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There is perhaps no culinary vertical (group) that is more distinctly and uniquely American than BBQ. The truly great thing about this style of cooking is how accessible it is. You don’t need sophisticated equipment or large amounts of space.
While those things are helpful many of the legends of BBQ got started in their backyard. The most notable example of Bob Gibson, whose story and restaurant will be detailed later in this article. Like all food, however, it came down to flavor and reputation when putting this list together.
This list is organized in alphabetical order of the states in which each of the 10 entrants appears. There is no ‘ranking’ within these 10, merely the top 10. The challenge is for you to visit each and every one of them and decide for yourself which is the best of the best.
Alabama – Bob Gibson BBQ
In sales, they always say lead with your best. Leading off with this legendary 'cue grub spot certainly falls in line with that advice. Located in the city of Decatur, Bob Gibson BBQ has been rustling up some of the best BBQ since the founder Bob Gibson got his start in his backyard way back in 1925. Known for its famous white sauce, Gibson’s is now in its fourth generation of family-owned BBQ greatness.
Arizona – Little Miss BBQ
Rustic and minimalist describe the atmosphere and menu well for this Phoenix hot spot. Located near the Phoenix airport, this tiny bit of 'cue heaven serves its food on butcher paper. Most patrons order to go as only a few small tables dot the inside of this space-saving venue. A handwritten cardboard menu adorns the wall inside, limiting visitors to whatever was cooked up that day. Some days like Thursdays are thematic and feature a set item (Pastrami), while others remain random.
California – Black Bark BBQ
The only state to make two appearances on our list, The Golden State’s first act of BBQ dominance hales from the bay area. Black Bark BBQ is a simple, straight to the point establishment that features pork ribs, 12-hour slow cooked brisket and a signature, thick, black crust that is the genesis of the name.
California – Barrel & Ashes
Located in Studio City, Barrel & Ashes is a great follow-up act to our last entry. Featuring a more comprehensive menu than some of our earlier entrants, this professional chef inspired eatery features picnic style seating, an attractive bar and an impressive wood grill where the magic happens.
Georgia – Fox Brothers BBQ
As the name implies, this Atlanta haven of hog was founded by two brothers, in fact, identical twins Justin and Jonathan Fox. The Fox brothers are Texas natives and top the pig-pile in the Atlanta area for BBQ excellence. In fact, the pair are the supplier of all things BBQ for the hometown Atlanta Falcons. Featuring a moderately spicy St. Louis Style Rib, Fox Brothers is a spot that simply has to be on any BBQ junkies to-eat list.
Illinois – Smoque BBQ
This Windy City pit can only be described as ‘mind-blowing.’ Featuring a baby-back style rib slathered in dry-rub seasonings, and an open kitchen that assaults your senses with mouth-watering aromas upon entry, it’s no wonder this unassuming marvel of the cue is the top cow in the Illini state.
Missouri – Arthur Bryant’s BBQ
Along with Texas and Tennessee, if you’re a purveyor of BBQ food being named the top dog in the state of Missouri makes you an undisputed king of your castle. Containing BBQ meccas like St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri is simply one of the greatest prizes in BBQ. Arthur Bryant’s of Kansas City takes home this coveted prize thanks in large part to its unique approach of piling their succulent meats high atop fresh slices of white bread.
New York City – Hometown BBQ
They may call it the Big Apple, but if our next BBQ paradise had anything to say about it, they’d rename America’s signature city The Big Pig. Located in the NYC Borough of Brooklyn, Hometown BBQ brings high-level Midwest and southern smoking skills to an area not historically known for them.
Tennessee – Charlie Vergos Rendezvous
Of course, no BBQ greatness list would be complete without a stop in Memphis. As with Missouri earlier in our list, winning best in state for Tennessee is as large an accomplishment as is possible in the world of BBQ. Family owned since the 1940s, this venerable Memphis eatery is best known for his wet and dry pork ribs.
Texas – Franklin BBQ
Last but certainly not least is the finishing leg of the holy trinity of American BBQ, the Lone-Star State. And the joint that gets to lay claim as top Cowboy in Texas BBQ is none other than Franklin BBQ in Austin. Headlined by an 18-hour slow cooked brisket, this Texas staple boasts long lines and regular sellouts. Better get their early or be left holding the doggie bag.