Twisted Guides: The 9 best barbecue joints on the planet
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Something magical happens when meat meets fire. It might be the most basic cooking method we have, but the blackened char and smokey blanket imbued by burning wood is one of the most primally delicious experiences you can ever have at dinner. There’s a reason why, every summer, many of us insist on grilling poorly assembled patties and cheap steaks that are woefully undeserving of such reverential treatment. Barbecuing just makes everything better.
As the most widely shared cooking resource, the world is not short of sensational flame-based barbecue traditions. Wherever you go, you are going to find someone doing something extraordinary with meat and burning logs. However, as with everything, there are apprentices, and then there are masters. To help you plot your next barbecue-based adventure, we’ve pulled together nine of the world’s most incredible barbecue experiences. Be warned - reading this list on an empty stomach will have consequences. These are the nine best barbecue joints on the planet.
Franklin Barbecue, Texas - United States
Famed as much for its queues as for its food, Franklin barbecue epitomises the idea that good things really do come to those who wait. Every day, patient patrons idle for hours for a few slices of pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s slowly smoked beef brisket, lining the street like meaty pilgrims on a delicious mission. The rewards are worth it. Though the brisket is the star of the show, pulled pork shoulder, ribs, sausages and sides make this Austin institution a must-visit for any self-professed barbecue lover.
Casa Julian, San Sebastian - Spain
Barbecue might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of San Sebastian. But, beyond the cramped chaos of the thriving pintxos bars, the small Basque city has another equally delicious speciality - some of the best beef around. At beloved steakhouse Casa Julian, huge slabs of txuleton rib are seared over a roaring grill, filling the room with the heavy, savoury waft of roasting meat. Thick slabs of yellow fat melt into pools of beefy butter, producing a steak that’s about as juicy and flavourful as it’s possible to get.
Vento Haragano, Sao Paulo - Brazil
Famous for being a favourite of the F1 teams that frequent the nearby Interlagos race track, Vento Haragano is Brazilian barbecue at its best. The epitome of the churrascaria tradition, the restaurant specialises in huge skewers of flame-grilled meat, served at the table by highly skilled waiting staff and sliced straight onto the plate. Whether you have a preference for thin slivers of picanha rump, or adore tender and juicy “baby beef”, Vento Haragano has got the lot.
Mzoli’s, Cape Town - South Africa
Aside from the Springboks and Charlize Theron, South Africa’s most famous export has to be the braai. A vast communal feast of charcoal-roasted beef, bushmeat and everything in between, this tradition has defined South African dining for decades, and none do it better than Mzoli’s. Based in the Gugulethu township, the meat comes without fanfare or cutlery and has been a popular destination for locals and tourists since 2003. Choose your cut from the attached butcher’s shop, hand over your meat and watch the magic happen. Like any brilliant barbecue, alcohol is a must.
La Brigada, Buenos Aires - Argentina
Few nations venerate the cow quite like Argentina. At the tip of South America, beef cookery becomes an art form, with experts elevating their craft on the fiery altar of the asado. Every city and household has its own formula for barbecue bliss, but for our money, the prime cut has to be La Brigada in Buenos Aires. A temple to both beef and Malbec, La Brigada is an essential Argentinian experience. Choose from fat steaks, tender ribs and mouthwatering morcilla sausage for a steakhouse event that makes Peter Luger look like Outback.
Wooraeok, Seoul - South Korea
Drawing inspiration from a tradition that dates back centuries, Korean barbecue is quickly becoming as recognisable as kimchi or bibimbap. Given the dishes, this isn’t a shock. If you want to get a taste of truly delicious traditional soy and sesame marinated “galbi” short ribs, you’ll do well to find better than the perennially popular Wooraeok restaurant in the heart of Seoul. Serving sensational ribs and “bulgogi” steaks since 1946, it is a fixture of the city’s dining scene - and with good reason.
Edley’s, Tennessee - United States
Famed for it’s fiery, sweet, whisky-infused barbecue sauces - of which, Bull’s-Eye’s own is easily one of the best going - Tennessee barbecue offers a mouthwatering mashup of Southern styles while still retaining its own distinct character. Few joints capture this contradiction of techniques and flavours quite like Edley’s. The original site is regularly ranked among the best barbecue joints in the state, delivering a self-described “tribute to all things Southern”. If you want to try hot chicken alongside dry-rubbed ribs, this restaurant is not to be missed.
Smokestak, London - UK
Time was when British barbecue meant a four-pack of sad burgers from Sainsbury’s, accompanied by an octet of aggressively burnt sausages. Not so now. Leading the charge in Britain’s rediscovery of the mystical powers of smoke is the aptly named “Smokestak” in Shoreditch. Taking inspiration from the American “low and slow” tradition, the restaurant’s Anglified southern-style has seen it dubbed the best in Britain by several prominent critics. Plus, it serves starters of crispy pig tails, which makes it all the more awesome.
Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog, South Carolina - United States
While there will always be something impressive about the surprisingly subtle art of animal butchery, nothing makes a meat-lover happier than seeing a whole pig slowly cooking over coal. Rodney Scott, the legendary and award-winning proprietor of his eponymous hog joint, delivers just that. Every day, the South Carolina pitmaster puts on a masterclass, slowly cooking entire pigs before roughly chopping and stuffing them into the pillowy bosom of a waiting sandwich. If you want to see what’s possible with a pig and a lot of time, this is the place for you.
As a fundamentally communal eating experience, these are unusual times for barbecue. Plans to chat with friends and family while we wait for something charred and tender to be pulled from a fire have had to be put on hold, however temporarily. But, despite the uncertainty, it’s worth remembering that some fires will still be burning. When normal service has been resumed, these nine iconic kitchens will be there to blow your barbecue mind. Trust us, they’re worth the wait.
Feeling hungry? Take your next barbecue up a level with the best sauces around. Whether your pulled pork has been cooked by a pro, or you’ve been home smoking some sticky sweet ribs since sunrise, treat your meat with the respect it deserves. Don’t settle for anything less than the best. Check out the Bull’s-Eye range here. You can thank us later.