5. Longmont, Co ― The Rib House at Prospect
After relocating to Colorado, Kansas City natives Tracy and Merry Ann Webb pined for their city’s moist barbecue. Taking the bull by the ribs, they opened their own family eatery in Longmont’s neo-groovy Prospect neighborhood. (A second location recently opened in Boulder.) Now a word-of-mouth phenomenon, the hickory-smoked, spice-rubbed pork (plus brisket, turkey, and more) elicits raves and inspires feasts of excess ― a corporate team once flew out from Minnesota for lunch. Grab napkins and settle down on the patio for a delicious, mountain-view meal.
You gotta try Mark’s Sampler Platter ($22), pork and beef ribs with pull-off-the-bone succulence. They’re perfect naked or dressed with any of four house-made sauces. For sides, flout calories and order the Cheesy Corn Bake or the kicky Spicy Chipotle Potato Salad.
INFO $$; 1920 S. Coffman St.; 303/485-6988. –Elisa Bosley
6. Marshall, CA ― The Marshall Store
Oysters thrive in the pristine waters of Tomales Bay, a narrow inlet of the Pacific an hour north of San Francisco, and barbecued oysters―sizzled in the half-shell on a hot grill―are a local icon. At the Marshall Store, an airy little cube set over the water next to a boatyard, they don’t get any better. Co-owner Tod Friend raises the oysters himself and knows how to treat his plump, briny-sweet beauties.
You gotta try Sitting on the deck to watch Friend or his son, Shannon Gregory, grill you up a hot, juicy dozen; drizzle each with sublime garlic-parsley butter and a dab of tangy-hot housemade barbecue sauce. On the side: hot garlic-herb bread. By the way, the price ($20 for 12 to 14) is the lowest on the bay.
INFO $$$; closed Tue; 19225 State 1; 415/663-1339. –Margo True
7. Seattle ― Smokin’ Pete’s BBQ
Barbecue attitude might be brash, but the meat doesn’t have to be: The dry-rubbed, hickory- and cherry-smoked barbecue at Smokin’ Pete’s in Ballard is juicy with a subtle, almost haunting quality. Owners Eric and Julie Reinhardt are proud to share some of their wood-fired knowledge: In Julie’s book, She-Smoke (Seal Press; $17), coming out June 1, she encourages women to take up the BBQ tongs.
You gotta try The platters. You can’t err with the generous portions of 14-hour brisket or “singin’ man” pork spareribs ― dab the meat with a little of the tangy original sauce.
INFO $; 1918 N.W. 65th St.; 206/783-0454. –S.D.
8. Santa Fe ― Whole Hog Café
It’s not the dead-simple decor or the inauspicious location on the most mundane street in the Southwest’s loveliest city; Bo Barnwell’s Whole Hog Café attracts a steady stream of locals ― plus tourists ― strictly for its meats and accompaniments. Pay attention to the restaurant’s name when you order ― go for the pork ribs or a pulled-pork and coleslaw sandwich.
You gotta try Bo’s potato salad, laced with sour cream and bacon.
INFO $; 3006 Cerrillos Rd.; 505/474-3375. –Bill and Cheryl Jamison
9. Guadalupe, CA ― Far Western Tavern
In a tiny town on a windswept stretch of the Santa Barbara County coast, this Santa Maria–style BBQ classic isn’t shy about embracing its ranching roots: The century-old building is decorated with cowhide curtains held by horseshoe clasps. The clientele is a mix of local cowboys in their Stetsons and foodies making a BBQ pilgrimage from L.A. or San Francisco.
You gotta try The Pinot Filet. Served over grilled polenta, it’s where California barbecue meets the area’s Swiss-Italian heritage. And you get pinquito beans on the side.
INFO $$$; closed Mon; 899 Guadalupe St.; 805/343-2211. –Matthew Jaffe
10. South Pasadena ― Gus's Barbecue
If such SoCal perennials as Phillips Bar-B-Que in Leimert Park are hall of famers, then think of this as the rookie of the year. Brothers Chris and John Bicos took a beloved though tired restaurant that dated back to 1946, updated its interior, and reinvigorated the barbecue menu with superior versions of classics like beer-braised Texas brisket.
You gotta try Memphis-style baby backs―fall-off-the-bone tender―and such worthy sidekicks as the Cast Iron Cornbread and Red Skin Potato Salad.
INFO $$; 808 Fair Oaks Ave.; 626/799-3251. –M.J.