Foodie Friday: In Honor Of Summer, America’s 5 Best BBQs

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Photo credit: Michael Lintal.

By Natalie Rivera

The clouds have cleared, the swimsuit commercials have made camp in your television set, and that sound you just heard was your hit-the-gym snooze alarm going off for the last time. Summer is here.

Though the sunny season is filled with outdoor activities like beach trips, camping, and Frisbee in the barefoot grass, let’s be honest – the food is what we’re really here for.

Summer … food? It’s barbecue for sure.

Delicious barbecue eateries aren’t just fantasies that only exist in a House of Cards episode (Freddy’s Joint has raised the bar — and it doesn’t even exist!); they are well-established destinations for food tourists from around the globe. From good ol’ southern shacks to celebrity-backed upscale eateries in some of the world’s biggest cities (including, of all places, Milan – and not Milan, Tenn., either), the barbecue restaurants are only getting better.

Here’s our list of some of the best places to grab your share of barbecue grub. Whether they’re dishing out brisket or that never-old stack of ribs, these barbecue joints have earned their place in the hearts of BBQ lovers everywhere, debunking the belief that licking your fingers is bad manners.

Jack’s Bar-B-Que, three locations, Nashville, Tennessee: With its Texas-style ribs slathered with signature sauces, Jack’s Bar-B-Que is Nashville’s shrine to barbecue– so much so that there are three Jack’s BBQ locations within the city.

Once a catering business that delivered the real deal to hungry folks starving for authentic barbecue, owner and founder Jack Cawthon filled Nashville’s pit-meat void in 1989 when he opened the first Jack’s BBQ location.

Famous for catering to almost any and every barbecue type – including fans of pork shoulders and St. Louis and Texan style ribs – Jack’s firmly believes in taking extra time on its smoked meat and delivering that extra kick. Don’t know what to order? Try a three-meat platter with a couple of vegetables on the side and you’re set for life. Or at least for the next three or four meals.

(334 W. Trinity Lane, 615-228-9888; 416 Broadway, 615-254-5715; 1601 Charlotte Ave., 615-341-0157.)

Franklin Barbecue, Austin, Texas: A ”best of” barbecue list would be incomplete without a Texan treasure, and Franklin Barbecue is exactly that barbecue jewel.

What it lacks in age it makes up in great flavors; from its humble beginnings in a trailer in 2009, Franklin Barbecue quickly established itself as one of Austin’s best BBQ spots, and it’s been nothing but worldwide acclaim ever since. I mean, how many other BBQ joints have been featured with a world-famous chef in a TV ad for a high-end credit card?

Of course, none of this matters if the ribs don’t kick some serious pork butt – and in that department, Franklin Barbecue delivers the goods. Owner Aaron Franklin and his wife Stacy serve some of the best brisket in the universe from a ‘60s-styled restaurant that includes a slow-moving wraparound line of barbecue-buyers as one of its design elements.

Though the Franklin menu has a fair amount of variety, including pulled pork and the “Tipsy Texan” sandwich, its real specialty is its brisket, which is smoked for 12 to 18 hours, making the average 60-minute wait tolerable.

(900 E. 11th St., Austin; 512-653-1187.)

Copper Top Barbecue, Big Pine, Calif.: Picnic tables, an outdoor grill and cowboy hats give Copper Top BBQ an authentic old-west feel, but the food speaks for itself. Named by Yelp as the America’s Best Restaurant, Copper Top is known as much for its homey sides like mac-and-cheese and mashed-potato salad as it is for its deliciously baby-back ribs.

Located off U.S. 395 south of Yosemite and over the mountains from Fresno (though you can’t get there from here), Copper Top’s wooden sign charmingly reads “Food makes friends,” a motto that rings true. Grabbing barbecue at Copper Top is almost always a friendly experience. Guests can watch their pulled pork and ribs being finished from the comfort of the old-school benches while they enjoy the view of the nearby Sierra Nevada. It’s true: Copper Top adds “view” to “barbecue.”

(10 N Main St., Big Pine, Calif. 93513; 760-970-5577.)

Joe’s BBQ, Blue Ridge, Ga.: Georgia is home to many great barbecue eateries, but many would agree that Joe’s BBQ holds a special place in the pantheon.

Dry-rubbed with a super-secret spice blend and smoked with hickory wood, the barbecue at Joe’s (tucked up high in the southern mountains, somewhat to the right of Chattanooga) is instantly recognizable. No other Georgia BBQ has a signature flavor quite like Joe’s. Be prepared to go brisket-less here; Joe’s specializes in pulled pork, pulled chicken and ribs, with enough sauce variety to keep things interesting. And for anyone who might want to try something different, Joe’s Brunswick stew is also impeccable. After all, not all barbecue places are strictly about barbecue.

(3365 E. 1st St., Blue Ridge, Ga. 30513; 706-455-3517.)

Fette Sau, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Fette Sau,“fat pig” in German, brings the wonders of barbecue to the New York’s hottest borough, and puts its own hipster twist on traditional southern recipes.

The industrial décor compliments the cafeteria-style restaurant, which shares its location with an auto-repair shop, adding to the industrial vibe. Though Fette Sau has a laid-back look to it, the work that goes into their food is anything but laid-back. Smoked for hours, Fette Sau’s specials like its dry-rub beef brisket play well with its great selection of bourbon – another Fette Sau specialty. The bourbon and juicy meats, like their pork belly, might have you felling like, well, a fat pig afterwards, but you definitely won’t regret this savory indulgence.

(354 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11211; 718-963-3404.)

Natalie Rivera is a freelance writer who encourages you to follow her @byNatalieRivera.

Editor’s Note: Great barbecue is worth traveling for. Protect that barbecue sojourn with travel insurance from Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. Get it right here.