The Top 10 Colleges in the South (BBQ Edition)

Advice for Youth

By Robert F. Moss

Archibalds in Northport is just across the river from the University of Alabama
Archibalds in Northport is just across the river from the University of Alabama

This week, Deep South Magazine had the temerity to offer students advice on how to choose which university to attend. I've never read such nonsense.


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Tuition prices and course offerings might be factors to consider as a tie-breaker, but those shouldn't be the primary considerations. You'll pay those student loans off eventually, and two decades from now you won't even remember whether you took Intermediate Macroeconomic Theory or Survey of International and Development Economics your junior year. You will, however, recall with great fondness all the chopped pork plates, platters of ribs, and bowls of banana pudding you scarfed down with friends on cool autumn evenings.

So, as a service to America's youth, I decided to assemble my own recommendations for the top colleges and universities in the South. The list looks a little different in 2020 than it would have five years ago.

With the closing of Allen & Son at the end of 2018, the University of North Carolina really tumbled in the rankings and fell out of the top 10. (Sorry, John Shelton Reed.) Once Sam Jones Barbecue, Wyatt's Whole Hog Barbecue, and Longleaf Swine get their doors open in Raleigh (which is expected in 2021), North Carolina State should rocket up the list and may earn itself a top 10 slot.

But for now, at least, here are the Top 10 Colleges in the South, ranked properly according to barbecue excellence.


No, it's not the dining hall at SMU.. That's Slow Bone in Dallas.
No, it's not the dining hall at SMU.. That's Slow Bone in Dallas.

#10. Southern Methodist University

Dallas, TX

The top joints in Dallas are not particularly close to campus, but Mustangs can head downtown to 18th & Vine, Pecan Lodge, and Slow Bone, or make the short drive north to Cattleack Barbeque for some of the best brisket in Texas.


#9. East Carolina University

Greenville, NC

B's Barbecue is less than a mile up West 5th Street from East Carolina, and Sam Jones Barbecue is a short four mile drive away, too. (And Bum's Restaurant and Skylight Inn, both in Ayden, just a little further down the road . . .)



Richard's Bar-B-Q in Salisbury is one of the promising options for Catawba College students
Richard's Bar-B-Q in Salisbury is one of the promising options for Catawba College students

#8. Catawba College

Salisbury, NC

A smaller school is a better fit for some, and though it has only 1,200 students, the barbecue game is strong at Catawba, with College Barbecue just three blocks from campus and Richard's Bar-B-Q a mile and half away. Plus, you can zip up I-85 and be eating chopped pork in Lexington in just 20 minutes.


#7 (Tie). Rice University and the University of Houston

Houston, TX

Rice isn't far from Feges BBQ, and Ray's BBQ Shack is convenient to the University of Houston's campus, so it's hard to choose between the two. With Roegels, Pappa Charlie's, Triple J, Blood Bros, Truth BBQ, Gatlin's, Killen's, Cork Screw, Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue, and more in the greater Houston area, both schools offer plenty of opportunity for an advanced course of study.



It's a short drive from the University of Memphis to Cozy Corner
It's a short drive from the University of Memphis to Cozy Corner

#6. University of Memphis

Memphis, TN

There are outposts of the Tops and Corky's chains near campus, and if you hop in a car and head west toward the river you can be at The Bar-B-Q Shop, Payne's, A&R, Interstate Bar-B-Q, the Rendezvous, or Cozy Corner within 15 minutes.


#5. Vanderbilt University

Nashville, TN

Hog Heaven, which served hickory-smoked pork, chicken, and ribs to hungry students for 30 years, closed last year, but Peg Leg Porker, Edley's, Jack's, and two Martin's Bar-B-Que Joints are all within two miles of campus.


#4. University of South Carolina

Columbia, SC

USC was already a strong contender with the War Mouth in Cottontown, the City Limits food truck posting up on Devine Street, and Hite's and True BBQ just a short drive away across the Congaree River. The Gamecocks rose even higher in the rankings when Home Team BBQ opened in Five Points last year, just a few blocks down the hill from campus.


#3. University of Alabama

Tuscaloosa, AL

With Archibald's Bar-B-Q just over the river and the original Dreamland Bar-B-Que a few miles south of campus, the University of Alabama is the school to choose if you're planning on majoring in ribs. (Rumor has it their football team is pretty good, too.)



Rodney Scott's BBQ is a short bike ride up King Street from the College of Charleston
Rodney Scott's BBQ is a short bike ride up King Street from the College of Charleston

#2. College of Charleston

Charleston, SC

A short bike ride up King Street will take you to Rodney Scott's Barbecue, and from there you can spin around the corner to Lewis Barbecue and Home Team BBQ. Talk about a barbecue trifecta.



Just a mile from the University of Texas, Micklethwait Craft Meats helps keep Austin weird and Longhorns full of slow-smoked meats
Just a mile from the University of Texas, Micklethwait Craft Meats helps keep Austin weird and Longhorns full of slow-smoked meats

#1. University of Texas

Austin, TX

With Franklin Barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meats, Sam’s and La Barbecue all within a two mile radius, the Longhorns have an embarrassment of barbecue riches. And the road trips you can take out to Lockhart, Taylor, or Lexington . . .



This feature first appeared in the Cue Sheet, my weekly barbecue email newsletter. Subscribe now to have the latest in barbecue news delivered to your inbox each week.


About the Author

Robert F. Moss

Robert F. Moss is the Contributing Barbecue Editor for Southern Living magazine and the author of numerous books on Southern food and drink, including Barbecue: The History of an American Institution, Southern Spirits: 400 Years of Drinking in the American South, and Barbecue Lovers: The Carolinas. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.