Mar 30, 2011

For the love of barbecue

At 17th Street Bar and Grill, O'Fallon, Ill. location ... the creamed corn alone makes the whole trip worth it!

I think barbecue may just be the perfect food.  Between the meats, the slow-cooked smokiness and the variations on the sauce (which, by the way, should be optional – the best barbecue tastes just fine without it), every good barbecue is a memorable experience. 
My love for barbecue began with a rib joint named Fantasia that was within walking distance of my apartment when I was a student at Western Illinois University.  The owners had relocated from Chicago and turned an old Kentucky Fried Chicken into barbecue nirvana.  The sauce was perfect for dipping French fries into, and the beef ribs are still the moistest I’ve ever had.  Sadly, Fantasia is long gone.  Underappreciated by the locals, I suppose.

I confess to being a foodie, but I would never profess to be a barbecue expert.  I simply don’t have the knowledge base to judge Texas barbecue over Kansas City or Memphis or the Carolinas.  And that only covers the states – good Asian barbecue is in a class all by itself. 
But I do know what I like, which is why I decided to put together a list of my all-time favorite barbecue joints (to call them restaurants is an injustice) and make the list a fixture of my blog.  I've placed it in the bottom right corner.  I admit to being partial to the Memphis style and the sweet sauce, which is reflected on my list. 
In addition to my top five, I also have to give honorable mention to a few places:
·         Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ, Memphis, Tenn. – must try the barbecue spaghetti.
·         Smokey’s BBQ Shack, Morrisville, N.C. – I discovered this place on a small patch of state highway less than a mile away from Horace Mann’s Raleigh claim office.  While the suburbs have it surrounded, it still puts out great barbecue from an old smoker from behind the building.
·         Jack’s Bar-B-Que, Nashville, Tenn. – right on Broadway in the middle of a bunch of great music clubs.   
·         Clay’s Popeye’s BBQ, Springfield, Ill.  – My favorite in my hometown.
·         Arthur Bryant’s BBQ, Kansas City, Mo. – Maybe I was too psyched up for this after a 45 minute wait in line.  Still worth a visit to try the signature barbecue from Kansas City.
·         Bandana’s Bar-B-Q, St. Louis, Mo.  – Various locations … and pretty darn good for a local chain.  Love the grilled corn.
Maybe some of your favorites are on this list, too.  Maybe you have one to recommend – I’m always willing to try a new place if I can ever get there.  If you’re a foodie like me, it’s a topic that’s a definite conversation starter, and it’s sure to make you hungry. 

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