The South’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints: The Backstory

June 4, 2015 | By | Comments (15)
Rodney Scott Makes Some Top 10 BBQ in Hemingway SC

Rodney Scott Makes Top 10-Worthy BBQ in Hemingway SC

This week, we published my list of the Top 50 Barbecue Joints in the South. But, really, it should be called “a working list” of the Top 50 joints.

Let me explain. For the past nine months I’ve been traveling the highways and backroads for Southern Living in search of the best barbecue that each part of the South has to offer. In a region with such a broad and diverse barbecue tradition—and with so many square miles to cover between El Paso and Baltimore—this a rather daunting undertaking, and I will admit that there are still a few places on my short list that I haven’t gotten to yet.

But I think I’ve finally put enough slow-smoked pork, ribs, and brisket under my belt to declare, at least, a provisional list of the best barbecue joints in the South. The selection, I will admit, does tilt a little heavily toward Tennessee and my home patch of the Carolinas, and I will concede a strong bias toward those who cook over wood following traditional methods. But many of the newer barbecue joints in the South are roadtrip-worthy, too, and a fair number of them have managed to win me over.

Note that the list is not (necessarily) in straight order of merit, but there is a logic to the grouping:

The Top 10: The South’s best barbecue restaurants are so different in style and technique that it’s impossible to declare that any single one is the absolute best. I do feel confident enough, though, to call out the top of the class. The first 10, labeled “Top Pick”, are in alphabetical order and are my (current) picks for the 10 Best BBQ Joints in the South.

The Rest of the Best: After the Top 10, there are plenty of other worthy establishments that all Southern barbecue lovers should try. The next 40, presented in alphabetical order, are the rest of the best.

My travels are far from complete, and this list is still a work in progress. What have I missed out on so far? Please let us know: I need a few more entries on my short list to keep me busy for the rest of the year.


  1. Linkdown: 6/10/15 | Barbecue Bros

    […] Robert Moss provides some backstory to the […]

    June 10, 2015 at 10:31 am
  2. Kathleen

    The Piggly Wiggly parking lot on Victory Drive, Savannah, GA on Saturdays. The Pig had smokers going from early in the morning. Hope they still do.

    June 8, 2015 at 10:18 am
  3. Marty

    sorry you didn’t make it to Louisiana – best ever is Silver Star in Bossier City, LA

    June 6, 2015 at 12:05 pm
  4. Cotton

    Lerha’s in Hattiesburg, MS

    June 6, 2015 at 8:26 am
  5. Kelly

    Smokin’ Joe’s BBQ in Rogers, Arkansas. Best I ever had!! And I’m from KC, MO!

    June 6, 2015 at 5:48 am
  6. Susan Percy

    What about Coopers in Llano Texas? Amazing pit bbq meats and fantastic beans.

    June 6, 2015 at 12:09 am
  7. A_Dixon

    Anyone around Greenville, NC can tell you that Skylight is good, but it doesn’t hold a candle to B’s Barbeque. It’s worth getting there at 6 am to order a rack of ribs on Saturday. You have to come back and pick them up later in the day, but they can feed a crowd and are incredible! It’s a tailgating tradition that can’t be beat!

    June 5, 2015 at 11:52 pm
  8. Nancy Kaiser

    You need to come to Tarpon Springs, Florida 34689 to KC QUE BBQ Mike Kaiser won at in Pork at the American Royal in 1998 then moved to Florida in 1999. Open a BBQ Place in 2013. And is awesome. 900 Backwter Dr. 727-741-33551

    June 5, 2015 at 11:30 pm
  9. bigpig

    Malbon Brothers – Virginia Beach, VA. I’ve had a lot of BBQ and this is the best and most unique.

    June 5, 2015 at 7:06 pm
  10. KelseyG

    Short Sugar’s in Reidsville, NC. Sweet flavor cut perfectly with wood fired richness.

    June 5, 2015 at 6:10 pm
  11. L Thomas

    Music Mans BBQ – Moncks Corner, SC

    June 5, 2015 at 3:49 pm
  12. Susan

    Don’t forget Sweatman’s Bar B Que in Holly Hill, South Carolina. Definitely worth the trip.

    June 5, 2015 at 3:35 pm
  13. Kathleen

    Don’t forget Pierce’s BBQ in VA. People used to illegally park along the interstate & climb over a fence to get to it when I-64 cut it off from traffic. It was worth risking the ticket.

    June 5, 2015 at 9:15 am
  14. Kathleen

    Do you need an assistant/apprentice BBQ searcher? Must be a tough job.🙂

    June 5, 2015 at 9:07 am
  15. jaxsatl

    Uhmmm…Kansas is not the South…and technically Texas could possibly be left of this list also…But no Dreamland (Tuscaloosa)? Blasphemy! lol

    June 4, 2015 at 8:15 pm

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