Whether you were born on the East Coast or West Coast, in the North or South, the draw of good ol’ southern barbecue is undeniable. Honestly, who doesn’t like to get together with friends and have a cookout?
Barbecue, more affectionately know to Southerns as BBQ, is a staple in the diet of anyone living below the Mason-Dixon. Pair BBQ with a nice big porch, family and friends, sweet tea, and a few guitars – you’ve got yourself a party! That being said, there must be an awful lot of parties in the South, seeing as every state down there has their own style when perfecting the art of pulled pork. But don’t worry, Travel Freak to the rescue - we’ve mapped out (with the help of the most reliable and iconic outlet of journalism in the world, The Weather Channel, and the ever reliable Southern Bible that is Southern Living) the different BBQ styles across the American South so you know where to go to get exactly what you’re craving.
We’re not surprised that the beloved Tar Heel State is one of the biggest Southern BBQ safe havens. Apparently, there are two styles of BBQ in North Carolina: Lexington vs Eastern – the difference is in the cut of the pork and the sauces used. We’re very surprised that the “state meal” doesn’t exist for North Carolina… but even more surprised that one of Oklahoma’s state meals is barbecued pork. Regardless, we’re sure that NC BBQ trumps Oklahoma’s, no matter what Stephen Colbert has to say. Check out Lexington Barbecue No.1 and Skylight Inn, among many many others, to taste the deliciousness that is vinegar-based North Carolina BBQ.
Welcome to the barbecue capital of the world! Sweet, saucy South Carolina. South Carolina prides itself on manufacturing of four types of barbecue sauce: tomato, light tomato, vinegar, and mustard. Mustard lovers, head to Shealy’s Barbecue or Maurice’s Piggy Park; vinegar – go to Scott’s; tomato – either Bull Hawgs BBQ or The Beacon. If y’all want a taste of the goods, be sure to head down to South Cackalacky and eat BBQ with the people who know it best.
Well Texas, clearly, you’re giving the rest of the country a run for their money, coming in with a whopping four regional styles, with a few others like barbacoa thrown in there, too! The barbecue style in Texas is broken up regionally: East [slow cooked, 'falling off the bone'], Central [rubbed with spices and cooked over indirect heat from pecan or oak wood], South [thick, molasses-like sauce], and West [cooked over direct heat from mesquite wood]. Take a trip to the Lone Star State and visit Louie Mueller or any of the Top 50 listed here - yes, we know it’s from 2008 – we’re willing to bet they’re still delicious… if still in business!
Home to “The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest,” Tennessee is one of the best of the best. Memphis-style barbecue is one of the four predominant styles of BBQ in the US. Not only is Tennessee home to a great style of barbecue, it’s home to boy band hottie Justin Timberlake. Justin, more affectionately known to swooning ’90s babes as JT, has a Memphis-styled restaurant called Southern Hospitality. It originated in New York, but word on the street is it’s having a 30 store expansion. Now you’ll be able to get some good home cooking and think about JT/hope he’s magically in said restaurant when you’re there! Also, check out Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous.
Georgia lies in the heartland of southern BBQ. It’s smushed between the big hitters of the South, but it can hold it’s own. Big Pig Jig, held annually in Vienna, Georgia, is home to the state’s barbecue cooking competition. In Georgia, you can find slow-cooked pork over an open pit [oak or hickory] and a sauce that is to die for: ketchup, molasses, bourbon [obviously, the key ingredient], garlic, and more. Take a trip down to Alpharetta and grub on Shane’s or head to Roswell for Dreamland BBQ.
Missouri is home to the famous Kansas City style barbecue, referring to slow smoked meat smothered in a thick tomato- and molasses-based sauce. If that doesn’t get your mouth watering, we don’t know what will! Go ahead and start planning that BBQ pulled pork road trip you’ve been thinking about since you started reading this article. Be sure to add Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue, Gates Bar BQ, and Arthur Bryant’s BBQ to that ever growing list.
Sweet Home Alabama…where the skies are blue and apparently the BBQ is bangin’! Various regions, including the South, North, Central, and Gulf Coast, have perfected the art of barbecue sauce. Established in 2006, the Alabama Barbecue Association oversees the Alabama Governor’s Cup – awarded to the professional barbecue teams with the most points after their top five contests on the Alabama Barbecue Trail. We aren’t messing around here people. Barbecue in Alabama is a very serious matter. Head on over to The Brick Pit, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q, Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q, and Mike and Ed’s BBQ to get your fix.