While college football is an undeniable staple of crisp fall Saturdays in the southeastern states, not much embodies the spirit of Southern culture quite like its food. And as far as Southern cuisine goes, there may be no better example than a heaping plate of barbecue, slow-cooked and served with delicious sides and a tall drink.
These days, the South is in no short supply of hog restaurants. Thousands of BBQ joints litter its towns, cities and back roads. And if you plan on making any football-centric road trips this season, you’re bound to come across plenty of tasty stops in your travels.
The only tough question: Which to choose?
SEC Country has consulted its sources around the conference to provide a definitive, 100 percent objective compilation of the SEC’s best barbecue restaurants. You cannot argue with this list, folks, it is pure science.
Part one covered Athens, Auburn, Baton Rouge, College Station, both Columbias and Fayetteville. Now we’re onto part two.
Dig into which ones made the cut, or just skip ahead to bellyaching about which ones weren’t mentioned in the comments section. Cheers to the BBQ!
Adam’s Rib Co. (Gainesville, Fla.)
There’s something to be said about a barbecue joint that serves breakfast, but with a name like “Adam’s Rib Co.,” you can’t help but go for a big slab of the good stuff.
Adam’s offers some huge plates, including “Adam’s Delight” — a half slab of ribs, two sides, garlic toast and banana pudding priced at $17.99 — and an all-you-can-eat pork plate for $12.99.
The prices are great, they cater and they have two locations in Gainesville. That plus a diverse selection of sides makes Adam’s an easy pick here.
What they’re saying: “You’d better come hungry when you come to Adam’s Rib Co., a BBQ shack where your meal is served on plastic plates and wax paper. But, oh, is there a giant pile of delicious BBQ food on that plate with wax paper. Adam’s Rib Co.’s baked beans are known for their giant chunks of bacon in the mix, and the cornbread and sweet potato fries are also extremely popular. Adam’s even serves that rare Southern soda Cheerwine.” — visitgainesville.com.
Honorable mentions: David’s Real Pit BBQ, 4Rivers Smokehouse
Come and get em while they last! pic.twitter.com/jAVgLafb
— adam (@adamsribco) February 16, 2013
Calhoun’s On The River (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Barbecue is great on its own, but BBQ with a view is even better.
Calhoun’s is the traditional powerhouse in Knoxville and maintains several locations, but the one perched right on the Tennessee River near Neyland Stadium earns our pick for its fantastic positioning.
In addition to renowned, award-winning ribs, Calhoun’s has plenty of seating, a number of flat-screen TVs and a great beer selection that includes a couple of local favorites. You can buy a pint for $4.50 (!), so this is pretty much a must-stop for anyone heading to Rocky Top for a football weekend.
What they’re saying: “Calhoun’s On the River is one of the more scenic bars/restaurants in the downtown and UT area. It manages to remain both classy and affordable for the downtown and college crowds in the area. We arrived shortly after kickoff, and the crowd was light but not empty, and was spread throughout the bar, dining area and outside patio.” — Keven Reed, knoxnews.com.
Honorable mentions: Dead End, Archers
— Tim & Melissa Smith (@MrandMrsSmithTN) August 10, 2016
Blue Door Smokehouse (Lexington, Ky.)
Tiny, bare bones eateries and barbecue go together like PB&J. You’re not going there for the ambiance; you’re going there for a big plate of succulent, smoked meat.
Blue Door Smokehouse pairs those two things perfectly. Get one of four meats — brisket, pork, chicken, sausage — with two sides, bread, pickles and onion for just $9-$11. That’s it. The brisket, simply seasoned and expertly cooked, is noted as especially good.
If you’re all about the food, Blue Door is your place in Lexington.
What they’re saying: “According to the pit master, the only thing added to their justly celebrated brisket is salt and pepper. The smoke does the rest. It was so flavorful I could have eaten it with nothing on it, although the sweet sauce that came with it gave it an extra kick. If you’re not into sweet, they also have tangy and spicy, the latter not overly so.” — Patti Nickell, kentucky.com.
Honorable mentions: Red State BBQ, Lyles BBQ Company, JJ McBrewster’s
— Drew Perkins (@dperkinsed) April 9, 2015
Martin’s Bar-B-Q Joint (Nashville)
Martin’s is all about “whole hog” BBQ. No matter what part of the pig you’re eating, it’s all darn good.
The restaurant prides itself on fresh meat, homemade sides and familyy recipe desserts. In addition to your classic pork cuts, Martin’s offers sliced smoked turkey, bologna, chicken and its signature “redneck taco” — BBQ-topped “cornbread hoe cake” with slaw and sauce.
Prices are subject to change and Martin’s does tend to run out of its more popular menu items, so be sure to take this into account if you plan on partaking in some of Nashville’s finest.
What they’re saying: “Martin’s Bar-B-Que in Nashville makes a pork sandwich pulled from a freshly cooked hog that is so copiously juicy that you could and probably will eat it through the wax paper that tries and fails to contain it.” — Esquire
Honorable mentions: Edley’s & Jack’s, Peg Leg Porker
— MARTIN'S BBQ JOINT (@martinsbbq) April 20, 2016
Handy Andy Grocery (Oxford, Miss.)
Old-school, minimalist lunch counters are already awesome. Serving up great BBQ and baked beans only makes them better.
Oxford has a distinct small college town feel, and Handy Andy fits that vibe perfectly. Get a pulled pork sandwich or a cheeseburger at 1960’s prices and feel like you’ve gone back in time.
What they’re saying: “I pick up the BBQ Sandwich which is pretty hefty. It had the right amount of Slaw for me which is not too much. You pick up the smokiness of the beef along with a crunch and creaminess of the slaw for a well balanced bite. The Baked Beans also came with the infused smoke and are right up there with some of the best I’ve had.” — burgerbeast.com.
Honorable mentions: B’s Hickory Smoked BBQ, Embers Biscuits and BBQ
Handy Andy grocery and BBQ, Oxford, MS pic.twitter.com/q7k5pzXWJY
— Robert Sietsema (@robertsietsema) October 17, 2015
The Little Dooey (Starkville, Miss.)
A “little dooey,” according to the restaurant’s web site, is a fun gathering of friends and family. And with great BBQ served for the last 30-plus years, The Little Dooey has played host to plenty of those, including ESPN broadcasters Kirk Herbstreit and Lee Corso.
Grab yourself some traditional southern starters like fried green tomatoes or sweet tater fries, and then load up on some sweet smoked meat. The Little Dooey has slow-smoked BBQ plates and sandwiches, fried catfish and more, all wonderfully affordable and infused with some down-home southern flair.
What they’re saying: “Little Dooey’s is the best food in the SEC!” — “The Fox Sportsnet Boys”
Honorable mentions: Two Brothers Smoked Meats, Dickey’s
Archibald’s Bar B.Q. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
There were a number of contenders in the Tuscaloosa area — Dreamland is well-known around town and beyond — but local residents are mad about Archibald’s, a humble joint that has been serving the area since 1961.
The family-run business cranks out delicious ribs the way Alabama football cranks out national championships. Get slabs, pounds and whole butts, or order a large mixed dinner.
Just don’t necessarily expect a seat; max capacity was recently increased to 11 patrons.
What they’re saying: “If you know what you’re doing, 45 minutes over a bed of hot hickory is plenty of time, Tray Archibald says. The ribs are grilled in a well-seasoned brick pit that’s just behind the front counter of the cozy, five-stool shack. They are served with a thin, atomic-orange sauce with that deceptive little kick of heat.” — al.com.
Honorable mentions: Dreamland, Sam’s Smokehouse
— Roadfood (@Roadfood123) March 6, 2016