Tim Love's top rib joints across the U.S. (and Canada, too)
August 9th, 2013
11:00 AM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

It’s easier than ever to fake your way through a summertime cookout. You’ve heard about the test tube burger; you had to, it cost $33,000. Meanwhile, sales of alternative meat products, like faux hot dogs, continue to rise (to more than $550 million last year). The one cookout staple that doesn’t easily lend itself to veganism is ribs. So, before someone comes up with a test tube version, let’s shout out epic pork and beef ribs around the country.
Texas star chef Tim Love, whose restaurants include the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro and Love Shack, happens to be a ribs expert. He kindly provided a list of his favorite ribs spots - both pork and beef. Believe it or not, he’s got his eyes wide open enough to find a go-to place in Toronto.

– Pork Ribs
Bludso’s: Compton, California
This is a storefront with bad-ass pork ribs in a neighborhood I knew only from rap songs. (Now there’s a new branch of Bludso’s in Hollywood.) The ribs are Texas style: They’re not covered in too much sweet sauce, which is one reason I was attracted to them. It turns out that the owner, Kevin Bludso, comes from a Texas barbecue family. He uses just a little bit of a rub, enough to take it beyond salt and pepper and make the meat really good.

JT’s Bar-B-Que: Del City, Oklahoma
JT’s is like a real old-school men’s club inside. I think they just got a women’s restroom a few years ago. The ribs are really, really good. JT’s makes them Texas style and uses spareribs; they’re a little thicker than baby backs, which is typically what you see in Oklahoma. The meat just pulls right off the bones. You’ll just see ribs on everyone’s plate.
The Joint: New Orleans, Louisiana
While I love New Orleans and its amazing fusion of Creole and seafood, I just don’t think of it as a great barbecue destination. But this at this place, the pulled pork and pork ribs were off the chart. You can always find barbecue in a barbecue city but to find it in a non-barbecue city is amazing. They use baby backs with a kind of Cajun rub to it, almost like a blackening seasoning. 

Jojo’s Barbeque: Potosi, Texas
I found this place when I was in San Angelo for my son’s baseball tournament. It is the middle of friggen’ nowhere, a family-run business with kids working the counter. I got the Trinity plate. The brisket is fine, the sausage is pretty good. But the ribs, they were so tender, it was almost as if they were braised. They weren’t, they were smoked with just a little salt and pepper on them. If you find yourself rolling 15 minutes outside that giant city of Abilene, you’re lucky you get to have these ribs.

Barque Smokehouse: Toronto, Canada
If you’re this far north and you want to have respectable ribs, I’ve got a place. Barque looks more like a restaurant than a barbecue spot, though there’s a massive smoker in the open kitchen. David Neinstein puts a little bit of sauce on his ribs, then grills them so they’re really crispy. They’re not too messy or too saucy - I just don’t like those ribs. My dad is from Canada, which is how I first found these ribs. I’m a pretty tough dude to please when it comes to meat, and I was impressed. Definitely worth the wait to get into this place.
Woodshed Smokehouse: Fort Worth, Texas
This is my spot. We use baby back ribs, which we rub with pure cane sugar, chile powder, toasted cumin, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. We’re real particular, we use pecan wood, and we smoke the ribs for 3 hours and 15 minutes and serve with zero sauce. That’s really important to me. The herbs are crispy, the meat is nice and tender.

– Beef Ribs

Lockhart Smokehouse: Dallas, Texas
You can only get beef ribs here on certain days, so you better know what those days are. Here, they smoke beef shoulder, and about once a week they have beef ribs, which they sell until they run out. They’re seasoned with just straight salt and pepper, and they offer all kinds of pickles to go with them from the pickle bar. The ribs are really meaty, the edges have an awesome crispness.

Smoke Restaurant: Dallas, Texas
The chef Tim Byres serves what is basically a giant beef short rib; he calls it The Big Rib. It’s got a thick coating of salt and pepper; the crust is most ridiculous thing you’ve ever had. Tim slow smokes that meat for a long, long time. It’s one solid rib, and it sure as hell looks good, too. 

 Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que: Llano, Texas
Cooper’s has a couple of different locations, but I’m going to talk about the one in Hill Country. They’re famous for their Big Chop, which is a center-cut pork chop. I like their beef ribs that they sell about once a week. Cooper’s does open-pit smoking. They use direct heat, calm the coals down, then put the ribs over them. The meat is a little chewier than some other beef ribs, but it has the most intense smoky flavor.

