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50 Best BBQ Restaurants in the U.S.
When our friends at Foursquare published their 50 top-ranked barbecue restaurants in the U.S. earlier this year, it got us thinking: Is there a better reason to explore America’s interstates, main streets, and backroads than authentic, smoky barbecue? Whether your appetite runs toward traditional brisket, ribs, and pulled pork, or toward cool new cultural fusions such as Asian-spiced chicken wings and BBQ-stuffed tacos, these 50 joints are enough to keep any gourmand busy for months or even years. Why We Love BBQ "One of the most exciting things about barbecue is that the best stuff is found in what might appear to be the unlikeliest of places," says Budget Travel’s senior editor Liza Weisstuch. When Liza ate at the original outpost of the famous Joe's Kansas City Barbecue, which is No. 1 on Foursquare’s ranked list and located in a gas station rest stop, she was surprised how many locals advised her to get there no later than 10AM, an hour before opening. She was even more surprised to find that when she got there—at 10AM, sharp—there were already more than 40 hungry people queued up outside. "The line of excited 'cue-lovers aside, the place had all the trappings of a roadside pit stop. Well, 'pit stop' indeed. The pit masters here crank out some of the most tender, swoon-worthy meats, worthy not only of the time spent on line, but a pilgrimage any carnivore should consider." Multicultural Riffs on BBQ Tradition As much as we love the BBQ traditions exemplified by joints such as Joe’s, we also love how the cuisine has evolved to include a variety of cultural influences, and one tasty example is right here in Budget Travel’s New York City backyard. “Hometown Bar-B-Que [No. 12 on Foursquare’s list] is, hands down, my favorite barbecue in New York City,” says Budget Travel associate editor Maya Stanton. “The brisket's fat-to-lean ratio is on point, so the meat basically melts in your mouth, and the smoky flavor is just out of this world. They also have these Vietnamese wings that seem overpriced until you get them—they’re the whole wing, not separated into individual flats/drumsticks, and pretty much perfect. The menu has a bunch of other fusiony options too, like jerk ribs, pulled-pork tacos, and lamb belly banh mi, so it’s a great place to try something outside of the usual regional styles.” Talk to Us: How Many of These 50 BBQ Joints Have You Tried? We’d love to hear how many of Foursquare’s top 50 BBQ joints you’ve tried so far—or tell us about your favorite BBQ that didn't make the (admittedly subjective) list: Post a comment below or share your best most alluring BBQ photos on Instagram, tagged #mybudgettravel. From down-home BBQ hot spots like Texas and Missouri to some surprises (one of the top 50 is all the way up in Vermont), these restaurants boast fantastic food and a more than a few wacky names (e.g., No. 11 is John Mull’s Meats & Road Kill, in Las Vegas; No. 46 is Meat U Anywhere, in Grapevine, TX). Where Will You Eat Next? Here, Foursquare's top 50 BBQ joints across the U.S.: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue (Kansas City, MO) Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue (Tyler, TX) Eli’s BBQ (Cincinnati, OH) Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q (Atlanta, GA) Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (Rochester, NY) The Salt Lick (Driftwood, TX) Bogart’s Smokehouse (St. Louis, MO) Smoque BBQ (Chicago, IL) Q39 (Kansas City, MO) The Joint (New Orleans, LA) John Mull’s Meats & Road Kill Grill (Las Vegas, NV) Hometown Bar-B-Que (Brooklyn, NY) Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q (Austin, TX) Pappy’s Smokehouse (St. Louis, MO) Mighty Quinn’s BBQ (New York, NY) Central BBQ (Memphis, TN) Burn Co. BBQ (Tulsa, OK) Community Q BBQ (Decatur, GA) Smokin Pig BBQ (Pendleton, SC) Fette Sau (Brooklyn, NY) RayRay’s Hog Pit (Columbus, (OH) Green Street Smoked Meats (Chicago, IL) Little Miss BBQ (Phoenix, AZ) Heirloom Market BBQ (Atlanta, GA) Fat Matt’s Rib Shack (Atlanta, GA) Prohibition Pig (Waterbury, VT) Franklin Barbecue (Austin, TX) Chaps Pit Beef (Baltimore, MD) Saw’s BBQ (Homewood, AL) Slows Bar-B-Q (Detroit, MI) Andy Nelson’s Southern Pit Barbecue (Cockeysville, MD) Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House (Knoxbille, TN) Lockhart Smokehouse (Dallas, TX) La Barbecue Cuisine Texicana JR’s Barbeque (Culver City, CA) Pecan Lodge (Dallas, TX) Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse (Philadelphia) Freedmen’s (Austin, TX) Jethro’s BBQ (Des Moines, IA) Hard Eight BBQ (Coppell, TX) Southern Soul Barbeque (St. Simons Island, GA) Ace Biscuit & Barbecue (Charlottesville, VA) Alamo BBQ (Richmond, VA) 12 Bones Smokehouse (Asheville, NC) Aptos St. BBQ (Aptos, CA) Meat U Anywhere BBQ (Grapevine, TX) Midwood Smokehouse (Charlotte, NC) Phil’s BBQ (San Diego, CA) Hutchins BBQ & Brill (McKinney, TX) Blue Ribbon BBQ (Arlington, MA)
All Aboard! There's Excellent Wine To Try on These Trains
