The same can be said of me in regard to this column. All though I’m not burned out or at the end of my barbecue
writing career, I hope! Starting a new job a few months ago has taken up all of my time and energy. Taking over an operation that needs to be turned around 180 degrees is very time consuming and tiring. As a result, I’ve been prohibited from judging or cooking in any barbecue contests in the last month, and don’t currently have any scheduled for the remainder of the year. All the local contests had already been held, and there aren’t any close enough for me to be able to make a day trip to judge. Cooking a contest is definitely out of the question right now, due the time and
preparation involved in competing.
So, it’s time for the best of Marc’s BBQ experiences. I have to go with my Top 3 in each category as there are so many great barbecue venues and products out there today, and that I’ve visited. All these entries receive a 5
on my personal scale of 5 to 1, or Great to Bad. (Please note that ‘5 to 1’ isn’t referring to the Doors song.
Although, it is a Great song.) Every barbecue enthusiast has their own favorites, which will generate passionate agreement or disagreement with my listings. And that’s OK, as variety and discussion is what make life worth living.
Best BBQ Restaurant
Gates BBQ (Original location –Brooklyn St.) – Kansas City, MO
I love all their food – ribs, burnt ends, pulled pork, cole slaw, beans, and sauce. It looks, feels and smells like a great BBQ “joint”. Arthur Bryant’s original location & Oklahoma Joe’s are also excellent barbecue restaurants, but in my
opinion, not as excellent as Gates.
Germantown Commissary – Germantown, TN (Memphis Suburbs)
Great ribs, beans, cole slaw, sauce too, like Gates. And their banana pudding and service is outstanding.
The restaurant in an old military commissary next to an active rail road track; very cool when a train goes by.
I feel the Rendezvous is highly overrated: the ribs are not just dry, but brittle. And it appears they only bring out their best for food television and their regulars. I’ve had two very bad meals there, out of two total meals there!
17th Street Bar& Grill (Original location) – Murphysboro, IL
The legend Mike Mill’s place in a quaint little Southern Illinois town. Again, all the barbecue menu items are great, to include the wings and Southern fried dill pickles. However, my favorite item is the ribs due to Mike’s Magic Dust rub, either dry or with his signature sauce.
Underrated or Not Well-known:
Crosstown Barbecue – Springfield, MO
Ranch House BBQ & Steak House - Olympia, WA
Best Barbecue Sauce
There are so many choices that this will be the most subjective of all the categories.
The Smoke Daddy, Sweet & Smokey - Chicago, IL
Chicago has a number of very good barbecue restaurants and companies that produce barbecue products.
This sauce is thick, bold, smoky and very flavorful. It is perfect on ribs and pulled pork – my favorites. The
restaurant is one of Chicago’s best, a Memphis-style barbecue & motif with three excellent sauces – the Original and Mustard-Q are excellent too.
Blues Hog, Original - Perry, MO
I know it’s so “yesterday” on the competition circuit, but it was revolutionary and everyone was using it. But it has
a unique flavor, is sweet & spicy, is a glaze, and goes well with all meat. Also, my girlfriend who isn’t a big barbecue fan still loves it.
The Shed, Original – Ocean Springs, MS
The original restaurant (shack) burned down but the fine barbecue & sauce keeps coming. The sauce has a
classic, flavorful, mild flavor that appeals to a wide variety of peopleand enhances and meats.
Underrated or Not Well-known:
Head Brother’s - Mobile, AL
Tennessee Whiskey - Lynchburg, TN
Yes, the bottle’s label looks like the “bigger” bottle and it’s a very well-known name, but also a great BBQ sauce with Jack Daniels in it (!!) that not many people outside Tennessee are very familiar with.
Best Dry Rubs
Denny Mike's, Pixie Dust - York, ME
Mike Sherman finally got the national recognition he has so richly deserved for his outstanding rubs at The
2012 National Barbecue Association (NBBQA) Awards of Excellence presentation.
Rendezvous - Memphis, TN
While I don’t like their food, their dry rub is excellent; a big, unique flavor (Greek-like) with celery seed. It
is great on your own dry ribs, like at the famous restaurant. Only one of two rubs that I use on dry ribs.
17th Street Bar & Grill, Mike Mill’s Magic Dust - Murphysboro, IL
A classic dry rub that is great with sauce, or alone on dry ribs. This is the second of the two rubs I only use
on my dry ribs.
Underrated or Not Well-known:
Draper's BBQ - Cunningham, KY
Andy Roo's, BBQ Grill Seasoning - New Orleans, LA
Best Commercial Barbecue Sauce
Jack Daniels, No. 7
This is my favorite commercial barbecue sauce, even without the JD, as it has a bold, sweet, classic barbecue sauce
taste. It has a slightly different flavor than the other classic sauces that really appeals to me.
KC Masterpiece, Original
What can I say, the great, classic sauce that I believe is still the leading selling barbecue sauce in the United States.
Sweet Baby Ray’s, Original & Honey Barbecue (mix them 50/50!)
All their barbecue sauces are outstanding: now a wide variety. The first sauce I used when I began to cook barbecue, mixing the two types.
Best Commercial Dry Rubs
There are not many “great” choices in this category.
Stubbs, Barbecue Seasoning –Lubbock, TX
The first dry rub I used when I began to cook barbecue. Nice spices and flavorful barbecue taste.
Southern Comfort - New Orleans, LA
Unique, large-grained rub. It’s hard to find, but worth the hunt and results.
Nantucket Off-Shore, Rasta Rub (Pork& Chicken) – Nantucket, MA
Salt & sugar-free seasoning, but very good flavor.
As a note (or warning), as I continue to have more and more barbecue experiences, there may be a ‘The Best of… Marc’s BBQ Experiences II – The First Revision’. I might even add more categories; just wanting to cover the basics this time.
Time to get off my computer and get busy doing barbecue stuff again, so that my next column is more current, poignant and inspiring. OK, more current anyway!
Happy Memorial Day Weekend!
Where there's smoke, there's probably barbecue!