December 9, 2009

Between St Louis and KCMO on I70 is Concordia, and in Concordia is Biffle's Smoke House Barbeque. Worth a stop.
posted by scruss at 7:25 PM on December 9, 2009

Seconding Frank Grimes: If you go to Memphis, you must go to Gus' Fried Chicken for lunch. I dream about this fried chicken.
posted by lalex at 7:26 PM on December 9, 2009

Lockhart TX, where you'd visit Kreuz Market and Black's.

Texas BBQ is all about the smoke and rub, not about the sauce, which is usually only served in a paper cup on the side as an afterthought.
posted by adamrice at 7:46 PM on December 9, 2009

Seconding thisiswater; the original Dreamland in Tuscaloosa is unstoppable.
posted by saladin at 8:07 PM on December 9, 2009

Where are all the St. Louis people on this thread? My vote goes to Pappy's Smokehouse. Best in town, plus it's in the city so you might even be able to take advantage of some of the other great things the town has to offer. If you find you want a break from BBQ, hit up Pi for incredible pizza.
posted by TrixieRamble at 8:18 PM on December 9, 2009

I'm from Decatur, Alabama, home of Big Bob Gibson's. They give a good overview of North Alabama barbecue: pulled pork with a vinegar based red sauce, and chicken with a mayo based (but very thin) white sauce. Their fame, however, comes from their competition bbq, which is different than what they serve at the restaurant.

If you come to Decatur, you need to also visit Whitt's: they've perfected the North Alabama pulled pork sandwich. B. B. Perrin's is also quite good, but is a different style.

And mostlymartha, I can't believe that you also mentioned the other main barbecue restaurant of my childhood. My dad's family is from Southern Illinois, and his uncle lives in Waverly. Peek's is incredible (and, like a lot of famous barbecue joints, including Big Bob's) has burned down multiple times. I have very vivid childhood memories of playing pinball at the previous incarnation of Peek's, and eating their fried cheese balls.

As an addendum: if you come to Decatur or its environs, the other indigenous (but non-bbq) food joints to visit are McCollum's for fried catfish, and Dot's Restaurant in Hillsboro for home cooking (fried chicken, traditional vegetables, etc.). If you're adventurous, you might also try a slugburger at C.F. Penn's.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:47 PM on December 9, 2009

Seriously, you have to venture down to Austin. I've heard Kreuz Market and Black's are great, but for me, The Saltlick is heaven on earth. Huge juicy portions of brisket, ribs, and sausage bursting with flavor, smoking all day in pits you can smell from miles away. Any sampling of American BBQ is definitely incomplete without a Texas sampling.
posted by BevosAngryGhost at 9:40 PM on December 9, 2009

I would seriously and wholeheartedly recommend Allen & Son in Chapel Hill, NC. It's eastern north carolina style, west of I-95. (We still prefer eastern bbq in the triangle.) The roadfood review tells you everything you need to know.

While you're in town, you should also take a stroll through UNC-Chapel Hill, especially the arboretum if you're visiting in the spring. It's actually really beautiful anytime of the year.
posted by tenstairs at 10:32 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sorry to pile on with the Texas recs, since the OP is not coming here at all (maybe next year?). But you really can't get a good feel for American barbecue without getting the Texan take on it. Tops on the chart would have to be Snow's in Lexington. Behind that, I would put Smitty's and Black's in Lockhart. Then Luling City Market, which just inches out Kreutz. Props too to Louis Mueller in Taylor and the Gonzales Food Market in Gonzales. The Mt. Zion church outisde Huntsville is supposed to have great stuff, too, but I haven't been, so I can't personally attest to it. [Steps off buckling soapbox].
posted by Gilbert at 10:41 PM on December 9, 2009

And don't forget The Hard Eight in Stephenville, Texas, where the beer is free (or at least it was the last time I was there) or The Branding Iron in Wichita Falls. Heck, if the plan doesn't include Texas barbeque, I'm not sure I'd bother. And that's coming from someone who just ate BBQ in KC last week. Not even close.
posted by tamitang at 11:28 PM on December 9, 2009

Black's BBQ in Lathrop, just outside of Austin. Oh, Em, GEE!!

Family owned for 75 years. Ask for a tour. (It's a tiny place, but WOW, what good food!)

If you make it to L.A., get thee to Dr. Hogly Wogly's Tyler Texas BBQ on Sepulveda in Van Nuys. LOTS of food. Standing outside this place is deadly good from the smells of cookery!

