EVERYONE seems to think their part of the world does BBQ best. Here are 14 places that you may or may not expect.
1. Memphis, TN
Sure, you can find wet ribs soaked in mustard slaw from Payne’s or smothered in vinegar sauce from Central’s, but Memphis’ true ‘cued claim-to-fame is its signature dry-rub blend of paprika, salt, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, garlic, and onion powder; and, of course, its World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, which is listed in the Guinness World Records as the biggest pork barbecue contest on the globe.
But you don’t have to fight the contest crowds to get a taste of Memphis-style barbecue. Bite into a sloppy pulled-pork sandwich smothered in coleslaw from Leonard’s Pit Barbecue or grab a slice of pizza topped with shoulder meat and barbecue sauce from Coletta’s Restaurant.
Stomach rumbling but no time to get to Memphis? No worries — you can get an overnight shipment of barbecue delivered anywhere in the country with FedEx’s Memphis SuperHub. Total gamechanger.
2. Louisville, KY
If you don’t eat meat, there’s a spot for you at Feast BBQ where you can jump on the barbecue bandwagon with some crispy-smoked tofu. However, for everyone else who doesn’t want to decimate the holy name of ‘cue, there’s also the pork cake and chopped chicken washed down with a bourbon slushie. And don’t forget the finger-licking brisket from Moe-licious BBQ food truck.
But where else will you find barbecue that got its start being sold out of a car wash other than at Boss Hog’s BBQ? Slow-smoked and saucy meats delivered to your front door? Yes, please.
3. Lexington, NC
We can debate until the cows come home about who first decided to start smoking pig over hickory coals, but what we do know is that it originated on the East Coast of the United States and more than likely, North Carolina had a lot to do with it. It’s no wonder why Lexington was named “Barbecue Capital of the World” — especially when, according to Serious Eats, the city has a “BBQ restaurant-to-resident ratio of over 1:1000.”
Have a hankering for a smoky pork shoulder sandwich from Stamey’s, pit cooked for 10 hours and soaked in Piedmont style, vinegar-based sauce? Or a craving for a messy plate of pulled pork from the no-frills Speedy’s? Or maybe you just want to sample barbecue from hundreds of vendors with 160,000 other sauce enthusiasts at the Lexington Barbecue Festival.
4. O’ahu, HI
Barbecue on the island of O’ahu means grilled meat soaked in soy sauce-based teriyaki with two scoops of rice and mac salad. And sure, while O’ahu isn’t a city, the whole island gets recognition for its delicious Korean, Japanese, and American-influenced barbecue. Try a beef brisket that’s been smoked for hours over hickory and tropical woods from Uncle Bobo’s Smoked BBQ in Ka’a’awa or a hand-rubbed pulled pork sandwich that’s been smoked over kiawe wood from Smokey Ranch Barbeque, which is a food truck in Waimānalo. But if you want to get really creative, try some of “the best suckin’ ribs in Hawaii” from Henry Loui’s in Honolulu.
Barbecue sauce blended with Asian and Texan influences? You’ve got our attention, O’ahu.
5. Anywhere in Argentina
There are numerous reasons why an Argentine asado is one of the best barbecues in the world — the chimichurri sauce, the carbon neutral grilling over hardwood coals, the aplauso para el asador. But one of the main things fueling the delicious taste behind Argentine barbecue is the sacred and ritualistic dedication to grilling that accompanies an asado. A social ceremony that can last up to six hours, those who attend are left with a plate of chorizos, morcillas, chinchulines, mollejas, provoleta, vegetables, and baguette bread with chimichurri sauce, and you can feel badass by foregoing a fork and plates and just slicing off hunks of meat straight off the grill with a knife and eating with your hands. Bottles of Malbec will be emptied by the time this whole shebang just getting rolling.
Hit up La Brigada in Buenos Aires, head to none other than ‘King of Barbecue’ Francis Mallmann’s restaurant in Mendoza, Siete Fuegos, which is a tribute to the art of barbecue, then head south to Patagonia to the Cholila Fiesta del Asado, where people gather from all across the country to feast on meat.
