Arguments about football are usually settled on the field.
Disputes over who has the best barbecue in the South are destined to remain unsettled.
Nothing gets an SEC football weekend under way better than a big slab of slow-cooked ribs slathered in sauces ranging from honey sweet to eye-watering spicy, or a pile of pulled pork ready to be heaped between slices of white bread.
Here are our top five barbecue spots to accompany an SEC game:
5. Archibald & Woodrow’s: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
When a place has “Whole Butt” on the menu, you know you’re in for some good Southern eating. This is one of the great ones, with whole chicken, half chicken, ribs, pulled-pork sandwiches, white bread and sweet tea, all served on Styrofoam. Nothing beats the collard greens and fried green tomatoes with an unhealthy heaping of banana pudding for dessert.
The place looks exactly as you would expect: press-board paneling, a saggy dropped ceiling, and exposed wires for the television and rotary fan.
One trip and you will be hooked.
4. The Little Dooey: Starkville, Miss.
With the untimely passing of Deke Baskin, Oxford’s master of the barbecue pit, the top apron has been passed to Starkville and the little gathering place of Barry and Margaret Ann Wood. Around since 1985, The Little Dooey has the best hot barbecue sauce in the region, along with corn salad and specially seasoned baked beans.
Be sure to get a photo in one of the rocking chairs on the front porch, as you will be talking about the food for some time.
3. Terrell’s Barbecue: Gainesville, Fla.
You could drive by it 100 times and never see it. With a roof that looks slightly off-kilter and a smokehouse attached to one side, this South Main Street staple has the best ribs in Florida. It’s no place to take a date, but if you’re looking to pick up tailgating fare on your way to the Swamp, there is nowhere better.
Give them plenty of notice, and don’t expect Ritz Carlton service. It’s all about the food. On that front, these guys know what they’re doing.
2. Little Pigs Barbecue: Columbia, S.C.
They mix the pork 50-50 hams to shoulders for the perfect blend of moisture and sturdiness, and provide you with a soufflé of sauces, including a vinegar and pepper sauce that will make you chew slower than you ever thought possible.
Fried hush puppies and macaroni and cheese are the preferred sides, but the options are bountiful. Add a little white bread for sopping and this place is hard to beat.
1. Butt Hutt: Athens, Ga.
Portions matter when it comes to good barbecue, and nobody heaps it higher than this place. Plus, Georgia barbecue is almost always accompanied by Brunswick stew, a flavorful mix of pork, corn, onions, celery, vinegar, barbecue and hot sauce stewed for hours in a slow-cooking kettle.
Win or lose, a plate from the Butt Hutt is a meal to remember.