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The personality and innovation used to marinate, smoke, and grill meats is almost a religion in many parts of the South.

Barbeque recipes are guarded like treasure, the ingenuity of equipment can rival a NASA space program, and the term “low and slow” is more than a cooking method, it’s a way of life.

The following collection brings together the finest examples of Southern barbeque restaurants, from Texas to the Bayou, up into North Carolina, and across to Missouri, there’s not a poor choice in the list.

1. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

Kansas City, Missouri

Multiple Locations

Joes KC Burnt Ends Sandwich
Image Source: Mike A via Yelp

Joe’s original counter is found inside a gas station (the most underrated location for finding great food in the US) and was a favorite of the late Anthony Bourdain.

There is an amazing array of smoked meats, burgers, dinners, and even meat available by the pound. Diners are happy to line up for the burnt ends sandwich (only available 3 days per week) where the brisket has been cooked low and slow over 15 hours.

Kansas City styles itself as the capital of bbq in the US, and it’s places like Joe’s which lends credence to that theory. They’ll even ship to you!

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que

Decatur Alabama

Multiple Locations

Big Bob Gibson Ribs and Chicken
Image Source: William W via Yelp

Legendary BBQer Big Bob Gibson started with a hand-dug pit and hickory smoked meat in 1925. Nearly a century later Big Bob Gibson remains a Decatur, Alabama staple and multiple Award-winning restaurant.

Famous for its White Sauce, Big Bob’s features the best of real pit cooking, whether it’s St Louis style ribs, brisket, chicken, or Turkey.

The epic Big Bob combo platters are exactly what you need when you can’t (or don’t want to) make up your mind, however, it’s hard to go past the signature BBQ smoked chicken in white sauce…

3. 4 Rivers Smokehouse

Winter Park Florida

Multiple Locations

4 Rivers Smokehouse
Image Source: 4 Rivers Smokehouse Tampa via Yelp

4 Rivers Smokehouse is one of Florida’s fastest growing restaurant chains, and it’s easy to see why it’s called a “barbecue ministry.”

Each location (there are now 15) has an exceptional barbecue menu devoted to smoky flavors – most revolving around a 30-day wet-aged brisket cooked to perfection over time.

Beyond the classics lie owner John Rivers’ Originals menu, featuring interesting style/flavor combinations that include a brisket hot dog and bbq street-style tacos.

4 Rivers Smokehouse even has plant-based barbeque, known as “Beyond Burnt Ends,” a great option for an alternative protein that nonmeat eaters can enjoy.

Check out this clip of Rivers spreading the good word on National Brisket Day.

4. Central BBQ

Memphis Tennessee

Multiple Locations

Rib rack Central BBQ
Image Source: Alan B via Yelp

Central BBQ offers ribs, pork, chicken, turkey, and brisket, the Olympic Rings of smoked meats. They’ve got some cracking Southern sides as well, but it’s all about the meat!

The Central meats are rubbed with spices and then marinated for 24 hours before being smoked low and slow over fires of pecan and hickory.

Central BBQ also has some quality alternatives to the big five, including bologna, sausage, barbecue nachos, and homemade pork rinds, so you can get creative with the menu.

5. Killen’s Barbecue

Houston, Texas

3613 Broadway Pearland, TX 77581

Killens BBQ Pearland
Image Source: Kirk M via Yelp

If you’re going to print up t-shirts that say, “The Best BBQ. Period,” and sell them to customers, you have to back it up.

Owner/Chef Ronnie Killen does it with this delicious brisket and barbecue joint he opened in 2013. Killen first got on the tongs as an eight-year-old, returned to the pit after spending time as a Le Cordon Bleu chef.

Killen’s experience tells in the little things, with homemade sausage, creative tacos, and noteworthy takes on classic sides and desserts amplifying the barbecue staples, making the whole Killen’s experience unique.

Just be sure to come early and be prepared for some waiting. Open from 11 – sell out, there’s never a time to check Killens out later rather than sooner if you want booming beef ribs or brisket.

6. Cou-yon’s Cajun Bar-B-Q

Port Allen, Louisiana

Multiple Locations, Food Trucks

Couyons Cajun BarBq
Image Source: Lucas F via Yelp

If you only have a liking for Creole classics like fried shrimp and catfish, that alone is enough reason to visit Cou-yon’s Cajun Bar-B-Q. However, their Southern bbq takes the Louisiana dining experience to the next level.

