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Jul 15, 2010 02:58 PM

Can I get an example of each major regional style of American BBQ?

I'm a self-admitted newbie when it comes to American-style BBQ.

I like what I like, but that's about the extent of my American BBQ IQ.

That said, I would like to ask if the 'hounds can provide an example of each style of American BBQ. Doesn't have to be the best LA has to offer, or even necessarily very good, just an example.

Of the different major regional styles of American BBQ I can think of, here's my list thus far ...

- St. Louis

- Memphis

- North Carolina

- South Carolina

- Texas

- Kansas City

Are there other major regional styles of American BBQ I am missing?

Anyhow, thanks for any suggestions.

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  1. Gus's in South Pas offers most of those. The BBQ has been merely OK on my several visits. Nice-sounding drinks, but they're so weak you could give them to a colicky baby. The burger is better, and the Fosselman's for dessert is outstanding.

    Lucille's also cooks up several styles -- less than OK. If forced to go there, I generally get the catfish. The sides are better.

    Zeke's in Montrose (I've heard negatives about the other location) is much better than the two above, and it offers numerous styles.

    Big Mista, of course, is best of all. Go to a real Texan for your brisket and other beefy needs, not to mention outstanding pork, mac n cheese, etc.

    1. There's a Missouri style also. I can't give you specifics but the differences have to do with whether they use a sauce or a spice rub. Another factor is whether or not the meat is smoked.

      17 Replies
      1. re: mucho gordo

        Wouldn't that be classified as KC BBQ since it is in Missouri.

        To OP: There is also Santa Maria style which is cooked on a special grill and is a unique blend of spices.

        Bludso's is Texas BBQ with a sweeter sauce.
        JayBee's is a example of Memphis BBQ which is all about the pork.
        Oinkster is more Carolina style BBQ with a vinegar based sauce.

          1. re: A5 KOBE

            You may be correct, A5 Kobe, although I've seen places that advertise KC and some Missouri. Whether or not they're both the same is beyond my paltry knowledge of bbq

            1. re: A5 KOBE

              Might be also referred to as St. Louis, depending on which part of Missouri you are from!
              Original post did not mention Santa Maria, which is its own category as well.

              1. re: A5 KOBE

                I like Bludso's a lot, Kobe, but after living in Texas for a dozen years or so I can say that I've never had brisket sliced that thin in the Lone Star State. Good as it is, their beef reminds me of Arthur Bryant's in KC, not Texas

                1. re: hnsbmg

                  You won't find brisket cut thin in Texas because they like their brisket better done, and it will simply fall apart in thinner slices- doesn't always do so well in thick slices, either. I've found myself liking my brisket a bit chewier lately, as I've been using Wagyu briskets, and that means thinner slices, perhaps even without the steaming often done in Texas in the foil. If you don't use foil, the outside of the brisket dessicates as the interior cooks, it takes longer, it gets smokier, but it's chewier and the slices hold together better. The steaming part is the only thing that can soften a really tough brisket, but since I'm using Wagyu, no need. Don't know about Bludso's, but slicing favors a chewier, slighly less done brisket than is typical in Texas.

                  1. re: hnsbmg


                    Kevin Bludso claims his BBQ is Texan style and has even has a menu item called the Texas sampler (which I get every time). Not only that, the man is from Texas and has been doing BBQ there. Just because he slices his brisket thinner does not make it a different style.


                    1. re: A5 KOBE

                      Kobe, the key point is that thin slicing and the cooking technique that makes it possible give the brisket a different character from the usual Texas BBQ.

                      I guess it's conceivable that somebody in Texas sells thin-sliced beef, but Bludso's claim that his delicious brisket is "Texas style" leads the unsuspecting to think this is what they'll get when they visit the Lone Star State. It's not. If you like Bludso's style (and I do), then head north to Arthur Bryant's in KC (and I will, many times more ;-).

                      Wouldn't you object if Fab Hot Dog opened a branch in Chicago and sold its delicious New Jersey Ripper under the name "Los Angeles-Style Dog," leading Chicagoans to believe that most Angelenos eat their hot dogs deep-fried?

                      1. re: hnsbmg

                        So you are basically calling him a liar.

                        I am sure he can slice it thicker if he wants to.

                        1. re: A5 KOBE

                          "I am sure he can slice it thicker if he wants to." Houston, we have agreement!

                          "So you are basically calling him a liar." You think Kevin Bludso can't be wrong without being a liar? Nah. Think it through again.

