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Travels with Larry Olmsted: 10 Great American Barbecue Joints

Hot Rod's Real Pit BBQ, Wharton, NJ
Hot Rod’s Real Pit BBQ, Wharton, NJ

By Larry Olmsted

America’s love affair with barbecue has never burned hotter than right now – and the opening of new specialty barbecue restaurants where you’d least expect them is fanning the fire.

Not too many years ago if you wanted truly great barbecue, it usually meant traveling to one of the hotspots of the cuisine, Kansas City, Texas, the South, or California’s Santa Maria Valley, home to its own regional spin on ‘cue. If you lived in places like New Jersey or Boston or the affluent ski town paradise of Telluride, Colorado, you were simply out of luck.

All that has changed, and today you can get world class barbecue in most parts of the country, from coast to coast, as the fervor of this delicious cuisine has spread like gospel, prompting everyone from celebrity chefs to self-taught smokers to master the arcane art and bring honest to goodness barbecue closer to home.

Here’s my list of the 10 best barbecue joints across the US …


DSC_0067-150x150    Award-winning travel journalist Larry Olmsted is a Contributing Editor to US Airways Magazine and Cigar Aficionado Magazine and “The Great Life” columnist for Forbes.com

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  1. May 29, 2013 at 11:16 am — Reply

    although I haven’t been, I was waiting to see Franklin BBQ on this list, as it was named not only best BBQ in America but I believe best restaurant by either Gourmet or Bon Appetit..

    • Larry O
      May 29, 2013 at 11:56 am — Reply


      I have been. If you read my story, it is crystal clear that it is not a best list, but a great list, and I tried to showcase places that do something uniquely special, like the amazing beef ribs at the Salt Lick. There are tons of excellent BBQ places in and around Austin, but while everyplace has pork ribs and brisket, the beef ribs are more unusual. That being said, I have eaten at Franklin’s and frankly find it overrated – its very good BBQ but hardly the nation’s best, and they have excellent sandwiches, but the ribs were bit overcooked and too tender. You mean Bon Appetit, Gourmet has been out of business awhile, and while it’s a magazine I love, their area of expertise is not BBQ. Thanks for reading!

  2. Tomcat
    May 29, 2013 at 11:36 am — Reply

    Obviously you’ve never heard of Phil’s in San Diego. Always top rated in local surveys and the line out the door attests to this.

  3. December 20, 2013 at 12:42 am — Reply

    Texas still produces the best barbecue…

  4. February 22, 2014 at 7:48 am — Reply

    I LOVE the list you referred here, very very informative.

    The smoke made with stone in Austin is simply amazing!

  5. April 17, 2014 at 1:02 am — Reply

    Interesting list. There are a number of them that I’ve not been to. Will add some of these joints to my list of places to go!

    Thank you.

  6. April 30, 2014 at 5:29 am — Reply

    I’ve been to Hot Rod’s twice now and the taste still lingers in my mouth. Absolutely yummy food

  7. January 23, 2016 at 10:45 pm — Reply

    I like 10 best barbecue joints, someday I should take part in it,thanks

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