Guest blog post by: Jeff Shoer
What would a good road trip be without the hunt for great tasting Barbecue? The origins of the word Barbecue may have come from foreign lands long ago (the word itself comes from the Spanish Barbacoa translating to sacred fire pit), but these days Barbeque or BBQ (for short) is right at home in the States. You can describe the enthusiasm for this now famous American style of cooking as simply – Smokin’. A literal bonanza of reality TV shows like “BBQ Pitmasters” and “BBQ Crawl” are just a few slathered all over screens weekly. That makes it easy to see BBQ’d foods being cooked or eaten, but what about the tasting part?
There are so many regional differences and a lot of pride amongst the places that claim BBQ supremacy. In order to not make this a contest, I’ll stick to tasty memories based on a few of the most recognizable styles; Carolina – vinegar or mustard and spice based, usually on pulled pork, Kansas City – meats smoked with a dry rub, sauced with a thick and sweet tomato molasses concoction, and Texas (style varies all over the state) – meat, meat, meat with a bold and tangy sauce, cooked over various types of wood, sometimes served with thick crisp buttery Texas toast (a favorite side of mine). Sure you can try any random BBQ chain for a run of the mill bite, but if you want the best of the best, you better get your ‘butt’ and ‘gut’ over to the state of the style you‘re craving.
One of my oldest memories of eating barbecue with my family was at a long established eatery called Bullock’s Bar-B-Que in Durham, North Carolina. The Bullock’s family has been cookin’ up an in depth Southern menu since 1952. I’ll never forget my first time experiencing vinegar and spice based pulled pork – so unique. Another standout was their extensive list of fitting vegetable sides. If you find yourself anywhere near Durham, you must make the pilgrimage to experience the superb southern taste sensation.
Another of my most memorable BBQ experiences was on a road trip that passed through both Kansas Cities’ (Missouri and Kansas). The first half of this notable day was spent checking out the granddaddy of all BBQ events: The American Royal’s World Series of Barbeque, normally held in October. You’ll find hundreds of teams (you can only buy grub from the official vendors) setup with their mobile pits/smokers vying for coveted prizes and bragging rights. Inside the halls, you’ll find vendors letting you sample sauces, pickles and even wood chips. You can even cuddle up to cooking equipment (obviously, not in use) and accessories. Don’t forget the cooking demos and other events. I even bumped into Guy Fieri (actually he bumped in to me enroute to the stage). If you can time your trip to coincide with this tasty event, I advise you not to miss it.
We bugged out in time for a late second lunch at Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City (the Kansas one). We asked around and this place definitely got two thumbs up. I can’t remember if we were told about the lineups, but I won’t forget the one and a half hour wait – which was well worth it. I think even Anthony Bourdain would agree (it was listed on a pinned up list of his top 13 places to eat…). Luckily (or was it fate), I managed to snag the last order of ‘burnt ends’ (of brisket) stuffed into a fresh puffy bun with a side of potato salad. I liked their sauce so much I actually drank it (I have it on video).
In my opinion Texas style BBQ is as bold as the state it’s from. Talk about big, I tried what I call, “the big ‘ol slab of pork sandwich,” at Rudy’s BBQ in El Paso, Texas. After eating I had to get me some more of their tangy sauce and bought two bottles of Rudy’s Sissy Sause (not a typo). On my way through Phoenix, Arizona, I traded one bottle for a stay on my friend’s couch.
Out of respect, I haven’t tipped my BBQ baseball cap, towards any one style. Let me just say, “All BBQ is not created equal.” The fun part is letting your taste buds discover why.” Now go out and try ‘em all and you decide who’s famous for what …
Having traveled all over in search of a happy stomach. Jeff Shoer continues to follow a path to food loving destinations. He hopes to burn off the calories enroute to more great tastes. If you’d like to read more about Jeff’s food travels check out Food In Travel for his upcoming blog.