5 of the South’s Best Finger-Licking-Good Barbecue Joints

Photo by: kowarski via Flickr

Whether you douse your meat in a tangy vinegar concoction or a sweet molasses-based sauce, nothing beats good old-fashioned smoked barbecue. And where do you find the best barbecue? Down South, of course! If you’re planning a trip south of the Mason-Dixon sometime soon, make sure you mark an “x” on the map for the following locations — they’re serving up some of the South’s best barbecue (and many of these joints have been doing so for decades). Just don’t forget extra napkins; we have a feeling you’re going to need them.

5. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q -Decatur, Alabama

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama is famous for its tangy, peppery, and oh-so-good white barbecue sauce. Drench some of Big Bob’s tender barbecued chicken in it and you’ll soon be claiming that a new sauce is boss. This famed southern barbecue joint has been around since 1925, started by 300-pound, 6’4” Gibson himself — now you know how he got the nickname “Big Bob”. The barbecue joint has been a family operation for four generations, and winning is in the family blood; Big Bob’s Bar-B-Q has won 10 world championship barbecue competitions. If you can’t make it down to Alabama for a taste of Big Bob’s incredible smoked chicken or pork, you might be able to try some of the restaurant’s famous white sauce at home — the sauce is sold in bottles at over 2,000 grocery stores across nine states in the U.S.

Photo by: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que
Photo by: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Que

4. Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn -Owensboro, Kentucky

The folks at this Kentucky institution take great pride in serving up only the tastiest eats; after all, their slogan is “When Only the Best Will Do … Moonlite Bar-B-Q”. The Barbecue at Moonlite is full of smoky hickory flavor, since the BBQ pros here stick to the Kentucky tradition of slowly smoking their meats in custom-built hickory fired pits, the results are all-off-the-bone good barbecue. Moonlite Bar-B-Q has a pretty unique menu, and a lot of focus is given to its mutton and beef brisket. Catherine and Pappy Bosley purchased the Moonlite Inn way back in 1963, when it was just a 30-seat restaurant. Today, the Moonlite is a 350-seat hoppin’ barbecue joint, with over 120 employees, its own processing plant, and an always-busy catering department. Still, it’s still the perfect place to slow down and enjoy some slow-smoked, scrumptious barbecue.

Photo by: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn
Photo by: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn

3. The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint -Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Who knew that a big shed made out of a bunch of junk found during dumpster-diving adventures would be serving up some of the best barbecue and blues music this side of the Mason-Dixon? As improbable as it sounds, that’s exactly what you’ll find at The Shed, whose original location is in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Started by Ole Miss grad Brad and his family, The Shed has morphed from a 300-square-foot building constructed out of Brad’s thrifted findings to a full-fledged barbecue joint and music space with indoor and outdoor seating for more than 500 people (and two other locations to boot). The ambience here is one of a kind, and so is the barbecue. The Shed’s pit masters douse their baby back ribs in a special rub and then slather them with a BBQ sauce made from top-secret, time-tested recipe.

Photo by: The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint
Photo by: The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint

2. Skylight Inn BBQ -Ayden, North Carolina

You won’t be left searching for good barbecue in North Carolina, but if you want the best of the best, then you need to head to Skylight Inn. Pete Jones opened his barbecue joint in Ayden, North Carolina in 1947, when he was just 17 years old. Dedicated to roasting whole hogs the old-fashioned way over wood, word soon got out that some of the best barbecue around was being served up at the Skylight. Soon word reached all the way to National Geographic, which cited Skylight Inn as one of the best places to grab barbecue in the country. Before Pete passed away, he got the chance to serve barbecue to presidents and see his joint written about in magazines like People, GQ, and Southern Living. The barbecue served at Skylight Inn today still lives up to the hype; just sink your teeth into one of their overflowing barbecue sandwiches and we think you’ll agree.

Photo by: kowarski via Flickr
Photo by: kowarski via Flickr

1. Fresh Air Bar-B-Que -Macon, Georgia

Fresh Air Bar-B-Que has been around since 1929, and Georgia’s the better for it. The pit masters at Fresh Air smoke their hams whole over indirect heat overnight, then slather the meat in a savory tomato-and-vinegar barbecue sauce that is the definition of “finger-licking good”. Make sure you try a side of Brunswick Stew too, a Georgia specialty that’s a savory blend of vegetables, roast beef, and fragrant southern spices. Fresh Air still uses a family recipe first developed in the 1890’s, so you know it’s time-tested! And with locations in both Macon and Jackson, Georgia, hopefully you’ll get a chance to stop by for some slow-smoked goodness soon.

Photo by: Fresh Air Bar-B-Que
Photo by: Fresh Air Bar-B-Que

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