“All aboard!” These words are music to the ears of anyone who appreciates the romantic nostalgia of a train excursion. And who wouldn’t? No other mode of transportation allows you to experience the varied landscapes of a country so intimately. Now imagine this journey with a glass of wine in hand, accompanied by hors d’oeuvres or a multi-course meal, and you have a recipe for a delicious adventure. Plus, it’s a responsible way to imbibe since you don’t have to worry about driving around wine country. From the California coast to the Deep South, through Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley and up to Canada, each of these trains not only offers stunning scenery, but an unparalleled wine-tasting experience. 1. Napa Valley Wine Train: California (Napa Valley Wine Train) This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of Napa Valley’s finest luxury train. With its polished reputation and carefully curated menus, it’s no wonder that Napa Valley Wine Train is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Step back in time as you board the retro coaches that were once used on the Northern Pacific Railway, and prepare to drink and dine in splendor with a variety of different tours, from an Italian-themed Legacy tour that includes a visit to Robert Mondavi winery to an Estate tour that focuses on French winemaking traditions. Tours generally run between three to six hours, and each option includes a multiple-course lunch or dinner along with a tasting at one or more wineries. From $150 for the gourmet express lunch train; winetrain.com. 2. Wine on the Rails: Tennessee A collaboration between local music-festival producer Muddy Roots Music and the Tennessee Central Railway Museum, this is a wine train ride that won’t easily be forgotten—thought the details may be fuzzy, depending on how many glasses you've had, that is. As you depart Nashville, sit back and enjoy a tasting on this 1950s passenger train while live music accompanies your voyage. Spontaneous dancing has been known to erupt in the aisles, and as you reach your destination the revelry continues with a tasting at the Del Monaco Winery in the tiny town of Baxter. (Population: 1,200ish.) Passengers are encouraged to dress in vintage attire, making the experience all the more unique. From $60, which includes a commemorative wine glass and other goodies; wineontherails.com. 3. Grape Escape Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: Ohio This wine train takes you through the beautiful Cuyahoga National Park between Cleveland and Akron, delivering spectacular scenery along the way, from forests to rolling hills and the winding Cuyahoga River. Each Saturday, two-hour excursions offer tastings of five different wines paired with light appetizers. Themed tours take place on select Saturdays, during which you can sample wines from Africa or South America, or stick a little closer to home with some of Ohio’s best wines on a Buckeye State of Wine tour. For beer-drinkers, there’s also an Ales on Rails journey. From $60; cvsr.com/take-the-train/grape-escape-ales-on-rails. 4. Cross-Canada VIA Rail: various routes across the country The VIA Rail, the only passenger train that travels the length of Canada year-round, is often referred to as Canada’s best window, and it is easy to see why, as breathtaking views are easily the main attraction on every route. A Sleeper Plus ticket allows you to enjoy complimentary tastings of Canadian beer and wine as well as musical acts and special cultural presentations. For those with more of a champagne budget, a Prestige Class ticket also includes a personal concierge who will ensure that your journey is beyond memorable. From $479 for a Sleeper Plus ticket on the Winnipeg-Edmonton route, with other routes available; viarail.ca. 5. New Hope and Ivyland Railroad Grapevine Express: Pennsylvania Late summer and early fall are ideal times to enjoy a leaf-peeping foliage tour, and luckily, the Grapevine Express operates from August through the end of October. As you board this vintage diesel locomotive and make your way to the first class parlor car, you’ll be offered a glass of wine and a spread of gourmet cheeses, fruit, and artisan crackers. The hour-long nonstop round-trip excursion begins about 40 miles outside of Philadelphia and travels through the historic Bucks County woods. The adventure is both educational and entertaining, and you'll learn about the history of the area through on-board narration. From $75, which includes two glasses of wine and a souvenir wine glass; newhoperailroad.com/grapevineexpress. 