Devotees of barbecue are fiercely loyal to their regional styles. Local pitmasters tend to be eclectic in their approach, but there’s no need to worry: Whether you hail from Memphis, St. Louis, Kansas City, or Texas, you’ll find someplace to call home.
1. Michelbob’s Championship Ribs & Steaks: Founded in 1979, this family-run restaurant offers a full bar and a comprehensive menu of ribs, chicken, smokehouse sausage, pulled pork, and Black Angus steaks. The large, freestanding building is composed entirely of wooden booths and complemented by seating on the outdoor deck. A second location on Marco Island serves takeout only.
2. Texas Tony’s: Tony is Tony Phelan, who also operates Pinchers Crab Shack, Deep Lagoon Seafood, and the new restaurant at the Bone Hook Brewing Co. Everything is smoked in-house here, and it’s “all about the rub and the ring.” The rub is a closely held secret, and the ring happens when the meat is smoked with orange wood for an extended period. Hormone-free ribs are imported from the Netherlands.
3. Black-Eyed Pig: With a handful of tables and friendly waitresses, this storefront in an industrial area on Shirley Street is a hidden gem. The headliners are USDA Choice brisket and center-cut St. Louis ribs available either wet or dry. The pulled pork—a house specialty—is made from slow-smoked Boston Butts. Settle in with a basket of fried okra alongside your selection.
4. Fuse: When chef Greg Scarlatos expanded his successful fusion restaurant into the neighboring storefront, he decided to focus on his first love. His menu ranges from the exotic (wild boar chops) to the innovative (the Mac & Pork sandwich, a marriage of pulled pork, pepperoni mac and cheese, and fried onions). “We wanted to pay homage to the regional style of barbecue found throughout the South,” Scarlatos says. “Our brisket is Texas, our pork is Carolina, and our ribs are Memphis.”