- 1 15. Knoxville, Tennessee
- 2 14. Montgomery, Alabama
- 3 13. Raleigh, North Carolina
- 4 12. Branson, Missouri
- 5 11. San Antonio, Texas
- 6 10. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- 7 9. Houston, Texas
- 8 8. Birmingham, Alabama
- 9 7. Dallas, Texas
- 10 6. Nashville, Tennessee
- 11 5. Fort Worth, Texas
- 12 4. Kansas City, Kansas
- 13 3. Austin, Texas
- 14 2. Memphis, Tennessee
- 15 1. Kansas City, Missouri
15. Knoxville, Tennessee
Nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Knoxville has access to some amazing products, so the side dishes here are almost as important as the pig on a pork shoulder plate. Vinegar-spiked greens play well with the sweet and smoky goodness of the meat at popular joints like Sweet P’s Barbecue and Soul House, Archers BBQ, and Chandler’s Deli.
14. Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the capital of “Sweet Home Alabama,” and they like their barbecue sauce a little sweet, too. With sauce brushed on spare ribs that are smoked for hours, racks from Dreamland and K & J Rib Shack have gotten Skynyrd lovers and haters alike to agree that the meat is at the top of the charts.
13. Raleigh, North Carolina
In what North Carolinians call “The Research Triangle” of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, they have spent plenty of time experimenting and perfecting the pork shoulder sandwich. Locals here prefer their pork chopped instead of pulled, and you can discover the genius yourself at spots like The Pit, Clyde Cooper’s BBQ, or Ole Time Barbecue.
12. Branson, Missouri
Branson is filled with country music theaters and family entertainment venues, but man cannot live on bluegrass alone. Take a break between sets for an order of barbecue nachos from Danna’s, or a fine pulled pork sandwich at Shorty Small’s or Doc’s Hickory Roadhouse.
11. San Antonio, Texas
The Granary is known for elevating the humble brisket to the level of haute cuisine in San Antonio, but old school purveyors such as the Smoke Shack and Two Bros. BBQ Market keep the traditionalists happy with their examples of classic smoked beef.
10. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Bologna may be derided as a tube of congealed lunch meat in most towns, but it Oklahoma City, they throw it in the smoker and call it “Oklahoma Prime Rib.” Slow-cooked for hours and cut thick before serving, the bologna at Leo’s, Jamil’s Steakhouse, and Back Door BBQ isamong the best.
9. Houston, Texas
Though they may be known as “spare” ribs, the racks at Houston’s best barbecue joints are anything but—instead, they’re meaty, tender, and delicious. For the best in pork, drop by Killen’s BBQ, Jackson St. Barbecue, or Gatlin’s BBQ and order up a mess of smoky bones.
8. Birmingham, Alabama
Big Bob Gibson BBQ, located about an hour north of Birmingham, popularized their signature dish of smoked chicken with tangy mayo and vinegar-based white sauce, but Saw’s BBQ and Jim ‘n’ Nick’s BBQ have brought their own excellent versions to the ‘Ham for barbecue fans who don’t want to make the drive.
7. Dallas, Texas
In Dallas, they love their sausages smoked and their links hot. Sold old-school meat market style by the pound or by the link, the spicy and smoky sausages at Cattleack BBQ, Kuby’s Sausage House, and Lockhart Smokehouse are among the best of the worst.
6. Nashville, Tennessee
Three major interstates run within a mile of each other in Nashville’s downtown, so it’s no surprise that the city is also a crossroads of barbecue styles, such as the West Tennessee whole hog at Martin’s Bar-b-que Joint, the Memphis-style dry ribs at Peg Leg Porker, or Edley’s BBQ’s notable smoked chicken with Alabama white sauce.
5. Fort Worth, Texas
Home to the country’s most famous stockyards, Fort Worth loves their beef, meaning beef—instead of its porcine cousins—is more popular on menus. The ribs at Riscky’s Barbecue, Cooper’s Old Time Pit BBQ, and the Woodshed Smokehouse represent the best of the boeuf.
4. Kansas City, Kansas
When you cross the state line from Missouri to Kansas in Kansas City, the barbecue gets a little wackier. One sandwich, in particular, the “Z-Man” at Joe’s Kansas City BBQ, is a legendary concoction of BBQ brisket topped with smoked provolone, fried onion rings, and tangy sauce named after a local disc jockey. Those seeking more traditional tastes should dive into ribs at Slaps or Woodyard BBQ.
3. Austin, Texas
It takes some pretty remarkable brisket to convince barbecue aficionados to wait in line for hours to purchase a pound or two of meat, but Franklin barbecues have nevertheless become the destination of many a BBQ pilgrimage. If you don’t have all day, John Mueller Meat Co. and Freedmen’s Bar offer up respectable alternatives.
2. Memphis, Tennessee
Just because the rub is dry doesn’t mean that the ribs can’t be delicious and juicy. Still not convinced? Memphis rib joints such as Rendezvous, Central BBQ, and the Barbecue Shop will happily prove it to you any time you’re looking for a rack.
1. Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City is so closely associated with barbecue that one of the best-selling sauces in the nation is named after their smoked meat masterpieces. But it’s the flavorful, caramelized burnt ends of the beef brisket that are the highlights of a meal at famed spots like Arthur Bryant’s, LC’s or Gates—with or without KC Masterpiece sauce.