Football season is now in full swing (go Dawgs!). As an SEC fan, I’m getting ready for some serious tailgating. If you’re driving somewhere in the Southeastern Conference for a game, and need a place nearby to get some good southern BBQ, here are places near each school you should visit:
Saw’s (University of Alabama): While Tuscaloosa is home to the Alabama institution Dreamland, I think that Saw’s in Birmingham does far better barbecue. Their ribs, Alabama chicken in white sauce, and Carolina-style pork are all well worth the visit if you’re driving west from Georgia or looking for a pit stop near the Birmingham airport.
Hardwood Smokehouse (University of FL): Located in the sticks of central Florida lies the Hardwood Smokehouse in Ocala. Family-owned, they make everything with plenty of heart. While their brisket and pulled pork are both excellent, they’re also famous for their tender smoked turkey.
Heirloom Market BBQ (University of GA): Unique among Atlanta barbecue is Heirloom Market, which does their dishes with a slight Korean twist. The lines might be long, and the seating is notoriously limited, but it’s well worth it.
Dead End BBQ (University of TN): Founded in 2009 on a dead-end street, the aptly-named Dead End BBQ is a relative newcomer, but is already making a name for themselves. They first came on the map for their chicken, and have been drawing customers ever since.
Moonlite B-B-Q Inn (University of KY): Kentucky is unique in the world of barbecue, in that their sauce is a Worcester base, but most notably because their meat of choice is one animal none of the others tackle: mutton. The best place to get mutton barbecue is at Moonlite in Owensboro, and while it’s a bit out of the way from Lexington, it’s well worth the trip.
The Joint (LA State): New Orleans might be better-known for its Creole food, but it’s still home to one of the best barbecue spots in the US. It’s also the only spot on here that does smoked pastrami, but be careful: it’s only available in the middle of the week, and sells out quickly.
BB’s Lawnside Barbecue (University of MO): Columbia might not have a well-known barbecue culture, but it’s a straight shot on the I-70 from Kansas City, which you better believe does. For a truly unique experience, visit BB’s Lawnside, which in addition to their famous ribs also features live blues music and over 5,000 blues records.
The Southern Belly BBQ (University of SC): The Southern Belly’s main focus is on the barbecue sandwich, an often-overlooked field. And if you ask anybody in Columbia, they’re doing a very good job at it. They’ve crafted specialty sandwiches that have helped them create a truly unique style of barbecue.
Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q (Auburn University): Jim ‘N Nicks might be a chain, but that’s not to say their barbecue isn’t excellent. Their pulled pork, both Alabama and Carolina-style, is the main draw. In addition, they allow you to buy sauces, including the evasive Alabama white sauce, and take them home with you.
Smokin’ Buns (University of AR): Unlike most of the spots on this list, the specialty at Smokin’ Buns doesn’t have any legs. It’s fried catfish, a delicious southern tradition. But that’s not to say that their smoked meat isn’t also well worth the trip. Go for a combo meal of catfish, ribs, and brisket.
Abe’s Barbecue (Ole Miss): Abe’s has been open since 1924, and according to legend is situated at the very crossroads where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil. While its location certainly does a lot to draw in customers, the award-winning food and sauces are what keeps them coming back.
Sonny’s Smokehouse (MS State): Like any good barbecue experience, Sonny’s is located far out in the sticks, but its exceptional barbecue is what makes people keep coming back. Their ribs and brisket, beyond being delicious, are served in huge portions at low prices.
Black’s Barbecue (Texas A&M): The small town of Lockhart, Texas, just outside of Austin, hails itself as the “BBQ capital of Texas”. A bold statement, but the amazing number of excellent spots for a small town sure back it up. One of the best and most famous of these is Black’s, an 85 year-old institution whose, brisket, beef ribs, and sausage are the stuff of legend.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (Vanderbilt): Memphis might be Tennessee’s barbecue destination, but Nashville has still got plenty to offer. One great spot to visit is Martin’s, a joint with no frills and plenty of heart. They joke that their whole-hog barbecue is “perfect for vegan Bat Mitzvahs”, but quite honestly it’s perfect for just about any occasion.