Food & Drink

G&G Readers’ Favorite Barbecue Joints

Locals know the best small-town spots for ’cue across the South

Photo: Lissa Gotwals

A tray of smoked chicken, turkey, chopped pork, ribs, and sides at Sam Jones BBQ.

In a recent Talk of the South newsletter, we asked readers to name their favorite small-town barbecue spot. Here are some of the responses, ranging from praise for the meat to the sauce to the sides to the atmosphere:

The Meat: 

Thomason’s Barbecue in my hometown of Henderson, Kentucky. It’s authentic Western Kentucky–style barbecue, with mutton aplenty, but it also offers the unique “chip” plate, tray, and sandwich (get it on rye)—chip being a mixture of pulled pork and mutton chipped off the bone, where the meat is most flavorful. It’s also known for the addictive barbecue baked beans, which are actually more barbecue than beans. —Tom S.

Starnes Bar-B-Q in Paducah, Kentucky. Best pulled pork on earth. —Hal D. 

​​​​13th Street Bar-B-Q, Columbus, Georgia. Home of the Pork Chop Sandwich. —Van H. 

Fresh Air Barbecue Jackson, Georgia. Nothing compares to the warm hug you receive from the wonderful aroma of smoked delights that greet you from the parking lot. —Judy P. 

Carolina Bar-B-Que in New Ellenton, South Carolina. No sauce is needed…it’s that flavorful. —Debbie B.

We return to Fayetteville, North Carolina, often to get the brisket or the pork belly burnt ends (available on Saturday) at Fowler’s Southern Gourmet. —Howard F.

The Sauce: 

Bozo’s Hot Pit Bar-B-Q in Mason, Tennessee. Original pits and sauce. Worth the drive. —Ron 

Cain’s Bar-B-Que in Florence, South Carolina. My grandfather made barbecue sauce for a living (Coleman’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce) and that’s the sauce they served. I remember visiting my grandparents, and every time we’d pick up a couple of pounds of barbecue, a pint of chicken bog, a side of slaw, and a side of hushpuppies. We’d gather around their Formica table in the world’s oldest wooden chairs and eat ourselves silly. Cain’s will be forever in my heart. —Meg B. 

Gumlog Barbecue & Fish Lodge in Lavonia, Georgia. The usuals: dirt driveway, line out the door, servers that call you darling, and homemade sauce. —Eric L. 

Archibald’s & Woodrow’s BBQ in Tuscaloosa. The sauce is the best ever. —Taylor G. 

The Sides: 

Dukes Bar-B-Que in Aiken, South Carolina. The barbecue is good but it’s all about the SIDES! Black eyed peas, collards, fried okra, banana pudding, lima beans, rutabaga, mac ’n cheese, sweet potato casserole, soft serve ice cream and homemade peach cobbler with a glass of sweet tea. —Hollyn M.

​​Big Tiny’s BBQ in Mooresville, North Carolina. Great barbecue, plus steaming hot fried okra and sweet potato casserole to boot. Can’t be beat. —Carol R.

Jim’s Smokin’ Que in Blairsville, Georgia. Wonderful barbecue and the best macaroni salad ever. —Clare B. 

Mary’s Pit BBQ  in Gurley, Alabama. Rib sandwich and banana pudding. If you’re lucky, you can sit at one of the four stools inside. —Greg F.

The Atmosphere:

In the ’80s, I lived in Cayce, South Carolina. We had this grubby looking barbecue pit just west of the river across from Columbia. I can’t remember the name, but it was remarkable. One story, cinder block and hard to see because of the huge wood pile. At least ten cords stacked to the rear and sides. Strictly take-out or eat at the tables outside. Pulled pork, ribs, and sometimes beef ribs, but no chicken. Wish I could get back there again. —Charles R. 

Country Love Soulfood & BBQ in Hahira, Georgia. You know it’s the real deal when the menu is on a marker board. —Savannah Jane G. 

The SmoQue Pit in Statesboro, Georgia. If the Allman Brothers ate there they would never have the “Statesboro Blues.” —Paul F.

Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Que in Williamsburg, Virginia. Back in the day when the interstate made it harder to access, customers would just park their vehicles on the side of the highway, risking a traffic citation, and climb the fence to get to Pierce’s.  —Kathleen M. 

Keys to locating really good barbecue while driving through a small town: full parking lot, curb appeal low on the owner’s list of priorities, cords of wood stacked out back, a smell in the air that lets you know you have found it. —Ashton C.

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