May is National Barbecue Month, the official kick-off to the barbecue competition season in North America. It starts with Memphis in May and ends with the American Royal in October, nicknamed the World Series of Barbecue. Other folks like to reference the Jack Daniels competition later in October as the Super Bowl of Barbecue, but I’m sorry – I’m from Kansas City, so we say it ends here! 🙂
Living in Kansas City, I’ve come to know a bit about barbecue, and I’ve written about my favorite Kansas City joints before. Again, my favorite for burnt ends, a Kansas City original, is Little Danny Edwards’ Boulevard Barbecue.
But when Bruce and I travel, we like to see what folks in other parts of the world are doing with ribs, pulled pork and brisket. So here’s a list of some of our favorites that we’ve found here and there:
The Smoke Shack/Train Wreck – Seward, Alaska
Born and raised on good Kentucky barbecue near Louisville, Steve Miller opened this joint in Seward Alaska on July 4, 2006. That’s the day the little community swells to 40,000 to witness the Mount Marathon Marathon, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
The problem with Alaska is that the available wood – cedar, pine and alder – is not necessarily great for barbecue. So Miller relies on oak and apple chips shipped up from the Lower 48 to help achieve the flavor he remembers from home.
The Smoke Shack is located near the cruise ship harbor in an old military dining car from WWII. Check out the waitress station. It’s the original cookstove from the 1940s. Only six tables are available inside, but during the fabulous Alaskan summer, there’s plenty of room outside on the patio.
The Hickory Pit – Saugatuck, Michigan
Originally from Henderson, Kentucky, David and Susan Yates know a thing or two about good southern barbecue. They mix a fair about of good Kentucky bourbon in the sauce, smoke the meat over hickory for a good six or seven hours, and folks in southwestern Michigan just don’t know what hit them.
Susan uses her Grandma’s recipe for sweet cornbread to make a thing called Bar-B-Q pie, which is a layer of pulled pork and baked beans topped by corn bread.
Strawberry soda and deviled eggs on the menu are just a few more indications that David and Susan know what makes a perfect barbecue meal.
17th Street Bar & Grill – Murphysboro, Illinois
You’ll find Mike’s sauce a little more vinegary than most. Although he admits to putting a bit of sauce on in the pit, the meat really comes relative free of sauce to your table.
Mike is also a founding father of the Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-off held the third weekend of each September. But don’t wait until then to stop in and say hello.
I’m heading off to Kentucky soon to experience a couple of dozen barbecue joints there and perhaps a little bit of that delightful bourbon the Bluegrass state is so famous for. So I’ll check back with you on that and make some recommendations. I’m also working on a barbecue travel app with my friend Sally Walker Davies from Memphis. So lots of finger-lickin’ good reasons to check back in.