1 Big Nate'sBarbecue
• The big guy behind the counter is Hall of Fame center Nate Thurmond, thefirst NBA player to make a quadruple double. He banged the boards for 11 of his15 seasons at the Cow Palace for the Warriors, and in '90 used the recipes ofhis mother, Lena, to open this four-table cow (and pig) palace not far from theold arena.
Memphis Pork Sandwich, $8.75. "We chop our pork--not real fine--over a bun,open-faced with sauce. A side of slaw and you're good to go."
"Layers of firm, savory flesh [on the ribs] giving way to creamy fat, justgreasy enough to let us know we weren't eating healthy, and tasty enough thatwe didn't care." --SF Weekly
2 Randy Jones'BBQ
Petco Park, SanDiego
The 1976 NL CyYoung winner admits he lifted the concept from Boog Powell's Camden Yards joint("As long as I didn't steal his cooks, he was fine," Jones says), butJones's pulled-beef-and-pork sandwiches have one thing Powell's don't: thefamily BBQ sauce recipe. "It's my grandpa's," says Jones. "My dadmade a batch; then I sent it to a lab and had it duplicated."
Sweet Texas BBQ
The Randy Jones Slugger, $6.50. "It's an all-beef, half-pound hot dog thatwe do up on the BBQ. Growing up, I was a fan of the Dodger Dog. I finally founda dog bigger than that, but it took a while."
"The 'Slugger' [is] somewhere between the size of a football and ablimp." --Providence Journal
3 Sammy Walker'sBar-b-que
Rowlett andForney, Texas
A 1976 Olympicweightlifter, Walker started this medal-worthy chain, now with threeDallas-area outlets, in the mid-'80s. President of the Southwest chapter ofU.S. Olympians, Walker will be sure to show off the "zesty" sauce hedeveloped when he hosts a meeting of his fellow five-ringers in October.
Southern dry rub
The Three Meat Olympian Plate, $7.99. "Our hickory-smoked ribs come rightoff the bone; our Hill Country German sausage is one of a kind; and the brisketis always tender."
"One of America's 75 best food buys." --Food & Wine Magazine
4 Billy SimsBarbecue
Tulsa, Edmond andBroken Bow, Okla.
• The Sooners' 1978 Heisman winner describes the dining experience as"Boomer Q," with a rivalry-influenced menu that includes Smoked Jayhawk(chicken) and Pulled Razorback (pork). Patrons can also pay their respects toOklahoma's archnemesis: The restroom toilet bowls bear Texas Longhornslogos.
Southern dry rub
The Heisman Sandwich, $6.99. "It has chopped brisket, fried bologna, hotlinks and pulled pork. Even the folks in Texas like it."
"The ribs were a pleasant surprise . . . meaty and tender. . . . Cooked ina Southern Pride smoker--a well-respected piece of equipment--over pecan andhickory."--Tulsa World
5 Abdullah theButcher's House of Ribs & Chinese Food
• Who could resist a restaurant owned by a 350-pound former pro wrestling champcalled the Butcher (né Larry Shreve), who carried a fork into the ring and hada finishing move dubbed the Sudanese Meat Cleaver? But beware: When a critictried using utensils, the cigar-chomping Abdullah growled, "Eat it like aman!"
The Rib Family Special (four vegetables, slab of ribs, buffalo wings), $26.99."I can't describe the sauce. You might steal it!"
"The moist, saucy ribs and fall-off-the-bones smoked chicken are worthgoing to the mat for." ¬†¬†--Atlanta Journal-Constitution
6 Lee RoySelmon's
Seven locations inthe Tampa area
• The Hall of Fame defensive end suffered plenty of losses with the expansionBuccaneers--87 in nine seasons--but hit on a winning formula when hecollaborated with Outback Steakhouse on this BBQ-and-sports-bar franchise. Themenu of "soul-satisfying comfort food" comes courtesy of Selmon's mom,Jessie.
The Training Platter, $19.99. "A first-timer thinking BBQ should try this:Hall of Fame Ribs, pulled pork and BBQ chicken."
"Jessie knew a thing or two about how to feed her 260-pound son. The heftyentrees . . . are geared for voracious appetites." --Tampa Tribune
7 Boog's BBQ
What's moreimpressive: 339 career homers and the 1970 AL MVP award, or being named byPlayboy and Zagat as making the best ballpark food in America? So savory areformer Orioles slugger Boog Powell's recipes that he put out his own book,Mesquite Cookery.
Pit Beef Sandwich, $7.95. "I like onions, mustard BBQ sauce and horseradishon mine. And our horseradish is like--Yikes! You know when you bite into a snowcone and get that head rush? It's like that."
"Some of Mobtown's most delicious open-pit barbecue. . . . When the windchanges, the aroma suffuses the entire stadium."--AOL City Guide
Citizens BankPark, Philadelphia
On most nightsGreg Luzinski mans the kettle grill at this rightfield rib joint, which he runslike a summer picnic. The Bull (307 HRs over 15 seasons, 11 of them with thePhillies) perfected his recipes during his retirement in Florida, coming upwith his own solution to the age-old dry-rub-versus-sauce problem: He usesboth.
Pulled pork sandwich or platter, with beans and coleslaw, $8.25. "Thisone's a spicy recipe I put together. It's the best pulled pork money canbuy--and it holds up to Boog, no question."
"Delicious. The rib meat almost falls off the bone, and the sauce tastestangy and sweet." --Philadelphia Daily News
9 Bubba's Q
• Al (Bubba) Baker, the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1978, learned theBBQ trade as a kid and perfected his craft as a player: During his 13 seasonshe catered team flights for the Lions, Cardinals, Browns and Vikings. Now hespends a hundred hours a week as executive chef at the restaurant, which earnedCleveland magazine's Silver Spoon Award this year for best BBQ. "Barbecuecame to me," says the three-time Pro Bowl end, "and then I took a breakto play in the NFL."
D-boned Baby Back Rib Steak, $17.99. "We invented this item--you slide themeat off the bone and serve it as a steak. It's a rib, but you eat it with aknife and fork!"
"The menu's a big 'un. Clearly though, Bubba's heart belongs tobarbecue."--Cleveland Scene
Illustration by Ross MacDonald