If you don't have an opinion on barbecue, you probably haven't lived in the South.
When I was in high school, our refrigerator stopped working. Since my mother never really cooked, we saw no reason to replace it. We put drinks on the windowsill to cool down. I sipped tap water from pickle jars and ate on the couch with a towel across my lap.
It wasn’t strange, honestly. I’m not sure it was even unique for kids growing up with a single parent in New York City.
Where I lived in downtown Brooklyn was not a foodie haven in the late 1990s, early 2000s. There were still diners themed after TV shows, white tablecloth Italian restaurants serving far too much food, Chinese sit-downs, and literally four pizza joints in a two-block radius.
Why am I telling you this? It’s to prove that, growing up, I didn’t know barbecue meant anything other than pouring sauce over grilled chicken.
When I moved to North Carolina two years ago, this changed drastically. It was adapt and survive. People in my office engage in heated debates about vinegar. I’ve made a lot of trips since, both in the Tar Heel state and back in the Big Apple.
“What, you call this pulled pork instead of barbecue over here?” I ask confused relatives. While that hasn’t ever actually happened, the key is that it could. It could. And that, more than anything, is a sign that I’m leaving my ignorant youth behind.
Here are the five best barbecue spots I’ve been to. I also polled six of my co-workers and added their choices. This list is in no particular order.