Skip to main content

Where To Get The Best Barbecue

June 2024
3min read

Sylvia Lovegren lists her favorite places


Highway SC-170 A, Levy, SC 29927 (843-784-3635). Known for excellent ribs, not to mention the pink pigs hanging from the ceiling. The sides include coleslaw, hush puppies, and Brunswick stew. A mustard-based sauce, traditional for South Carolina, is on the table, but many regulars prefer the “low-country fire” sauce.


604 West Young Street, Llano, TX 78643 (915-247-5713; ). Specializes in Texas brisket and the “Big Chop”—barbequed pork chops. Here the barbecue is cooked directly over mesquite coals. To quote one review, the brisket “fairly explodes with the robust flavor of meat and smoke.” It’s one of President Bush’s favorite places.


745 North Parkway, Memphis, TN 38105 (901-527-9158). “Barbecue of the first order,” according to the New Orleans food writer Lolis Elie. Outstanding ribs and pork-shoulder sandwiches. Other specialties include barbecued bologna, smoked sausages, and Cornish game hens. An unusual side dish is barbecued spaghetti—pasta with barbecue sauce.


13440 Occoquan Road, Woodbridge, VA 22191 (703-492-2205; ). A charming, homey spot just outside the nation’s capital. Not strictly traditional, since it uses a combination of gas and wood for cooking, but the ribs are some of the finest you’ll ever have. Homemade rolls, fresh collards, field peas, and other Southern vegetables and an outstanding lemon chess pie round out a tasty meal.


619 North Colorado Street, Lockhart, TX 78644 (512-398-2361; ). Kreuz (pronounced “Krites”) has been in business for more than 100 years and features beef shoulder, brisket, prime ribs, pork loin, pork ribs, and sausage, served with white bread or crackers on a piece of butcher paper, no forks provided. And no sauces or sides except beans. Just lots of smoky meat. My cousin James Lovegren calls Kreuz “the best in Texas and therefore the world.”


5800 Blue Parkway, Kansas City, MO 64129 (816-923-4484; ); 2nd location: 13000 West 95th street, Lenexa, KS 66212 (913-894-4500). Considered by many the best place for Kansas City’s famous beef brisket “burnt ends,” which are served with a typically tangy sweet K.C.-style sauce. Also known for its excellent homemade sausage, French fries, its own pulled-pork sandwich, and another Kansas City specialty, very spicy barbecued beans.


10 Highway 29-70S, Lexington, NC 27295 (336-249-9814). Frequently cited as the best of the best, Lexington is known for its pork shoulder. Order a tray of “outside meat” if you like your meat smoky and a little chewy, “inside meat” if you like it milder. There are only a few sides, including hush puppies and red coleslaw (unusual and tasty), but the homemade desserts are good. Try some local Cheerwine soda as well.


6228 South Ward Boulevard, Wilson, NC 27893 (252-291-3808; ). Outstanding old-fashioned Carolina-style whole-hog barbecue and some nontraditional but mighty fine ribs as well. Plus homemade side dishes—collard greens, butter beans, etc.—followed by delicious homey desserts. Don’t miss the banana pudding. A popular after-church destination.


2840 West Parrish Avenue, Owensboro, KY 42301 (270-684-8143; ). This large restaurant features mutton that has been smoked for more than 12 hours, served chopped or pulled with “mutton dip” sauce, along with burgoo (a traditional vegetable and meat stew), fried apples, green beans with country ham, and a famous banana salad. An all-you-can-eat buffet makes it a popular spot.


Third and Antioch, Delight, AR 71940 (870-379-2611). This small-town place is a favorite of Mike Davis of the prizewinning Lotta Bull BBQ team. It features barbecued brisket and ribs, along with baked beans, Texas toast (garlic bread), potato salad, hamburgers, and catfish. Be sure to order the homemade chocolate or coconut pie to finish.


515 East York Lane, Savannah, GA 31401 (912-232-9754). A tiny place down an alley in historic old-town Savannah. There are three small tables, but most people just get their food and find a convenient curb to perch on. It sells pulled-pork sandwiches, but it’s most famous for ribs and tomato-mustard sauce, as well as red rice and deviled crabs. The sides include coleslaw, potato salad, and excellent sweet potato pie and red-velvet cake. A favorite of John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

For a deeper study of barbecue, here are three excellent books and a Web site: North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time, by Bob Garner (John F. Blair, Publisher); Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country, by Lolis Eric EMe (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); Legends of Texas Barbecue Cook Book: Recipes and Recollections from the Pit Bosses, by Robb Walsh (Chronicle); and The Smoke Ring is a comprehensive Web ring of assorted barbecue Web sites and a great place to start a virtual exploration.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.