What do Harley’s and barbeque have in common? We don’t usually associate motorcycles with pulled pork or baby back ribs, but it was at the annual Harley Rendezvous Classic motorcycle rally that the idea for the award-winning Dinosaur BBQ was birthed. Biker rallies, shows, and festivals are known for being a lot of fun, but the food choices have not always been the best. The Dinosaur BBQ founders decided to change that and spent five years traveling the motorcycle show circuit and perfecting what Good Morning America would say was the nation’s Number One BBQ. Eventually, they took their barbeque off the road and settled in Syracuse, New York.
Dinosaur BBQ is classic southern barbeque, which usually means that the main type of sauce has a vinegar base. The best places to get BBQ are often based on the sauce, which is what has traditionally distinguished the barbeque in one part of the country from another. There are four main types: vinegar and pepper, light tomato, heavy or sweet tomato and mustard.
Some say that what makes South Carolina barbeque so unique is the sauce; what is often called Carolina Gold, due to it being mustard based. Actually, though, South Carolina is the only state where you can find all four of the primary barbeque sauces in the same state, often on the same menu. What folks in the Palmetto State will tell you about their barbecue is that it is family-based. The smoking methods and the secret recipes for the sauces are passed down from one generation to the next. Maybe that’s why South Carolina has its own BBQ Trail that snakes around and across the entire state showing the location of more than 200 barbeque restaurants.
Different techniques and different sauces make barbeque more than a menu choice; for many, it’s a passion. Popular barbeque restaurants all over the country consistently have such strong followings that the line is always out the door. Some of the ones you won’t want to miss if you are ever within driving distance include:
Murphysboro, Illinois – 17th Street BBQ – located in a town with a population of fewer than 8,000 people, this restaurant features cherry and applewood-smoked baby back ribs that Bon Appétit Magazine named “The best in the U.S.”
Lockhart, Texas – Black’s Barbecue, Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market – making a pilgrimage to this small Texas town southeast of Austin is said to be a barbeque rite of passage. Well worth booking a room because all three places are legendary!
Memphis, Tennessee – Central BBQ – people in Memphis love their barbeque and have voted Central BBQ their number one pick 10 times. You don’t have to try the barbeque bologna on your first visit, but, whatever your choice, do not pass on having it topped off with the mustard slaw.
Austin, Texas – Franklin BBQ – Franklin BBQ may be one of the few things in life that can inspire the question “can something be too good?”. If you are willing to brave the three to five-hour wait in line for your turn, the reward will be what Bon Appétit named Best Barbecue Joint in America and about which renowned chef Anthony Bourdain said, “It is the best. It is the finest brisket I’ve ever had.”
Brooklyn, New York – Hometown Bar-B- Que – barbeque may have gotten a slow start in New York City but now that it has arrived, there are excellent choices, including this favorite in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Kansas City, Kansas – Joe’s Kansas City BBQ – the people of Kansas believe that the best barbeque in the world is found in Kansas and, while others may disagree, few of them will do so while eating at Joe’s. Started by Jeff and Joy Stehney winning a barbeque contest and eventually set up shop in a tiny neighborhood gas station and convenience store, the Stehney’s have Kansans continually lined up for ribs that are said to be “life-changing”.
Our list is just the tip of the iceberg. Although we tend to have our favorites, Americans love to barbeque in all of its many different and delicious forms. Sometimes half the fun is seeking out and trying new places.