In the land of the free and the home of the brave, nothing tickles the taste buds quite like barbecue. Barbecue capitals like Kansas City and Memphis are well represented on this list, but America’s love affair with smoked meat is quite clearly a national preoccupation.
From sea to shining sea, here are the best barbecue joints in the U.S. of A.:
1. Corky’s (Memphis, Tennessee)
This no-frills restaurant is a barbecue landmark in Memphis (which also happens to be one of Traveler‘s “Best Trips of 2013” destinations). Slow-cooked to perfection in open and closed pits and served with tangy sauces, the hickory-smoked meats are so tender they fall off the bone. Try the hand-pulled pork shoulder – it’s cooked for more than 22 hours! Corky’s has five additional locations around the state, plus franchises in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Jersey.
2. Skylight Inn (Ayden, North Carolina)
At Skylight Inn you can order only two things: a pulled pork sandwich topped with coleslaw or a pulled pork dish with corn bread and coleslaw. Whole pigs are slow-roasted over oak fires in open-air pits. Despite the short menu, Skylight doesn’t want for customers.
3. Virgil’s Real Barbecue (New York, New York)
A massive roadhouse in New York City! Buttermilk onion rings with blue-cheese dip. Hush puppies with honey butter, rack of pork ribs, Texas hot links, pulled pork, New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp – everything tasty. There is also a good list of top beers.
4. Jim Neely’s Interstate Barbecue (Memphis, Tennessee)
The sauce recipe might be a secret, but the word is out about Jim Neely’s. Each day brings new and repeat customers to this family-owned business that dishes up some of the country’s best barbecue. Slow-cooked in closed pits, the meat is incredibly moist and unbelievably good. It’s so popular that Jim installed a drive-thru window!
5. Arthur Bryant’s (Kansas City, Missouri)
Bryant’s has been touted as the “business that gave Kansas City its renown as a barbecue capital.” Simple on décor but high on taste, Bryant’s has been serving up delectable hickory-and-oak-smoked barbecue since the 1920s, counting presidents and celebrities as devotees. Its two sauces – Original and Rich & Spicy – justly deserve the accolades heaped upon them.
Read more: USAToday