Nothing says summer in America quite like barbecue. From one corner of the country to the other, rival pitmasters start off the season with a fresh bag of charcoal, some genuine Southern hospitality, and a hankering to cure the nation’s hunger. And the swine -- you can’t forget about the swine.
Last weekend, New York City welcomed over a dozen of the nation’s greatest barbecuers for a good ol’ fashioned block party at the tenth anniversary of the Big Apple Barbecue. And as New Yorkers gorged themselves on tender meats, refreshing slaws, baked beans, and (fried) pies, the definition of good barbecue reached a whole other dimension.
But don't worry -- it's not only New Yorkers who get to enjoy the stuff. We sought out four of our favorite chefs from the fest and found out just exactly where each of their restaurants call home. And what's the best thing to do after some serious chowing down? Resting your head for a nap, course. Check out some of the greatest BBQ joints across the country -- and the perfect hotel to compliment your pork-laden journey.
City to Visit: Las Vegas
The Pitmaster: When you’re the only barbecuer with top security clearance to board Air Force One, you best know your way around a hog. Mike Mills certainly does. Presiding over six restaurants—including four 17th Street Bar & Grill restaurants in Southern Illinois and two Memphis Championship Barbecues in Las Vegas—Mills is a barbecue institution. His title-winning baby back ribs were falling-off-the-bone delicious, as were his baked beans that started off sweet but ended with a kick of heat.
The Pitstop: If Southern Illinois isn’t in your destination wheelhouse, consider going to one of Mills establishments in Las Vegas. Just a twenty minute ride from The Strip, both Memphis Championship Barbecues offer you plenty of places to stay nearby. Oyster recommends The Mirage, where you can compare “The Legend” to the on-site BB King’s Blues Club, which serves up Southern cuisine to the back beat of some the greatest musical legends.
City to Visit: Myrtle Beach, SC
The Pitmaster: Founded in 1972 by Rodney Scott's parents, Scott’s Bar-B-Que has been serving up quality food to the small town of Hemingway, SC. for decades. This mom-and-pop restaurant doesn’t look like much from the front porch, but don’t let that fool you—Rodney slow cooked his first hog over a wood-burning pit when he was eleven. Practice does make perfect. His sandwich—served with cruchy bits of fried pork skin—was rivaled only by the other whole hog roaster at the BBQ, Patrick Martin of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint based out of Nashville.
The Pitstop: Hemingway, SC is a bit out of the way, but for those of you planning trips to Myrtle Beach this summer, be sure to make the hour drive over to Scott’s. Oyster recommends the Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes. It’s right on the beach, has three pools, a spa, and two solid restaurants on-site.
City to Visit: Miami, FL
The Pitmaster: The “winningest” man in barbecue is a three-time world champion, the star of both CBS’s Ultimate BBQ Showdown and TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters, and the author of his own New York Times bestselling cookbook. Myron Mixon opened Jack’s Old South BBQ in Unadilla, GA in 1996, and his new restaurant, Pride and Joy, will open in Miami this September.
The Pitsop: Like Scott’s, Jack’s Old South isn’t in the most accessible location. About three hours outside of Atlanta, for those unwilling to make the drive, it might be a good idea to wait for Pride & Joy’s opening in September. Oyster’s pick for South Beach is the Fontainebleau Resort Miami Beach. Its location—just ten minutes from Pride and Joy—is also smack dab in between two of Miami’s best known BBQ joints (Bulldog BBQ and Shortys). You decide who does it best.
City to Visit (Again, Yes): New York City
The Pitmaster: You can’t expect the Big Apple to roll over at its own BBQ. Kenny Callaghan opened Blue Smoke as an amalgamation of the best BBQ styles from across the country. Both his classic culinary background and passion for barbecue are evident in his delicious offerings, especially the Salt and Pepper Beef Ribs he served at the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. The only beef ribs in attendance, Callaghan was up against a slew of swine and still delivered. Simple seasoning kept the focus on the tenderness of meat, reinforced by a simple pickle side.
The Pitstop: A stone’s throw from the Block Party (as well as Callaghan’s Blue Smoke restaurant), the Ace Hotel NY is a solid choice for barbecue lovers planning to come to next year’s festivities or simply to see year-round if barbecue can be done right north of the Mason-Dixon line.