Which are America’s Best Ribs? You Tell Us!


Take our survey and vote for your favorites!

Louie Mueller opened up his first barbecue shop in 1949 and today offers some of the most sought after 'cue in Texas.

There are few things in life more delicious and rewarding than a plate of barbecue. And more often than not, the centerpiece of that meaty plate is a rack of ribs.

A tender, smoky, slow-cooked rib, whether pork or beef, has the potential to be one of the most gratifying and satistfyingly good foods in existence. But who makes the best ribs in America? And what exactly makes a perfect rib? From new comers to the established rib shacks of our great barbecue loving country, who reigns surpreme?

Whether you're into baby back-, Memphis- or Texas-style ribs, now is the time to chime in and let us know where you get your favorite ribs! So click here to take our survey, and tell your friends too! Restrict your votes to restaurants that you’ve visited recently, and make sure that you only vote for ones you think are deserving of praise. And if you think we missed one, feel free to write it in!


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


The Best Barbecue in Every State

While this year has been devastating for restaurants, American barbecue remains as resilient and exciting as ever. We're celebrating the people and places that are hanging on, spectacularly.

Looking back, like you do upon reaching a certain age, I am beginning to suspect that barbecue has been one of my most successful relationships to date.

There was me, Chicago in the mid-1990s, a wayward teen, slacking off from my delivery and pickup job, where I got to drive a silver Lincoln Continental to eat barbecue. My work took me everywhere—north, south, west𠅊nd, in the course of a given week, to as many of the city’s rib tip parlors as my non-existent budget would allow. Raised in the rural nowhere north of New York City, I knew nothing about the country’s rich barbecue heritage. Chicago was, to put it mildly, a revelation. My newfound habit proved difficult to temper. A quarter of a century later, I’m in deeper than I ever thought I would be. I am assuming, at this point, that my barbecue research will remain ongoing, until one of us gives out. (Spoiler alert: It’s going to be me.)

After decades of research, I feel confident enough to draw up a rough sketch of what the best barbecue in America looks like. With rare exceptions, it will not be found in places with host stands and cocktail menus. It will not be found in establishments owned by people who refer to their restaurants as concepts. There won’t be appetizers, and there probably won’t be table service, or anyone asking if you have dined with them before and are you familiar with how the menu works. The decor, ideally, should be accidental.

Barbecue can be defined quite well by what it is not, just as easily as the other way around. It is most definitely about the meat, and whoever is patiently working the pit. They will not feel compelled to feed thousands, sticking rather to what can be comfortably prepared each day at the highest level of quality. When it’s gone, it is gone, and that’s absolutely fine—there’s always another day.

My experience is that the best barbecue tends to happen before the lunch hour. If there’s much left after that, you might not be at the right place. The peak experiences, the ones I will never forget, always seem to involve some kind of a wait, in lines that will form before the place even opens.

Or they did, anyway, until this year, when everything changed. By now, we’re all well aware of the crisis facing the restaurant industry. And while running any kind of small business right now is heavy going, I have been heartened to see so many of my favorite barbecue spots pivoting at almost lightning speed. The very nature of the work is conducive to solitude, and even some of the biggest names run the show with a relatively small staff. Across the country, gone were the lines, and in came advance ordering, curbside pickups, and even delivery.

There are aspects of this job that have become difficult to impossible in 2020�ting barbecue was not one of them. In fact, it got easier. (When you don’t have to stand around waiting, you can hit so many more places in a day.) This has been a year of appreciating the little things, and for me, barbecue was one of the biggest little things. I miss the human contact. I miss shooting the breeze through clouds of oak smoke. But when this bizarre year finally bites the dust, I won’t be able to say I wasn’t well fed. 

When I first cobbled together a barbecue survey for Food & Wine in 2018, I had so much catching up to do. I jumped feet first in pursuit of perfection, looking in many cases for the experiences that most closely matched the exceedingly popular Central Texas style of barbecue. I know one thing now, and I won’t ever forget it: barbecue is so much more than what a small group of watchers and scribblers and fanatics have decided is best.

This year, quite simply, I threw out notions of erasure and replaced them with respect—respect for local traditions, however dated they might be. Barbecue belongs to all of us, and it was wonderful long before it became a trend. This idea that the work being done in a state thousands of miles away somehow gets to climb over the pre-existing culture seems ridiculous. This is never to say that we’re not hungry for more whole hog, for more brisket I celebrate these things when they are done well, wherever I find them, and nowadays, that could be anywhere. I think it’s time, however, to stop letting so many unproven new arrivals stand on the shoulders of the work that has already been done.

So this year, a time for reflection if there ever were, I added so many more qualifications to my definition of "best," beginning with sense of place𠅍id this belong, did it matter to the community? I loved to see families working together, generation after generation, committed to the craft. The technical side of barbecue isn&apost exactly what appealed to me in the first place, and it certainly wouldn&apost have kept me around, if that’s all there was. Let me at the food, let me meet the people behind the food. If there’s passion, heart, and anything like love and commitment, it will shine through immediately, and I will be back again and again. Pitmasters are like photographers—the very best equipment will only take you so far.

I&aposve been heartened to discover a return to the old ways, which includes a heightened appreciation of committed and talented Black practitioners, working in a wide variety of regional styles. Barbecue is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly in Texas and California. There’s more room at the table now than ever, it seems𠅎ven if that table must remain imaginary, or virtual, for the time being.

Accentuating the positive can be something of a chore right now. At times, it seems almost insensitive when you do it out loud. But I have no trouble saying that barbecue is one of 2020’s success stories, or at least a great example of how we’re surviving. In many cases, it is thriving. Good barbecue can happen anywhere, and, increasingly, it does. In an era of fear, closed-mindedness, struggle, sacrifice, brisket price spikes, and so many other challenges, I choose to celebrate one of our best ideas, and so should we all.


Watch the video: American Food BBQ!! DRY RUB RIBS + Americas Best Pulled Pork!! JL Smokehouse!!


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