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Best BBQ: from CIA chef or locally grown pitmaster

Broken off from this thread:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/630703

My basic argument:
I seek out local BBQ wherever I go, and am more likely to go to an establishment which has been run for generations by the same family than one run by a non-local CIA trained chef who has successfully honed his skills in fine dining

Reason:
To taste the variety of regional cuisine which an area is particularly known for; one of the best benefits of travelling is trying different food

I know that the CIA trains chefs and those worthy of the degree ought to be able to make excellent dishes in a variety of styles, based on the classic preparations for fine dining. I'm fairly certain that there are countless pitmasters who also know classic fine dining preparations, even if not formally trained at the CIA.

Question:

What do you look for when choosing a BBQ establishment? (reviews? style? credentials? painted pig sign on the side of the road? Food Network recommendation? website?

)

If you don't like BBQ anywhere, that's fine. This isn't a debate regarding whether it's good or bad or who has the best barbeque or the origins of the word or what is considered authentic--those topics have been discussed at length (generally every 2-3 months).

Thoughts?

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  1. I LOVE barbeque.

    Thinking about it, can't say as if I've ever had bad barbeque, because bad would mean inedible and I haven't ever been able to not eat my barbeque.

    They have me at the smell. That smoky marriage of burning coals and charring meat. I don't care for propane! I want "real" fire.

    I will seek out reviews on local joints, but one man's perfect sauce might not be mine, so I usually will take my chances. When I see a new spot, or if I'm in a new city, I'm game to give any restaurant a try. The meat is most important to me, but the place should have excellent sides.

    I sitll miss Jack's BBQ Pit on Second Street in Belmont Shore (a division of Long Beach, CA). They had an real wood pit for slow smoking/cooking their meat and THE best french fries. And, you could sit outside and people watch and you drank down a pitcher of beer.

    1. Depends on the pitmaster, depends on the chef.

      1. I try different places for BBQ all of the time. The one constant thing that seems to be true wherever I go is that BBQ from a place that doesn't specialize in BBQ is usually disappointing. In fact, most of the good places will either have the word BarBQ or some derivative (like Jack's Rib Shack) in the name. And these type places don't usually attract CIA trained chefs.

        The chef might be able to make something that tastes pretty good, but give me a pit master any time.

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          1. From my own experience, mostly gained in Nashville, I'll have to go with homegrown. Every prize-winning heavy-credentialed barbecue dude who set up shop there with fanfare and publicity and much anticipation has either come to grief or managed to thrive in spite of mediocre food, while grubby, scary old Crow's in East Nashville (assuming it's still there) draws crowds to their back-street parking lot every night.