That said, Grandpa Fred's in Woodland Hills is rather shabby. The food is ok, but less quantity and higher price than the Tyler Texas place.
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 11:31 PM on December 9, 2009

First let me say you gentlemen are doing God's work. May the buffet line rise to meet you. However, you could be more efficient by simply landing in Columbia, SC and exploring in a modest radius outwards from there, forgetting about all the rest of those fakers in other parts of the country. They're just jealous of SC and try to provoke her with outlandish sauce concoctions and disreputable ideas about meat. Just get you a tub of mustard sauce and throw away your belt and get down to business. Tune the rest out, tune them out, they only want to hurt you.

Well okay, visit those other places, but just so you have something to compare SC to. I'd try to hit east and west NC, SC (don't listen to the haters - SC, the birthplace of bbq, has been robbed of its due recognition), Memphis, KC, and Texas, just so you hit the top spots in terms of regional styles. Much as I hate to recommend Texas with its blasphemous beef and sausage fetish, I wonder if you'd want to maybe trade one of your Missouris for a Texas, just so you get the full range. KC and St. Louis aren't interchangeable, but one must cast a wide net. Do them all if you have time.


I too would have said definitely skip Atlanta. But as you're definitely going, I'll tell you all I know as a longtime former resident. Some of the info below, particularly on places I haven't been, I got from a documentary about Atlanta BBQ. Other of it I got from reviews, and a lot of it I got from my bbq journal. Yeah. Full disclosure, I haven't eaten at any of these places in about two or three years.

My favorite BBQ isn't even at a BBQ joint. It's at a nondescript bar called The Local at 758 Ponce De Leon Ave NE in Poncey-Highlands. The place is dark, the bar area itself is small, but there's a good bit of seating. Wednesday is trivia night so go earlier if you go then so you can get a seat. It's a kind of unexpected mix of hipsters, yupsters, and a light dusting of a slightly gritty demographic from right nearby. It's across the street from a biker bar, a tattoo shop, and a grocery store we called "the dirty Kroger", not far from the infamous Clermont Lounge, a combination dive bar/strip club in the basement of a sketchy hotel where Blondie, a fat old black stripper in a blond wig smashes empty beer cans between her boobs nightly. Anyway, I want to take baths in the Local's ribs and pulled pork and have a crazy, mustard-flavored Roman bacchanal with it. They've got a pressure smoker - not a pressure cooker, not a smoker, a pressure smoker. I think I remember something about the ribs spending part of the time in there and part on the grill. The ribs are luscious and the tender meat beneath its blanket of rich bark slides right off. Ooooh. I always had menu anxiety over whether to get the ribs or the pulled pork plate or the pulled pork sandwich. I wanted all three each time. Sometimes we'd have to order a pint glass of hushpuppies first to give ourselves more time to think about it. Damn damn damn I want it. They have a great mustard sauce, a decent basic Western NC red, and I think I remember an Eastern NC, which I never waste time on. The hushpuppies are great. Tater tots are a fun and welcome option. Fried okra, beans, good beers, good beer prices. I've never been at lunch, btw. Dinner and after is where it's at.

My next favorite, pretty close, and in a more traditional BBQ setting, is Fox Brothers at 1238 DeKalb Ave in Candler Park. Coming south on Moreland, you have to look out for an entry ramp on your right, uncharacteristic on a normal street, to get up to DeKalb Avenue, which crosses above Moreland. Some places below I'd never waste BBQ life points on again, but I definitely plan to go back to Fox Brothers. I went there once and had it catered once. Hickory wood. The ribs are great. Very tender, heavy char, smokey. The sauce is not bad, not great. It's brownish-red and thinner. Was it slightly sweet? Slightly hot? Hard to put a finger on. Beef has snuck onto their menu somehow and I'm going to ignore that because I'm a man of peace. Stay away from the baked beans, which tasted way too heavily like black pepper on my visit. Without that, you could tell they'd be good, but I couldn't eat a third bite. I wonder if that wasn't some kind of kitchen accident. The mac and cheese was very good. The one really bad thumbs down there on my visit was the music. They played jam-band live bootlegs the whole time, you know the kind where a song can last 30 minutes. Ouch. Don't know if that's a regular thing. A fun and gluttonous starter is a basket of tots smothered in Brunswick stew, covered in cheese. For an oddity, try fried pickle chips. Exceptions noted, this is a great bbq place.

