The Bizarre Foods host dishes on… dishes.
As the host of Travel Channel’s long-running hit Bizarre Foods (Tuesdays, 8/9c), Andrew Zimmern has eaten everything from smoked raccoon in New Orleans and seal flippers in Newfoundland to tuna eyeballs in Hawaii and duck tongues, porcupine and rice-filled rats in Vietnam.
But considering that it’s outdoor cooking season, we asked him to tell us about his favorite spots for something a little closer to home: BBQ.
Next time you’re traveling and hungry, stop in at one of these must-visit destinations for meaty slices of heaven.
“The pulled pork at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (Mt. Juliet, Tennessee) is from whole hogs cooked low and slow for 24 hours and basted with an acidically bracing vinegar mop. This is top-notch stuff.”
1. Scott’s Bar-B-Que (Hemingway, South Carolina)
“Deep in rural Low Country, Scott’s Bar-B-Que is all about being the best barbecue in America. This roadside stop is just pigs, wood and smoke. The Scotts opened the place in 1972, using cooking methods passed down through generations. Pitmaster Rodney Scott (who cooked his first pig when he was just 11 years old) slow-smokes whole hogs overnight with hardwood coals made from hickory, pecan and oak logs that he hand selects each day. As they smoke, the butterflied pigs are continuously basted with a vinegar-peppery mop (he uses an actual long-handled mop) to give the pork its fantastic, signature flavors. When they come off of the pit, the meat is hand-pulled by Mrs. Scott herself, then fed to adoring fans who pack the joint on a daily basis. It doesn’t get better than this.”
2. Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint (Mt. Juliet, Tennessee)
“When it comes to whole hog barbecue, award-winning pitmaster Pat Martin is the man to trust. Martin’s Bar-B-Que is his temple of smoked meats, a pilgrimage-worthy barbecue joint just 20 minutes outside of Nashville. The pulled pork is from whole hogs cooked low and slow for 24 hours and basted with an acidically bracing vinegar mop. This is top-notch stuff.”
3. Franklin Barbecue (Austin, Texas)
“In 2009, Aaron Franklin and his wife started smoking meat out of a trailer in an East Austin parking lot, though they quickly outgrew this spot when lines of fans and foodies began snaking around the block. Now at the brick-and-mortar restaurant, folks are still lining up at 9 a.m. for slabs of meat at what’s been called “The Best BBQ in America.” Franklin deserves a lot of credit for his brisket (which sells out each and every day), but don’t overlook less written about offerings (turkey and sausage I’m talking about you!). Sides and sauces are top-notch too, but let’s not kid ourselves… this place is all about the meat.”
4. Peg Leg Porker (Nashville, Tennessee)
“I’d never been a huge fan of dry rubbed ribs until visiting Peg Leg Porker. The baby back ribs are beautifully cooked in a rotisserie smoker, which brings out the best expression of the cured smoky flavor. Then they’re doused in a mix of chilies, paprika and 14 secret seasonings, just like they do in Memphis. This is a breath taker.”
5. Legal Beans (Jersey City, New Jersey)
“Nearly 10 percent of Jersey City’s population is Filipino, and with more than 40,000 new Filipino immigrants arriving in this country every year, the city’s Pinoy population is growing, dynamic and still very tied to the traditions and tastes of their homeland. I love Filipino food. The post-colonial cuisine combines the best of South Asian ingredients with Spanish technique. Thankfully, you can find phenomenal Filipino cuisine at Jersey City’s Legal Beans, a whole-hog rotisserie pit house devoted to Cebu-style lechon barbecue. The spit-roasted pigs are stuffed with lemongrass and scallions, rubbed with vinegar and spices, then cooked over hot coals. The portions are hefty, the sides are out of this world (slaw, dinuguan, rice) and the lechon is some of the best I’ve ever tasted.”
Amazing BBQ from Maine?? We think this photo speaks for itself.
