Kansas, Texas, Georgia, Vermont
5 Great Side-of-the-Road Barbecue Joints
Barbecue isn’t fancy; it can be enjoyed at food stands and eateries along the many highways and byways in the USA.
In fact, barbecue is often found off a highway or down a country road in a shack, a gas station, under a tin roof or even out of a school bus.
Roadside Barbecue in the South
Taste, tenderness and flavor rank above any frills when it comes to roadside barbecue, a term that emerged when barbecue stands started appearing along roads in the 1920s and ’30s. The timing of these roadside barbecues coincided with the rise of automobiles and the growing number of highways built during that era.
Today, the tradition continues. The exteriors of these modest roadside eateries might not always look like much, but the smell of wood smoke and slow-cooked meat is ample enticement for travelers.
To help you take part in this tradition, we’ve showcased several roadside barbecues, featuring a variety of tastes and treats. They’re just waiting for you to stroll in off the highway.
Curtis' All American Barbecue
Curtis’ All American Barbecue serves travelers chicken, ribs and pulled pork out of a blue school bus. Owner and chef Curtis Tuff began making barbecue about 45 years ago on an open-faced barbecue pit he built out of an oil drum. Tuff started his barbecue business wheeling slow-cooked meat to local events and festivities, but travelers began wheeling up to him as his reputation for tasty barbecue grew.
Tuff operates from April until the end of October off Interstate Highway 91 Exit 4 in the southeastern part of Vermont. Order a slab of ribs, chicken or pulled pork – all offered with your choice of Tuff’s mild, hot or super-hot barbecue sauce – at one of the bus windows and pick it up at another. Enjoy your grill selection at one of the picnic tables on the lawn. Make sure to bring cash. Curtis’ All American Barbecue does not accept credit cards.
Glen Rose, Texas
Travelers who drive about 100 kilometers southwest of Fort Worth, Texas, and detour about 13 kilometers off Highway 67 in Glen Rose, will stumble upon the tin roof and sawdust-covered dirt floor structure housing Loco Coyote Grill’s barbecue.
Loco Coyote primarily smokes its meats with oak wood, but it is also known to mix up meat flavors by adding other types of wood. Chow down on smoked meats and sides, then sip a margarita out of a Mason jar under Loco Coyote’s tin roof or outside at one of the picnic tables.
Fat Matt's Rib Shack
Eaters praise Fat Matt's Rib Shack for its juicy ribs that “fall of the bone.” This rib shack has been serving customers in its Atlanta, Georgia, home since 1990. Fat Matt’s may be small, but it finds a way to make room for its customers. The casual rib shack is known for its no-fuss style.
Fat Matt’s menu is simple, with three primary offerings: ribs (full or half slab), chicken (one-half or one-quarter bird) or sandwiches (rib or chopped pork). The chopped pork sandwich has a smoky flavor and a touch of vinegar and mustard in the sauce. Pair your meat with “rum” baked beans, collard greens or any one of the other six sides. Then grab a pie or brownie for dessert. Eat inside the shack or outside at one of the red-and-yellow picnic-style tables.
If you enjoy music with your meat, catch live blues performances every evening.
Juicy ribs that fall off the bone
Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que
Kansas City, Kansas
On the corner of 47th and Mission in Kansas City, Kansas, sits Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que. This establishment looks like a gas station, because it is a gas station, but it’s also a barbecue joint that has lured barbecue lovers from across the country. U.S. chef, television personality and author Anthony Bourdain once named Joe’s one of “13 places to eat before you die.” Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que is known for its pulled pork, ribs, fries and spicy slaw.
Customers can enjoy “competition-style” barbecue, which features flavors popular in national competitions. Additionally, Joe’s serves limited quantities of burnt ends at lunch Mondays and Saturdays and at dinner Wednesdays.
Classic pulled pork sandwich
Guy & Mae's Tavern
Less than two kilometers off Interstate Highway 35 in Williamsburg, Kansas, about 110 kilometers southwest of Kansas City, sits Guy & Mae’s Tavern, a family-owned barbecue joint. The establishment may look like just a small, red brick building, but the barbecue created inside has earned big accolades and attracted many meat-eating enthusiasts. Guy and Mae’s ribs were named one of the eight wonders of Kansas cuisine by the Kansas Sampler Foundation.
Guy and Mae Kesner set up this small-town barbecue tavern in 1973. While Guy developed a secret “hookey poo” rub and mastered his grilling techniques, his wife, Mae, created a secret tomato-based sauce. Thankfully, these recipes were passed on to Guy and Mae’s descendants, because the tavern’s most well-known specialty remains its hickory-smoked ribs, coated in Guy’s “hookey poo” rub and Mae’s secret sauce.
Guy and Mae’s Tavern accepts cash only, but has an ATM available for those who brought an appetite but didn’t bring cash.