Dubbed the best ribs in Louisiana by Food Network, you can throw a random dart at the menu and find a killer piece of smoked meat.

There are sandwiches, salads, Po’ boys, and killer plates featuring sausage, brisket, pulled pork, and loaded potatoes. Pair what you want with those quality ribs, and you’ll be happy with a doggy bag to take home.

7. The Skylight Inn

Ayden, North Carolina

4618 Lee St, Ayden, NC 28513, United States

Skylight Inn Pig Plate
Image Source: Anthony T via Yelp

“If it ain’t cooked with wood, it ain’t barbecue.”

A North Carolina Institution since 1947, the premise of Skylight Inn is simple: it offers some of the best barbecued pulled pork anywhere in the world.

No frills and no fuss – they’re even cash-only – grab a plate of expertly slashed up pig, cooked whole over coals, some simple sides (cooked from scratch), cornbread, and a soda, then get down to eating.

If you’re looking for a huge variety of menu options, it may be best if you head elsewhere, but for pork or chicken barbecued simply and with heart, the Skylight Inn is a must-try joint for taste and price.

8. Southern Soul Barbeque

St Simons Island Georgia

2020 Demere Rd, St Simons Island, GA 31522

Southern Soul Barbecue
Image Source: Oubon L via Yelp

This absolutely bangin’ barbecue joint with a cool indoor-outdoor vibe is found on picturesque St Simons Island.

Southern Soul is the type of bbq joint where you spend a week figuring out what you want to order, but then completely freeze up, panic, and get something sensational unintentionally.

There’s a lot of quality options on the Southern Soul menu, where you can mix up platters, go family size meat, a mix of sides, or try any one of the fabulous meat sandwiches, burgers, or dogs.

The best thing is you can just get a plate piled up with different kinds of meat, some serious southern sides, and work through it.

The Pig & Pint

Jackson, Mississippi

3139 N State St, Jackson, MS 39216

Top drawer barbecue in Mississippi is thick on the ground, so much so that if you aren’t up to scratch you won’t stay open. If you can have quality cans of locally brewed beer on hand, then you’re doing it right!

You’ll find the Pig and Pint in Jackson. It boasts a tremendous menu range with brisket, ribs, sausage, and smoky chicken prominent. If you have a meat itch, then the Pig and Pint is a great option to get it scratched.

My advice: grab yourself a half rack of Pepsi cola baby back ribs, hand-cut Fondren Fries, and the meat of your choice (when in doubt, brisket) and make a plate, or bring a friend and get a sampler.

If you’re not too hungry, then the BBQ nachos are a great snack. The Pig and Pint is also dog friendly, so you can bring your pupper and they’ll have a great time too.

9. The Pig & Pint

Jackson, Mississippi

3139 N State St, Jackson, MS 39216

The Pig and Pint
Image Source: Tamara S Via Yelp

Top drawer barbecue in Mississippi is thick on the ground, so much so that if you aren’t up to scratch you won’t stay open.

You’ll find the Pig and Pint in Jackson. It boasts a tremendous menu range with brisket, ribs, sausage, and smoky chicken prominent. If you have a meat itch, then the Pig and Pint is a great option to get it scratched.

My advice: grab yourself a half rack of Pepsi cola baby back ribs, hand-cut Fondren Fries, and the meat of your choice (when in doubt, brisket) and make a plate, or bring a friend and get a larger sample-sized plate.

The Pig and Pint is also dog friendly, so you can bring your pupper and they’ll have a great time too.

10. Lewis Barbecue

Charleston South Carolina

464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403

Lewis BBQ 2
Image Source: Scotty C via Yelp

Pitmaster John Lewis brought his take on Texas BBQ to Charleston, and the locals are pretty happy about it (despite already being spoiled for top quality options).

Lewis is a barbecue innovator, willing to work his smokers in ways unheard of in combination with different methods of brining and rubbing to create some of the best smoked meat you’ll find.

If you’re calling your house-made sausage “Texas Hot Guts,” like Lewis does, then you better make it taste amazing! As far as ultimate sandwiches go, grab the loco version of the “El Sancho” that comes with brisket, sausage, and pulled pork. Magic!

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