Editor's note: Nothing inflames passions quite like barbecue and we'll be breaking down the nuances of regional styles all summer long. Next week - CNN readers and staff weigh in on their favorite joints and pitmasters from all over the country.
(Travel + Leisure) - Like a lot of people, Jay Metzger draws a line when it comes to his barbecue loyalties - and for him, that line falls along the Mississippi River.
“While it’s nice to enjoy a little Memphis and Carolina barbecue, the real stuff comes from the center of the U.S.,” says the Los Angeles-based advertising executive, who favors Kansas City and Texas barbecue.
Plenty of Travel + Leisure readers agree, ranking KC and more than one Texas city in the top 10. But where there’s smoke, there’s fiery debate. As part of the America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 35 metro areas for such qualities as good-looking locals, great sports teams, and regionally distinct pizza and barbecue. To be fair, since the survey covered only 35 cities, some barbecue hot spots like Lexington, North Carolina, Lockhart, Texas, and St. Louis, Missouri were not even on the table for this particular vote.
But plenty of other hot-button BBQ cities were - and one dark horse (or perhaps pig) even took the top prize. Certainly, the prevailing styles and some gourmet-friendly trends vary from city to city, from the burnt ends in Kansas City, Missouri, to the mustard-sauced pork in Charleston, South Carolina, or the piles of brisket on butcher paper in Austin, Texas - so the definition of best may depend on what you’re used to.
(Travel + Leisure) Robert Flicker recently experienced a conversion—of the tortilla-wrapped variety. “I’d been a believer that a truly great taco must be served in a dive and consist of chicken, beef, or pork,” says the Nevada communications executive.
But the taco appetizer at Mandalay Bay’s Fleur—with tuna tartare, ponzu, serrano peppers, and an avocado cream—changed his mind. “It elevated the taco,” he praises, “into the realm of fine-dining legitimacy.”
For comfort-foodies who embrace the nuances of grass-fed burgers and artisan donuts, the taco is finding a new picante status. Even high-end gourmands are on board: chef René Redzepi of Copenhagen’s award-laden Noma recently tweeted his enthusiasm for the distinctly non-high-end, Queens-based Tacos Morelos.
When we looked around the nation for the best tacos, we focused primarily on taquerias where the hand-held delicacy gets top billing—and we still found more style and variety than could fit in any one Tuesday.