Cozy Corner ribs
Ribs from Cozy Corner in Memphis, Tennessee

Did chef Love hit or miss your favorite rib joint? Shout it out in the comments below.

More from Food & Wine:
Ultimate BBQ Cities
Outrageous Hot Dogs
F&W’s Summer Bucket List
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Best Ice Cream Spots in the U.S.

5 rib tips from Myron Mixon
Intro to cooking ribs
Taking a ribbing – testing out McDonald's cult sandwich
Glazed alligator ribs and the best government job ever
5 slices of barbecue wisdom
See all barbecue coverage on Eatocracy

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Barbecue • Celebrity Chefs • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Tim Love

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soundoff (144 Responses)
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  4. NYC Fitness Events

    I can't eat barbeque sauce, I know it's bad. I have an allergy to dye and it's in all those types of sauce.

    January 30, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
  5. Michallangelo

    Slpa me good and smother me in BBQ sauce,we havein' ribs tonight

    YEEE-HAWWWWWWWWWWWWW TIME TO GET MY RIB ON!!!!!!! OMnomnomnomdghdsjkfhdfklgjfdksfhlnsdjkfjkgsdNOM!

    August 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm |
  6. Observer

    I like that chef's cowboy hat. It's reminiscent of my favorite movie, Brokeback Mountain.

    August 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm |
  7. Memphis Johnny

    In Memphis, Rendezvous ribs are overdone and overrated – but a great place to visit. The best ribs are from Germantown Commissary and a disgusting little hole in the wall – Alex's Tavern on Jackson Avenue. Alex's also has the best burgers and wings in town as well. The best pulled pork sandwiches are from Morris' Grocery in Cordova.

    August 12, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  8. Tony

    Best RIBS? My backyard after 4 hours in the smoker. mmmm-MM!

    August 12, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Dennis

      You should try mine after 5 hours in the smoker in my backyard, lightly seasoned with Alspaugh's Secret Seasoning at the Ace Hardware store in Tx and a triple coating of Bone Sucking Sauce the last 2 hours.(both of which you can Google)

      August 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
  9. APW

    The editor is from NYC! Enough said.

    August 12, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  10. Terry Shults

    Dreamland at Tuscaloosa

    August 12, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  11. TX Ribs Rock

    Coopers is an awful tourist trap serving undercooked pork, at outrageous prices with a 'secret mopping sauce' consisting of vinegar/pepper/ketchup. If you are putting that on your "best of" list, I would certainly not trust your opinion on any of the other BBQ joints mentioned. No Salt Lick? No Blacks? No Franklins? No Smitty's?

    August 12, 2013 at 9:58 am |
  12. 06379

    Kit Kat Smoked Barbeque on Mechanic Street in Pawcatuck, CT.....The best ribs around here in the SE CT/Westerly RI area

    August 12, 2013 at 3:18 am |
  13. john snitt

    CANADA in a USA places to eat??? Man good writers and editors are getting harder to find...

    August 12, 2013 at 1:19 am |
  14. Pete77

    Can someone advise Tim that Toronto, Canada is not part of the US, but from another country called Canada.

    August 11, 2013 at 8:40 pm |
    • Bill

      He's not the first, nor the smartest, to make that mistake ...


      August 11, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
  15. loyd melton

    if you are ever in orlando fl. try the ribs at cecils texas style barbque you will love them and you will still have money left. not in the mood for pork ribs order any of the meat it is all good

    August 11, 2013 at 8:24 pm |
  16. BrianW.

    I would like to thank everybody for the posts!! I have now got a nice, long list of my joints that serve my favorite food on the planet!! We have a couple/few good bbq joints in Chicago, but man, I'm visiting Nashville for a Blackhawks game this winter, and I CAN'T WAIT!!!! List some joints near Nashville, people!!!

    August 11, 2013 at 7:58 pm |
    • JB

      Nashville is not really known for its Q, but Jack's on Lower Broad (near the arena) is pretty tasty.

      August 12, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  17. JA

    How in the world can you not include beef ribs from any of the 4 joints in Lockhart, TX: Kreuz, Smittys, Chisholm Trail, or Blacks?

    August 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm |
    • TX Ribs Rock


      August 12, 2013 at 10:00 am |
  18. Caleb Boone

    Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

    I will sound off.

    First, the only ribs which have real flavor are pork ribs, flavored with pig bile or pig sweat. Pigs' sweat or bile is internalized since pigs have no sweat glands.

