Asking which Southern state makes the best barbecue is like asking which SEC team is the best. It’s a big debate from state to state and barbecue joint to barbecue joint, but certainly a few barbecue joints stand out among the rest. Start in South Carolina and head towards Texas and hit these standout barbecue joints along the way.
Hemingway, SC // Scott’s Bar-B-Que
Start your trip off right with barbecue at Scott’s Bar-B-Que in Hemingway, South Carolina, near Myrtle Beach. It may not look like much from the outside with its tin roof and well worn exterior, but everybody knows you can’t judge a barbecue joint by its building. This family-owned business offers slow-smoked whole hogs cooked over hardwood coals. It’s barbecue done the old fashioned way, and locals and out-of-towners can’t seem to get enough of it– buying pork by the pound and the homemade barbecue sauce by the gallon.
Atlanta, GA // Fat Matt’s Rib Shack
If you like ribs, you’ve got to try Fat Matt’s Rib Shack in Atlanta. If you can believe it, they sell close to three tons of ribs a week! Their ribs are caramelized over an open hickory flame and seasoned with Fat Matt’s rib sauce, which complements the meat perfectly. It’s served with a stack of white bread, so you can sop up any extra sauce or make yourself a rib sandwich. Besides, the ribs, you’ll love the casual “loosen the knot in your tie” atmosphere and the live blues bands that play nightly.
Decatur, AL // Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Que
From Atlanta, head to west to taste the award-winning barbecue of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que in Decatur, Alabama. This family owned business got its start in 1925 selling smoked pork and chicken along with Big Bob’s tasty Bar-B-Que White Sauce. It’s said that three things contributed to his success: his delicious food, his tangy Bar-B-Que white sauce, and Bob’s charismatic and friendly personality. Ninety years later, and the family business is still going stronger than ever. The Big Bob Gibson Competition Cooking team has won over 10 state competitions and 10 World Championships with their pork, chicken, and beef products. It is a must-stop for barbecue lovers.
Ocean Springs, MS –// The Shed Barbecue & Blues Joint
Next head towards the Gulf of Mexico and stop by the original Shed Barbecue & Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, near Biloxi, which promises the “best darn BBQ on the Bayou.” Everybody says to try the Shed Sampler Platter complete with baby back ribs, spare ribs, pork, brisket, chicken and sausage served with three sides, and, of course, bread for dipping. The rustic feeling, live music, and delicious barbecue may help you forget it’s owned by an Ole Miss alum.
Memphis, TN // Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous, Central BBQ Payne’s Orignal Bar-B-Que, Cozy Corner, Neely’s Bar-Que
You may need to stop in Memphis for a full weekend to taste all that it has to offer in terms of barbecue. In Memphis, they’re big on ribs, but even bigger on the pork sandwich, made with slow-roasted shoulder pork that’s shredded by hand or chopped and placed atop a bun and covered in slaw. Historically, Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous has been Memphis’ go-to barbecue restaurant with their “Vous-style” ribs, but ask a local, and you’ll get plenty of different answers on what’s the best barbecue in Memphis. The truth is you can’t go wrong with Central BBQ, Payne’s Original Bar-B-Que, Cozy Corner , or Neely’s Bar-Que. Each barbecue joint has its own uniqueness, but here are a few things you can expect from a Memphis barbecue joint. It wont be fancy. It will be served with white bread. The meat will be tender but not mushy, and, most importantly, it will be delicious.
Hot Springs, AR // McClard’s Bar-B-Q
On your way to Texas, stop by McClard’s Bar-B-Q in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The story goes that in 1928, Alex and Alice McClard, ran a motel, gas station and diner that served barbecued goat. One day a traveler couldn’t pay his bill, and offered the couple a secret recipe for “the world’s greatest hot sauce.” The McClards took the recipe, improved upon it, and it soon became the beginnings of a family business. You may be sad to note that the barbecued goat has disappeared from the menu, but don’t be too sad because you’ll love the hickory-smoked beef, pork, or ribs served with McClards barbecue sauce and sides of tamales, beans, slaw or fries.
Austin, TX // Franklin Barbecue
Texas takes its barbecue very seriously. Suffice it to say, you could spend a couple of weeks road tripping just through Texas to try all of its barbecue, and in Texas it’s all about the brisket, complete with a quality smoke ring (that little bit of pink in the middle of the meat). You’ll find the best barbecue in Austin at Franklin Barbecue – that is if you don’t mind the wait. Customers have been known to wait as long as 7 hours to try the delicious brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey, and sausage. They do Texas barbecue right.
Lockhart, TX // Black’s Barbecue
In Lockhart, Texas, just south of Austin, you’ll find (arguably) the best brisket in Texas. Lockhart is home to four big barbecue joints – Black’s Barbecue, Kreuz Market, Chisholm Trail, and Smitty’s Market. The truth is most folks can’t agree on which barbecue place is the best, but when it comes to brisket, Black’s Barbecue seems to have an edge on the others. Its brisket is cooked eight hours in a Southern Pride rotisserie using only wood (instead of gas), then smoked for four hours in Black’s Barbecue’s old brick pits, all resulting in a tender beef brisket with a thick, black, smoky crust – just the way Texans like it.
After this road trip you’ll be a Southern barbecue connoisseur for sure. You’ll see a lot of places; taste a lot of great meat, and maybe even gain a pound or two. Sounds like a great way to spend a Southern summer.
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