6. Salvage BBQ (Portland, Maine)
“I ate here a few months ago and demolished a platter of pork ribs and a pile of some of the best sliced brisket in recent memory, and I still managed to roll over to the counter and eat a quarter chicken because I couldn’t leave without ingesting more smoke and sauce. Food geeks will be inspired and—dare I say it?—barbecue freaks will travel here and be made happy, despite their contrarian, contemptuous hang-ups about geographic authenticity.”
7. Smoki O’s (St. Louis)
“Otis and Earline Walker first opened Smoki O’s in the Soulard Market in 1997. The barbecue carryout joint known for incredible pig snouts and rib tips soon gained a following, outgrew its market stall and moved to its current home in north St. Louis, just a few minutes from downtown. Pig snouts (called snoots in this city) and rib tips first became popular in the United States because they were affordable, and with the Walker’s expertise they are still one of the city’s signature barbecued items. Smoki O’s snoots are so good, I would put them in my top ten favorite barbecue dishes in the country. The meaty, fatty, skin-covered morsels are cured overnight, rubbed with cayenne pepper and salt and grilled for almost an hour. With the fat rendered, the snoots are covered in their signature barbecue sauce and ready to eat. When you are in St. Louis, you gotta try a rib tip and snoot combo. Trust me, you’ll become a believer.”
8. Miss Myra’s (Vestavia Hills, Alabama)
“Open since 1984, Miss Myra’s serves real hickory-smoked barbecue, cooked in a custom-built brick pit, alongside a killer line-up of homemade Southern desserts. It’s still a family-run restaurant and a local favorite, with fantastic chicken, ribs, pulled pork, legendary “white sauce” and a slew of home-style sides such as green beans, coleslaw, potato salad and deviled eggs. Made from just mayonnaise, vinegar, salt and pepper, white sauce is a northern Alabama staple and the condiment of choice for barbecue. Miss Myra’s tangy, creamy version is a perfect dipping sauce for the expertly smoked chicken, which tops my list of all-time favorite barbecued chicken (just look at that skin!). At Myra’s, you must save room for dessert. Without question, the banana pudding is the best banana pudding in the world. But don’t stop at the pudding, you gotta try the pies—key lime, chocolate cream, coconut, pecan. It’s dessert heaven.”
9. Jim ’N Nicks (Birmingham, Alabama)
“Nick Pihakis and his father Jim opened the first Jim ’N Nick’s barbecue joint more than 25 years ago in Birmingham, Alabama. Known for a commitment to quality and an everything-made-from-scratch philosophy, the barbecue chain has now grown to more than 30 restaurants. Barbecue purists may scoff at the idea of a multi-unit chain, but this one lives up to the hype with a focus on traditional low-and-slow cooking methods, fresh ingredients (you won’t even find a freezer in the kitchen), heritage hog breeds and incredible pulled pork [see photo at top of page]. Hickory-smoked for more than 14 hours, the pork shoulder is as good as it gets—their pulled-pork sandwich was named to Southern Living’s list of best pork sandwiches—but the cheese biscuits are reason enough to make a pit stop.”
10. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City, Kansas)
“You’ve probably heard of Oklahoma Joe’s—they’ve been featured time and time again on food shows and taken the top prize at dozens of national barbecue competitions. Well, they’ve changed their name to Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, but the pilgrimage-worthy burnt ends and pulled pork remain the same. The line can be out the door any time of day at the original gas station location, but it’s worth the wait. Try the Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich, the Z-man with brisket and smoked provolone, burnt ends and ribs. And don’t forget a shareable side of seasoned fries.”
11. BB’s Lawnside (Kansas City, Missouri)
“Everyone knows that nothing pairs with barbecue like a hefty serving of blues music. At B.B.’s Lawnside, you get both. Opt for gigantic slabs of saucy ribs served with pit beans and white bread. The sauce is tart and sweet, and the ribs are arguably the best in the city. And in this city, that’s saying a lot.”
Hungry? Franklin’s brisket and ribs (left) and Joe’s Z-man sandwich (right) can help.