America's most essential barbecue - according to you
September 28th, 2012
09:30 AM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

Last week, I wrote about one chef’s favorite barbecue spots that managed to become a referendum on the best places to eat BBQ in the country. In came the comments, fast and furious.

I’ve learned a lot this week. For one thing, I now know that I need to take a serious barbecue tour around the United States, namely Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas. I also now know that getting a favorite barbecue list from just one person is not a good idea. One last thing I now know is how the NFL replacement officials were feeling.

Enough about me. Let’s hear from you. People shouted out their favorite places in the commentary. These five got the most love and some noteworthy sound bites.

Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue - Kansas City, Missouri
KCBBQ: "Oklahoma Joe's may be the best in the world. Anthony Bourdain lists it as one of the 13 places you must eat before you die. KC deserves an entire article about their BBQ!!!!!!"

Arthur Bryant's - Kansas City, Missouri
Chris: "While Oklahoma Joe's is very, very good, for my money you just can't beat the granddaddy of them all—Arthur Bryant's."

Wilber's Barbecue - Goldsboro, North Carolina
Bill Godwin: "The best, most consistent BBQ for at least the past 25 years."

Creekers - Elizabethton, Tennessee
Amy: "My boyfriend and I are from Saint Louis, and while traveling through Tennessee we stopped at Creekers BBQ in Elizabethton. Best BBQ we have ever had. Stayed a week just to try everything that was on the menu! In my opinion, it beat out Pappy's from the STL!! You have to try out their homemade sauces!! Can't wait to go back."

The Salt Lick - Driftwood, Texas
Dknott: "We buy the sauce and keep some at home for emergencies (as in, dinner each night)."

As I prepare to start my barbecue education, I’ve found an event that can help me. This year’s 15th annual Southern Foodways Symposium, in and around Oxford, Mississippi, October 19–21, celebrates all things BBQ, including those all-important pitmasters.

John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance - the University of Mississippi-based organization that digs deep on Southern food culture - provided me with a list of the barbecue royalty who will be there. They represent the state of BBQ accomplishment these days and NOT necessarily John T.’s favorites.

Lolo Garcia
Has earned a statewide following for the scrambled-egg-and-brisket breakfast tacos he serves at Plantation BBQ in Richmond, Texas.

Samuel Jones
The renowned pitmaster from Ayden, North Carolina’s Skylight Inn cooks whole hogs over wood, just like his grandfather did. (“You really should see 'Capitol Q,' the SFA film on his family,” John T. tells me.)

Spooney Kenter
A master of charcoal and brimstone in Greenwood, Mississippi, he’s known throughout the Delta lowlands for his way with chicken and ribs.

Ed Mitchell
Hailing from Wilson, North Carolina, Mitchell has pioneered the use of pastured pork for barbecue; look for his newest restaurant, soon to open in Durham.

Patrick Martin
Runs Martin’s Barbecue Joint in his hometown of Nolensville, Tennessee, where he serves hot open-faced pork sandwiches on hoecakes.

Desiree Robinson
The matriarch of the Cozy Corner Restaurant, the Memphis rib palace her late husband founded 35 years ago.

Rodney Scott
Pitmaster at Scott’s Bar-B-Q in Hemingway, South Carolina, is the subject of the Joe York SFA film "Cut, Chop, Cook."

Helen Turner
One of the few female pitmasters working in the South today, she stokes the fires at Helen's Bar-B-Q in Brownsville, Tennessee.

Tim Byres
Byres opened Smoke restaurant in Dallas after traveling across the United States on a self-guided barbecue walkabout.

We still probably missed your favorite. Yell at us in the comments below.

More from Food & Wine:

America’s Best Bars

America’s Best BBQ Cities

America’s Best Tailgating Cities

America’s Best Beer Gardens

Ultimate Tailgating Recipes

Editor's note: All summer long, the Southern Foodways Alliance delved deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of barbecue across the United States. Dig in.

Note - Pictured above is Helen Turner and a sandwich of hers at Helen's Bar-B-Q in Brownsville, Tennessee.

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: 100 Places to Eat • Barbecue • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Southern • Southern Foodways Alliance


soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Private personal training

    I can't even read this list I'm allergic to dyes and most barbecue sauce contain dyes so I can't eat it at all. Poor me.

    January 28, 2014 at 9:58 pm | Reply
  2. Kelley

    Mark's Feed Store in Louisville, Kentucky is really good, too.

    February 17, 2013 at 10:52 am | Reply
  3. Cindy G.

    Coopers in Llano Texas...Best barbque has no utensils, no plates and no sauce!!!

    October 2, 2012 at 3:03 am | Reply
  4. Laura

    OK Joe's is my personal favorite. Also loved BBQ in Nashville. Too bad American Royal BBQ couldn't be the first event you attend!

    September 29, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  5. Max

    Any discussion of BBQ is pretty incomplete unless you have personally visited KC, Memphis, and North Carolina.

    September 29, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Reply
  6. KC Sue

    Well, alot of OK Joe's customers may have flooded your e-mail, but it is not tops in KC. I avoid OK Joe's like the plague. The food is usuallly cold & the atmosphere is more like a sports bar than BBQ. You want real KC (or anywhere) BBQ? Thy Gates, Arthur Bryant's, Rosehill, Smokin' Joes or K&M. Better food, better service & better astmosphere all around.

    September 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Reply
    • Brian

      Seriously? What place does not have an off night once in a blue moon? I have been to okie joes probably two dozen times over the past couple of years and have never received bad service. When they make a mistake they are quick to fix it and are sincere with their apology. A joint that constantly has a line out the door does not have food setting around long enough to get cold. Food is always hot and top knotch. Not to mention they are a class act when it comes to promoting all Kansas City BBQ. They repeatedly welcome and promote other BBQ eateries when they open up in kc. That is class my friend. The first place you mention is freakin gates? Atmosphere there is the rudest in the business. Their stateline

      September 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Reply
      • Brian

        Anyway their state line location is horrid and I have had cold food that could chill my beer. Rosehill? Do you mean rosedale? C'mon man get your sh!t straight and pull your head out of your rear if you are going to make a sloppy attempt at putting down the best BBQ joint in Kansas City.

        September 29, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Reply
    • Kami

      Wow..what a rude reply! Aren't we all still entitled to our opinion?? I must say right up front that I'm NOT a BBQ judge, as it's not one of my fav foods, but it is one of my hubby's fav's, and every now and then, I've got a taste for it. I go to a ltitle store near Ok Joe's and I drive right by there each time I've gone for the past 30 years...I always see the line out the door and watched the DDD episode where they visited the place..so now I have to try it...So a few weeks ago I was over there and the line was only TO the door, instead of the norm out the door and through the lot. But, I have to agree with Sue, not my fav. Was terribly disappointed. The wait in the line is awkward at best (but thank you to the nice gentlemen in line behind me for the chat), if you call the guy hollering what would i like, and then me hollering back a rather large order "service", well they have it, but it's not great. Then my mouth abuot hit the floor when they told me $76!! Wow, it costs a lot to feed my fam, but not ever this much! I'm stilling it will be worth it when I get it home...yeah, NONE of us were impressed. Five of us, including 2 teen boys..none of us liked it. We will never go back. Rosedale, we eat once a month. Gates I LOVE..heck, I think I'd eat Wyandotte over this one any day. Sorry. And trust me I was beyond disappointed.

      October 8, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  7. The Cybernetic Entomologist

    Oklahoma Joe's is actually on the Kansas side of the line. All three locations.

    September 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Reply

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