Dozen Best Barbecue Joints.
A decade ago, New Orleans was not a great barbecue town. Ten years before that, we weren’t even a good barbecue place. The torch (made of hickory wood, of course) had been carried by Harold’s Texas Bar B Q from the 1950s, which lasted until 2011. Then Corky’s came along with real slow-smoked barbecue. Twenty years later, a new breed of barbecue places joined in a new, nationwide mania for barbecue, and finally we had enough places to make a top-dozen list without including anything mediocre. Now, nothing will get you into an argument faster than claiming to know what constitutes “real barbecue.”
Interesting oddity about barbecue places: they have a way of being located far from where you normally go.
1. McClure’s Barbecue. Uptown 3: Napoleon To Audubon: 4800 Magazine. . Neil McClure ran the dining room at the excellent Riverbend bistro Dante’s Kitchen for a few years before he got the barbecue bug. He rolled the dice three times before getting it right, going from being a hobby (he told me it cost him $75 a plate to make his first samples) to a pop-up before getting his own place on Magazine Street off the ground. He is a man of details, and this shows in his barbecue.
2. The Joint. Bywater & Downtown: 701 Mazant. 504-949-3232 . Deep in Bywater (the Ninth Ward, if you grew up there), the Joint lives up to its name atmospherically. It also smokes the best briskets and ribs in the city. Now that it’s settled into a much nicer premises than its well-named original establishment was, there’ no excuse not to make the trip. Unless you don’t like smoky, well-seasoned barbecue.
3. Walker’s BBQ. New Orleans East: 10828 Hayne Blvd. 504-241-8227. Walker’s is in New Orleans East and worth the trip. Every day, they literally sell out their entire load of smoky meats, then close for the day. Better call first to see if there’s any left.
4. LA 23. Belle Chasse: 9661 LA 23. 504-813-9999. In the regions of America where barbecue is the great culinary asset, it is well known that you have a much better chance of getting the best versions well out into the country. Belle Chasse is the gateway to the End Of The World–the last hundred miles of the Mississippi River. And here is a very good barbecue place. It’s motto is good: “Sauce on the side, we got nothin’ to hide.”
5. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit. Covington: 69292 LA21. 985-871-2225. It’s a chain out of the Dallas area, highly thought of in that barbecue-wild part of the world. The selections of meats is a bit more extensive than average, and the sides are unusually good. Don’t forget to grab a free cone of soft-serve on the way out.
6. Ugly Dog Saloon. Warehouse District & Center City: 401 Andrew Higgins Blvd. 504-569-8459. The Ugly Dog changed hands a couple of years ago, but that doesn’t seem to have affected very much. The meats are delectably smoked, and the sides rough but satisfying (especially the cole slaw).
7. Ted’s Smokehouse. Kenner: 3809 Williams Blvd. 504-305-4393. Kenner is home to a lot of people, but to most New Orleanians it’s far enough from town that a barbecue outpost seems the perfect place. The consistency is less than perfect–I’ve had some dry brisket here–but it hits well most of the time.
8. Hickory Prime BBQ. Gentilly: 6001 France Rd. 757-277-8507. Unless you work along the Industrial Canal or go to UNO, you are very unlikely to be exposed to this very good lunch and early dinner spot. It’s almost entirely barbecue, moist, well seasoned and generous.
9. Hillbilly Barbecue. River Ridge: 2317 Hickory Ave. 504-738-1508. Hillbilly serves Kentucky-style barbecue, which focuses on pork. But their entire line is excellent. They too are about to move–to the Hickory-Dickory-Dock nexus. Get ready for a somewhat less than hospitable attitude. But the meats are fantastic.
10. Abita Barbecue. Abita Springs: 69399 LA Hwy 59. 985-892-0205. Now in it’s second generation, Abita Barbecue has fine, thin-sliced (a quality not often enough bothered with in most barbecue places) brisket and pork, and a unique specialty: smoked boudin, made entirely in house.
11. Saucy’s BBQ. Uptown 2: Washington To Napoleon: 4200 Magazine St. 504-301-2755. Moving into the old quarters of Ignatius and needing no renovations to achieve a wild-west barbecue feeling, this is a mainstream but reliably good place for an ample plate of meat. The smoke aspect is outperformed elsewhere, but otherwise nothing is missing. A few oddities (alligator, to name one) show up on the lengthy menu.
12. Sweet Daddy’s. Covington: 420 S Tyler. 985-898-2166. Sweet Daddy’s is one of the two or three best North Shore barbecue specialists. It’s changed hands and locations a few times over its twenty-year run. The current operators are the best ever, and I have been very pleasantly surprised =by the food here in recent visits.