A Grand Tour of Barbecue Country
Nobody does barbecue quite like the United States, but the real champions are in Memphis, North Carolina, Texas and Kansas City. Each one of these states has its own distinct styles of barbecue and some famous spots to try out the best the grill can offer. Let us take you on a BBQ road trip to remember.
Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous Alley – Memphis, Tennessee
Poker player extraordinaire and huge barbecue fan Chris Moneymaker hails from Tennessee, a state that’s home to a barbecue style all of its own: Memphis BBQ. This regional style is one of the oldest, specializing in pork prepared with the right balance of sweet, sour and smoky. A Memphis institution in its own right, Rendezvous is arguably the creator of Memphis BBQ and is a must-visit on any BBQ tour. The ribs here are famous across the state for being a favorite of the 42nd President Bill Clinton. The whole thing was born when Charlie dug out a coal chute in the basement of his diner. He put a grill over the chute, and soon the demand for his BBQ outstripped his sandwich sales, so much so that the diner food had to go. Charlie’s ribs were what made Memphis BBQ unique, grilling for a little over an hour with a generous vinegar wash and rubbed with Greek and Cajun spices as well as a healthy dose of paprika. Now, the Rendezvous serves Memphis-style ribs to thousands of hungry customers.
One of the best things about the Rendezvous is how little it has changed, as the setting is still a smoky basement filled with the smell of grilling meat and the sound of soul music. It’s essential to try the pork ribs, but there is much more. Brisket and chopped chicken are delicious options for those who aren’t so keen on pork. The sides here are also great, as more or less everything on the menu comes with beans and slaw as a standard, but there’s salad and rice if you’d prefer.
B’s Cracklin’ BBQ – Savannah, Georgia
Raised in North Carolina, Bryan Furman knows his pork. He spent most of his life working as a welder before quitting his job to pursue his true passion, barbecue. What makes his BBQ special is simple: heritage-bred pigs. Bryan raises heritage hogs on his farm and uses only local, fresh produce in his side dishes. This BBQ is a real field-to-fork experience, and the quality speaks for itself.
Carolina-style chopped pork is the star of the show here, with a unique rub that’s kept a well-guarded secret. It’s also worth trying the brisket, which many say is some of the best in Georgia. Try it either on their own or as a sandwich for a meal that could fill up even the largest appetite. Sides come by the pint, with classics such as slaw and collard greens, but it’s hard to avoid getting a whole pint of macaroni and cheese to yourself. The cracklin’ cornbread is out of this world, crispy and salty with pork skin. Delicious.
Snow’s BBQ – Lexington, Texas
Bringing it home for the ladies is Tootsie Tomanetz, who is the head honcho at Snow’s in Lexington. Few would even consider questioning her title as the best pitmaster in the state. You’ll have to get up early to try it though! On Saturday mornings, Snow’s BBQ is the only one open, and the line starts moving from 8 a.m. (Don’t forget that Tootsie has been up shoveling coal since 2 a.m. to get ready!). Brisket, chicken, ribs and sausage are the order of the day here and all sold by the pound so that you can get as much or as little as you like.
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que – Kansas City, Kansas
Joe’s makes probably the most sought-after burnt ends in the state. People queue up outside the gas station to get their hands on them whenever they’re available. If they aren’t on your visit, then be sure to grab some of the ribs (some hot to eat right away and some frozen, packed and ready to warm up and enjoy back at home). The Z-Man sandwich is a menu favorite here, which is slow-smoked brisket topped with melted smoked provolone cheese and the crispiest onion rings a person could want. For those who prefer a pork sandwich, try the Rocket Pig. This spicy sandwich packs with pulled pork, hot and sweet BBQ glaze, pepper jack cheese, super crispy bacon, a BBQ mayo that’s good enough to drink and a couple of fried jalapenos.
If this has whet your appetite for BBQ why not try your own with our beginners guide to barbecuing at home.