                          1. re: hnsbmg

                            Obvious sarcasm. There are 4 different styles and maybe even more in Texas alone. I would classify Bludso's as Rural Black BBQ. The thicker sliced brisket that are a bit tougher is notoriously known as Market Style BBQ (German immigrants)

                            Rural Black
                            South Texas "Barbocoa"
                            East Texas
                            Central Texas (market style)



                  2. re: A5 KOBE

                    So, if my preference is for a spice rub, I should be looking at Santa Maria style only or are there others that do a rub only?

                    1. re: mucho gordo

                      In San Luis Obispo, many of the Santa Maria style bbq places do not put sauce directly on the meat. The tri tip is usually that staple of Santa Maria bbq along with beef ribs. I have to say that the Santa Maria style beef ribs are my favorite because they have a simple rub with more emphasis on the flavor of the meat.

                      Also the Texas Market style bbq is an option, although they emphasize the flavor and texture of the meat and sometimes have sauce simply because patrons ask for them.

                      I believe that there is an argument in Memphis to the dry and wet bbq discussion. Some places only do dry rub while others drench there que in sauce. I forget the name of the place but in Memphis they smoke the ribs and then put a dry rub on after they are cooked.

                      There could be bbq styles that emphasize rub but these ones really stand out to me.

                      1. re: A5 KOBE

                        No sauce at all for Santa Maria style.
                        "Rub"if you want to call it that is black pepper and garlic salt. .

                        1. re: A5 KOBE

                          is rendezvous the place you're thinking of?

                          gordo, you can ask for "sauce on the side" at most decent bbq places here. the best are bludso's and bigmista's, with pinkie's a very distant third. phillips makes great seasoned-but-not-dry-rubbed bbq.

                    2. re: mucho gordo

                      Memphis is only place I'm familiar with that obsesses over dry-rub vs. wet ribs.

                      1. re: hnsbmg

                        My personal preference is for a dry rub as most sauces overshadow, rather than enhance, the taste of the meat.

                    3. The original comment has been removed
                      1. Jaybee's is related to the Neely family of Memphis, so their ribs are in that city's style.

                        Bigmista grew up in Texas, but his BBQ isn't what I'd call a traditional central TX style. Many places in central TX cook in a very austere style, seasoning their meat only with salt, black pepper and smoke, and no sauce on premises. Bigmista's seasonings are a little more involved than that.

                        There isn't a place in L.A. that does a true Carolina style pulled pork, to my knowledge. Whole hog or whole pork shoulder is typically cooked directly over embers, rather than in a pit with an offset firebox more common in TX. Dripping fat adds its own smoke flavors when meat is cooked over the coals, The BBQ in the Carolinas is pure pig with differences in the mops and sauces to flavor the meat with.

                        St. Louis doesn't have a distinct BBQ style. "St. Louis style ribs" are a way that pork spareribs are trimmed prior to cooking - rib tips and flap meat removed from the rack - rather than a way that meat is cooked or flavored.

                        There's a slim swath of Alabama with a preference for a white, mayo based sauce. Big Bob Gibson is the restaurant that made it famous. You can buy Big Bob Gibson sauces locally at BBQ Galore, but no local restaurant makes that style.

                        Mutton is a popular BBQ meat in Kentucky, but again, not represented in L.A.

                        As noted above, Santa Maria style tri tip is a California only style. So is the earth pit BBQ found in Bakersfield, where Basque sheepherders influenced the local food culture. You can find Santa Maria style tri tip in LA, but not the Basque earth pit style, as far as I know.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Professor Salt

                          Hey, that's very helpful. Thanks Prof.

                          1. re: Professor Salt

                            Your BBQ team partner Big Mista does use unusually complex seasoning on his brisket, but, more importantly, he (and you, too, I'm sure) knows how to cook tender and juicy brisket. Sadly, many places even in Texas nowadays overlook the importance of juice and serve dry, unappealing beef that is overwhelmed with smoke. A couple of years ago I revisited numerous favorite places from the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ ranking and found no reason to return to many of them, because of the dry, tough meat. I found out about Big Mista right after that and was very happy to change my mind about Southern California BBQ.

                            1. re: hnsbmg

                              I hear Big Mista also does burnt ends, KC-BBQ style? If so, I'm definitely making a trip.

                              1. re: odub

                                Big Mista does burnt ends but if you get there too early, there won't have been any ends to have been burnt. Or something.

                                Mr Taster

                                1. re: odub

                                  I don't recall burnt ends at Big Mista -- at least not in the style of, say, the great LC's in Kansas City -- but I'm usually so focused on the brisket and ribs that I might have overlooked something. Send Neil an email and ask him! EDIT: Thanks, Mr Taster -- now I understand why I haven't seen them.

                              2. re: Professor Salt

                                are there any restaurants that serve this "earth pit BBQ" in bakersfield, or is a special occasion thing? never seen it at any of the basque joints.

