In the South, barbecue is as serious and sectarian as religion. Moving east to west the gospel changes, from chopped pork with a vinegar sauce in eastern North Carolina to beef brisket with a tomato-based molasses sauce to the smoking method in Texas. The Southern Foodways Alliance crafted a trail—a pilgrimage, perhaps?—through the South; for a complete list and oral histories, go to southernbbqtrail.com.
Ayden, North Carolina: Using a cornbread recipe from 1830, Pete Jones serves chopped whole hog—everything but the squeal—barbecued with a tangy, vinegary sauce. $ At 4618 Lee St.; 252-746-4113.
Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
Decatur, Alabama: “Big Bob” Gibson opened this joint in 1925 and invented a white sauce now famous in Alabama. Today his grandson runs the place and still specializes in barbecue chicken and tender ribs. At 1715 6th Ave. SE; 256-350-6969; bigbobgibson.com.
Lexington, North Carolina: West of Raleigh, barbecue is made solely with shoulder meat. Lexington pitmaster Wayne Monk is the undisputed king of west N.C.–style barbecue and has been since 1962. At 10 U.S. Hwy. 29 70 S.; 336-249-9814.
Bluff City, Tennessee: Here, ham replaces shoulder, and the sauce in this third-generation Appalachian mountain BBQ joint is sticky, sweet and dark red. At 900 Elizabethton Hwy.; 423-538-7543.
Spooney’s Trail Bar-Be-Que
Greenwood, Mississippi: Leroy “Spooney” Kenter Jr. learned how to BBQ in Kansas City, Kansas, but came up with his spicy secret sauce after his first wife left him. Now his barbecue ribs are nonpareil in Leflore County. $ At 404 Pelican St.; 662-709-1465.
New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue
Huntsville, Texas: At this tiny spot, which started as a fund-raising project 20-plus years ago, May and Horace Archie serve chicken, brisket and ribs smoked over a mix of oak, mesquite, hickory and pecan. $ At 2601 Montgomery Rd.; 936-294-0884.
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.