The Best "Q" in the CountryBy Gregg Rosenzweig
From Texas pits to Memphis rubs to Kansas City-style 'cue, the summer BBQ season has officially kicked into high gear. But who does it right -- and who just does it? Well, we're here to help steer (pun intended) the conversation into appetizing territory with some prime, grade-A suggestions to commemorate the best BBQ dishes across the country.
You're Not in Kansas Anymore
The Place: Oklahoma Joe's - Kansas City, KS
The Dish: Carolina Pulled Pork
The Story: Ever heard the saying, "When in Rome, order the Carolina pulled pork sandwich?" Okay, maybe the saying doesn't go exactly like that, but if you're in the vicinity of Kansas City, stop by Oklahoma Joe's to order this treasured item. They're uniquely located inside a gas station (of all places!), but have no fear -- Oklahoma Joe's takes their pulled pork sandwich topped with spicy slaw and "Bubba's sauce" very seriously.
New York for Pork?
The Place: Fette Sau - Brooklyn, NY
The Dish: BBQ bacon
The Story: When people think of great BBQ, the conversation naturally steers to ... Brooklyn. Well, maybe not, but that doesn't prevent this popular stop from dominating the local 'cue conversation. And Fette Sau's Berkshire pork belly is not only phenomenal, but also as socially responsible as bacon gets -- since they use only organic, "small family-farmed heritage breed animals."
Go for the Whole Hog
The Skylight Inn - Ayden, NC
The Dish: Whole hog BBQ
The Story: North Carolina is known as pork country, which is why people drive for hours to get to The Skylight Inn, a North Carolina icon since 1947. And what do people flock to this former James Beard winner for? Whole hog BBQ -- not really one dish so much as the inspiration behind many. They're so confident in their 'cue that their menu only has two other dishes: corn bread and cole slaw.
This Baby Knows Its Shrimp
Baby Blues BBQ - Venice, CA
The Dish: Grilled BBQ shrimp
The Story: As a self-proclaimed "hybrid" serving Memphis- and Carolina-style barbecue, Baby Blues does so many things right. That why you can trust them to do up the one item you rarely find on barbecue menus: shrimp. Mexican tiger prawns to be more specific. Once you taste them in their homemade New Orleans-style remoulade, you'll be grateful these guys go so skillfully off script.
We Have No Beef With This Texas Pit BBQ
Louie Mueller Barbecue - Taylor, TX
The Dish: All-beef brisket
The Story: If you want real pit barbecue in Texas, Louie Mueller's your man. Their all-beef brisket rules all other selections -- probably because they cook it slowly in a 50-year-old horizontal brick and steel pit using post oak wood. Located in a former high school gymnasium, Louie Mueller's has so much character, it's even been featured in four movies -- making it the lone star in its field.
Baby Backs from a "Legend" in the Grill Game
17th Street Bar & Grill - Murphysboro, IL
The Dish: Baby back ribs
The Story: Chef, owner and champion pit master Mike Mills once said, "Life is too short for a half rack." As the only three-time champion of the Super Bowl of Swine (Memphis in May), Mills gives the world "babies" that are moist and flavorful thanks to slow cooking in their pit with a combination of apple and cherry woods for 5 to 7 hours. Hence, why they call 'em the "Filet Mignon of Barbecue."