Where can you find the best barbecue in America? Leaving aside, for the moment, the silliness of seeking a single best barbecue joint, the answer to that question is a very personal one. Our favorite spots may not be your favorites. Do you like ribs, pulled pork, smoked brisket? Do you prefer a lot of smoke, or a subtle hit? Do you like it spicy or do you prefer to taste mostly meat? Do you want the meat to fall apart at the slightest prodding or do you think barbecue should retain an honest chew? Is sauce the most important factor to you?

McClard's incomparable rib-and-fry plate

McClard’s incomparable rib-and-fry plate

We love ribs (especially true ribs, as opposed to baby backs) and, as far as we’re concerned, the finest specimens come from McClard’s in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For years we maintained that McClard’s was the finest barbecue in the land, and then we sampled smoked brisket in Texas. Our taste buds were spellbound, by Louie Mueller of Taylor, TX in particular! Our love for McClard’s has not diminished but we now divide our loyalties between Arkansas and Texas.

Any barbecue tour of America must include the burnt ends "sandwich" from L C's in Kansas City.

Any barbecue tour of America must include the burnt ends “sandwich” from L C’s in Kansas City.

So when Thrillist presents their top 33 American barbecue joints, understand it as a list of 33 worthy candidates, not the last word on barbecue. You could do a lot worse than to begin your search for your own personal favorites by planning a tour of these 33 spots. Of the places on their list that we’ve visited (about half of them) there’s not a clunker in the bunch. And, yes, McClard’s and Louie Mueller are on the Thrillist 33.