Sauce-slathered ribs, spicy chicken wings, mountains of vinegary pulled pork. They’re all part of the American barbecue experience, which at this point is a national pastime. So here are several practitioners across the nation that can’t be beat.

1. Bubba’s-Q (Avon, Ohio): Launched by former Cleveland Browns star Al“Bubba” Baker and his wife, the award-winning “Bubba-Q” offered at this fine establishment has made it a regional destination. Dry-rubbed, marinated for 24 hours and then slow-smoked with applewood, their meats are imbued with unforgettable flavor.

2. Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (two locations in Decatur, Alabama): You don’t win multiple Memphis in May grand champion trophies, as Big Bob Gibson exec chef Chris Lilly and his team have done, unless your barbecue is damn good. The establishment has also won awards for its sauces, seasonings and dry rubs, as well as “Restaurant of the Year” recognition. Try the barbecue chicken with special white barbecue sauce or a pulled pork platter with secret seasoning.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (various locations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut): Dino BBQ is all about personality. They’ve got the friendliest wait staff and bartenders, the most raucous atmosphere and some of the boldest barbecue available. Their sauces are sweet and flavorful, their ribs are succulent, their chicken is juicy, and they even do killer Southern-style picnic items like deviled eggs and fried green tomatoes.

The Salt Lick BBQ (Driftwood and Round Rock, Texas, and a few airports): The Salt Lick is famous for its combo plates. Go for The Rancher, an $18 platter of brisket, pork ribs, sausage, turkey, potato salad, cole slaw, beans and absolutely no regrets.

Twin Anchors (Chicago): Though they’ve got great barbecue pork, chicken and baked beans, Twin Anchors’ mouth-watering ribs alone justify a trip. They also make all their own sauces: zesty barbecue, mild and the “Prohibition” sauce with brown sugar, cracked black pepper and a touch of ghost pepper.

6. Fette Sau (Brooklyn, New York):
Barbecue may not be the first thing Brooklyn brings to mind, but Fette Sau’s smoked meats and craft beers have netted it several Zagat’s “Best BBQ in NYC” nods. Choose from house-made brisket, pastrami, boneless and bone-in ribs, beef tips, pork shoulder, St. Louis pork ribs, sausage, baked beans, coleslaw and more. In other words, no sleep till Brooklyn… barbecue.

Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue (various locations in Kansas and Missouri): Like variety? Jack Stack Barbecue offers five types of ribs, five barbecue meats, nine different sides, four barbecue sauces and endless combinations. Try the prime beef ribs or their famous lamb ribs for a barbecue experience out of the ordinary. Then head to Kauffman Stadium for a Royals game and more barbecue.

8. Angelo’s Bar-B-Que (Fort Worth, Texas): For over 50 years, Angelo’s has been wowing patrons with their Texas-style barbecue sandwiches, plates, seasonings and sauces. To round out all your barbecue food groups, try some of their hot links, barbecue salami, a fried pie and some house-made potato salad.

The Pit (Raleigh, North Carolina): Like many North Carolina barbecue joints, they do pork here whole hog style with a vinegary sauce. But along with delicious pit-cooked ribs, pulled pork and brisket, the Pit also serves some less expected fare, such as fried pimento cheese with pepper jelly, pumpkin skillet cornbread with maple butter and bacon bruschetta.

Baby Blues BBQ (Philadelphia, San Francisco and Venice, California): Baby Blues began as Southern California’s go-to spot for high-level barbecue grub and now has three far-flung locations. You can get black Angus brisket, Memphis-style pork ribs or Texas-style beef ribs, barbecue tri tip, chicken smoked rice, cornbread and a whole lot more.

The Joint (New Orleans, Louisiana): The Joint is always smokin’ their beef brisket, pulled pork, Cajun sausage and chicken. After you mop up your last bit of smoky meat juice with white bread, go for their Peanut Butter Pie, made with local Creole cream cheese. Are we the only ones who kinda wanna go there right now?

Lead photo: iStock/Getty Images Plus/rez-art