My cousin Sinclair Griffin Lee, of the Wilson, North Carolina Griffins, sent me a link to Southern Living’s latest list of good barbecue places — this time, the Great American Barbecue Bucket list. It really is great to have such nice cousins. I wish that Sinclair and husband Eric (the Charlotte Hamburger Experts) would come visit, but I guess Eric’s free time is taken up entirely by the In-Laws Band and dreaming of SAW’s barbecue.
This list purports to identify the best barbecue place in each of the 50 states. (They don’t include theDistrict of Columbia, either because it remains a colony rather than a state (not that I’m bitter), and because there’s no barbecue worth a stroll, much less a drive, anywhere around here. Not that I’m bitter.
The Southern Living list is useful, but it does share the limitations and errors I discussed with their 50 best barbecue places, and that infect most “best” lists, including that the author generally has never actually been to many, perhaps any of the places.
And don’t think for a minute that the places listed actually serve the best barbecue in each state. Dreamland the best in Alabama? It’s not even the best in Tuscaloosa. Archibald’s is. And Sam Jones is certainly a great place, but, with all respect to pit masters John and Steve, I can’t say that their pork is better than Wilber’s or the Skylight Inn (unless the Jones family has been neglecting the Skylight Inn). And that is to say nothing of the great Western North Carolina places, like the excellent Red Bridges, the Garden and Gun readers’ pick for best in the US. (I’m staying out of the East vs. West North Carolina wars.) Home Team is good, but their barbecue can’t hold a candle to Shuler’s. And Ten50 serves better brisket than Snow’s? Hah!
Despite those problems, the list is a useful travel guide. I’m not sure all of the places on the list actually serve good barbecue — the brief write-ups frequently tout non-barbecue foods and in some cases (shudder) the decor — but they all seem to serve something good. When you’re on the road, that’s often enough.
Well, it’s usually enough. Looking over their choices, I note that Southern Living seems to have chosen only places with liquor licenses. Okay. I’ll grant them dinner, but at lunch, go for the best meat.