Which of America’s great barbecue regions does it best?

Transplants from Kansas City, Memphis, Texas, and North Carolina make their cases.

Graham Smith


  • Texas has the best barbecue in the United States — all kinds of different meats slow cooked for hours till they’re fall-off-the-bone good, with a sweet, tangy sauce. You can put it on a sandwich or eat it right off the grill, with coleslaw or cheese or whatever you like on it. Add slow-cooked beans, corn, some mashed potatoes, and sweet tea. There are lots of options; it depends on your mood. Mostly I’m in a brisket mood, but I don’t have a problem with ribs. When I was in college at Texas Christian, in Fort Worth, we used to go to Cooper’s and Railhead Smokehouse. Especially Cooper’s. It’s an old-fashioned place, and you can’t beat the barbecue sauce. I’ve been to Commonwealth in Wrentham. It’s different. Not quite as good as Texas, but I’ll take what I can get. It reminds me how much I miss home.

  • Josh Boyce is a New England Patriots wide receiver.

Graham Smith


  • Memphis barbecue is its own tradition and taste. It’s slow-cooked pork over hickory-wood smoke. Ironically, it’s the Boston butt that’s most often used for what’s called “pulled pork.” The pulled pork sandwich is served with barbecue sauce and creamy coleslaw on a bun. Ribs, of course, can be slathered with sauce or cooked with a dry rub. The thing about the rich flavor of barbecue, which is sweet, tomato-based, and spicy, is that in hot, hot weather, it kind of fills your mouth in a way no other food can. It’s like a mean blues guitar — you can almost hear it. I don’t have a favorite barbecue place anywhere in New England. Boston can’t quite get down that low, or if it can, I’ve yet to see it. When I have barbecue in Newburyport, I order online from Corky’s or Rendezvous in Memphis and FedEx drops it off.

  • Vicki Hendrickson is founder of the Newburyport Literary Festival.

Graham Smith


  • I’m from the western part of North Carolina, the Foothills region. Barbecue for us was pulled pork and shredded chicken, vinegar-based with savory and sweet coleslaw on a nice bun. Smoked, flavorful, and delectable. And the barbecue sauce was dark and rich, certainly sweet and tangy. The best kind of barbecue plate is one that still had a little sauce on it at the end, where you could grab a piece of bread and just dip it in the sauce. If the sauce was good enough, the meat was almost an accessory. I like Sweet Cheeks in the Fenway, though it’s hard to beat Redbones. You give me a place, in Boston or anywhere else, where somebody is smoking or grilling in an old drum they’ve cut in half, and you’re going to get some good barbecue.

  • Former US senator Mo Cowan is chief operating officer of ML Strategies.

Graham Smith


  • I like the “old” Kansas City barbecue places. Arthur Bryant’s is stuck in time. Harry Truman loved it, and if it was good enough for Harry, it’s good enough for us; that’s the guiding attitude — and it works. The food is great, and everything else about the place is designed to say “Nothing matters here except the food.” Gates Bar-B-Q is an aggressively friendly place in which people scream “Hi. May I help you?” the moment you walk in the door. The food is cheaper, still very good, and the service is instantaneous. There are Gates places all over town. Anyway, one more point: KC Masterpiece is a god-awful sickly-sweet barbecue sauce, which has done everything possible to ruin the good name of Kansas City barbecue. Couldn’t they have called it “Memphis Masterpiece” or “Awesome Austin Barbecue” or something?

  • Bill James is senior adviser for baseball operations for the Red Sox.

  • Interviews have been edited and condensed.

  • More coverage:

  • - Boston’s 10 best BBQ joints

  • - How to build the perfect BBQ meal

  • - Which of America’s great barbecue regions does it best?

  • - Discuss: What’s your favorite barbecue region?

  • - More from the Magazine

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