Kevin's BBQ Joints

Kevin's BBQ Joints Blog

Heath Hall – My Favorite BBQ Joints – Volume 5

If you love BBQ, you should know Pork Barrel BBQ. They are first off a BBQ Sauce and Rub Company (they are in over 1,000 stores across the country and really knock it out of the park on taste and consistency) started by Heath Hall and Brett Thompson (you can read their interesting story here), but are really becoming so much more. After appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank they have slowly become an amazing internet sucess story in their own right (they have over 3,200 facebook fans and almost 28,000 twitter followers) and are about to open their first BBQ joint (aptly named Pork Barrel BBQ) in Del Ray, Virginia next month. Oh, and they just started a BBQ Social Networking site called BBQ Backyard here. I am honored to have Heath from Pork Barrel BBQ as my contributor this week for this week’s ‘My Favorite BBQ Joints’.

Brett & Heath – Founders of Pork Barrel BBQ

Here are Heath’s picks:

Life is full of questions; some are fairly simple to answer while others are not so simple. Have you ever wondered why some questions that at first blush seem like they’d be simple to answer are actually the most difficult to answer? I’ve certainly wondered this on a number of occasions, but when I’m asked what my favorite BBQ joint is I know exactly why it’s not only difficult, but impossible for me to answer this apparently simple question. That answer is that there are too many great BBQ joints scattered through the cities and back roads of America (and a few in places you would never suspect the words “excellent” and “BBQ” would cross ones lips in the same sentence) to narrow ones answer down to a single favorite joint.

In my opinion, not being able to answer this question isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I think it is a good thing. Who among us doesn’t like options, and amazing options at that?

Unfortunately for those of you reading this, the first place I’m going to mention isn’t one you can just stop by for a casual lunch and belly up to the counter for a brisket sandwich or slab of ribs, but I’d be remiss if I failed to mention it. This place is where the BBQ seed was planted in me and would be fertilized time and again until it blossomed into a major part of my life. Were it not for the plates of mouthwatering BBQ coming off the smokers in Rex Hall’s backyard at all times of the year and in all meteorological conditions I’m certain my BBQ journey would have been different. From the Thanksgiving turkey to some of the moistest brisket that will ever hit your mouth, my Dad’s Backyard is where my exploration into the wonderful world of BBQ began. Thanks Dad!!!

Menu Recommendation – Brisket sandwich, slab of ribs and a side of my Mom’s baked beans!!!

I need to give my Dad another big than you for taking me to and introducing me to some of the finest BBQ joints our country has to offer when he wasn’t manning the grill or smoker in our backyard. These are the BBQ joints that I love and think you’ll love too!


The first BBQ joint I ever ate at was Dickie Doo Bar-B-Que in Sedalia, Missouri. Even if it wasn’t a special occasion it felt like it was every time I was treated to the smoky goodness of Dickie Doo’s ribs and baked beans as a kid. To this day Dickie Doo’s baked beans stand alone as the best I’ve ever eaten and are reason enough for me to drop in any time I’m in the area.

Photo of Dickie Doo Bar-B-Que

Menu Recommendation – Slab of ribs with a large side of baked beans and fries!!!

GATES BAR-B-Q – Kansas City, MO

My introduction to Kansas City’s plethora of legendary BBQ joints took place at Gates Bar-B-Q, a joint that’s been serving up some of the cities best ‘Cue since 1946. My recollection of my first trip to Gates many years ago is a scene of mass confusion and panic – a memory shared by countless when they make their inaugural trip to Gates. As my foot began to breach the door that first time, a chorus of people yelling, “HI, MAY I HELP YOU?” rang from within leaving me feeling dazed like a prize fighter who had been dealt a striking left hook just under my chin. After picking myself up and shaking the daze from my eyes I focused on the menu that hung overhead and welcomed me to a smorgasbord of BBQ delights to choose from.

My advice to first timers is to go for the Mixed Plate – on the menu it comes with brisket, ham, ribs, fries, white bread and pickles, but you can ask them to substitute the two meats with any of their meats including turkey and pork.  If you’re not quite that hungry go for a Beef on Bun Sandwich – you won’t be disappointed. You’ll also find some of the best sauce in the world of barbecue sauces at Gates – my favorite BBQ sauce (after my own of course) is Gates Extra Hot. If truth be told my years of eating Gates BBQ sauce contributed greatly to the flavor profile I used when creating the Pork Barrel BBQ line of sauces. 

Menu Recommendation – Mixed Plate with double beef and a side of baked beans!!!

