Finding great BBQ while traveling can be challenging but also very rewarding. Whenever I travel I am always on the lookout to experience the local BBQ scene. You never know when you will stumble upon some really great barbecue. Take a look at some of my methods and you’ll be on your way to finding crave worthy smoked meats when you travel.
Research and Plan Ahead
You have to do your homework before your trip if you want to find some great BBQ. After all nothing worth having comes without a little hard work. When you find one of those classic BBQ Joints with tasty meats you will be glad you put in the advanced reconnaissance. Lucky for today’s BBQ Fans we have that wonderful invention called the Internet.
The first place I normally go when looking for a great BBQ place to try is an internet search engine. My search engine of choice is Google as they have the best results (my opinion) and features that will help you create a barbecue dining list. Typically I start with a search like bbq in dallas. You may need to add the state initials of you are going somewhere like Washington as there are over 80 cities in America named Washington.
Let’s take a look at a sample search for bbq in Dallas conducted on my laptop.
Google returns localized results because they understand the intent of my search is to find bbq places in Dallas. The screenshot above is called a Map Pack in the digital marketing world. The first thing I do after getting this result is to click on More Places at under the last local listing. This is called the Local Finder as it has expanded our list of BBQ Restaurants in Dallas. The results are broken up into 20’s plus a local ad or two
From here I begin to click on the results for further information. When I click on one of the results I get additional information like reviews, hours, photos and a link to their website. Since I work in the Digital Marketing space I know that reviews can be manipulated so I don’t put too much weight on the average star rating. I will read some reviews, especially reviews that have photos because those can tell a story with text as well as pictures.
I spend more time checking out the photos the business as well as their customers have uploaded. The photos from a business are often staged and the best possible example of a particular dish. The customer uploaded photos are more often representative of the food you will actually get when you eat there yourself. You can sort the photos in a number of ways to get a picture of what you can expect when you arrive.
I normally sort first by the Latest Photos as those give me a glimpse of the food and the atmosphere that I will probably experience when I arrive. As I am looking at the pictures I focus my attention on the customer uploaded photos. Google does a great job of categorizing the photos allowing me to hone in on the items of special interest to me. Every restaurant will not have all the same categories of photos especially if there are not that many photos uploaded.
For me Brisket is King so I like to find the Brisket tab if the listing has one. If the pictures look fantastic for the Brisket, the hardest meat to cook that will help them make the short list. The Menu tab can also provide some great information about their offerings including sides and desserts. I also check out the tabs called Vibe and Food & Drink. The Vibe tab helps identify things I enjoy like tables instead of booths. Also, many times when checking out a place the photos reveal that they don’t really have a lot of seating to accommodate a group.
When I am ready to visit the website I right click on the button and open in a new tab. That way I don’t lose my spot in the search results. Something to note here is to not let the appearance of the website put too much influence on your decision to add them to your shortlist or not. Be sure you take note of the hours some BBQ Restaurants are not open 7-Days a week or even all day. Traveling on Sunday’s is especially difficult because many BBQ places are not open on Sunday.
I also take note of any information about the Pitmaster. Many Pitmasters have great stories of how they developed their craft and opened their Restaurant. These stories can also shed some light on the style and flavor of the BBQ served.If they have a signature sandwich, meat, side or dessert I like to give it a try. If the Pitmaster is proud of something you can probably count on it being one of the best items on the menu. BBQ isn’t just about the flavor it is also about the people, culture and experience of enjoying great barbecue.
Create a Shortlist of Potential BBQ Targets
The internet research I described above is meant to help put together a shortlist of potential places to eat Barbecue. Be sure you either print off your list or save a copy on your phone so you will be ready when it’s lunch or dinner time. Here are a few things I add to my list in preparation for the trip.
- Name and Address
- Days and Hours of Service
- Signature Dish if they have one
- BBQ Style
- Any Other Notable Items
After doing the research this short bit of information is all I need to be prepared to sample the local BBQ scene wherever I am traveling. Plus, it comes in handy when you are with a group and the inevitable questions of where do we eat start. Not everyone likes BBQ so if you are traveling with a group make sure you note any non bbq menu items available. I know who doesn’t like BBQ but you don’t want to get out voted so be prepared. For example I have a daughter that doesn’t like BBQ so when traveling with her it is good to find a joint that at least has hamburgers or fried chicken strips.
Check out Social Media Profiles
BBQ inspires ravid fans and strong emotions among those that enjoy the smoked meats. Popular restaurants can have large followings and lots of engagement on their posts. You can find out alot about a place on their Facebook and Instagram profiles. Some BBQ joints have a changing menu with items only served on particular days. They will also post menu items that are only available for a limited time. Special offers or discounts are often shared on social media so you might get an opportunity to save a little money on your visit.
Ask the Locals
Once you have arrived it also doesn’t hurt to ask the locals where they go for great BBQ. You may find some of your initial research is validated when they tell you to try a place that is on your shortlist. When talking to the locals they can also give you some insights on things like parking, how long the wait is, live music and other things of interest to you. For example, one of the things I ask about is the sauce. Is it thick? What is the flavor profile, sweet, spicy, vinegar etc.?
Keep in mind that everyone’s tastes are a bit different. I have been told many times that a particular place was the best or the worst and my experience turned out to be the opposite.
I hope these tips have been helpful and maybe even encouraged you to develop your own process for discovering great BBQ while traveling. It is a big beautiful BBQ World out there so head out there and enjoy it.