Barbecue doesn’t call for the choicest parts of the animal, rare spices or innovative ideas.
Instead, it involves gnarly cuts, simple seasonings and some of the oldest cooking techniques known to civilization to produce breathtaking results. The best barbecue is the one that makes you happy, but my search reminded me of the axiom: If it needs sauce to satisfy, you need to find better barbecue.
Spare rib plate ($15.99) from Kentucky Greg’s
2186 George Urban Blvd., Depew, 685-6599
Racks of St. Louis-cut pork ribs get rubbed thoroughly with seasoned salt and black pepper before getting their introduction to hickory smoke. After about three hours, they’re ready for the next step. When an order comes in, ribs are slicked up with barbecue sauce and slightly charred on a grill, to develop a finishing crust.
Barbecued spaghetti ($9.95) from Suzy Q’s Bar-B-Que Shack
2829 Niagara St., 873-0757
An honored member of the Memphis barbecue pantheon, barbecued spaghetti joins saucy Italian and smoky Southern in a nexus of delight. At this place, housemade smoked salsa and barbecue sauce is melded with pasta and pulled pork or smoked Polish sausage, then smothered in cheddar and run under the broiler.
Brisket plate ($17) from Smoke on the Water
77 Young St., Tonawanda, 692-4227
At this Tonawanda joint, they don’t use any complicated rubs on their beef briskets, just salt. The seasoned meat spends the night cooking and crusting up in the hickory smoke atmosphere of the barbecue rig. After the meat comes off and gets sliced, it gets a dunk in chicken stock and barbecue spices, with a caramelized glaze.
Smoked wings ($10.99) from East Eden Tavern and Smokehouse
8163 East Eden Road, Eden, 575-4286
Wings are brined and rolled in house spice rub before going into the smoker to gather applewood perfume. The low-and-slow nature of barbecue cooking can turn chicken wings skin rubbery, but these have crisp-ish skin thanks to a brief swim in the fryer. Glossed with barbecue sauce or straight-up “naked,” they go fast.
Chicken plate ($14.99) from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que
301 Franklin St., 880-1677
Truly barbecued – smoked, not just grilled – the masterful chicken starts in an apple cider brine for more than a day to build the flavor foundation. Chicken halves are loaded into a smoker and subjected to hickory smoke for hours. Before serving, they’re slathered with sauce and rolled on the grill to turn the skin into a tasty jacket.
Pulled pork sandwich ($7.50) from Master’s Barbecue Company
43 Buffalo St., Hamburg, 393-6478
Pork shoulders are coated in a mixture of dry spices, then introduced to the smoke. Depending how stubborn the meat is, it might spend 14 hours in the cooker before it reaches target temperature. Shredded by hand, with plenty of dark exterior “bark,” the meat is packed onto thick, griddled Texas toast for a hearty hand-held meal.
Smoked Reuben ($12.95) from One-Eyed Jacks
5983 S. Transit Road, 438-5414
A pitmaster, pondering St. Patrick’s Day at a barbecue place, smoked the corned beef. Rubbed like a pork shoulder, it soaked up hickory smoke for 12 to 14 hours before being sliced for sandwiches. With housemade sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing and grilled on rye, it’s been on the menu since.