Nashville-style barbecue ribs at Edley’s. (©Nathan Zucker)
By Jennifer McKee
What could be better for your summer dining celebrations than some juicy, smoky barbecue? We’ve rounded up six of our favorite Southern eateries to save you from slaving over the grill. You’re welcome.
Atlanta: Fat Matt’s Rib Shack
This no-frills joint is famous for serving up slabs of ribs and smoked chicken—Food Network’s Ty Pennington called it his favorite barbecue spot in the country on Twitter, commenting “They make a mighty fine slab!” Pair them with the eatery’s long list of side dishes, such as Brunswick stew or “rum” baked beans. Come evening, there’s also live music on the menu.
Birmingham: Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q
Bob Sykes Bar-B-Q’s pork was the subject of a 2020 episode of The Cooking Channel’s “Man Fire Food,” which features the inventive ways Americans cook with fire. It chronicled pitmaster Van Sykes as he cooked 250 pounds of picnic pork heated with hickory wood on an open brick pit. The family-owned restaurant has been a must-visit in Birmingham since 1957.
Charleston: Bessinger’s Barbecue
The Bessingers are the “first family of barbecue” in South Carolina, known best for their legendary mustard-based barbecue sauce, a staple of Southern ‘cue since the 1930s; Andrew Zimmern has called it “one of the most delicious things on the planet.” The restaurant’s “Colossal Joe” was seen on “Man vs. Food”—it’s a half pound of pulled pork, topped with coleslaw, beef brisket and onion straws.
Memphis: The Rendezvous
The Rendezvous is synonymous with Memphis, and for good reason. This quintessential barbecue experience began when, in 1948, Charlie Vergos cleaned out the basement below his diner and discovered a coal chute, the perfect vent for his grill. The eatery has been a go-to in Memphis ever since. It’s known for its ribs and chicken, but Tyler Florence said on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” that the charcoal-smoked pulled-pork sandwich with coleslaw is “the real winner.”
Nashville’s barbecue didn’t have its own identity until Edley’s owner Will Newman and pitmaster U.T. Craven arrived on the scene. Together, they honed the menu to create the perfect Nashville-style barbecue for their enthusiastic customers. Test out the highlights yourself in the Triple Play—ribs, brisket and sausage—just in time for Father’s Day (available Sunday, June 20). It’s fit for the heartiest of appetites, and comes with cornbread and two sides.
Multiple Markets (Charleston, Birmingham and coming soon to Atlanta): Rodney Scott’s BBQ
Rodney Scott revives the art of whole-hog barbecue at his Southern restaurants. Cooking in this tradition since middle school, the James Beard Award-winning chef caught the eye of Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern, and has traveled the world to work alongside pitmasters in Belize, Uruguay, France and Australia. He’s known for his generous spirit and positive attitude as much as his cuisine, but you’ve got to try Rod’s Original Whole Hog Pork Plate, the “heart and soul” of Scott’s barbecue.