I'm not saying that these barbecue restaurants are the only great ones in America. No doubt there are many others I don't know about. Or maybe there aren't. I can only say that I will vouch for these ones. They are the honor roll, the pantheon, the smoky hall of fame. At least, to me they are.
Five-time Memphis in May grand champion Chris Lilly is the star at this venerable barbecue restaurant, famous for its amazing pulled pork. A signature chicken with white sauce can't be missed either.
Southern barbecue doesn't come more no-frills, more real, or more spectacular than at this low-rent Meat Mecca in Atlanta.
The pride of Kansas City isn't most of the places you've heard about; rather, it's to be found in a random-looking gas station that just happens to produce some of the country's very best barbecue.
Barbecue in Kentucky means mutton, and the capital of Kentucky mutton is, as always, the Moonlite, one of the most singular -- and most rewarding -- barbecue destinations in America.
Some of the most accomplished and modern barbecue in the country is produced at this unassuming South End restaurant, whose chef, Andy Husbands, happens to be the most successful competition barbecuer to ever come across the Mason Dixon line.
Allen & Sons is the pride of carolina, as beloved a barbecue as there is in the state -- which is saying something. As at all carolina barbeces, pulled pork is the star of the show, smoldered many hours over ember pits. Get there early; this is a meat you need to eat when it's fresh.
One of the oldest barbecues in the entire country, Siler's practices the smoky arts with such singular skill and devotion that even the oldest Tennesseans haven't seen it decline; if you want to touch the barbecue past, this is a great place to do it.
If Texas barbecue is a religion the "Church of Kreuz" is its vatican, the best there is. Though pitmaster Rick Schmidt has been cast out from the historic pits that are rightfully his, and has traded in his cathedral for a megachurch, in the end, it's the meat, and the master, that matter most.
The blue-eyed, red-faced Grand Old Man of barbecue, Mike Mills, presides over the applewood-smoked ribs at this celebrated Illinois roadhouse.
Texas may be brisket country, but in Elgin the star of the show are the fabulous smoked sausage links produced by Southside Market. These are so good that they're shipped to lesser barbecues around the country, but they're never the same as in their home pit.
You may hear more about Coopers, Mueller's, or Smitty's, but anybody who knows barbecue in the Lone Star State will tell you that the king of Texas Q is a young man named Aaron Franklin, whose low-key, modern Austin restaurant puts the lie to all the old-timey rigamarole associated with the state.
They don't actually serve whole hogs at this celebrated Little Rock barbecue, but it doesn't matter. The pulled pork has won multiple Memphis in May crowns, and one bite will tell you why.
Modernist barbecue sounds like a contradiction in terms, but that's the brilliance of the Granary, an ambitious brew pub that turns out not only superb traditional smoked meats, but also some truly innovated composed dishes too. A true eye-opener.
A late entrant into New York City's barbecue sweepstakes, Mighty Quinn eschewed ersatz country corniness as well as regional identification, choosing instead to make great product from the best meat in a cool, modern setting. Which it does, to an extraordinary degree. It's the best bbq in NYC.