The Simplest Way To Tell You're At A Good Barbecue Restaurant, According To An Expert

Have you ever visited a barbecue restaurant and wondered if it's good? You could always check Yelp reviews or Tasting Table's list of the 50 absolute best BBQ restaurants in the U.S. You could even visit the barbecue restaurant Guy Fieri says was a favorite from "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Or you can look for one simple yet important sign, according to Bob Bennett, Head Chef of Zingerman's Roadhouse, to determine whether you're at a high-quality or low-quality barbecue restaurant.

Bennett admitted it's tricky to know whether a BBQ restaurant is good or not. He stated, "It's a tough one to nail down since barbecue of all quality can present itself in different ways. I have had really good BBQ at places that look like a hole in a wall and just okay BBQ at really nice-looking BBQ places." Revealing the one important, telling sign of a good barbecue restaurant, he added, "I think a line is always a good sign, though."

That's fair enough. Surely a restaurant is good if people want to eat there. On the opposite end, an empty restaurant during prime hours is one of the 14 red flags that indicate a bad restaurant Tasting Table has uncovered.

If a barbecue restaurant does whole hog barbecue, that's a great sign of quality

Diving further into our conversation with Bennett, we asked him if there was one menu item you should never skip at a barbecue restaurant or if there's any one particular dish that's a good indicator of a barbecue restaurant's overall quality. Bennett answered, "I think each person is probably a little different. I look for a whole hog barbecue since that is what we do at the Roadhouse." This means the pitmaster cooks the entire hog, not just parts, like the ribs. "For me, it shows a lot of skill and dedication to their craft. But each person is a little different," Bennett added.

Cooking the entire hog takes a lot of skill and dedication because different areas of the animal cook up at different times, and there's a risk of overcooking certain areas like the belly or neck. Thus, cooking up all parts of the hog evenly can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours over low heat. Restaurants may also need a dedicated whole-hog pit. So, if the barbecue restaurant cooks up a whole hog, that's a great sign that you're at a high-quality joint that will serve good barbecue food.