My husband is from Texas. We live in North Carolina. I think those two facts alone should give me the proper credentials to discuss one of our family’s favorite types of food: barbeque.

The Four BBQ Styles

Generally speaking, BBQ falls into four main styles: Texas, Carolina, Kansas City, and Memphis. Sure, there are other regional tastes as well, but they are all variations on these four main themes.

Texas BBQ, the style on which my husband was raised, is almost entirely comprised of beef. No pork or poultry here! Most Texans prefer their BBQ without sauce, instead using a dry rub; when they do use a sauce, it’s a tomato-based one with lots of tangy and smoky undertones.

Carolina BBQ is just about the polar opposite from the Texas variety. Instead of beef, it relies on pork. Instead of a tangy tomato-based sauce, it uses a simple vinegar-based one. Carolina pulled pork is shredded pork shoulder, often served on a bun.

Kansas City, the self-appointed BBQ capital of the world, is home to the third main style. Many BBQ aficionados say the Kansas City style is really a conglomerate of other BBQ traditions, since it relies heavily on both pork and beef. But it’s the sauce that makes the difference – here, the thick, sticky sauce is both sweet and tangy, and more of a feature of the style than the meats themselves.

Memphis BBQ rounds out our BBQ tour de force. Although this style is in many ways similar to Kansas City, with the reliance on pork ribs, Memphis BBQ uses more dry rubs as opposed to a sauce. When the folks in Memphis do turn to BBQ sauce, it’s typically a thinner concoction used for dipping instead of drenching the meat.

Smokey Bones: The Best of All Worlds

When my husband and I first moved to North Carolina, we were inundated with Carolina-style BBQ restaurants. While the taste was good, it didn’t give us the satisfaction of the Texas-style joins my husband had grown up with. Thus started our search for the perfect BBQ restaurant hybrid that would serve options from across the country.

We found that option at Smokey Bones, a national chain with nearly 70 restaurants. In our area, it’s been the only BBQ restaurant that offers all four styles of BBQ under one roof. While I’ll admit that the Carolina and Texas styles aren’t as good at Smokey Bones are they are at restaurants located in their respective regions (ie, you can’t beat Austin for a great Texas-style BBQ brisket), the styles are true to their roots and the menu is very large.

The only problem? The prices can be pretty large too.

Bringing Costs Under Control

Just like many other restaurant chains, Smokey Bones offers a loyalty card for frequent customers. Although my husband and I don’t eat out at this BBQ restaurant often enough for those loyalty rewards to really pile up, we signed up anyway. Why? Because Smokey Bones gives a $10 dining coupon whenever you sign up for the restaurant’s eClub. It took me less than a minute to fill out the required fields – which did not include my physical address (a request for this information usually stops me in my tracks; restaurants do not need to know where I leave, short of my zip code) – and the $10 voucher appeared in my inbox within 30 minutes.

That’s not all. When we went to Smokey Bones to use that dining coupon (which tidily brought out bill down below the $25 mark!), we were able to pick up a Smokey Bones Rewards Club card for free. For activating our card online, we got another coupon for a free appetizer as well as 100 bonus points. For every 200 points we earn ($1 spent = 1 point), we’ll get a dining coupon for $20 off our next purchase.

Reader, what’s your favorite style of BBQ? Would you make any changes to my list of top 4 regional styles?

Libby Balke

Libby Balke