9 Barbecue Road Trips to Add to Your Bucket List

Jason Webster
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Best Texas Pit Stops for Pitmasters

  • Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX
  • Gatlin’s BBQ in Houston, TX
  • Pappas Bar-B-Q in Houston, TX
  • Elgin Smokehouse in Elgin, TX
  • The Brisket House in Elgin, TX
  • CorkScrew BBQ in Spring, TX
  • The Pit in Houston, TX
  • Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano, TX
  • Rudy’s Country Store & BBQ in Columbus, TX

And others…

25 of the Best Barbeque Joints in America

There’s only one thing better than grilling in the backyard with a cold beer in hand ‥ and that’s grilling at the nation’s best BBQ joints. Here are some of our favorites.

Paris, Texas: City Market Claim to fame: Rub…s been there for 30 years, cooking up the meatiest, sauciest brisket in Texas.

Ft. Worth, Texas: Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue Claim to fame: Fiorella’s hickory-smoked, slow-cooked brisket is lean and smoky, with a sweet-tangy sauce that’s the perfect antidote to the vinegar tang of a nearby competitor’s sauce (that competitor seems to be running a mobile barbecue joint shaming campaign against Fiorella’s, but who are we to judge?).

Kansas City, Missouri: Gates Bar-B-Q Claim to fame: Where else can you order your barbecue “to go” from prison? Convicted of tax evasion in the late 1960s, founder and self-taught barbecue master Henry Perry moved to the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1967 and threw open the grill to customers.

Top 10 Barbecue Joints in One Ultimate Road Trip

Even if you don’t live in the South, chances are good that if you’ve had barbecue, it was in the South. The reason why we barbecue here has a lot to do with the South’s geographical makeup. You have to remember that the South is actually a large geographical region.

So, instead of looking for the best barbecue, you’re better off focusing on barbecue in a specific area. In that area, there might be 2 or 3 places that truly stand out from the rest.

A good way to figure out where that might be is to start by looking for the Mid-Southern states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia. They are in the heart of the South.

The best barbecue in the South does usually come from the ones that are outside the metropolitan areas. But let’s assume that you still want to eat great barbecue that is easily accessible. Now you’re looking at North Carolina, because every state has a state BBQ.

You’re in the Piedmont area in the counties of Lexington and Rockbridge, where the rich culture of the area still retains a lot of their ancient history.

Barbeque Road Trip in the Carolinas

If you are craving a road trip, and have cooked the summer away on the barbecue with some of the best of the south, you can’t go wrong with a road trip in the Carolinas.

If you are in the Carolinas, you’ve probably already heard of or visited the eastern Carolinas favorite eating joint, The Lexington Barbeque. They are famous for their pulled pork sandwiches that are served super-sized.

You have to try the macaroni salad, on a day you’re there, for their vinegar is the best! They also have great fries and baked beans.

North Carolina Barbecue Road Trip

When you’re in the mood for some finger-lickin’ good barbecue, North Carolina is your best option. The Tar Heel State is by far the barbecue capital of the country.

With a number of renowned barbecue restaurants like Skylight Inn and Wilber’s in the area, you have the opportunity to “tour” the state by grabbing each place for a unique barbecue experience.

What You’ll Need:

  • Be prepared to put on some miles to enjoy all the barbecues in the state. Some barbecue restaurants are open till 10 and 11 p.m.
  • Decide whether to take the I-40 or the I-85 to cover more of North Carolina barbecue establishments. If you’re in the mood for cooler temperatures, opt for the I-85. Otherwise, take the I-40.
  • You may want to visit the barbecue restaurants in the north for the more traditional, eastern-style barbecue. And the southern part of the state for its spicy sauce and whole-hog barbecue.
  • Some of the barbecue restaurants only accept cash. So, make sure that you take some along just in case you are short on your budget.
  • You can also take the train to explore more barbecue joints while enjoying a comfortable ride.

Hill Country Barbecue Trip

The National Barbecue Hall of Fame is located in Texas and gives you a place to start. This will be a bucket list item that you will leave behind at the door of an old shipping container to begin your tour of the state.