Photo courtesy of Roadfood

Oklahoma Joe’s – Kansas City, KS

Does your bucket list include filling your car up with gas and your stomach up with amazing BBQ at the same time in the same location? You’re in luck if you’re looking to eliminate an item off your list – get in your car, with a nearly empty tank of course, and head for Oklahoma Joe’s in Kansas City, Kansas.

Oklahoma Joe’s, located inside a gas station, found its origins in the form of the highly successful competitive BBQ team Slaughterhouse Five and is headed up by Pitmaster and BBQ Magician Jeff Stehney. Stick with the BBQ staples of brisket, ribs and pulled pork and you’ll leave with a full belly and smile on your face for days or venture away from the staples and order The Z-Man Sandwich (brisket, smoked provolone topped with two onion rings on a Kaiser bun) and that smile will stick around for weeks!

Menu Recommendation – The Z-Man sandwich with fries and baked beans!!!

Photo of Oklahoma Joes courtesy of Lesley Zellers

17th Street Bar & Grill – Murphysboro, IL

Peace, Love or Barbecue – which would you choose? What if you didn’t have to choose? What if you could have Peace, Love and Barbecue all at once? The good news is you can at pitmaster Mike Mills 17th Street Bar & Grill located in Murphysboro, Illinois. Mike is the legendary co-captain of the Apple City Barbecue team, a team with the bling to prove their greatness – most notably as a four-time World Champion and three-time Grand World Champion at Memphis in May. Not only does Mike produce some of the best BBQ around, but he is one of the greatest ambassadors BBQ has ever known and a down to Earth guy willing to share his love and knowledge of BBQ to all who will listen.

When you’ve got BBQ Royalty smoking your meal it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the menu, but Mike and 17th Street Bar & Grill are known for their ribs. Vogue food critic Jeffrey Steingarten once described Mike’s ribs as “profoundly delicious, satisfying every need that the human body and soul have for food.” I won’t try to say it any other way because I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Menu Recommendations – Barbecue nachos and a slab of ribs!!!

Photo of 17th Street Bar & Grill courtesy of Travel and Leisure

Q Barbecue – Midlothian, VA

What do you get when you combine years of culinary experience at some of the top restaurants on the East Coast, a successful catering business, a truck pulling a smoker thousands miles across the country to the most competitive BBQ contests on the competition BBQ circuit, and a leading role on a hit TV show focused on BBQ? You get Tuffy Stone, Cool Smoke and Q Barbecue!

In my opinion Tuffy’s Q Barbecue comes as close as any BBQ joint in the country at producing competition quality BBQ for the masses. That in itself is an accomplishment worthy of admiration and reason enough to put Q Barbecue on your itinerary when traveling through Virginia. Folks rave about all the meats on the menu, but I’m convinced others come for the tremendous side dishes like the corn pudding, mac & cheese and greens.

Menu Recommendations – 3 Meat Combo with pork, brisket & ribs and sides of corn pudding, mac & cheese and hush puppies!!!

Photo of Q Barbecue

Bodean’s – London, England
Yes, you read that right – London, England! London is the place I mentioned that you might not expect to hear “excellent” and “BBQ” cross ones lips in the same sentence. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first, but began to see the potential and fill at home when I spotted the framed photos of some of Kansas City’s finest BBQ joints on the walls and a wall full of famous American barbecue sauces displayed behind the counter.

If you’re in London and looking for a taste of home you won’t be disappointed with their smoked chicken wings. Their baby back ribs are as good, if not better, than what you’d find in many BBQ joints in the U.S.

Menu Recommendation – Baby back ribs, fries and coleslaw!!!

Photo of Bodean’s BBQ courtesy of foodbymark

Heath and Brett are really great guys and if they didn’t have great products and forward thinking ideas they would still be worth following since they are just really nice guys. Here’s more info:
Follow Pork Barrel BBQ on twitter here
Follow the progress and eventual opening of Pork Barrel BBQ Del Ray here
Become a fan of them on facebook here

Check out their BBQ Joint when it’s opened next month here:

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Posted in My Favorite BBQ Joints on by kevin - Comments (1)

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  1. Having been at most of the places, Heath writes about, I can agree with his choices. His mother and I appreciate his thinking of us, but the truth be known, he has become better at BBQ than we are. We encourage anyone, from the competitive BBQ team to the backyard, weekend griller, to go to BBQ Backyard. com and become a member. BBQ is an American tradition and all who participate have something to add to the conversation. Heath, thank you for speaking so highly of our love of BBQ and our interest in making sure your education included how to cook on wood.

    Comment by Rex Hall — February 17, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

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