best barbecue restaurants in the world

Just this week one of my photographs of Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ (which ironically enough is actually located in Missouri) was featured in Travel + Leisure’s Best Barbecue Restaurants in the World package. It was one of those rare times a T+L shoot list floats by and not only have I actually visited one of the places, but have also photographed it. While I dug through the files on my laptop to unearth the images, it triggered major positive memories of exactly a year ago, when I originally visited the joint.

Flashback to July of last year, 2010. I had recently graduated from Elon, was freelancing in Columbus and was heading into a two week vacation with my boyfriend to embark on a road trip from Columbus to Boulder to Chicago and back again to catch up with a few friends. Our first rest stop was in St. Louis, where we crossed the Illinois border and were immediately greeted by the St. Louis Arch:

We had an amazing lunch at a tapas restaurant downtown and a quick walk around the park, then loaded back up into the car to spend the night in Kansas City, Missouri. It was a Friday so after we got settled in the hotel we made a dash for the Power & Light District, where we stopped by Howl at the Moon for some dueling pianos … and a bucket of liquor:

The next day, before we geared up to drive across the rest of the Midwest, we did a quick search on Yelp for barbeque restaurants. And what we found was nothing short of astounding — Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ. Not only does Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ function out of a gas station (which also is fully functioning), but it also has a line that typically snakes around the entire restaurant and almost out the door and it also tops Anthony Bourdain’s 13 Places to Eat Before You Die list. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and onion rings and Dan had to try the burnt ends (what they’re famous for), coleslaw and a half rack of ribs:

Presenting Oklahoma Joe's BBQ
Presenting Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ, which is also a gas station.
Chowing on ribs.
Chowing on ribs.
Delicious burnt ends, flavorful chunks of smked brisket which also happen to be Joe's speciality.
Delicious burnt ends, flavorful chunks of smoked brisket which also happen to be Joe’s specialty.

It was an epic and amazing meal, and I’m happy to be able to cross off at least one restaurant on Bourdain’s list. The rest of the trip was lovely, and you can read more about my killer breakfast in Boulder at The Buff here. A few additional highlights from the road include a sunset visit to Colorado’s Flatiron Mountains, a perfect garden lunch in Omaha and the best open-mic night I’ve ever been to in Chicago.

Atop the Flatirons.
Atop the Flatirons.
The best grilled veggie sandwich in Omaha.
The best grilled veggie sandwich in Omaha.
Open-mic night at Gallery Cabaret, an indie bar in Chicago.
Open-mic night at Gallery Cabaret, an indie bar in Chicago.
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