American cities define themselves in many ways, but perhaps none with more passion than the category of barbecue. Whether it’s about the sauce or the rub … low and slow … sweet or fiery … the ribs, the chicken, the shoulder, or the pulled pork … regional residents all seem to insist that their hometown barbecue can’t be beat. When you’re on the road, you can be the judge. Here’s a roundup of just a few of the candidates:
Kansas City, KS “In Kansas City, it’s all about the smoke, the type of woods they use, and the sauce,” says Mendi Jones, director of sales at the Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Village West, in Kansas City. “Everybody has their own version and whether they use hickory, red oak, mesquite … different types of wood make the flavor. And of course, all day—all day in the smoker.”
One well-known barbecue restaurant is often recommended by the hotel staff; it has a location less than a mile from the hotel. But Mendi also points guests to some of the local joints that are unknown to non-natives. “Papa Bob’s is a little barbecue place in Bonner Springs, right down the road from us. He’s unknown in comparison with the big guys, but really good.”
Nashville, TN Roni Witkosky is the general manager at the Country Inn & Suites By Carlson in Goodlettsville, TN, but guests will often find her answering phones, helping to fold laundry, or working the front desk—making her easily accessible to folks looking for barbecue recommendations. And being located just outside Nashville, there are plenty of options. “Jack’s Bar-B-Cue is close,” she says. “Very close. Their pulled pork—amazing. Very amazing. And their potato salad? It’s a red potato salad. Amazing.
“There is also a pretty good place right around the corner from here, called Bar-B-Cutie.”
Geographically, Nashville sits at the center of our nation’s “barbecue belt,” so many other cities’ barbecue traditions have landed there. Pork is certainly the dominant meat in Tennessee barbecue, and the wood of choice for smoking the pork is often a battle between varieties of hickory from different regions of Tennessee.
Austin, TX Sometimes called the world’s “live music capital,” Austin is also considered by some to be the world’s barbecue headquarters. Immigrants to Texas from Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia brought their methods for smoked meats and sausages, Mexicans brought their chilies and spices, and freed slaves developed the “low and slow” cooking methods that made even the toughest cuts of meat soft and juicy.
It’s hard to know where to begin to explore Austin’s barbecue options. Fortunately, if you happen to be staying at the North Austin Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, there are plenty of staff members willing to guide you. “Barbecue is big in Austin,” acknowledges Sandi Slayton, director of sales and marketing at the North Austin location. “Probably the most well-known place in Austin is downtown. It’s only open from 11 to 3 Tuesday through Sunday, and you have a two- to four-hour wait in line. People line up hours before they even open, and nobody complains about having to wait. But there are other great places.”
Sandi points through the lobby doors to a pale fieldstone building right across the parking lot. That restaurant has locations throughout Texas. Another place they recommend is Salt Lick. “It’s not too pricey, but it’s more upscale,” she says.
Owensboro, KY Owensboro is home of the International Bar-B-Q Festival, held every May since 1979, and featuring barbecue (of course) along with live entertainment, cook-offs, and handmade crafts and souvenirs. Kentucky barbecue—especially in Owensville—is characterized by one unique ingredient: mutton. You’ll also want to try the region’s famed burgoo—a stew made from a number of types of meats, including mutton, with vegetables like potatoes, corn, and okra mixed in.
The Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Owensboro, KY is at the heart of the county’s barbecue offerings. Just half a mile east of the hotel along Highway 81 (Parrish Avenue), you’ll see the classic restaurant which, for five decades, has served up classic Owensboro barbecue fare, including plenty of mutton and burgoo. The Old Hickory Bar-B-Que is another good, family-friendly choice to sample the mutton and burgoo in a homey, country setting.
Raleigh, NC Barbecue aficionados in North Carolina will make one important distinction: In Raleigh, you’re eating “down east” barbecue, as opposed to Lexington-style. While all of North Carolina favors pork as the meat of choice, “down east” is characterized by the entire hog basted in vinegar, salt, pepper, and oyster juice. Lexington uses the richer pork shoulder rather than the whole hog, and Lexington and other regions began experimenting with different kinds of sauces, especially ketchup in the late 1800s. But Raleigh has stood firmly by their vinegar mixture.
If you’re looking for barbecue from a whole hog literally cooked in a pit, make a stop at The Pit, one of the area’s most popular, and some would say legendary, barbecue joints. Or stop in at Ole Time Barbecue—family run for generations, offering generous portions of authentic Raleigh-style barbecue fare and unlimited hush puppies.
The Country Inn & Suites at the Raleigh-Durham Airport puts you within 30 minutes of all the city’s top barbecue joints, and just three miles from fishing, canoeing, and more at Lake Crabtree County Park.
Wherever your barbecue quest takes you, chances are there is a Country Inns & Suites location nearby where you can relax and unwind after your ultra-flavorful meals.