Barbecue is an American pastime. From firing up the grill for brats on Labor Day to rubbing your favorite sauce on a slab of ribs for the Fourth of July, nothing is quite as unique to America as the delicious taste of grilled meat and tangy, spicy or sweet sauce. Being so popular, you can get a good barbecue in essentially any city in the United States, but where is the very best? Here are our picks for the best U.S. cities for barbecue.
1. New York City, New York
Maybe not the most traditional of the barbecue cities, but the Big Apple really does have it all. NYC does barbecue big -- giant smokers that cost a pretty penny rule these streets, with newcomers creating interesting styles of barbecue that keeps things interesting, as opposed to the traditional styles of the South. They may not be real southerners, but they're really serious about their new craft of barbecue. Try these spots: Briskettown, Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ, Mighty Quinn's
2. Hot Springs, Arkansas
This smaller town outside of Little Rock may be most famous for its natural spring spas, but did you know their barbecue is something to write home about, too? If you're into more tomato-ey, pasty barbecue, Hot Springs is your place. Their blend of Memphis-mixed-with-spice inspired 6 different barbecue joints to pop up in the same town -- one that holds only 35,000 people. That's a pretty good barbecue-per-capita ratio. Try these spots: McClard’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant, Stubby’s Bar B Que.
3. Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis is a city of two specific barbecue strengths, both with a pork base: the slow-smoked shoulder barbecue sandwich and the dry or wet racks of pork ribs. Walk through Memphis to see many of these small and large barbecue spots open year-round, delighting rock n' roll locals and tourists alike. If you're a pork connoisseur, Memphis is the place to get your barbecue. Try these spots: Central BBQ, Payne’s Bar-B-Que, Bar-B-Q Shop.
4. Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City barbecue, much like its shared border on two states, is a great mix of two huge barbecue preferences: a dry-rub with cayenne, mustard powder, sugar, paprika, and the other, a heavily-sauced style. You can find both all across the city, but if you go the sauce route, make sure you grab KC Masterpiece. Even the locals are torn between their favorite spots, usually depending on their preference for crunchy burnt ends or sauce-soaked ribs. Try these spots: Arthur Bryant's Barbecue, LC's Bar-B-Q, Fiorella's Jack Stack.
5. Austin, Texas
Austin is one of America's most interesting cities, based on its location in a staunchly Southern-proud state, but with it's one unique personality and style. Just like its city's personality, the barbecue is surprising, unique, but holds on to the true traditions of the South. Spice is the key here, along with savory sides like cheesy baked squash or blue cheese coleslaw. The key to Austin barbecue is that you don't really need to hit up the spots with the longest lines -- every barbecue joint has its own special niche. Try these spots: Franklin Barbecue, la Barbecue, John Mueller Meat Co.