6. San Diego Winery Train Tour: California Take in the magnificent scenery of the California coast from the comfort of your seat as you travel to several urban wineries and wine bars in San Diego. The green and eco-friendly train runs along the city’s coastal route, following the same path as the local commuter train, and makes four stops for a total of 15 tastings. The trip lasts approximately five hours and includes a light Italian lunch as well as a behind-the-scenes view of the wine-making process and a presentation on wine appreciation, sometimes from one of the winemakers themselves. You'll also have an opportunity to soak up some culture on a guided, historic walk to each winery. There's a beer train trolley tour as well, which stops at four local breweries. From $98, plus the cost of the train ticket; sandiegobeerwinespiritstours.com. 7. Royal Gorge Route Railroad Wine Dinners: Colorado This leisurely three-hour ride on Colorado’s scenic steamliner route takes guests on an epic adventure along the mighty Arkansas River deep within the granite cliffs of the Royal Gorge. A selection of themed wine dinners is offered throughout the year, each featuring meticulously chosen entrees paired with award-winning wines. And this is serious business—every year the team scouts the best wines across the United States and the world, selecting those that best complement their style of Colorado cuisine. From $199, which includes the five-course dinner with wine pairings; royalgorgeroute.com/dining/wine-dinner. 8. The Winery Train: New Jersey Journey along the Delaware River to one of New Jersey’s smallest wineries: the charming Villa Milagro Vineyards. Once there, you’ll enjoy a tour with hors d’oeuvres and tastings, but you’ll also likely be distracted by the panoramic views. On the train ride back, you’ll have the option of stopping at the Ol’ Susquehanna Mine to relax in the grove and enjoy a picnic, so you might want to pick up a bottle or two while you're at the winery. Trains operate from May through October and they run every 90 minutes, so you can stay as long as you like and get on board a later train.All-inclusive tours from $35; 877trainride.com/winery.htm.
Genius Tips for Surviving Holiday Travel
What’s your worst holiday travel nightmare? Sitting, delayed, in the airport for hours with only your smartphone and a pretzel to keep you company? Hearing your kids blast the Frozen soundtrack in the backseat for the fifth time while you’re stalled in gridlocked traffic? Or having a complete stress-induced meltdown that freaks out the hotel's front desk clerk, the bellhop, and the elderly couple in line behind you? Don’t panic: BT has your back. We asked 11 of the world’s best-known travel experts—including an award-winning travel journalist, an airline miles and points obsessive, and a certain hotel heiress—for their single best tip for staying sane during the holiday travel crush. Read their advice, and you’ll be ready to glide through the crowds before you can say, “Serenity now!” 1. Fool your airline's touch-tone system into helping you first. "Holiday travel means full flights, and that means that if a storm cancels your flight, you're in a mad race with everyone else to grab what very few seats are available on alternate flights, and you can get stranded for days. Rather than phoning the airline's jammed U.S. customer service line and getting stuck on hold for hours while the few available seats to your destination vaporize, call one of the airline's English-speaking overseas reservations numbers—say, in England, Germany, Australia, or Singapore. (You'll find these numbers on the airline's website. Here are American Airlines', for example, and here are United's.) Use Skype so the call is cheap." —Wendy Perrin, travel expert behind WendyPerrin.com and travel advocate at TripAdvisor 2. Crank up lighthearted music to stay zen. "When I'm at the airport, which is mostly how I travel during this time of year, I carry my iPod filled with Christmas music. Unless I'm face-to-face with someone, I'll be wearing headphones listening to peaceful, relaxing songs of the season to keep me in the spirit and out of the craziness that can be holiday traveling. My smile—and when I choose to sing along—gets me funny looks, but it's well worth the trade-off." —Jack Maxwell, host of the Travel Channel's Booze Traveler 3. Forget Grandma. Do your own thing. "Don't go home for the holidays! Your ability to stretch your dollar during the holidays will be better served going to places that need the tourism. For example, although very cold, upscale hotels for Chicago for New Year's Eve are currently seeing rock-bottom rates. During the holiday season, New York City, which is a mecca for shopping, offers some of the lowest hotel rates of the year. If you avoid the holidays altogether, Las Vegas currently has 4-star hotel rates at under $50 per night. Also, look at international city destinations. Travelzoo has seen deals for 4-star hotels for up to 50 percent off in Paris and Rome over the Christmas season, when many Europeans are headed to warmer destinations or staying home." -—Gabe Saglie, senior editor at Travelzoo 4. When packing, choose your holiday outfits wisely. (Think wool or stretchy knits, not delicate silk or rayon.) "Try and pack pieces that don't wrinkle. It will save you the headache of sending items to get pressed. Some hotels don't