A savory taste of Southern barbecue in the Sierra

By Rae Matthews, Elevation Eats

Southern barbecue has a long and proud tradition. There are several styles of Southern barbecue, each named for their region of origin, that garner as much loyalty and rivalry as professional baseball teams. You may want to avoid putting a Carolina sauce on a brisket in Texas, for example. But thankfully, food traditions migrate. Here in the Sierra, you can sample all the Southern flavors right at your fingertips (or, should we say on your fingertips?).

Sonney’s BBQ Shack
Sonney’s BBQ Shack


Carolina-style barbecue may possibly be the oldest form of American barbecue. There is, of course, a North Carolina- and South Carolina-style. North Carolina-style is characterized by a vinegar-based sauce that is slathered on the entire pig as it smokes. South Carolina-style often features a Carolina Gold sauce, which is a mixture of mustard and vinegar. To get a taste of Carolina-style barbecue here in Reno/Tahoe try Carolina Kitchen and Barbecue Co. in Sparks, where you can get your “Que by the Pound,” or check out Sonney’s BBQ Shack in South Lake Tahoe, where they have a classic Carolina mustard sauce. carolinakitchenbarbecue.com; sonneysbarbecueshack.com

St. Louis-style

St. Louis-style specializes in spare ribs that are heavily sauced. They are sometimes grilled instead of traditionally smoked over indirect heat, which means they’re technically not barbecue, but as the author I’ve decided they get to be included. To sample some St. Louis-style ribs, you can try Smokey’s Kitchen in Truckee, Red’s Old 395 Grill in Carson City, Backyard Bar & Barbecue at The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, or Sparks and Smoke Barbecue in Reno. smokeyskitchen.com; reds395.com; ritzcarlton.com; sparksandsmokebbq.com

East Texas-style

Texas-style barbecue can vary across that expansive state, so we need to be specific. East Texas-style is heavily influenced by its Southern neighbors in Tennessee and Louisiana. In East Texas they like to marinate the meat in a sweet tomato-based sauce and slow cook until it falls off the bone. Something that all Texans have in common, however, is cow. Whereas most other Southern styles will favor the traditional pig, in Texas they have A LOT of cows. You can try an East Texas-style brisket at Brother’s Barbecue or check out Texas Soul BBQ, both in Reno. You’ll also notice that both have just a touch of Memphis and Louisiana-style influence on their menus. bbqreno.com; texassoulbbq.com


Alabama-style barbecue is known specifically for its white sauce, which uses mayonnaise and vinegar as the base. X Crows (Ten Crows) in South Lake Tahoe hales directly from the Alabama tradition. Their menu also includes such Southern favorites as sweet tea, fried chicken and pork rinds. And Moe’s Original Bar-B-Que in Tahoe City features a “Bama Style” pulled pork with red and white sauce. 10crows.com; moesbbqtahoe.com


Fox and Hound
Fox and Hound

Being out West, we have the opportunity to completely break from tradition and go with whatever just tastes good. There are several great spots to try all-of-the-above-Southern style, such as: Summit Smokehouse at Northstar, Carson City Barbecue Co. in, um, Carson City, Fox and Hound Smokehouse Grill & Bar in South Lake Tahoe, The Original Hellfire Saloon in Reno, and BJ’s Nevada Barbecue Company in Sparks. northstarcalifornia.com; carsoncitybarbecue.com; foxandhoundtahoe.com; hellfiresaloon.com; bjsbbq.com

You can even have cook-it-yourself style at Pignic Pub and Patio in Reno. renoriver.org/pignic-pub-patio

And if great barbecue is truly your thing, then be sure to catch the Nugget Rib Cook-Off, August 29 – Sept. 3, 2018. nuggetribcookoff.com

Whether you’re partial to a St. Louis spare rib or some Alabama white sauce, all Southern barbecue has this requirement: Be sure to grab
a lot of napkins and enjoy.