Arthur Bryant's Barbeque, Kansas City, Mo.
There's a long line inside this fluorescent-lit, linoleum-floored barbecue joint, and you better know what you want when you get up to that glass window — or be able to figure it out fast — 'cause it's hot back there and they don't suffer fools lightly. But when you get that plate full of meat with those soft, square slices of white bread and sit down with a bottle of sauce and dig in, it's pretty much one of those meals you're always going to remember.
The Pit, Raleigh, N.C.
Barbecue is religion in the South, and without question, pitmaster Ed Mitchell is one of its patron saints. The legendary barbecue baron oversees this destination-worthy joint, specializing in North Carolina-style whole hog, pit-cooked 'cue. The word "authentic" should only be dispensed with caution when it comes to food, but Mitchell's generations-old family recipe is the real deal, widely regarded as the standard for its genre.
Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas
Definitive Hill Country barbecue — meat on butcher paper — in a big barn of a place perfumed with woodsmoke.The brisket is what it’s all about, but there are also fans who drive for hours for the housemade sausages, including the impossibly delicious “regular” and the more complicated jalapeño cheese links. Side dishes include German potato salad and sauerkraut alongside the usual cole slaw and beans — a reference to Kreuz’s teutonic origins.
Lambert's Downtown Barbecue, Austin, Texas
Texas barbecue gets a new look at this friendly, casual, but gastronomically serious establishment. Crispy wild boar ribs with Cabrales blue cheese, oak-smoked brisket with brown sugar and coffee rub, cold-smoked rainbow trout, waffle fries with Spanish smoked red pepper — this is not your father’s ‘cue.
17th Street Bar & Grill, Murphysboro, Ill.
Legendary pitmaster Mike Mills turns out award-winning barbecue at this, his legendary original joint (he’s opened six other spots as well.) From serving as a captain on the Apple City BBQ team to having his food named the Best BBQ in America by Travel + Leisure, Mills has won nearly every award and accolade in the ‘cue business, and you'll know why if you sample his baby back ribs, barbecue pork shoulder, and just about anything else he serves.
Oklahoma Joe's, Kansas City, Kan.
After working the Kansas City competition barbecue circuit for years, resulting in eight Grand Championships, Jeff and Joy Stenney hooked up with smoker owner Joe Don Davidson to open their first barbecue joint. The restaurant resides in a building that also houses a gas station and convenience store. The signature item on the menu is the Smokie Joe, a sandwich filled with barbecued pork and beef and smothered in the famous Joe’s sauce.