This blog post was updated on January 4, 2021.

[Featured Image “Grillen am Vatertag” by Dirk Vorderstraße on Flickr – licensed under CC BY 2.0]

As the barbecue grills of summer start to heat up across backyards around the US, we started to get hungry … hungry for some of the best barbecue in the country. Arguably, you could merely road trip through the Southern United States and find America’s best barbecue. From the brisket in Texas to the ribs of Memphis over to the vinegary Carolina ‘cue, no matter how you slice it, the South holds court over American barbecue. If you salivate over the mastery of cooking meat low and slow, you’re the type that will bear long lines for hours or even drive well out of the way just to try what’s on the pit. To start your planning, we have outlined some noteworthy stops in the South on a road trip in search of some of the best barbecue around.

Check out these 6 awesome places to visit while on your southern BBQ road trip.

Lexington Barbecue in North Carolina

[Above image “bbq with slaw and hushpuppies at Lexington Barbecue” by — Southern Foodways Alliance on Flickr — licensed under CC BY 2.0]

The Carolinas boast a unique barbecue style, usually heavy on the vinegary sauces. Lexington Barbecue is a good place to begin your barbecue road trip through the South for a taste of North Carolina ‘cue. Started in 1962 by Wayne Monk, Lexington Barbecue grew from a small café to a nationally recognized barbecue eatery. Pork shoulders are cooked solely over oak or hickory coals for nearly half a day. The sauce features a mix of tomato ketchup and vinegar, lending that sweet and classic Carolina barbecue flavor.

Still hungry? Other notable Carolina ‘Cues include Red Bridges Barbecue Lodge Shelby, Scotts Bar-B-Que Hemingway, and the Skylight Inn BBQ. 

Memphis’ Central BBQ

 

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Memphis has long established its notoriety for barbecued pork, usually of the rib and shoulder variety. If you and other hungry travelers will be taking road trips to Tennessee, you won’t want to miss out on this unique pit stop. Central BBQ in Midtown Memphis is consistently ranked as one of the best in town. Meats are rubbed with a secret combination of dry spices and then marinated for 24 hours to lend mouth-watering barbecue.

Still hungry? Other notable Memphis ‘Cues to visit are Cozy Corner BBQCharlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, and Payne’s Original Bar-B-Q.

Related: Eating Through America: 7 Must-Visit Food Stops.

Jones Bar-B-Q Diner in Arkansas

 

Holy Moly that was delicious. One item on the menu. Take it or leave it.

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Believed to be the oldest African-American owned restaurant in continuous operation in the South, Jones Bar-B-Q sets up in the unlikely location of Marianna, Arkansas, roughly two hours from Little Rock. The neighborhood barbecue joint has been in business for over 100 years, serving up its simple yet delicious pork meat sandwiches on plain white bread with a thin vinegar-based sauce and coleslaw. On weekends, Jones Bar-B-Q Diner often sells out by 10 AM. It was even named by the James Beard Foundation as an American Classic in 2012.

Still hungry? Another notable Arkansas ‘Cue is McClard’s Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas.

Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

 

It’s a beautiful Fry-day. | Excellent shot by @loswhit. Tag #joeskc for your chance to be featured.

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Kansas City knows its barbecue and solidifies that fact at Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. Formerly known as Oklahoma Joe’s, this barbecue joint is set up in the unlikely location of a gas station. Started by Jeff and Joy Stehney, the eatery is known for its burnt ends and pulled pork sandwiches. Located on the Kansas side of Kansas City, the eatery sees a line form early for their famous ‘cue.

Still hungry? Another notable Kansas City ‘Cue is Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue. 

Franklin Barbecue in Austin

[Above image “Pork ribs, sausage, brisket, pulled pork” by T.Tseng on Flickr — licensed under CC BY 2.0]

Set in Austin, Texas, Franklin Barbecue consistently has five-hour lines as its barbecue is so highly esteemed. Started by Aaron Franklin, people wait for hours to try the juicy brisket, ribs, and sausage. Franklin’s uses oak-smoked wood and seasons with merely salt and pepper. A sold-out sign usually appears by 1 PM.

Still hungry? Other notable Texas ‘Cues include The Salt Lick in Driftwood, Black’s Barbecue in Lockhart, and La Barbecue in Austin.

Alabama’s Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q

[Above image “Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q” by Nathan Cardozo on Flickr — licensed under CC BY 2.0 — cropped from original]

Located in Decatur, Alabama, we round out our road trip with a stop at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q. With foundations in 1925, this barbecue joint has kept the tradition all in the family across 4 generations. In true Alabama barbecue fashion, Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q hasn’t just mastered the famous Alabama-style white sauce. It was invented here. The sauce features a peppery, vinegar, and mayo taste that complements the barbecue.

Still hungry? Here are a few other Alabama ‘Cues: Miss Myra’s Pit Bar-B-Q in Birmingham and SAW’s BBQ in Homewood.

Ask anyone their favorite barbecue in the South and you are welcoming a passionate argument, one that could get as fiery as any grill! However, this barbecue road trip through the South will no doubt whet your appetite so much that you’ll be searching for even more good ‘cue across the South.

What’s your favorite barbecue joint in the South? Share your flamin’ opinions with us in the comments below.

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About The Author

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.