I really liked Pig n' Chik in the Fountain Oaks Shopping Center at 4920 Roswell Rd in the north part of the city. Hickory wood in a Southern Pride smoker. St. Louis cut ribs, pork butts, dry rub. Three sauces - ketchup based, mustard based, vinegar based, plus they sell the sauces if you want to take some home. I'm a mustard sauce devotee and it's hard to find a good one in that town. But theirs was pretty good. Maybe slightly overly vinegary. I thought the red sauce was decent, with a little bit of heat, but my friend thought it was overly ketchuppy. The ribs were very good - a different style than I was used to. Maybe that's the difference between the St. Louis cut and what I previously just knew as "ribs," which I guess must be the baby back cut from higher up. Learn your rib cuts here. They also have bbq turkey, chicken, and salmon, but let's not insult one another here. I had the cole slaw and the potato salad and I think I remember liking them. I also had the brunswick stew. It was liquidy but good. We tried the banana creme pie and the chocolate pie and both were good. This is in a fairly decent strip mall village, which is not quite what you want in a BBQ place - where are the loose floorboards and table splinters? - but don't let that scare you off. It's a comfy and casual place.

Swallow at the Hollow at 1072 Green St. in Roswell, north of the city, is one of those places you hear about that is supposed to bring you to BBQ Jesus. They have live music - locals during part of the week and Nashville singer/songwriters on the weekends. There's a big canoe full of ice and beer at the bar, which is a funny sight. I'm hazy on what I thought of the meat, but I think I recall that it was quality. It was overshadowed by what I do remember about the place - the sides and the sauces. I remember the sides being particularly good and I remember being baffled that they managed to strike out completely on sauce even with three offerings. Obviously tastes vary, but I thought all three failed to amount to anything usable: NC vinegar/pepper (which I normally wouldn't even bother to try, except the other two weren't good and I was looking for a save), a lost and confused mustard based (grrrrr), and a slightly sweet traditional tomato based that didn't come together either. The Brunswick stew was good. Try a homemade biscuit. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Maddy's, a Rib & Blues Joint, at 1479 Scott Blvd in Decatur - Supposedly good ribs, which start in the oven and finish over wood. I swear I don't remember eating there but I have a note saying the sauce was a bit ketchuppy but tangy and served on the side. I apparently liked the sweet potato pie. When the hell did I eat there? I think you have better options.

If you want Texas style but won't be going to Texas, One Star Ranch at 25 Irby Ave NW in Buckhead is billed as a Texas style place (Fox Brothers above also claims to have Texas influence). I've never been there, given that non-pork bbq is clearly somebody's idea of a joke. Why are these people wasting time not cooking pork? They should be LASHED. Okay okay the menu says they have pork too. Let's just say the bbq cops will be keeping an eye on them, so they'd better watch it. I hear they have those big Fred Flintstone beef ribs if you want a nice photo op. They also have turkey. Again with the turkey. These guys are on thin ice. Also sausage, that other unwelcome invader in Texas style. Why not just throw in some eggs or tacos or something, Texas? Let's just call anything bbq. Pfft. A review I read said their sauce is "thicker".

I specifically anti-recommend Fatt Matt's Rib Shack near downtown. For years I heard of that as the kind of "authentic" bbq that makes your toes curl, makes you want to worship there, and makes you want to talk trash on all other inferior places. Man, was that ever a disappointment. Their ribs were terrible - mediocre, tired, takeout quality. My notes about their sauce are angry! "Shitty orange sauce, probably a mustard ketchup mix." The pulled pork sandwich was not offensive, but was nothing to write home about. I guess you can always have an off night, and sometimes it can take multiple tries to appreciate something (and in fairness the place is always packed - go early), but I never went back after that. BBQ is holy to me - do not play with my emotions!

I'd also recommend against KC Pit in Sandy Springs, more on style than quality. Allegedly Kansas City style. Hickory wood, marinated 12 hours, tomato-based sauce. The ribs there were like nothing I've tried and were not what I want in a rib. The meat tasted and looked like very firm pink ham, not rib meat, and it clung fiercely to the bones so that it was a gnawing affair to scrape off each bite. It was a lot of work and I could never get a good big mouthful going. It didn't seem like they were overdone, rather that this was just how that style worked. Give me fall off the bone rib meat, I say, not this tough business. The seasoning on the ribs, however, was very good. My dad had the pulled pork and rated it average. Not a lot of meat flavor or smoke flavor, but once the sauce was on it all came together, he said. Baked beans very good, sweet. Collards expensive and nothing special. Mac and cheese good. Cornbread decent. Peach tea storebought. Note - they're apparently in a new location now, much much nicer and fancier. I don't know what changes might have happened in the food as part of the transition.

