Written by Meaghan Clark
When we think about BBQ, we can’t help going rustic – totally sloppy, slow-roasted meats dripping with fatty juices run down your chin while wads of crumpled paper napkins sprawled out on a bare wooden picnic table screams perfection. The scene might emulate nearly every rodeo, backyard picnic or county fair east of Colorado, but it’s not the only scene in today’s foodie culture where BBQ is depicted properly.
If you’re not too concerned that your Boss tie might hit a little grease, then lunching at a BBQ joint could be your calling. Reasonably priced with a serving size that instantly induces a food coma, don’t be ashamed to skimp out on some greens after devouring any number of entrées from our list of some celebrated establishments.
Kaitlyn Goalen, National Editor of the widely popular online newsletter Tasting Table, has worked in the restaurant industry for years. Joining the online newsletter newcomer that quickly amassed a wide audience with its selection of restaurant reviews, chef interviews, sponsorships and recipes in select cities like San Francisco and Chicago, Goalen’s finger-licking favorites led us on an international-grease journey to find BBQ giants and revolutionaries that are turning the traditional scene on its head.
“It is awesome that there is a movement toward renewing barbeque – giving it a more contemporary face and putting it front of a new audience, because a lot of people who are going to urban spaces outside of the south are experiencing it for the first time,” says Goalen. “Whatever the twists might be, it’s putting this age-old cooking method in front of a new audience.”
Martin’s BBQ Joint
Just outside Nashville, Tennessee, Martin’s does a couple of things really, really well – “he’s a jack of all trades,” says Goalen. From whole hog to chicken wings and even brisket, Martin’s focuses on several different types of BBQ – uncharacteristic for a guy that’s so traditional when it comes to his spread. “It’s definitely tried and true but still bends the tradition – there’s nothing new fangled about it, but he’s focusing on a couple of proteins so that makes it a bit unusual.” Where a lot of other classic BBQ joints really focus depending on the region they are in, Martin’s does it all – and succeeds.
7238 Nolensville Road
The family-run South Carolina business, spearheaded by second-generation hog roaster Rodney Scott, sticks to one thing and one thing only – whole hog bar-b-que. “That’s what they focus on – that’s it,” says Goalen, who admits this traditional spot doesn’t need any bells or whistles to get people in the door. Aside from their signature dish, perfected on ovens that the original Scott created by hand, the famous secret BBQ sauce from Scott’s Bar-b-Que is no longer just for Hemingway residents and visitors – their shipping business is finally up and running.
2734 Hemingway Highway
Fatty Cue isn’t pretentious when it comes to the traditional BBQ pat-down; they do things a little differently, and still represent. Skillfully fusing the sweet morsels of fatty sugar notes from traditional flavors with Asian doses of citrus and eat, Fatty Cue does BBQ right – and in Brooklyn, no less. “[Fatty Cue] does a really amazing, interesting take on BBQ that incorporates southeast Asian technique and flavor, but it’s absolutely delicious. I would never not include it in a BBQ roundup – it accomplishes its goal, even if it’s not traditional.” With a hipster vibe and a pension for a good time, tumble over to Fatty Cue if you’ve got a knack for a little taste explosion in ‘cue bacon and clams, deep fried bacon or buttermilk fried rabbit.
91 South 6th Street
Sweet Cheeks Q
Though it’s a newbie on the blocks of urban Boston, Sweet Cheeks Q already has a rabid following – in part because of lead chef and Top Chef alumni Tiffani Faison helming the traditional Texan BBQ joint. The established chef has led her reality show spotlight to head a sparkly new restaurant with stick-to-your-gut Texan ribs. “[Sweet Cheeks Q] kind of aims to hold on to some of the old-school cache look and feel, even though it’s in the middle of Boston’s urban center,” says Goalen. “It has a fun, eclectic feel to it.” The menu offers a sampling of just about everything – from pork belly (the latest foodie trend) to brisket and pulled pork, as well as “hot scoops” like black-eyed peas, mac n’ cheese and collard greens.
1381 Boylston Street
VIDEO: SWEET CHEEKS
The greatest thing that has come from freight travel is the distribution of fine meat – that couldn’t ring more true than at the west coast barrel stop of CatHead’s BBQ. You don’t have to be a farmer boy to love a good roast, especially when they are spicing things up with more than just paper plates and plain old smoke house cooking. Old classics are still available, but in some flavor-intense twists like Coca-Cola smoked brisket or cornmeal crusted tofu, turning BBQ ribs into a white table cloth dining affair.
1665 Folsom St
San Francisco, CA
Asador Etxebarri is a destination restaurant that takes rustic BBQ to a whole new level. The homemade charcoal from roasting chef Victor Arguinzoniz combines various woods, Basque flavors and fresh produce that jumpstarts an open fire revolution. Prepare for a gastronomic experience that transports you from the tiny town an hour from San Sebastian into the world’s most renowned establishment (do we see a James Beard in their future?). Seafood is a main component of the eight course lunch menu, but it’s the Galician Beef cooked on an open fire that brings out the culinary exquisiteness of this destination. “It’s super luxe and absolutely one of the most exquisite meals I’ve ever had,” says Goalen.
Plaza San Juan, 1
94 658 30 42
As the barbeque has made a transformation in the last decade, initiating a revolution that turned the ranch-style sloppy feast into a haven for creation, the traditional feast is still omnipresent. The most ubiquitous presentation of this classic form comes from New York – MOgridder’s food truck perfected BBQ ribs while on four wheels. The cult culture that emerged has enabled MOgridder to establish a permanent home in the Bronx, albeit in a rather rickshaw space. Of course, it helps that a popular Food Network show featured the spot in its New York selection – bountiful with greasy sandwiches, fried sides and sugary drinks.
543 Hunts Point Avenue