The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America

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Next up: Chap’s Pit Beef in Baltimore.  

If you watch the Food Network, Chap’s will likely be familiar as a spot that Guy Fieri, Adam Richmond and the 101 Places to Pig Out team, among others, have visited and raved about.  It’s not exactly barbecue, but I enjoyed it!

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Quick video review of Black Hog Barbecue.

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Tennessee’s BBQ has three locations in the greater Boston area and the motto “Real BBQ - Real Fast” describes exactly the kind of restaurant they want to be.  Tennessee’s hasn’t been in the local media spotlight as much as some of the newer restaurants in more trendy parts of Boston and I think a lot of this is simply a matter of it’s identity.  It wants to be a “Real Fast” place where people will pop in for carry-out to take home. It has found it’s niche within the Boston restaurant market and it’s local communities.  We do not often associate “fast” with barbecue since the best stuff comes from being cooked low and slow.  Tennessee’s barbecue is cooked by the same methods and over the same length of times as most places and the “fast” part comes in with the service.  While seeing “fast” may have steered away a few barbecue folks, it is also the recipe for Tennessee’s success.

Little on the menu has changed since the first location opened 19 years ago, but a few of the items have been, I was told, “Yankee-ized”.  I have heard a number of owners from the northern half of America say that they have to dial back the spice quite a bit for their local audience and that the sweeter it is, the better it sells.  Sweet sauces are the most popular barbecue sauces today and the trend has extended into other barbecue dishes (ribs, beans, etc.).  

While the sweeter meats and sauces are normally not my favorites, I guess a little yankee in me comes out when I taste a sweet cornbread like I found at Tennessee’s.  I enjoyed the sweet and cakey cornbread and believe that having a sweeter side like this can help balance a more savory main dish.  I enjoyed Tennessee’s burnt ends and the crisp, vinegary cucumber salad was a welcome sight as I’ve had a lot of mac ‘n cheese, beans and potato salad lately.

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Along with Redbones (which I wrote about here), Blue Ribbon BBQ served barbecue to the Boston area before the tidal wave of new restaurants washed upon the eastern seaboard over the last 5-10 years.  First recognized as the best barbecue in the area by Boston Magazine in 1999, Blue Ribbon has thrived, expanded and remains on the short list of favorites of Boston’s small, but growing, population of well-versed barbecue enthusiasts.

While the license plate, fire and eclectic country themed joint may not be all that dissimilar from thousands of other barbecue restaurants around the country, it was a breath of fresh, country air after visiting many of the more polished barbecue restaurants of the Northeast.

I started with the pulled pork, mac ‘n cheese and dirty rice.  The pork was quite good and might be the best pork sandwich you will find in Boston.  The mac ‘n cheese was good while the dirty rice was forgettable.  I should have stopped there, but instead ended up trying some of the ribs.  Having really enjoyed the ribs at Redbones the night before, I was a little disappointed with these.

For a great pulled pork sandwich in the Boston area, though, Blue Ribbon is worth visiting.

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As I pulled up to Pit Stop Barbeque in the greater Boston area, the small storefront with smoke billowing out from behind the building had promise.  This is the kind of place where very few things appear to have changed in the last 20 or 30 years and they aren’t looking to bring anyone in the door with a trendy atmosphere or exclusive whiskey selection.  If this place has survived the test of time, it must be because the barbecue is decent.
As you can see in the picture, the storage shed to the right was open as I approached the front door of the restaurant.  My initial burst of optimism was lessened as I saw 5 gallon bucks of an industrial, inexpensive barbecue sauce and bags of charcoal.  First, I want a barbecue restaurant to make their own sauces - all the good ones do.  For restaurants that have grown to the point where they can not make enough sauce in the kitchen and have to take their recipe to a packager, that’s fine and understandable.  It’s still their recipe and sauce.  Giving Pit Stop the benefit of the doubt, they probably use this sauce as a base and doctor it up, but it’s not how the best of the best operate.
I would also rather see stacks of wood than stacks of bagged charcoal.  There are some excellent and historic places that prefer to cook with coals, but those places burn wood in a separate fire and then move the hot coals to the pits.  Some places like to mix in a few briquettes with their logs for a slightly different flavor and I’m OK with that.  What I saw, however, indicated that Pit Stop was really grilling over charcoal more than smoking with wood.
Nevertheless, I tried the ribs and pulled pork.  Both were above average and I love the unassuming, unpretentious experience, but I don’t think it quite stacks up with the best.

As I pulled up to Pit Stop Barbeque in the greater Boston area, the small storefront with smoke billowing out from behind the building had promise.  This is the kind of place where very few things appear to have changed in the last 20 or 30 years and they aren’t looking to bring anyone in the door with a trendy atmosphere or exclusive whiskey selection.  If this place has survived the test of time, it must be because the barbecue is decent.

As you can see in the picture, the storage shed to the right was open as I approached the front door of the restaurant.  My initial burst of optimism was lessened as I saw 5 gallon bucks of an industrial, inexpensive barbecue sauce and bags of charcoal.  First, I want a barbecue restaurant to make their own sauces - all the good ones do.  For restaurants that have grown to the point where they can not make enough sauce in the kitchen and have to take their recipe to a packager, that’s fine and understandable.  It’s still their recipe and sauce.  Giving Pit Stop the benefit of the doubt, they probably use this sauce as a base and doctor it up, but it’s not how the best of the best operate.

I would also rather see stacks of wood than stacks of bagged charcoal.  There are some excellent and historic places that prefer to cook with coals, but those places burn wood in a separate fire and then move the hot coals to the pits.  Some places like to mix in a few briquettes with their logs for a slightly different flavor and I’m OK with that.  What I saw, however, indicated that Pit Stop was really grilling over charcoal more than smoking with wood.

Nevertheless, I tried the ribs and pulled pork.  Both were above average and I love the unassuming, unpretentious experience, but I don’t think it quite stacks up with the best.

Filed under barbecue bbq charcoal barbeque boston ribs pork hole in the wall