Best Places to Live

2012 10 Best BBQ Cities

Few foods are as scrutinized as barbecue. If you know your way around a pit, or even know what a pit is for that matter, then you already know the cities by which all other barbecue is measured. So we strayed from the herd. In compiling our list of the best places for barbecue, we decided the lesser known barbecue cities should be better known. After all, does the quest for the best barbecue ever end?

To get started we asked Brian Pearcy, The BBQ Guy, to give us a primer on 'cue. In doing so, he pretty much listed the places that barbecue lovers already know about.

"When I think of a barbecue city, I think of towns in the Midwest like Kansas City and St. Louis; towns in Tennessee like Nashville and Memphis; towns in South Carolina like Charleston, Spartanburg and Greenville; and towns in Texas like Austin and Dallas," Pearcy says. "I do not naturally think of towns in New England, Florida, California or Washington. That's not saying there aren't barbecue cities in those locations, but I don't think people think of these geographic areas when they think of towns known for barbecue."

To make our picks, we counted the number of barbecue restaurants a city had, looked at the quality of these restaurants by examining customer reviews, and in some cases, conducted our own taste tests. We know our picks are bound to get things stirred up. Looking through thousands of reviews on hundreds of barbecue joints, it's evident that people disagree on who has good barbecue. To us, it all comes down to taste. What we hope is to offer food for thought. Let the judging begin.

Ranking Criteria
Lesser known BBQ city
Number of BBQ restaurants
Favorable customer reviews
  • 10

    Cumming , GA

    Population: 5,588
    Photo: Amanda Bowman

    What put Cumming, GA, on this list is its incredible ratio of barbecue restaurants to residents. There is a barbecue restaurant for nearly every 1,000 residents (based on numbers from Yelp and the U.S. Census). It just doesn't get much easier to find 'cue than that. And while the restaurants may not have national prestige, locals find them mouthwatering good. It's their little secret, and it might just get out.

    Cumming is hosting the National BBQ Cup in November. The winner of the pro division of this Kansas City Barbeque Society sanctioned event can pocket $4,000 in prize money. Cumming is located at the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains and just minutes from Lake Sidney Lanier.

    BBQ restaurant to resident ratio: 1:1,045

    Don't miss:

    'Cue: Owned and operated by local families, this restaurant serves up hickory-smoked meats and a variety of sides. As the name implies, this place has a hip, urban vibe.

    Smokejack BBQ: Customers rave about the burnt ends, pulled pork shoulder and chopped beef brisket. Ribs come dry rubbed, but there are also sauces to splash on.