Bo's Barbecue Dig into barbecue with a Western attitude at Bo's. 'Cue-friendly wines by the glass are to be had with your naturally raised Niman Ranch ribs and brisket. But those pork spareribs are smoky and succulent, the deep-charred brisket shreds with a fork, and the sauce on the side is tangy and complex ― a testament to Bo McSwine's Mississippi credentials (he was trained by his mother; the recipes are hers). $$; call for hours. 3422 Mount Diablo Blvd.; 925/283-7133.
Chef Edwards Bar-B-Que Yes, barbecue is all about the meat, and it's great at this cheery green-and-white corner spot, particularly the beef hot links, the brisket, and the popular Piggly Wiggly roast pork sandwich. But what sets chef Earl Edwards apart is his selection of healthier-than-usual sides like yams, green beans, and black-eyed peas. Eat in at one of the six counter spots if you can. $; closed Sun-Mon. 1998 San Pablo Ave.; 510/834-9516.
Memphis Minnie's Bar-B-Que Joint Don't tell our bosses, but Memphis Minnie's may have been the most extensively researched restaurant in magazine history. Bob Kantor's brisket and tender St. Louis-style pork ribs are among the highlights, but save room for the sides, especially the "pot likker" greens and organic stone-ground corn muffins. $$; closed Mon. 576 Haight St.; 415/864-7675.
Phillips Bar-B-Que Soft-spoken though he may be, Foster Phillips has a presence that immediately commands respect. Take a bite of his perfectly crusted, tender spareribs, and respect may turn to reverence. The meat's smokiness works perfectly with the complexity of the sauce (blending the extra-hot with the medium is the way to go). The deeply smoked chicken also tempts, and we have friends who pledge unwavering fealty to Phillips's rib tips. $$; closed Sun. 4307 Leimert Blvd.; 323/292-7613.
SHERMAN OAKS AND WEST LOS ANGELES
Mr. Cecil's California Ribs Jonathan Burrows opened his first rib joint in one of the last surviving 1940s-vintage Chili Bowl restaurants. Purists will say that Burrows's smoke-free technique disqualifies even his tender beef ribs and juicy baby backs from true 'cue status. But he doesn't call it barbecue, even though you probably will once you taste it. Sherman Oaks: $$$; 13625 Ventura Blvd.; 818/905-8400. West Los Angeles: $$$; 12244 W. Pico Blvd.; 310/442-1550.
SEATTLE Frontier Room Having made the transition from First Avenue honky-tonk to first-rate barbecue restaurant, this downtown rib mecca has lost none of its authenticity or charm. And the bar at the back hops. Pork, beef brisket, and chicken come from the pit, dry rubbed and slow-smoked with applewood and hickory, and served with all the fixin's, Texas-style ― beans, slaw, cornbread, and even hush puppies. $$; closed Sun-Mon. 2203 First Ave.; 206/956-7427.
Robb's Ribbs Barbecue-meister Robb Richmond's combinations of oak, hickory, apple, and pecan woods produce ribs of smoky tenderness, paired with exquisite sauces ― the 28-ingredient original, habanero, Mexican chocolate-spiked chipotle, or vinegary Carolina. Baby backs, brisket, and pork loin are served with homemade sides of coleslaw, crispy fries, and green chile-cheese corn pudding. $$; closed Sun-Mon. 3000-C San Pedro Dr. N.E.; 505/884-7422.
Hap's Pit Barbecue Onetime used-car salesman Dan Darroch Sr. began offering barbecue at his Phoenix car lot; if he'd thrown in a slab of his spareribs, he could have moved a 1984 Yugo with a bad carburetor. Now he has two family-run outlets, with topflight barbecue and a few surprises, including smoked lamb with a distinctive mint sauce and Old Settler Beans, a blend of three beans, beef, and bacon. East Side: $; closed Sun; 4801 E. Washington St.; 602/267-0181. West Side: $; 3201 W. Indian School Rd.; 602/279-8090.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN STATES
GREENWOOD VILLAGE, CO
Jabo's Bar Be Q Owner Dwight "Jabo" Lawson is a bona fide barbecue king, treating loyal patrons to royally smoked pork ribs, brisket, Polish hot links, and pork shoulder, all of which pair perfectly with the sinful sweet-potato fries. Myriad sauces (60 combinations in all) stroke the meats, while the savory scones slathered with honey butter inspire a trip all by themselves. $$; closed Sun-Mon. 9682 E. Arapahoe Rd.; 303/799-4432.
WEST VALLEY CITY, UT
Q4U Hickory Smoked Barbeque As 'cue master "T" Brown says: "Call the dogs in, put the fire out, the hunt is over!" T and wife Becci serve up hickory-smoked ribs, chicken, and brisket, Southern-style, cooked low and slow in this Salt Lake City suburb. We also love his "pig- a-licious" sandwiches, catfish, and real sweet- potato pie. $; closed Sun. 4655 South 4800 West; 801/955-8858.