I commented here in considerable dudgeon about the Southern Living Best Barbecue in Every Southern State selections in Missouri and Virginia. I also bemoaned the omission of Maryland. As I explained, the selections were made not by Robert Moss, their barbecue editor and a man of discernment, but by the readers who responded to Southern Living’s annual Best of the South survey.
So much for Missouri, Virginia, and Maryland. As to the other states, the reading public selected places which I have not visited, including North Carolina (Buxton Hall in Asheville), Florida (the Winter Park original of the 4 Rivers Smokehouse chain), Kentucky (Starnes in Paducah), Louisiana (The Joint in New Orleans), Mississippi (The Shed in Ocean Springs), and Oklahoma (Oklahoma Joe’s in Stillwater). I don’t have anything to say about those, other than I hear that Buxton Hall will put blueberry-chipotle sauce on defenseless ribs, and they’d have to go a long way to live that down.
I do have disagreements about the others not, as before, because the place the readers selected was horrible, but because there are better places.
The Alabama selection illustrates a problem of “Best Barbecue” lists. Alabama is a great place not only for ribs, but perhaps more for wonderful pork shoulders, and for their famed chicken with white sauce. How can you really compare ribs and pork shoulders? It’s apples and oranges.
At any rate, for Alabama, the readers selected the original Dreamland (reviewed here) on Jug Factory Road in Tuscaloosa, which used to be mentioned repeatedly in every national broadcast of an Alabama football game: huge name recognition. Dreamland sells ribs, quite good ribs, and their sauce is delicious: poured on white bread, it’s one of the great appetizers or side dishes. The original location wins out over the other locations mainly on atmosphere. Dreamland is not, however, nearly as good as Archibald’s across the river on MLK in Northport.
As I wrote here, Archibald’s simply has the best ribs on the face of the earth. The absolute best.
And pork shoulders. The pork shoulder vote undoubtedly was split among SAW’s, Miss Myra’s, Bob Gibson’s, and other great places — I’m leaving out so many — too numerous to mention. Click those three links and then search “Alabama” for a world of great barbecue.
McClard’s was the reader selection for Best Barbecue in Arkansas. Nancy and I ate there during our long return from my teaching stint at Baylor Law School, and I was lucky to be able to go. Nancy had put her foot down after I insisted upon stopping at two barbecue places for lunch the day we left. Fortunately, it was Bill Clinton’s favorite barbecue place when he was growing up in Hot Springs, and that got her to relent. McClard’s is a good place. The pork was good and they also have hot tamales — the big Mexican tamales, not the smaller Delta tamales. The tamales were good, too.
So McClard’s was good, but not as good as the Dixie Pig in Blytheville, reviewed here. I had a sandwich there during my Great Memphis Region Barbecue Sandwich Tour. It was as close to the Platonic ideal of a barbecue sandwich as I have had, with the richness of pit-cooked pork, the crunch and bitter flavor of raw cabbage, and the tang of a great vinegar and pepper sauce. It’s well worth a 100-mile drive. Indeed, there’s a guy from Demopolis, Alabama who goes to Blytheville periodically and buys 100 barbecue sandwiches, freezes them, and eats them daily until he needs to buy some more.
Southern Living readers named Wiley’s Championship Barbecue as best in Georgia. I ate there years ago, and it may have been the best place in Savannah, anyway. Among the places I’ve eaten in Georgia, though, I’d go with B’s Cracklin’ BBQ in Savannah (reviewed here, and now in Atlanta as well).
Let’s see. That leaves South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. Oh, and Washington, DC. I’ll save them for another post. Meanwhile, stay safe and get some carry-out barbecue. The places near you need some help in this crisis.
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