6. Florence, Italy
Three words: bistecca alla fiorentina. However, with fire regulations, it’s tricky to find a restaurant that cooks porterhouse steak the traditional way — on a gridiron over hardwood charcoal. But don’t worry, there’s always Buca Lapi, which has a barrel-vaulted basement where they can cook bistecca alla fiorentina on a charcoal-slack, basted with extra virgin olive oil. Then there’s the juicy meat and potato skewers from Ararat Le Bracerie and the smoked meat from Trattoria BBQ Florence.
Thought Italy was only about pizza and pasta? Then you’ve never had bistecca alla fiorentina.
7. Kansas City, MO
The Missouri side takes the crown with its crunchy, burnt rib ends rubbed with cayenne, mustard powder, sugar, and paprika from Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue. Not to mention, there’s the traditional KC thick tomato sauce with molasses soaked-ribs from B.B.’s Lawnside Barbecue.
Kansas City is also home to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que where you can buy meat by the pound, throw some warm pulled pork with Bubba’s sauce on top of a salad, and grub on a slow-smoked beef brisket sandwich topped with smoked provolone cheese and crispy onion rings.
8. Austin, TX
But then there’s the smokey pecan and mesquite-flavored sandwiches from Rollin Smoke BBQ, legendary briskets from Freedmen’s, giant beef ribs from Black’s, Dr Pepper sauce from Scotty’s BBQ, and the jalapeno cheddar sausage with a blackened crust and pink center from Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew.
9. Seoul, Korea
You don’t have to search hard to find barbecue in Seoul — especially with its abundance of pojangmacha, which are pop-up tent restaurants serving barbecue pork with mushrooms, kimchi lettuce, spicy bean paste, and sesame powders washed down with some rice liquor.
But as far as restaurants go, there’s the barbecued sirloin with cold kimchi soup from Daedo Sikdang, beef stew and a rib eye roll from the 24-hour Parkdaegamne, and the galbi and beef skirts from Nongoljip.
The winning title, however, goes to Samwon Garden with its beef short ribs cut into thin strips and grilled on a charcoal brazier. The sweet, salty, and nutty marinade made with Asian pear, soy sauce, and sesame oil? Damn.
10. Anywhere in South Africa
A traditional braai in South Africa is a bonding and cultural experience — there’s even a National Braai Day to celebrate. Typically made from a 40-gallon steel oil drum cut in half to hold firewood with a cross-mesh burglar bar to brace the meat and vegetables, the smell of cloves, coriander seeds, pepper, and nutmeg flavoring various meats is enough to make anyone put aside their differences and enjoy the tastes and scents of this tradition.
11. Chicago, IL
There are two styles of barbecue here — the South Side style and the North Side style. The South Side style comes from the traditional way of cooking hot links over a fire while the North Side style draws influence and fusion from various places like Memphis, Texas, and North Carolina.
A classic South Side style barbecue joint is Lem’s Bar-B-Q where you can stuff your face with a Chicago hot link and rib tips atop a greasy and sauce-soaked pile of fries. For the North Side, try a smoked-brisket and platter of ribs from Rub’s Backcountry Smokehouse.
But the real celebrity is Twin Anchors. Having been around since 1932, it’s one of Chicago’s oldest restaurants. And while you may want to visit a spot that Frank Sinatra often frequented for after-show ribs, the appeal is its soft rolls filled with juicy hand-pulled pork and crispy wings tossed in Spicy Prohibition Sauce.
12. São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo is a land of churrasco tradition, open-fire barbecues, and all-you-can-eat rodízios where you’ll be surrounded by a multitude of beef, lamb, pork, and wild boar that’s sliced directly onto your plate. One spot that does this is Fogo de Chão, which offers more than a dozen meats like spit-roasted fat cap sirloin, seasoned with coarse salt and carved right onto your carnivorous plate. Another rodízio restaurant is Costelaria Moema where you can watch meat slowly roasting for 40 hours while you drool all over yourself.