even offer that and have to send it off-site. Plus, it can get expensive." —Nicky Hilton, fashion designer, Hilton Hotels heiress, and author of 365 Style 5. Make like a vampire and attack your road trip at night. "If you're planning a long drive on a big travel day, leave in the middle of the night and hit no traffic. I know it sounds crazy, but my brother's family does it every year on the day before Thanksgiving. This year they left the D.C. area at 1:52 a.m. and made it to my parents' house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at 9:23 a.m. That's about seven and a half hours, without speeding (much). They do it every year, and it always works—just drag the kids out of bed, put them to sleep in the car, and be sure there are lots of snacks and movies for when they wake up. I left New York City around 9 a.m., and it took me five and a half hours, almost two hours more than it should have. The only negative consequence is my brother needs a nap." —Seth Kugel, author of the New York Times Frugal Traveler column. He is currently on hiatus from his column and working on a YouTube series for Brazilian tourists who visit New York, Amigo Gringo. 6. Shut out the holiday cacophony—literally—for less than a dollar. "Cheap foam earplugs. Whether it's at the airport with the 27 gate announcements that I don't need to hear or a mall where each store is in a battle of the bands competition with their piped music, earplugs don't block out all the noise, but they take the edge off and create a more calm place in my head." —Samantha Brown, Travel Channel host and AARP travel ambassador 7. Turn a delay into a mini vacation day. "When you're traveling during the holidays and winter months, there's always a chance of weather delays or flight cancellations. If it happens to you, try to look at it as a good thing and embrace your newfound free time! Bring along that book you've been wanting to read, or pack your Kindle, iPad, or Nook so you can catch up on your favorite shows...or read the latest digital edition of Budget Travel magazine. I've been snowed in at airports a few times—eight hours in Newark, anyone?—and I even spent the night in the Dallas area during a nasty flight-cancelling blizzard. I used it as an opportunity to cash in my hotel rewards points, explore the area, and have an amazing Texas barbecue dinner in Grapevine! Try to think of it as a travel adventure." —Kaeli Conforti, digital editor at Budget Travel 8. Ship what you can before you leave. (That means you, giant wrapped gifts.) "Travel light. Checking in luggage can add hours to your trip. When I'm traveling for the holidays, I ship my presents and bulky winter clothes a week ahead of time, and do the same thing when I return home. I miss lines at the airport check-in and don't have to wait for my luggage." —Zane Lamprey, host of the National Geographic Channel's Chug and creator of the Drinking Jacket 9. Stick it to the man! Ignore school schedules and travel during a "dead" week. "Everyone will tell you the same advice: Get to the airport early. Allow plenty of time for flight connections. Try to take the first flight of the day to avoid delays. Here's how I survive holiday travel: I get to the airport late...very late. In fact, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two times of the year I don't travel. Instead, I take advantage of two 'dead' weeks each year—the week immediately following Thanksgiving and the week immediately following New Year's. There's a reason they are called dead weeks—no one is traveling! Result: No lines, no delays, better service, and greater discounts on all forms of travel. I know what you're thinking: 'You can't travel those weeks because the kids are in school.' Really? Do what my parents did with me. Talk with your kids' teachers, get them extra-credit assignments that directly relate to your dead-week trip, and then never let school interfere with their education. It's a win-win for all concerned." —Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News and host of public television's The Travel Detective 10. Raise a glass! It's 5 o'clock somewhere. "Stuck in the airport? Airport bars can be surprisingly fun. Grab a drink and commiserate with fellow delayed travelers. Just don't get too comfortable. Travelers have been known to be so entertained they miss their flights. Happy travels!" —Darley Newman, host and producer of PBS's Equitrekking and AOL's Travels with Darley; contributing editor at Budget Travel 11. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. "My best tip to survive holiday travel is to be kind to everyone, leave plenty of time to get to your destination, and pack your patience." —John DiScala, editor in chief of Johnny Jet
Spend the Holidays in a Castle
