The United States of Barbecue – America’s Top 10 BBQ Cities
Finding a good Barbecue joint while traveling can be a bit of a sticky affair, tastes vary and every city in every state presents a different style of Barbecue, but two ingredients remain the same across the country; smoke and meat. Barbecue is a deeply rooted part of American culture, now more than ever with every state being home to a formidable spread of real-deal Smokehouses. But what is it that makes an unforgettable Barbecue experience? Is it the ambience? Is it the primal nature with which hunks of tender meat are devoured or is it the decades of tradition and mastery? I set out to uncover the best Barbecue cities in the USA, there’s nothing fancy here; just good old fire and meat.
This list is not ranked, but Austin deserves to be placed first because there isn’t a city in this country that can keep up with the level of creativity and mastery going on in Austin. While the number of Barbeque joints in the Lone Star State is somewhat over the top only a handful of them reach Barbecue-nirvana, and that whole handful is in Austin. Go, get your fix of tender-juicy-smoky pork, chicken, and charred brisket and then go back again, all the time.
In Memphis the focus is entirely on the pig and they do it mighty fine, look out for their slow-smoked pork shoulder and the dry or wet rack of pork ribs. Memphis hosts the annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest; a four day event where more than 200 teams come to compete from across the country. If that isn’t enough reason to make you want to take a roadtrip to Memphis just for it’s Barbeque I don’t know what is.
Kansas City, MS
Folks in Kansas City smoke every kind of meat; pork, chicken, turkey, beef, sausage and even fish. If it moves, they cook it. The meat is dry rubbed and basted in a tangy tomato-based sauce and served alongside generous portions of coleslaw and/or hand cut fries. The city is home to more than 100 Barbecue restaurants many of which have been around for yonks and have garnered national renown. Kansas City is a major player in the Barbecue landscape, ribbed for your pleasure.
Great Bourbon isn’t the only good thing to come out of Louisville, they sure can smoke some meat. While pork is king in Louisville, mutton is their distinctive claim to Barbecue fame. The mutton is usually basted while smoked over hickory coals and served with a savory Worcestershire sauce-based dip, a thin, black potion that also contains vinegar and spices like black pepper and allspice. One more thing to note about Louisville Barbecue joints; they really slather on the sauce, you won’t be left asking for more. Promise.
Barbecue in Oklahoma has a bit a of an identity crisis, wedged between the Barbecue greats Kansas City and Texas and the Carolinas, it is quite understandable. For that reason it is a given that in the Tulsa OK region you’ll find a bit of everything. Broadly speaking Oklahomans eat a variety of barbecued meats which include beef, pork, hot links, chicken, and bologna served with hot, or mild, tomato-based sauce. Coleslaw, baked beans, and potato salad washed down with hot coffee, iced tea, soft drink, or beer round out the meal.
Often referred to as the Barbecue Capital of the South Birmingham prides itself on the quality and sheer quantity of its Barbecue restaurants. The Alabamans specialise in ribs, chicken, turkey, pork, and, yes, even brisket (who would’ve thought, right?). Almost every smokehouse in Birmingham is an oldschool roadside joint or a proverbial hole in the wall sporting the most basic attempts at decor but offering some of the most masterfully prepared meat you’ll find on that side of the country.
The most important thing you should know about Barbecue in Atlanta is that it’s readily available at any given time, I’m talking 24/7. As the self-proclaimed hub of the South you’ll find some of the most eclectic Barbecue styles in Atlanta; from Korean influenced Barbecue to the sweet and sticky flavors straight out of Memphis. There’s Pulled pork, barbecue chicken, thick ribs and smoked Texan brisket, there really isn’t much you won’t find in ATL.
The tradition of Barbeque in Arkansas is long and rich, it goes as far back as the 1840s whenbeef, pork, sheep, goats, chickens, deer, wild turkeys and squirrels were on the menu. How times have changed, now pork is the star of the barbecue scene; How do I know this? Well they leave oh so subtle clues in the naming of their Barbecue restaurants; they’re all named under some variation of “hog”, “swine” or “pig”, go figure…
Brooklyn Barbecue recently got burnt, on the internet that is, for assuming prematurely that it was taking over the world with it’s modern, nontraditional and urban-inspired take onBarbecue. The kings from Texas and Kansas City fired back to smoke out these wild allegations. Whilst this proclamation may have been a bit too soon, it’s no lie. If you’re looking for something a bit more bougie, head to one of the many outdoor/ rooftop/ courtyard Barbecueestablishments in Brooklyn and get yourself fed, well.
New Orleans, LA
The Barbecue scene in New Orleans is booming, and that’s because it started just the other day as more and more chefs in this town have added smokers out back of their restaurants to meet the increasing demand. This porky revival has seen some of the most original takes on traditional Barbecue come alive getting people to travel across the country for some good ole ‘cue. New Orleans is one of the few cities where you’ll find regional Barbecue styles from across the country done exceptionally well, with a side of vibey live entertainment.