In the South, college football and barbecue can both be near-religious experiences.
Combine the two, and you’ve got the makings for a truly rapturous road trip.
Some of the barbecue restaurants listed here will do tailgating orders; others are worth a separate stop or detour for fans of expertly smoked meats.
To narrow the field, we’ve centered each of these barbecue pilgrimages around upcoming games between in-state college football rivals during the Thanksgiving weekend.
Calling ahead is a good idea, as holiday and game-day hours may vary.
On Thanksgiving Day, Texas Tech’s Red Raiders will take on the University of Texas’ Longhorns in Austin.
Purveyors of barbecue will probably take the day off to pay homage to poultry, but there’s no reason not to go big on barbecue over the rest of the holiday weekend.
For Red Raiders fans making the nearly six-hour drive from Lubbock, there’s a barbecue oasis about two hours into the drive.
Sweetwater is home to Big Boy’s Bar-B-Que (2117 Lamar St.), where the brisket “comes out with a salty-peppery, saliva-inducing kick,” according to Texas Monthly.
In Austin, a big barbecue boom in recent years has brought Texas’ largely rural barbecue heritage right into the heart of the city.
The hours-long wait for superstar pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s brisket at Franklin Barbecue (900 E. 11th St.) is an event in itself. But determined diners will have to line up on Wednesday, Saturday or Sunday, as the restaurant is closed on Thanksgiving and the day after.
John Mueller Meat Co. (2500 E. Sixth St.), La Barbecue (1906 E. Cesar Chavez St.) and Lamberts Downtown Barbecue (401 W. Second St.) are also hot spots on Austin’s barbecue map.
Just a half-hour away in Lockhart is Kreuz Market (619 N. Colorado St.), a German meat market-style barbecue institution.
Alabama tourism officials have declared 2015 the Year of Alabama Barbecue.
As part of the celebration, the state launched a free app devoted to the Alabama BBQ Trail and established the Alabama Barbecue Hall of Fame, showcasing spots that have been in business for at least 50 years.
Several Hall of Famers are within sampling distance for football fans traveling to Auburn for the November 28 faceoff between the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers in the annual Iron Bowl.
Fans from Tuscaloosa can put down a base layer of delicious ribs at the original Dreamland Bar-B-Que restaurant (5535 15th Ave. E.) before hitting the road for the game in Auburn.
Brenda’s Bar-B-Que Pit (1457 Mobile Road), which opened in Montgomery in 1942, is along the route between the two rival football towns.
There are no Hall of Famers in Auburn yet, but Mike and Ed’s (307 N. College St.) and Price’s Barbecue House (345 S. College St.) have plenty of avid fans.
Mike and Ed’s will be fielding hundreds of tailgating pre-orders for the Iron Bowl, owner Jp Lemay said. Ordering early is key, as the restaurant may not be open to walk-ins on Saturday.
Raleigh, where North Carolina State’s Wolfpack will face off against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels on November 28, provides a safe “demilitarized zone” for ruminating on the state’s great Eastern- vs. Western-style barbecue feud.
The differences are subtle. The meat in both cases will be pork (whole hog to the east, pork shoulder to the west).
East of Raleigh, the sauce is vinegar-based.
To the west, it’s also vinegar-based — with a twist. Western or Lexington-style barbecue sauce contains a touch of ketchup or tomato sauce.
Allen & Son (6203 Millhouse Road) in Chapel Hill takes elements from both traditions.
It’s the only Research Triangle-area joint on the North Carolina Barbecue Society’s Historic Barbecue Trail, which features two dozen spots chosen to represent the state’s distinctive methods.
In Greensboro, about an hour and a half west of Raleigh, Stamey’s Barbecue (2206 W. Gate City Blvd.) embraces the Lexington tradition of the tomato-infused sauce. Naturally, there are also trail markers in Lexington, about a half-hour beyond Greensboro.
At the eastern end of the Barbecue Society’s trail, Wilber’s (4172 Highway 70 E.) in Goldsboro and the Skylight Inn in Ayden (4618 Lee St.), are temples to the Eastern style.
Though there are no official historic barbecue trail stops in Raleigh, there’s no shortage of ‘cue in the capital city. The Pit (328 W. Davie St.) puts a contemporary spin on it.
In South Carolina, there are four official sauces — mustard, heavy tomato, light tomato and vinegar and pepper — but it’s the mustard sauce with its German roots that really sets the state apart.
Football fans will find plenty of pork and sauce en route to Columbia to see the University of South Carolina Gamecocks take on the Clemson Tigers on November 28 in the Palmetto Bowl.
South Carolina tourism authorities have developed a map of barbecue joints across the state, and the South Carolina Barbecue Association has a list of the state’s best barbecue restaurants, a subset of which they deem worth a 100-mile drive.
Clemson fans taking 185 to 385 toward Columbia will have easy access to more 100-milers than their stomachs can handle.
Bucky’s Bar-B-Q (in Greenville and Fountain Inn), Henry’s Smokehouse (123 N. Main St in Simpsonville) and Cannon’s BBQ (1903 Nursery Road in Little Mountain) all make the 100-mile list.
Headquartered in West Columbia with outposts all over the area, Maurice’s Piggy Park BBQ champions its signature mustard sauce.
Another 100-miler, Hite’s Bar-B-Que in West Columbia (240 Dreher Road) has been cooking low and slow since 1957.
It’s a long way from the many renowned barbecue pits of western Tennessee to Knoxville, where the University of Tennessee Volunteers are taking on the Vanderbilt Commodores on November 28.
So we’re going to skip the western part of the state (no doubt angering the barbecue gods) to focus this barbecue pilgrimage on delicious spots near Nashville and Knoxville.
Nashville’s growing barbecue scene gives Vanderbilt fans plenty of ways to fill up before they head east for the game.
Martin’s Bar-B-Que has grown to four locations from its start in nearby Nolensville (7238 Nolensville Road).
The Mt. Juliet location just off I-40 (200 Crossings Lane, Suite 500) is conveniently situated along the route to Knoxville. The “redneck taco,” your choice of meat on a cornbread hoecake topped with slaw and sauce, is a signature offering.
In Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood, Peg Leg Porker (903 Gleaves St.) serves hickory-smoked Memphis-style barbecue.
In Knoxville, Sweet P’s has two popular restaurants and offers a $125 tailgate package that feeds 10.
Other tasty Knoxville spots include Full Service BBQ (104 Cedar Lane), Dead End BBQ (3621 Sutherland Ave.) and Archers BBQ (four locations), featuring founder Archer Bagley’s version of Memphis-style barbecue.
Sated? Then let the games begin.