DBBBBQ – Epilogue
In recounting the episodes of Death By BBQ I’ve tried to present a rounded story: this trip was about meat, but it was also about exploration. Chowhound and CouchSurfing were the linchpins of my operation, guiding me to the tastiest tables and the most hospitable hosts in the South. I won’t ever embark on another adventure without using these networks; without local wisdom and interesting new friends, a road trip can be reduced to a very long drive in no time flat. CouchSurfing is especially invaluable in this regard, and I recommend it to anyone reading. Some have been shocked that I would spent two weeks seeking shelter from complete strangers, but as long as you take a few common sense precautions, this kind of service provides an easy and safe way to enrich any travel experience.
That being said, in my travel experience I learned quite a bit about traditional American barbecue. Since completing the tour I’ve been asked where the best BBQ in America can be found. I’m both sad and overjoyed to say that two weeks of hands-on research is far from enough time to produce a straight answer. North Carolina exposed me to the beauty of authentic workman’s Q and would be my prime recommendation for pork enthusiasts; there is just no way to top a serving of NC pork shoulder with spicy vinegar dip in terms of purity. Memphis, on the other hand, easily became one of my favorite cities in the world before I even took a bite of the dancing pigs sandwich. If Lexington is the cholesterol-dipped heart of barbecue then Memphis is in all ways the soul of barbecue. It’s also the only city on the map to offer BBQ spaghetti as a standard entree.
Central Texas would make the top of my list for beef lovers, but for all its tenderness does not stand a chance against the other Q capitals when pork is on the table. Texas is surely not lacking in great home-cooked food, but could stand to brush up against some pork shoulders once in a while for the sake of the 49 other stars in the Union. Kansas City, the fourth horseman of the Apo-Q-lypse, never felt my tires this time around, but I look forward fucking up shit in the KC pit on my next tour of duty. The rest of the cities I visited never really came into play as bastions of barbecue, but sweetened my cup of tea all the same.
I’ve documented the itinerary of DBBBBQ, with all details on contact, hours of operation, and personal rating. If you’re planning on traveling through Virginia, the Carolinas, Northern Georgia, Tennessee, or Texas and would like this information, e-mail me and I’ll send over a copy. For those who simply like rankings, my best-of verdicts for this tour are as follows…
BEST SAUCE: hot sauce at Fresh Air Bar-B-Q, Jackson, Georgia.
BEST SIDE: BBQ slaw at Lexington #1, Lexington, North Carolina.
BEST BEER: St. Arnold’s Lawnmower Ale , Texas.
BEST REALIZATION OF THE SANDWICH: Payne’s, Memphis, Tennessee.
BEST LOCATION: Hog Heaven, Nashville, Tennessee.
BEST ATMOSPHERE: The Bar-B-Q Shop, Memphis, Tennessee.
BEST PRESENTATION: Luling City Market, Luling, Texas.
BEST SERVICE: The Bar-B-Q Shop, Memphis, Tennessee.
BEST REO SPEEDWAGON: Jack Daniels Distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee.
MOST ORIGINAL: white sauce at Hog Heaven, Nashville, Tennessee.
MOST SATISFYING: pork sandwich on Texas toast with fries at The Bar-B-Q Shop, Memphis, Tennessee.
MOST IMPRESSIVE: The Bar-B-Q Shop, Memphis, Tennessee.
MOST INTIMIDATING: full breakfast platter at Bryant’s Breakfast and Bar-B-Q, Memphis, Tennessee.
MOST LOVING: Lexington #1, Lexington, North Carolina.
MOST AUTHENTIC: Pete Jones’ Skylight Inn, Ayden, North Carolina.
If you think that this collection of arbitrary awards makes The Bar-B-Q Shop in Memphis my favorite BBQ joint in the country, you’re forgetting about the union between place, person and pig that forms the triumvirate of true Q. While the South is America’s epicenter for barbecue, it isn’t my home. After all of the time I spent in the arms of other animals, my favorite cut of pork still resides in the fair city of Oakland, under the masterful watch of John Edwards, whose signature sandwich has only gotten better and better every time I walk through his doors with a hankering for smoky sliced pork, spicy red sauce and Mama’s tangy yellow slaw falling out of every side. My days on the road ended when I walked into Austin-Bergstrom International, but I wasn’t ready for Death until I was sitting at Chef Edwards’ counter with a Piggly Wiggly in hand and a clot in my heart.