Phil’s BBQ, San Diego, CA
What you’re getting: The El Toro sandwich and a half rack of baby back ribs
San Diego!? California!? To see a place in Southern California make the list might cause some consternation from the purists, but Phil Pace’s spot has earned a seat at the table. Combining self-taught recipes for rubs and sauces with traditional mesquite BBQing has netted him a successful mini-empire in SD, and last year, that El Toro tri-tip ‘wich was a finalist for Alan Richman’s “Best Sandwich in America” (though those same purists might want to just stick to the baby backs).
Podnah’s Pit, Portland, OR
What you’re getting: The Pitmaster
Podnah’s pitmaster gets up at 5a every day to make the meats, kind of like a blood-stained Dunkin’ Donuts mascot. So pay respect by ordering the namesake, which is a greatest hits of Podnah’s Texas-style meat madness. The heaping platter includes 1/4lb of pulled pork (sauce on the side), 1/4lb of brisket (including melt-in-your-mouth burnt ends), a sausage, two ribs, and, sadly, no Prilosec.
Spoonful Restaurant (Los Angeles, CA)
What you’re getting: Southern poutine
A native Georgian serves a spread comprised of top-notch eats from a variety of Southern states: everything from catfish, blackened Cajun-style to She-crab soup. LA-friendly eats (as in, they’re healthy) lighten the menu, too, with plates of spaghetti squash and pan-seared snapper.
Screen Door (Portland, OR)
What you’re getting: The Screen Door Plate with catfish, mac & cheese, and a pork chop
Even on the rainiest Portland days, there’s a line outside Screen Door an hour before it opens, populated by people ready to weather the weather for a taste of perhaps the city’s best fried chicken, pounded flat, buttermilk-soaked, crispy, and perfect. It’s served up in a homey little spot with an open kitchen, well-stocked bar, and walls adorned with pickled eggs, vegetables, and pretty much anything else picklable. Beyond the chicken, the place features great BBQ classics, pecan trout, and shrimp & grits, plus an array of sides that can be hard to choose from… so make them a meal with the Screen Door Plate, which lets you choose three. It’s worth noting that a crispy-fried pork chop counts as a side, mainly because this place rules.
Pine State Biscuits (Portland, OR)
What you’re getting: Biscuit-topped chicken pot pie
Because there are few things more comforting than the sweet and salty taste of a fresh, hot buttermilk biscuit, three P-Town gents found quick success at the Portland Farmers Market, and have been in brick-and-mortar operation since 2008. The set-up is simple, and the biscuit fillings stick to the Southern theme with options like The Wedgie, a fried chicken, fried green tomato, lettuce, and blue cheese masterpiece. There’s also a small “Others” section with classics like shrimp ‘n grits.
What you’re getting: Red beans and rice
Drawing inspiration from their Selma, Alabama-born grandfather and comfort food-cooking mother, these two sister-owners have been pouring their love of their culinary heritage — often in the form of family recipes — into Seattle since ’97. Their enthusiasm shows in dishes like the Hop & Jump, a plate of fried frog legs with greentomato chutney, and the Sweet Tea Pork Chop, a 5oz chop that gets an overnight marinade bath in two stand-by ingredients: sweet tea and molasses.