A barbecue bucket list must include the different styles that are cooked all over Texas. The list would not be complete without barbecue made from mesquite in central Texas, German style in the Hill Country, and pork ribs cooked over fruitwoods in the Rio Grande Valley.

The trip is more than just a list of places that serve good barbecue. It is a trip that also includes a lot of history and activities while ensuring that you pass the days with fun and laughter.

“3,000 Miles of Barbecue”

In and Around Kansas City, Missouri.

Even if you have a great barbecue place near where you live, going out of town for some good barbecue can be hugely satisfying. It’s part of the fun of traveling to experience new and different foods from different places.

A great place to go looking for some of the best barbecue in the United States is in and around Kansas City, Missouri. There are dozens of places around the metro area that do great barbecue. Here are three of the best:

Hatem’s brings a lot of the traditions of the original North Carolina barbecue way of doing things to an area that was mostly known for barbecue-sauce-doused ribs.

What hasn’t changed from the original way of doing things is that Hatem’s uses hickory coals to smoke their meat, and that meat is golden, not a uniform mahogany.

Bud’s Bar-B-Q is hot and spicy barbecue you will want to keep going back for. The ribs, sliced thin and wide, floating in a sea of sauce on a platter are hard to resist.

21 Stop North Carolina Barbecue Trail

North Carolina is a state where food is always top-notch. The barbecue trail will last you 31 days, each day stops for barbecue heaven. Start the day off at Lexington Barbecue, located in Lexington, North Carolina. That may be challenging because it is a one time only kind of place.

However, it is still worth the trip because of the hot barbecue that was created in the early 1930s. The ticket is two pieces of bread with barbecue between the two slices.

The next stop does not really need an introduction; it is the place most individuals go if they want to visit a barbecue place.

Be sure to take a photo with the sign and post it up on Instagram. Hominy Grill in Durham, NC is the second stop on your 21-stops barbecue trail.

Chef Casey Lewis-Jordan cooks up some of the most sublime bbq from their kitchen. Definitely order the Eastern N.C. Baked Beans, while you’re at it.

Nashville to Memphis Barbecue Trail

Championship barbecue is a top priority when it comes to road trips. Some of the premier locations to get your BBQ fix are Nashville to Memphis Barbecue Trail.

It is roughly a 60-mile stretch and you can stop at between 4-7 BBQ restaurants in just one day. You should have a clear plan of how you’re going to approach your schedule, but below is a potential itinerary.

Itinerary:

City Market – Nashville

Plan to arrive early (11 AM) and have lunch at this most famous barbecue destination.

Central BBQ – Memphis

Choose to stop here for a late lunch if you are in between stops. This is where you’ll get the best Memphis-style barbeque (fall-off-the-bone ribs).

Payne’s Bar-b-que – Memphis

This is another popular spot in the Memphis BBQ trail. It is open till 3 AM on weekends.

Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Q – Memphis

You can also hit this legendary Memphis BBQ spot after Paynes at about 4 PM before heading out or if you still have some time to kill.

Cozy Corner – Memphis

Camp Chef Smoke Vault Review

I’m a big fan of classic American road trip food like burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs. So of course I love the Camp Chef Smoke Vault. It’s a compact and versatile smoker that can be used in a car, truck bed, tailgate or at the campsite.

On the campsite, it can be used on the ground or placed on the included table legs. An included adapter is used to connect propane tanks to the Smoke Vault. The unit uses a small 20 pound propane tank, and the propane burns hotter than other BBQ units that use natural gas or liquid propane, so you can use hardwood logs for smoking.

A heavy steel door seals in heat and moisture. The unit comes with an included temperature gauge and has 3 chrome plated cooking racks. If you get tired of smoking standard indirect at a low temperature, the Smoke Vault has a high heat smoker option as well.

The unit ends up being a great way to cook foods that would normally be cooked in a larger smoker or oven. It’s ideal for chicken wings, pulled pork or beef brisket. The unit is a bit spendy, but it would make a fun gift if you’re looking for something to take your family around the country.