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Travel Picks: Top 10 BBQ spots for Labor Day holiday

Sep 2, 2011, 7:20 a.m.
An attempt to set the record for the biggest barbeque in the world, in Montevideo, in 2008. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Picking top barbecue spots is a tad dangerous. The emotions connected to hometown recipes run as deeply as their flavors. Nevertheless online travel adviser Cheapflights (www.cheapflights.com) couldn't resist taking a stab at where to find finger-licking good beef and pork dishes for the Labor Day holiday. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Find quintessential Eastern North Carolina barbecue (hint: slow-roasted pork and thin, vinegar-based sauce) in Chapel Hill at cult favorite Allen & Son Barbecue. No need to wear your jacket and tie to this neighborhood joint; its floors are covered in vinyl tile and its tables with checkered table cloths. Keith Allen cuts the hickory wood himself, then uses his secret ingredient to smoke house specialties like fall-off-the-bone ribs and BBQ sandwiches. Accompany Allen's tangy dishes with a glass of sweet tea, and remember to save - or compartmentalize - room for southern sweets like homemade peach cobbler.

2. Memphis, Tennessee

Dry rub reigns in Memphis, where restaurants throw elbows to win the hearts of visitors and would take to their secret recipes to the grave. Heavy hitter Charles Vergos' Rendezvous, opened in 1948 by "Mr. Downtown" Vergos himself, dishes out slabs of pork - part wet, part dry. "Vous style" ribs are basted with vinegar before being dusted with savory spices, creating a crispy, smoked bark. Though Vergos passed away in 2010, his legacy lives on in downtown Memphis. Those without a trip to the River City on the horizon need not fear: Rendezvous ships ribs, pork shoulder, barbecue sauce and other specialty items at a pricey - though worthy - cost.

3. Kansas City, Kansas

We know Anthony Bourdain brought legitimate attention to Oklahoma Joe's Barbecue - a restaurant nestled inside a corner gas station - years ago. But after a visit just this past spring, we couldn't miss the opportunity to talk about the unassuming gem's menu. Pulled pork sandwiches slathered in a spicy sauce with sweet undertones are just the start at this Kansas City favorite. Order a full slab of ribs - fit for you and a friend or two - and drown them in KC's rise-to-the-top table sauce.

4. Austin, Texas

The only thing better than chowing down on Texas barbecue is chowing down on Texas barbecue outside at a live rock concert. Stubb's Bar-B-Q combines Austin's two claims to fame - barbecue and live music - at one awesome downtown venue. Gracing the menu is barbecued brisket, served with your choice of two sides, including coleslaw, fried okra or pinto beans. And while other southern states perfect pork, Texas focuses its culinary attention on beef brisket. Prepared with a simple seasoning - usually just salt and pepper - the beef is slowly cooked over wood or coals. Some joints sop their meat in a famous beer, lemon and vinegar concoction, while others let the brisket speak for its savory self.

5. Chicago, Illinois

Follow a comedy show at Second City with a trip to Smoque, Chicago's go-to restaurant for fall-off-the-bone ribs and barbecue. Take the L train to Irving Park - a neighborhood north of the Loop - for brisket, pulled pork, Texas-style sausage and smoked chicken. "Low and slow" is Smoque's slogan, and the thoughtful methodology pays off. Though Chi-town is climbing the ranks of America's foodie towns and reservation-necessary restaurants like Girl and the Goat and Publican are serving snout-to-tail pork to critical acclaim, it's Smoque that's got the city's barbecue title on lockdown.

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