Who says there's no place like home for the holidays? Why not give yourself the royal treatment? Rent a room or apartment in one of these surprisingly economical real-life castles, and toast the season as though the whole Christmas feast is in your honor. A 16TH-CENTURY SCOTTISH CASTLE ALL TO YOURSELF Thirlestane Castle: Lauder, Scotland History: Thirlestane was originally a 13th-century fort, but then one of Scotland's richest families, Clan Maitland, set to work rebuilding it as their home in the 1500s. The Duke of Lauderdale died in 1682, but apparently he wasn't very eager to abdicate the castle—his ghost is thought to still roam the corridors. Price: From about $160 per night, celticcastles.com What you get: Privacy in a bucolic setting. You'll be the only overnight guests in the castle, leaving you free to re-enact your favorite Game of Thrones episodes in peace after a few chalices of wine. The Lauderdale Suite is in the castle's south wing and comes equipped with a full kitchen, an original clawfoot bathtub, and parkland views. The "self-catering" option is the cheapest, meaning cooking your own meals, but you can book a personal cook or meal delivery for an extra fee. Take your daily constitutional into the woodlands through the formal rose garden, dine on the secluded picnic tables on the grounds, and enjoy exclusive use of the castle's courtyard. GOURMET FOOD & GOLF IN TUSCANY Castello at Castelfalfi: Tuscany, Italy History: Once owned by the Medici family, this 800-year-old medieval village was abandoned in the 1960s but is now a swank resort. Price: From about $300 per night, toscanaresortcastelfalfi.com What you get: An unforgettable Christmas with beaucoup perks. This Italian vacation is a splurge for sure, but you might find the special extras worth the cash: You'll stay in the (festively decorated) building that was once the village's tobacco factory,and hear live holiday music as you dine on special Christmas and New Year's menus in the castle proper, at the property's gourmet Tuscan bistro helmed by a Michelin-starred chef. Or opt for a four-course holiday menu at the more affordable Il Rosmarino trattoria—one of the courses is roast pork tenderloin with Chianti and radicchio (from about $50, beverage included). Your stay also includes access to the 27-hole golf course. Greens fees are reduced during the low season, or you can practice your swing at the hotel's driving range for less than $15. A FAIRY TALE RESIDENCE IN FRANCE Château Hermitage de Combas: Servian, France History: A medieval fortress turned castle residence, the château sits amid 123-plus acres of vineyards in Southern France. Famous figures like the playwright/actor Molière have called the Languedoc-Roussillon region home. Locals say Molière himself probably performed in this very castle. Price: From about $125 per night, homeaway.com, charming-holidays.fr What you get: A fairy tale come true. You can stay in the round tower just like Rapunzel—but with many more activity options. Enveloped by lavender and rosebushes, the castle has 25 apartments with full kitchens, plus a heated pool, a tennis court, and an on-site restaurant that offers a special Christmas menu and fireside dining. It's also within driving distance of the coast—the weather in December is good enough to rent a classic convertible from the castle to tour the grapevine-lined road. Come Christmastime, each apartment, the main entrance hall, and the stairway are decked out in holiday regalia. A CHRISTMAS FEAST IN THE HEART OF IRELAND Clontarf Castle Hotel: Dublin, Ireland History: Clontarf Castle was built in 1172 and changed hands several times in the 17th century, including from military and political leader Oliver Cromwell to Captain John Blackwell. Nearly 200 years later, due to sinking foundations, the building was demolished and then rebuilt in 1837. Price: From around $250 per night, clontarfcastle.ie What you get: Modern luxuries like 24-hour room service and a flatscreen TV, plus convenient proximity to Dublin sightseeing. The castle is only a 10-minute drive from the city center. Pony up for the slightly pricier Christmas Package, and you can enjoy a Christmas Eve arrival reception with mulled wine, mince pies, and Christmas carols, plus other perks like a champagne Christmas Day breakfast and Christmas Day mass. OPULENCE & MOUNTAIN VIEWS IN UPSTATE NEW YORK The Inn at Erlowest: Lake George, New York History: The castle dream home of American lawyer and politician Edward Morse Shepard, Erlowest was built out of solid granite in 1898 on Millionaire's Row along the Lake George shore. Price: From $195 per night, theinnaterlowest.com What you get: A rich, immersive getaway experience—especially if Titanic-era history fascinates you. The Howe Suite is the most wallet-friendly of the 10 rooms and offers a king-size sleigh bed, gas fireplace, and lake and Adirondack mountain views. A cheese platter, bottle of champagne, and a full breakfast each morning is complimentary. BOOK A GREAT DEAL ON HOLIDAY LODGING RIGHT HERE AT BUDGET TRAVEL To find more holiday lodging, from opulent castle rentals to efficient hotel rooms, book your stay right here at Budget Travel's Book a Hotel page.
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