I don’t claim to be a barbeque expert. Hell, I’m probably a shade above a novice when it comes to the subject, but I have been fortunate enough to visit some great spots over the past few years. Simply put, these are my absolute 5 favorite barbeque joints.
Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, Kansas City
This used to be called Oklahoma Joe’s, and while I’m still a little bitter about the name change, one thing is for certain, Joe’s serves the best pork rib I’ve ever eaten. It was so damn good seven years ago that it inspired me to go home and start a food blog called The Mighty Rib. Joe’s also specializes in burnt ends, a Kansas City classic. Don’t get me wrong, the burnt ends are great, but just make sure you try the ribs. The Z-Man Sandwich (beef brisket, smoked provolone cheese, topped with two crispy onion rings, on a toasted Kaiser roll) is also super popular, and the French fries aren’t too shabby either. Also, please go to the original location on W. 47th Ave. inside of a gas station. I know, I know … eating barbeque inside of a gas station sounds a bit sketch, but the place is nice. Go early, lines can extend through the parking lot.
Micklethwait Craft Meats, Austin
Micklethwait is just down the road from the most popular barbeque joint in the world, Franklin Barbecue, and although the line is long, it’s not as insane as Franklin’s 3+ hour waitfest. And guess what? The cue is insanely good. Special thanks to Ken Dempsey for recommending this spot. It’s Texas, so the brisket reigns supreme, but everything at Micklethwait is fantastic, including the lemon poppy seed cole slaw, beans, jalapeno cheese grits, and potato salad. Oh, and don’t forget about another Texas classic, the Frito pie … a dish that’s topped with their signature brisket, sour cream, red onions, cheddar cheese, and house-made, pickled jalapenos. Micklethwait is an immobile food truck, like most spots in Austin, so be prepared to eat in your car or on one of the outside tables. Arrive 30-45 minutes before open.
Bar-B-Q Shop, Memphis
All credit goes to Dax McDonald on directing me towards Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis. I barely knew Dax at the time (we were Twitter buddies), but this rec turned out to be so good, that I’m convinced it became the foundation of a our friendship. Dax knows his food, and Bar-B-Q Shop’s pork ribs (served dry) turned out to be the crown jewel of this food recommendations. The ribs stood head and shoulders above the competition in our 4-man Memphis barbeque tour about 3 years ago. And when you bite into one of these tender, well-seasoned ribs, you’ll know why. I can’t tell you much more about the other dishes at Bar-B-Shop, although it’s a personal goal of mine to return and try the legendary bar-b-que spaghetti.
Pecan Lodge, Dallas
I hate just about everything associated with Dallas. But then there’s Pecan Lodge, pound-for-pound my favorite all-around barbeque joint in America. Well, it’s no longer a joint, rather an enormous restaurant. Given the size, it’s quite a feat they pull off such amazing ‘cue. Props go out to Daniel Walker for the rec. What should you get? Glad you asked. The answer is everything, so go with a crew and just agree to order most of the menu. The signature beef rib, about $20 a pop, is like a pot roast on a stick, and a must-order. The fried chicken is even killer, as is a loaded sweet potato affectionately named Hot Mess. Pecan Lodge is another place you better arrive about an hour before opening. Also, be forewarned, you will eat way too much and will feel like death has descended down and touched your tummy. Pro tip: Order The Trough to-go and drive back to Little Rock. The $75 monstrosity serves about 4-5 and includes 1 beef rib, 1-lb of pork ribs, 1-lb brisket, 1/2-lb of pulled pork & 3 sausage links.
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ, Austin
Louis Vasquez, thank you. You introduced me to the gift that is a Valentina’s brisket taco. It was the best bites of food I had during our 2016 Eat Austin trip, and frankly, one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. This is an example of how great food is sometimes also the most simplistic. House-made flour tortillas, perfectly smoked brisket, and a dab of salsa and guacamole make for a taco that is the definition of Tex Mex. Valentina’s is another immobile Austin food truck, but they are also going brick-and-mortar in the very near future. Lines can be long, so be prepared to wait for greatness … and have a friend snag a seat next to the parking lot.