The Best Barbecue in Every Southern State

Southern Living has published a new list of the best barbecue places in each Southern state.  I’m not much of one for barbecue Best lists.  How do you compare the best pork shoulder and the best whole hog?  Trying to compare pork vs. beef is an utter waste of time.  It’s usually a question of where you grew up.  I’ve gone so far as to identify the best ribs on earth and boldly selected the best Eastern North Carolina style barbecue, but I tremble and quail at the prospect of trying to compare Eastern and Western North Carolina styles.  For my views on a particular state, search the Blog for that taste. That said, Best lists can be fun, especially those by Southern Living and Garden and Gun, which are pretty reliable and at worst give you some ideas about good places to eat barbecue.  I always have quibbles of greater or lesser import, but this time I was all set to really lay into Southern Living’s barbecue maven, Robert Moss. Then I read the latest Cue Sheet by Robert Moss.  Brother Moss made clear that he is not the culprit.  The Best lists are a product of Southern Living’s annual reader survey.  They do not, as he very politely wrote, given the hate mail he received, necessarily effect his own judgment.  Equally politely, he tries to identify a rational basis for the picks by Southern Living’s readers.  His explanation of the selection of a Florida (!) chain (!), 4 Rivers Smokehouse, that cooks with the dread Southern Pride smoker (!!!)  as the best barbecue in the South shows at once that (a) Moss is a public relations genius, and that (b) Florida Man reads Southern Living.  Here is the worst: Missouri Southern Living readers chose Pappy’s as the best in Missouri.   God only knows why.  Pappy’s is horrible.  Horrible.  And St. Louis is a good town for food, especially Italian food, and St. Louis has the best baseball fans in the country.  Also the best cathedral.  My preliminary pick for the best barbecue in St. Louis is Sugarfire.  For great barbecue in the St. Louis area, sneak across the river into Illinois to BEAST Craft BBQ. It’s not looking good right now for my planned trip to Kansas City with Doug Jacobson, the Kansas City Barbecue Maven.  Stay tuned. Virginia Southern Living readers chose Pierce’s Pitt as the best barbecue place in Virginia.  You thought Pappy’s was bad?  Pierce’s is a crime against barbecue.  They cook up some good-looking pork shoulders but insist — insist — on smothering that beautiful pork with an execrable sauce.  For all the pork flavor, you might as well be eating heavily sauced tofu.  How could they?  I’m currently on a Virginia quest for the Campaign for Real Barbecue, but for now I’ll put Sloppy Mama’s at the top of the list, followed by Monk’s. Maryland One more thing.  Southern Living readers skipped over Maryland completely.  That’s understandable.  The Free State long has been weak on barbecue, but there’s a new sheriff in town — 2Fifty Texas BBQ in Riverdale Park.   It is sensational.  The pit master studied under Aaron Franklin, paid attention, and learned his lessons oh so well.  Right now, they’re only open Sundays in a borrowed location, but they have just one more permit to go for their full-time shop.  Give them a try.

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3 thoughts on “The Best Barbecue in Every Southern State

  1. I love arguing about best-of barbecue lists. I agree with you about Pierce’s, disagree about Pappy’s (it wasn’t wonderful, but it was very good).

    Before landing on a favorite in Virginia, you owe it to yourself to check out ZZQ in Richmond. It has the advantage of being drivable for us during Covid-time and they’re set up for curbside pickup. We ate it in the completely empty parking lot of the Richmond Flying Squirrels, safely distanced from everybody.

    Based on that one meal, I’d put ZZQ in my all time favorites, right there with places like Lexington Barbecue in Lexington NC, Payne’s in Memphis, Federalist Pig in DC, the original Dinosaur in Syracuse, Joe’s in Kansas City, Sims in Little Rock, City Market in Luling TX, Wilber’s in Goldsboro NC (under the old ownership, not sure about the new guys), McLard’s in Hot Springs AR, Bogart’s in St. Louis, Helen’s in Brownsville TN, Burn Co. in Tulsa, and Black’s in Lockhart TX.

    Of course, your mileage will vary.

    Liked by 1 person

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