What’s the best barbecue joint in the South? If you ask that question to a bunch of Southerners, you’d better get ready for a heated debate. Barbecue, like football teams and china patterns, is personal. A quick poll of the Southern Living staff turned up a different answer from almost everyone.
•Robby Melvin, our Test Kitchen Director, loves the chopped shoulder at Helen’s BBQ in Brownsville, Tennessee
•Senior Food Editor Lisa Cericola has a soft spot for the dry-rubbed ribs at the Cozy Corner Restaurant in Memphis (a personal favorite of mine too).
•Assistant Managing Editor Rachel Ellis always makes a pit stop at Green River Bar-B-Que in Saluda, North Carolina
•Style Editor Ashley Williams dreams about the Pork ’n Greens—“a tower of grits, pulled pork, turnip greens, and crispy onions”— at Saw’s BBQ in Birmingham.
•Editorial Assistant Michelle Darrisaw loves Archibald & Woodrow’s BBQ, an “unapologetically simple” shack in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
•Associate Editor Hannah Hayes adores the “four-time Memphis in May-winning pulled pork” at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama.
• As for the best barbecue joint in the South? Assistant General Manager Nina Iorg picked the crowd favorite: Southern Soul Barbeque in St. Simons Island, Georgia. Nina and her family discovered the place on vacation last Christmas, when they rolled up with 10 adults and 11 grandkids. Even though the joint was packed, an employee greeted them, went over the menu, and even took them out to the pit to try the brisket. “This was the one time my entire family has ever agreed on anything,” Nina says. “Southern Soul had the best barbecue we’d ever eaten.” And the rest of the South agrees.
So you can imagine the many varied responses we got when we polled the entire Southern Living audience for our first South’s Best awards, a roundup of our readers’ favorite Southern destinations across 13 categories. Last fall, almost 22,000 of you answered an online survey asking for your best-loved bars, breweries, cities, hotels, inns, islands, museums, resorts, restaurants, shops, small towns, tailgates—and yes, barbecue joints. Responses were literally all over the map, but your favorites rose to the top.
See all of the winners here.
If you trust your fellow Southern Living readers—and you should—this is the ultimate bucket list, an inspiring menu of places to see and savor in the months and years ahead.