                                1. re: linus

                                  I've never seen it in restaurants. I learned about this from BBQ contest cooks who do this at home, or at public parks where brick lined earth pits are available for the public to use.

                                  1. re: linus

                                    El Borrego de Oro in East LA serves freshly slaughtered farm-raised lamb barbacoa in the Hidalgo style. It is slow-cooked for 8-10 hours in a stone-lined earth pit, buried below ground, with hardwoods and mesquite covered with Maguey cactus leaves. The result is seriously delicious, despite not having the intense smoke flavor that some equate with good barbeque. Incredibly tender, juicy and flavorful. This is “barbacoa estilo Hidalgo” and its subtle savoriness is as it should be – authentic and traditional.

                                    Great mix of lean, fat and gristle with a typical order, however you can request any particular cut that you prefer. You can even get whole cabezas (heads). They also make a very good consommé (soup) to accompany the barbacoa, made from the juices that fall off the lamb as it cooks.

                                    The owners raise sheep on a farm in Chino, CA, where the actual preparation takes place. Freshly prepared barbacoa is delivered to the two restaurants daily. I prefer the ambience and service at the original #1 location on Whittier Blvd, although parking can be a challenge.


                                    El Borrego de Oro #1
                                    2403 Whittier Blvd.
                                    Los Angeles, CA 90023
                                    (323) 780-4213

                                    El Borrego de Oro #2
                                    2808 E. Washington Blvd.
                                    Los Angeles, CA 90023
                                    (323) 780-1132

                                    1. re: linus

                                      I've been on a quest for this. Read the last entry in this thread:
                             (Glick's Meat market in Visalia


                                      Next time I'm down that way, I plan to check it out. Last real deep-pit I had was at a community celebration in Idyllwild, CA, and it was great. Taft will have their Oildorado celebration this year, and they reportedly serve it there. There used to be a takeout place in a bad neighborhood in Bakersfield that had it, but that was decades ago.

                                      But back to the main subject, isn't there also an "Oakland Style" BBQ? Any examples of this in L.A.?

                                      1. re: Steve Green

                                        Hey, Steve!

                                        Glad to aide in your quest. Hope you get a chance to try EBdO soon.

                                        As for "“Oakland Style" BBQ", yours is the first mention of it that I’ve heard of. A Google search (supported by Yelp) revealed that it may have originated at Flint’s BBQ in Oakland (now closed) and brought to the BBQ House in Reno, NV by BBQ House’s owner. It apparently refers to a style of barbeque that is cooked using a mix of cherry and apple woods (so far so good), then served completely drenched in a cloyingly sweet sauce (oops, just lost me!).

                                  2. Yo, ipse!

                                    I could literally write you a book on the subject of American barbeque (as I prefer to spell it). There’s no need, it’s already been done many times by many qualified scholars and authors. One of my favorites is Smokestack Lightening by Lolis Elie and Frank Stewart. Another is Peace, Love and Barbecue by Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe. They will afford you a vicarious taste of regional differences in barbeque across the US.

                                    Wikipedia and the Internet (via Google) contain a world of information on the subject. In fact, our beloved BigMista gleaned the basics of his trade through said resources. Start here:

                           for a global overview. Then look here:

                           for a US overview.

                                    It is easy to point you down the information highway. Unfortunately pointing you to specific establishments serving authentic, or even representative, regional barbeque is not an easy task. There’s no place that offers them all. Most offer, at best, an adulteration of a particular style or a homologation of different styles, even when the very name of the establishment indicates otherwise. To fully appreciate regional differences in American barbeque, ipsedixit, you would need to visit each region and sample the wares of establishments therein.

                                    Professor Salt, himself an authority, is right-on in his reply and commentary. As for me, I have virtually given up concerning myself with whether a particular “Q” is Northeastern or Northwestern Carolina or Memphis versus Kansas City style or whatever. Yeah, it remains in the back of my head, but all that I really want to know now is:

                                    "Is it good?"

                                    … And please, if possible, give me the sauce on the side.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: degustateur


                                      Thanks for the references.

                                      I (sort of) understand the differences and nuances of each style. What I'm looking for is to sample some of those styles here in LA.

                                      I completely understand that no one place would have a selection of all the styles, nor would I expect such a place.

                                      What I'd like to know is one restaurant that serves a representative style of each major regional style of b-a-r-b-e-q-u-e!

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        I've never been but a native of Santa Maria says Santa Maria Barbecue Company is alright for Santa Maria style.

                                        Santa Maria Barbeque Company
                                        9552 Washington Blvd
                                        Culver City, CA 90232

                                        Representative pics of Santa Maria style (pics) from Jocko's in Nipomo. Pork chops are 1 pound each.

                                        Santa Maria Barbeque
                                        9552 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232