I see people mentioning Rolling Bones downtown. I've never been, but will point out that it is billed as Virgin Islands style, whatever that means, as opposed to the style of one of the regional bbq powers. Pork, beef, chicken. Mesquite. Dry rub, mild sauce, hot sauce. Mustard greens. Pineapple juice in the potato salad and cole slaw. Wait, hold on, some of that may be old info. I see on their site that they were sold to three chefs and a bartender just this summer. The wood is now listed as pecan and hickory, and there are some new distracting impostor meats. Go back to California with your drugs, you freaks!

Other places you hear mentioned in the Atlanta bbq pantheon:

Harold's, somewhere in south Atlanta - home of cracklin' cornbread (cute video), which my dad says is good there but very greasy. Contrary to reputation, he thought the 'cue there was ordinary at best if not mediocre. Super cramped inside, like two trailers, he says, a dump.

Daddy D'z, at 264 Memorial Drive SE downtown - hickory and oak, hickory (?) sauce base, live music on the weekends

Anderson's Old Fashion Bar-B-Q at 65 Willis Mill Rd SW - Been around for decades. Beef and pork ribs, different cuts of rib you can select - center cut, loin, small end. Bone-in rib sandwiches (how are you supposed to eat that?). Home of the famous pig ear sandwich, which apparently is a dying concept, as only the oldsters order it anymore. They pluck them out of a crock pot full of brown whatever and slap them on white bread with mustard, ketchup, chili, onions, and hot sauce.

Williamson Brothers Bar-BQ, at 1425 Roswell Rd in Marietta, northwest of the city - A couple of Alabama boys. Boston butts over hickory. Lots of cuts: inside or outside cut, chunked or sliced, hand chopped or buffalo chopped/shredded.

Have a wonderful trip. Be sure to drink plenty of sweet tea.
posted by Askr at 11:52 PM on December 9, 2009 [6 favorites]

I lived in Durham, NC for a few years, and I always though Bullock's Bar B Cue was the best in town. In my mind it really doesnt get any better - pulled pork, fried chicken, stew, and glorious hush puppies. Definitely worth checking out.
posted by KilgoreTrout at 6:41 AM on December 10, 2009

Askr speaks truth. There are three styles to SC barbecue, at least one found nowhere else. Start here, then head west.

White barbecue is also a distinct regional flavor not to be missed. It is the albino buffalo of barbecue, found only by those who seek. Big Bob Gibson is your shaman. Go to him.

Now that I've gotten my biases out of the way, enjoy your trip.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 6:45 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

David Plotz wrote about his "American barbecue pilgrimage" for Slate, which might give you some ideas. He ends up a big fan of the Texas-style BBQ in Lockhart, though Texas Monthly more recently named Snow's in Lexington the best in the state.
posted by erikgrande at 7:48 AM on December 10, 2009

Memphian here. My advice is to skip Rendezvous - that place caters to tourists, the food isn't really that great, and I don't know of too many native Memphians that go there. Try Central BBQ instead. Their barbecue nachos are our favorite.
posted by elisebeth at 8:32 AM on December 10, 2009

I think, to echo a number of sentiments expressed in this thread, that to truly experience BBQ you must come to Texas. The differences between Texas BBQ and others are very profound -- most other barbecue is pork, and most other barbecue places a significant emphasis on sauce. Texas barbecue is almost entirely beef (brisket and big, meaty, dinosaur-esque ribs) and sausage and is all about the rub and the smoke; some places don't even have sauce at all, and in those places to ask for some would be heresy. Sauce, in many places, is just a way to cover up dry brisket.

Central Texas would be my choice for barbecue, but I'm blatantly biased because I live here. If you base yourself out of Austin, you can get to all the places in the little towns around the countryside. The Salt Lick, in Driftwood, is great; I highly recommend it, but most people consider Lockhart (with Smitty's Market, Kreuz Market, Black's, and more) to be the barbecue capital of the state. I need to make another trip down there sometime, and I'm definitely going to check out Snow's in Lexington now.

Your barbecue will almost certainly come with white bread, raw onions, (delicious) pickles, and maybe pickled jalapenos. Your side choices, if any, will probably include a vinegary slaw and a mustardy German-style potato salad.

