Call it barbecue, barbeque, BBQ or just plain 'cue; all throughout the South, millions of people call it lunch or dinner. A steady stream of visitors make a point to explore the region's most beloved and best-known cuisine type, the style of which often varies from state to state. Some purveyors offer "low and slow" pit barbecue; others smoke their meat over indirect fire at higher temperatures. From Memphis's legendary rib joints to North Carolina's whole hog spots, here are 10 of the best spots for enjoying southern barbecue.
10. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q – Decatur, Ala. and Monroe, N.C.
Customers come from all over the South to pay their respects to the Alabama barbecue legend Big Bob Gibson, whose descendants now operate a handful of locations. The assortment of dry-rubbed meats come with sauce on the side, the better to showcase why the restaurant has won more than 10 World BBQ Championship titles.
9. Central BBQ – Memphis
With numerous area locations, including an environmentally-friendly spot downtown next to the National Civil Rights Museum, this local favorite churns out a varied menu of meaty treats. Crowd favorites include the traditional (pulled-pork sandwiches and nachos) and the offbeat (barbecued bologna sandwiches). Smoked over pecan and hickory, the pork isn't sauced, allowing customers to take their pick among several tangy sauce options.
8. Corky's – Memphis and various locations
This no-frills eatery trafficking in meltingly tender, slow-cooked meats has won national acclaim. The standout hand-pulled pork is smoked over hickory and charcoal for nearly 24 hours. Though Corky's has expanded with multiple area locations, locals swear by the original location's hand-pulled pork and racks of ribs.
7. Dreamland BBQ – Tuscaloosa, Ala. and various locations
One of the South's most recognizable names in barbecue first opened in Tuscaloosa in 1958, when the University of Alabama legend Paul "Bear" Bryant started coaching the football team. Today, Dreamland offers numerous regional branches, but it's the original location that remains its best-known thanks to an incredible assortment of 'Bama memorabilia. Most customers opt for a standard order of smoky pork ribs served with old-school white bread, which you'll need to sop up the restaurant's popular secret recipe sauce, and some classic banana pudding for dessert.
6. Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q – Atlanta
The identical twins Jonathan and Justin Fox have gained quite a following since opening their Dekalb Avenue restaurant in 2007. An eclectic mix of Atlantans pack Fox Bros. to down local craft beers while sharing plates of flavorful 'cue, from standard offerings to unusual items such as chicken-fried ribs and tater tots smothered in BBQ brisket chili.
5. Lexington Barbecue - Lexington, N.C.
Founded by Wayne Monk in 1962, some locals refer to one of North Carolina's most decorated barbecue spots as "The Monk." The staff continues Monk's technique of cooking only pork shoulders for roughly 10 hours over oak or hickory coals. For a true local experience, be sure to order the state's most famous soft drink, the cherry soda Cheerwine, and a chopped BBQ sandwich.
4. Marion Pit Barbecue - Marion, Ky.
Perhaps the state's best-known barbecue purveyor, Jack Easley lures hungry locals and curious visitors to his vinyl-sided hut. (No tables or chairs lead to most customers taking their BBQ to go.) Easley is often found out back, where he smokes pork shoulders over a hickory-fired pit for roughly 16 hours. Once they're through cooking, Easley hand-pulls the meat and covers everything in his orange-colored, tomato-based sauce.
3. Pierce's Pitt Bar-B-Que - Williamsburg, Va.
Wildly popular among visitors to nearby Colonial Williamsburg, Pierce's has been churning out top-notch barbecue and classic Southern sides in its homey location since 1971. The restaurant hasn't bothered to correct the sign-maker's error ("Pitt"), and also unchanged is the sauce's secret family recipe, which dates back more than eight decades.
2. Scott's Bar-B-Que - Hemingway, S.C.
Photo courtesy of Joe Gough
The ever-smiling Rodney Scott has earned his place on the present-day Mt. Rushmore of barbecue. Scott cuts down the hickory, oak, and pecan trees needed to power the concrete pits he uses to produce some of the nation's most decorated whole-hog 'cue. Scott keeps busy mopping his meat with his special secret vinegar-pepper sauce. Few patrons seem to mind his eatery's lack of amenities.
1. Skylight Inn - Ayden, N.C.
Founded by Pete Jones in 1947, this decorated BBQ shack is now run by Jones's grandson Sam. The menu consists of two items: pulled pork sandwiches topped with coleslaw and a dish of pulled pork with cornbread and coleslaw. The pork comes from whole pigs that are split in half, then slow-roasted over oak fires in open-air pits. Jones can usually be seen hand-chopping the meat daily, with crowds lining up out the door.
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This article was originally published on Experience America.