    Second, only full-size pork ribs are any good, because they are meatier and juicier. "Baby-back" ribs are a waste of time.

    Third, barbecue sauce is only a cover-up for bad meat.

    Fourth, only real hickory wood barbecuing produces a good flavor.

    Fifth, only personally-prepared, hand-tended, expensively and carefully prepared pork ribs are any good.

    Sixth, Beef brisket is always dry. Always. No one really wants to eat beef brisket. It has no flavor of pig sweat. It does not have the juice and the moistness of pig fat. There is no way to escape this because beef is a meat which has not been exposed to pig bile or pig sweat and pig fat.

    Seventh, beef ribs are a joke for the same reason: no pork-fat-moistness and no pig-sweat-flavor.

    People want real wood barbecued fat and meat which has natural flavor. You can't manufacture that with silly rubs and sauces.

    Flavor has to come from inside the meat.

    The only meat flavor which people really love is the flavor of pork, which has been "marinating" in its own bile or sweat during the life of the pig.

    That is not a characteristic of beef cattle so beef will never have that wonderful pig sweat bile flavor.

    And, finally, let me say that no one can make meat taste tender and juicy if it was not already that way.

    Therefore, the only steak which is any good is a Filet Mignon extremely rare. Nothing else is any good. Nothing.

    Sirloin is too tough. And, goodness me, rib eyes are too fatty.

    If I see one more sign for "Ribeyes On Sale" I think I will have to take it down or cross it out.

    All these things are painfully obvious.

    I threw in the steak comment as a bonus.

    Have a Dovely.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

    August 11, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Tommy

      To say that the only good cut of beef is a filet shows a sincere lack of creativity and appreciation of the cow. To casually write off such awesome iterations of beef like the Argentinean Skirt Steak or Florentine T-Bone is unfortunate. I would even go so far as to say that the filet mignon is one of the most over-rated cuts of meat that one can find: trading flavor and character for simple tenderness.

      You are either the worlds best meat-troll, or someone who is sadly misinformed of the awesome possibilities of this animal.

      August 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • JBHedgehog

      Caleb, buddy...you need an anatomy & physiology lesson. If bile EVER touches any muscles, that's a piece of meat I don't ever want to eat.

      Bile's kept in its own set of pipes for a reason.

      Also, sweat only appears on skin. There's no sweat in a muscle. Ever.

      August 12, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  19. Jeff

    oklahoma joe's in KC, hands down. To not mention anything fom KC, STL, Memphis, or NC is a sham. This guy doesn't get out much.

    August 11, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Burgerman

      Oklahoma Joe's ABSOLUTELY!!!! Bunches of good places in and around KC, but even in this town of Arthur Bryant's and Ollie Gates, OJ's wins on so many levels. As seen every night by the lines out the door at lunch and dinnertime.
      Anthony Bourdain and Rick Raichlen both gave them a big thumbs up. As well as the locals. I'm just sayin'......

      August 11, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  20. M

    Buz and Ned's in Richmond has fantastic ribs – even Bobby Flay lost in a Food Network throwdown with them. But there's no way KC can be left out of this, and I'm an east coaster. Some things aren't bigger and better in Texas.

    August 11, 2013 at 9:35 am |
  21. Jeannius

    Well, they really need to visit 12 Bones in Asheville, NC! They won GMA's Best Bites a few years ago and nearly every time Obama is in town, he gets a LARGE takeout order!

    August 11, 2013 at 1:05 am |
    • richard

      Who the hell cares what Obozo takes out.

      August 11, 2013 at 10:09 pm |
      • Dick

        I'll bet your last name is "Head."

        August 12, 2013 at 9:56 am |
      • RC

        Look what happened when Clinton took his out....

        August 12, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  22. Sloth

    Rankings like these always crack me up. To leave out rib meccas like KC and St. Louis only says a couple things to me...get out a little more than you do, Tim Love, or stop trying so hard to find a few joints that you think will impress those who have never heard of them. We all love BBQ found off the beaten path, but sometimes, the regions known for the best ribs are indeed the best...it's OK to include them.

    August 10, 2013 at 11:07 pm |
    • Alex

      Amen, brother. Here I am in Omaha, Nebraska, and I make pretty mean ribs.

      Here's the proof right here:


      August 11, 2013 at 4:08 am |
      • Alex

        Sorry – fat fingered the link:


        August 11, 2013 at 4:10 am |
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