In Central Texas, if you're at a place with sauce, it will tend to be relatively thin and vinegary, perhaps a little mustardy, and with a touch of sweetness. Some restaurants have a regular sauce and a spicy sauce... I tend to go for the spicy, but I can also appreciate that it could overpower the more subtle flavors in the meat.

Also, someone above mentioned Rudy's (which is a chain of gas stations/BBQ restaurants scattered across the state; they have what they advertise as "the worst BBQ in Texas"). I find that they're somewhere between okay (at best) and bleh (at worst). Their brisket rub seems to consist entirely of crushed peppercorns, and the first thing they do when they slice it is cut off all of the wonderful fat on top. The result is a bland brisket with barely any smoke flavor, not offensively bad but really not very good either. Tender and moist, yes, but nothing really to write home about. There are much better barbecue experiences to be had.

Good luck! Have fun! I'm jealous.
posted by malthas at 9:26 AM on December 10, 2009

The town you're looking for is called Texas.

Snow's in Lexington sorta near Austin (fairly widely considered the Best in the World).

The Salt Lick in Driftwood near Austin (fairly widely considered the Best in the World).

Sonny Bryan's in Dallas (fairly widely considered the Best in the World).

Angelo's in Fort Worth (fairly widely considered the Best in the World).
posted by cmoj at 10:43 AM on December 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rudy's is fast food.
posted by cmoj at 10:44 AM on December 10, 2009

In Memphis, please for the love of all that is holy avoid the major craptraps that lure in tourists who don't know any better (as Alton Brown attested to in Feasting on Asphalt, there are a lot in this town...Corky's and Tops, I'm looking at you). I recommend Central and Payne's (probably the best, but in a sketchy part of town with limited hours which tends to keep people away, which is a damn shame), with runners up I consider decent but not as transcendent including Tom's (they use a Greek spice rub on their ribs), Cozy Corner, the overrated super well-known Rendezvous downtown (they have dry-rubbed barbecue, which is my favorite and alas not very common here), Neely's Interstate (they have barbecue spaghetti, like Cozy Corner), and maybe the Bar-B-Q shop in midtown on Madison.
posted by ifjuly at 2:33 PM on December 10, 2009

I envy you.

I haven't been to Pappy's Smokehouse in St. Louis, but here's a review. You'll have better luck in KC.
posted by Coyote at the Dog Show at 4:21 PM on December 10, 2009

I'm fine with your skipping Texas, but if you ARE going to central Texas, Southside Market in Elgin has the best BBQ sausage you'll ever eat.
posted by escabeche at 6:40 PM on December 10, 2009

Memphian here, to throw in a vote for Central BBQ. Rendezvous is certainly the most well-known, and often cited as "the best," but I've actually never been there (they were closed the day I went--Sunday, I believe).
posted by a.steele at 6:57 PM on December 10, 2009

Atlanta: Askr is correct - skip Fatt Matt's Rib Shack and try Fox Brothers instead.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 8:44 PM on December 10, 2009

Agree with Rendevous in Memphis for dry-rub ribs. From your itenerery it looks like you may be traveling north from Atlanta up I-75 on the way to NC. I highly recommend pulling off at the Dalton exit ( Hwy 41-to Hw 71 - AKA Cleveland Hwy) and going through Dalton on Hwy 71 about 5 miles north of town to Twelve Oaks Bar-B-Que (at 2948). Never liked ribs until I tried their's and saw the light.
posted by Pressed Rat at 11:49 AM on December 11, 2009

Wholeheartedly agree with escabeche on the sausage at Southside Market in Elgin & if you go that far, treat yourself to Smittys at 208 S. Commerce in Lockhart, TX, off the courthouse plaza & which should not be missed.
posted by Pressed Rat at 12:04 PM on December 11, 2009

Just so you know, I am not fine with you skipping Texas. I know better than to claim it's the best (though it is), but it's definitely a different section of the cannon.

It'd be like cutting scotch out of a round-the-world whisk(e)y tasting, or reading The Hitchhiker's series, but not So Long and Thanks For All the Fish.

Plus you can drink Shiner with your barbecue there.
posted by cmoj at 5:00 PM on December 11, 2009

If you decide to sneak through Texas, stop in Euless (near DFW airport) and eat at the North Main BBQ. It's amazing - a buffet of award winning ribs, brisket, and sausage. BYOBeer, as well.

Ted Allen recently drooled about it on a Food Network show, FWIW.
posted by jmevius at 12:39 AM on December 12, 2009

(just back from STL, and can recommend Pappy's highly.)
posted by scruss at 1:54 PM on January 5, 2010

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