Dry rub or marinade? North Carolina vinegar or Kansas City sweet sauce?
Although the classic barbecue debates rage on, the new generation of pit masters is less interested in regional styles -- they're too busy sourcing heritage meat, experimenting with nontraditional flavors, and pairing fall-apart-tender ribs with serious drinks.
At his open-air smokehouse in Fort Worth, TX, for example, Tim Love's signature dish, a bone-in beef shank, is served South of the Border-style, with spicy ricotta, borracho beans, and house-made flour and corn tortillas. The menu includes paella of seafood and rattlesnake-rabbit sausage cooked over an open fire and ramen made with leftover bones. Explains Love: "We're trying to open people's mind to the ways that you can cook with wood."
Many new BBQ joints treat sauce preference less like religion and more like, well, preference. You get to choose your adventure at Chicago's Bub City, where on-table offerings include a sweet, tomato-based sauce, a Worcestershire-spiked sauce, and Louisiana-style hot sauce. It's enough to get us fired up about the future of barbecue.
See More of America's Best New BBQ The centerpiece of this northeast Portland newcomer—inspired by Argentina rather than Texas, Memphis, or Kansas City—is the custom-made, wood-fired grill, a massive stainless-steel beast from Ann Arbor–based Grillworks. Grab a counter seat in front of the action, and order the Asado Argentino, a sizzling combination platter of steak, ribs, sweetbreads, chorizo, and morcilla, a blood sausage made with walnuts, raisins, cumin, and nutmeg. There’s plenty to satisfy non-meat-eaters, too: bone-in, skin-on halibut, maitake mushrooms, and halved artichokes are all charred on the grill, whose crank wheels system positions the racks closer or further away from the burning embers. oxpdx.com Photo: Dina Avila
See More of America's Best New BBQ One part Bavarian beer garden and one part barbecue joint with brats and sauerkraut, pulled-pork sandwiches, and coleslaw add up to a serious crowd-pleaser. Chef Tad Curtz doesn’t pledge allegiance to any one style of barbecue; pork comes with a North Carolina–style vinegar sauce, while brisket gets a dollop of smoky, sweet tomato-based sauce. But it all gets smoked in his southern-pride oven using a combination of mesquite and applewood chips. For adventurous eaters, the thing to order is the smoked pig’s head (call in advance). standarddc.com Photo: Courtesy of Standard DC
See More of America's Best New BBQ Chicago’s newest BBQ joint brings together chef Doug Psaltis (whose résumé includes stints at Essex House, Country, and the French Laundry) and mixologist Paul McGee. It’s a winning combination of American whiskey-based cocktails, Carolina pulled pork, St. Louis–style ribs, and fried chicken with Alabama white sauce. The décor is just the right side of kitschy—a beer can American flag is the bar’s centerpiece, and a cowboy mannequin presides over the ladies’ room—and most nights, there’s live music (country, naturally). bubcitychicago.com Photo: Lettuce Entertain You
See More of America's Best New BBQ Tootsie, a custom-built, 4,700-pound, oak-powered smoker, is the star of Top Chef finalist Tiffani Faison’s BBQ joint near Fenway Park. Sustainable, hormone-free meat—black Angus beef, Berkshire pork, all-natural chicken and turkey—comes Texas-style on metal trays lined with butcher paper. Find your place at one of the communal tables, made from old doors and reclaimed bowling lanes, and get your fatty brisket, pork belly, and turkey legs with a mason jar of moonshine. sweetcheeksq.com Photo: Courtesy of Sweet Cheeks
See More of America's Best New BBQ This cafeteria-style East Village eatery got its start at Smorgasburg, a food market along the Brooklyn waterfront. Now Manhattanites don’t have to leave the island to get their fill of Jean-Georges alum Hugh Mangum’s brisket, as well as pulled pork, spare ribs, and an on-the-bone beef short rib called the brontosaurus rib. All are finished with Maldon sea salt and served with various pickles—chile peppers, celery, cucumbers, and red onions—and vinegar- or mayo-based slaw. The side of edamame and sweet pea salad is a refreshing riff on succotash. mightyquinnsbbq.com Photo: Courtesy Mighty Quinn
See More of America's Best New BBQ Franklin Barbecue veteran John Lewis is the pit boss at this South Austin trailer, and his prime-grade black Angus brisket may very well be the best in town. He’s not saying what’s in the five-spice rub he uses (salt and pepper are two of the ingredients) or much about his custom-built pit where he cooks the brisket (ribs, pork, and everything else goes in the old smoker), but the result is velvety, smoky meat with a dark, barky crust. Lewis’s Hot Guts sausage, made from brisket, heart, liver, and fat, is also a highlight. labarbecue.com Photo: Courtesy La Barbecue
See More of America's Best New BBQ This new Fishtown outpost of Joe Carroll’s Williamsburg, NY, original has the trappings of BBQ 2.0, namely, a shotgun shack–chic exterior and a menu of naturally raised, hormone-free meats, craft beers, and whiskey-based cocktails. It also serves some of the most soul-satisfying fare north of the Mason-Dixon. All meats are rubbed with cumin, cinnamon, brown sugar, cayenne, and espresso, and oak-smoked until the outside is just crusty and charred enough and the insides are perfectly tender. fettesauphilly.com Photo: Jason Varney
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