Monk: Southern Living readers pick their favorite barbecue in each state in the South for the annual “Best in the South” issue. While Robert Moss provides a foreword, please remember that this is a reader chosen list and not his South’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints list. So address your ire at the masses and not Moss’ inbox.
Moss does note that half of the 14 are repeat, with the other half being new to the list. For North Carolina, the reader’s pick this year was Lexington Barbecue but it was not a repeat winner as last year’s choice was Buxton Hall Barbecue.
Check out the Southern Living reader’s pick at the link below.
Steve and Gerri Grady get profiled in the local paper, the Mount Olive Tribune
Monk: For the first time in 3 years, Contributing barbecue editor Robert F. Moss presents his list of the South’s Top 50 Barbecue Joints. And of course, a lot has changed. There’s the little matter of the global pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the restaurant business for the past 2.5 years and has probably accelerated some restaurant closings that might have been able to hang on a little longer. But notably, the only closure from the 2019 version of the list is Bryan Furman’s B’s Cracklin’ Barbeque in Atlanta and Savannah. Fear not, as Bryan Furman BBQ is in the works.
As expected, there’s also a decidedly Texas bent to the list which reflects the national trend. Even in proud barbecue states like North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia is represented by Texas-style joints.
Note that this differs from the annual “South’s Best” Reader’s list published in the spring.
By the Numbers:
South Carolina: 9
North Carolina: 8
Not surprisingly, Texas tops the list with 15 entries. Texas barbecue is rapidly becoming the national barbecue style and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. This lost provides a good roadmap of places I still need to try, such as Valentina’s, Burnt Bean, Blood Bros, Tejas among many others.
South Carolina takes second with 9 joints and while Moss is a SC-based writer, I’m a little surprised its so well represented on the list. However, I am especially happy to see Palmira BBQ in Charleston make the list.
North Carolina takes home the bronze with 8 joints including newer-school joints like Prime Barbecue and Sam Jones Barbecue alongside classics like Skylight Inn, Stamey’s, Lexington #1, and Grady’s.
Locally, no Charlotte-area joints make the list and in particular I’m surprised that Jon G’s Barbecue is not on the list. Not only because I’m such a fan but also because Moss wrote so glowingly about it after his visit. The same could be said for Lawrence Barbecue, for that matter. If I had to guess, it probably came down to Jon G’s, Lawrence, Palmira, and Prime Barbecue in Knightdale, NC for two spots on the list.
Barbecue lists are inherently controversial but with Robert Moss you know he’s at least doing the leg work and traveling to each of these joints in his list. Some slight SC-bias aside, it’s a very solid list.
What are your thoughts? What joints did Moss not included? How many of the list have you been to? I’ve been to a respectable-but-still-lacking 18 of the 50.
A couple of the pitmasters for the upcoming Carolina Barbecue Festival in Charlotte on May 22nd: Bryan Furman and Matthew Register
Not to be outdone, the Pinehurst Barbecue Festival has been announcing pitmasters for the Prieto Pitmaster Invitational at its festival, including Brandon Shepard of Shepard Barbecue, Melanie Dunia of The Pit, Ron Simmons of Master Blend Family Farms, and Lewis Donald of Sweet Lew’s BBQ
Noble Smoke’s stall has opened at Optimist Hall as of Monday, 3/14
Jon G’s will be smoking meat for a barbecue and wine event on the last day of the Charlotte Wine & Food Festival
Pretty cool: actor Eric Wareheim made it all the way from LA to Peachland for a Barbecue Saturday last weekend
Blake’s BBQ has its final days in the trailer this week
In Austin for SXSW?
The latest reader-generated list from Southern Living
Not that we’re anywhere close to being qualified enough to evaluate books but more so as a public service announcement we will periodically discuss barbecue and barbecue-related books.
Monk: If you have an interest in barbecue outside of recipes, personal memoirs, and restaurant guides, Robert Moss is one of the best barbecue writers working these days and a must-read. Sure, Moss does some of that other stuff too, but what I love is how he really digs into the history of barbecue in great detail, scouring archives going back several centuries for mentions of barbecue or barbecued meats to help him truly understand the history of the food in the US.
In this “Revised and Expanded Second Edition” of his 2010 book Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Moss further expands on the history of barbecue after his years of research as part of his role as the contributing barbecue editor for Southern Living magazine, where he periodically files blog posts on his findings in addition to contributing his best barbecue joints lists.
Research from other barbecue writers such as Daniel Vaughn, Barbecue Editor of Texas Monthly, J.C. Reid of the Houston Chronicle, and Joe Haynes, author of several books on the history of barbecue in Virginia, has been added to round out Moss’s historical breakdown. Particularly, he beefs up the pre-colonial and colonial origins as well as provide more color on the beginnings of barbecue stands and ultimately restaurants starting in the late 19th century.
Moss also includes the barbecue traditions of Kentucky and the south side of Chicago, which were not included in the original book.
Additionally, whereas Moss’s original edition left off with barbecue in an uncertain place with the move to gas and electric smokers, by this point we are all aware of the big explosion in barbecue; or as Moss refers to it in his Afterword, the “second golden age of barbecue.”
Since the original publication date of the first edition of the book, barbecue in the US has seen a move to more of a craft-sensibility, bringing back all-wood smokers that require constant attention and rejecting the “set it and forget it” nature of the gas and electric smokers that had become favored by national and regional chains as well as the smeller joints who were looking to cut corners.
Moss points to Aaron Franklin as the turning point in the second golden age of barbecue not only in regards to the return to all-wood fired pits but also the prominence of Texas barbecue and platters in the meat market style of central Texas. That was the dominant trend until roughly 2015 where whole hog barbecue has come back into prominence thanks to Rodney Scott, Sam Jones, Dr. Howard Conyers, Bryan Furman of B’s Crackling Barbeque, Elliott Moss of Buxton Hall Barbecue, Tyson Ho of Arrogant Swine, and others.
Conveniently, Moss is also able to speak to the assertion by Washington Post writer Jim Shahin in that to see the future of barbecue, you can look to Charleston, where he just so happens to reside. The Lowcountry town that had been more known for fine dining now seemingly has all of the barbecue trends within its city limits, and sometimes all within a few blocks radius. Texas barbecue from John Lewis, whole hog from Rodney Scott and Swig & Swine’s Summerville location, the move back to all wood smoked barbecue from Melvin’s Barbecue, plus independently owned barbecue operations instead of chains.
In this revised and expanded second edition, Moss ends the book certain in the knowledge that American barbecue, the food intertwined with the very history of our great nation, is in a very solid place with its future secure.
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