Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q
Slow-smoked pork shoulder is this Birmingham, Ala.-based, 30-unit chain’s signature, although it has a broader dinner menu that includes prime rib, catfish and non-barbecue sandwiches.
The owners distinguish themselves with an uncompromising focus on freshness and community involvement, which includes working with Alabama farmers to develop their own signature breed of hog.
The company also has purchased a former emu-processing plant 30 miles outside of Birmingham and is working on re-opening it to process its own hogs.
Jim ’N Nick’s currently operates in Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Colorado.
This Syracuse, N.Y.-based chain of large-footprint restaurants with a sports-bar feel operates five locations in its home state. It most recently opened one in the up-and-coming Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood Gowanus. It also has one unit each in Stamford, Conn., and Newark, N.J.
The menu features brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, wings, sausage and smoked chicken. The chain also non-barbecue items, such as drunken, spicy shrimp; churrasco chicken steak (called Mojito chicken steak in some upstate locations); and sweet-tea brined, smoked and grilled BBQ catfish.
Fried green tomatoes, a popular Southern side dish, are sprinkled with non-Southern Pecorino Romano cheese. The Quebecois dish poutine — French fries with cheese curds and gravy — is also on the menu.
Sauces include Creole honey mustard, garlic chipotle pepper and roasted garlic honey barbecue, as well as several varieties of hot sauce.
Old Carolina Barbecue Company
This North Canton, Ohio-based, seven-unit fast-casual chain operates on the premise that Northern Ohioans who enjoy vacationing in the Carolinas would appreciate the opportunity to have the food they enjoy in the South’s barbecue shacks closer to home.
Beef brisket, chicken, pork and ribs are smoked for up to 14 hours and served with a variety of Carolina sauces, including a mild tomato-based blend of sweetness and smoke from western North Carolina; a sweet vinegar-pepper blend from eastern North Carolina; and Piedmont No. 5, which seeks to find a middle ground between the two styles. A mustard-based South Carolina-style sauce is also offered, as well as a spicy “Screamin’ Beaver” sauce and a spicier “Worst Case Scenario.”
Based in Knoxville, Tenn., this seven-unit chain, which only operates in Tennessee, says its hickory-smoked ribs are the best in the country. Its menu also includes hickory-smoked pork and chicken tenders, as well as Southern-fried catfish, chicken teriyaki, lemon chicken, barbecue-sauce basted “chicken Calhoun,” and char-grilled shrimp over rice, as well as steaks, chops and prime rib.