Still, the decision of U.S. News & World Report (the magazine perhaps best known for ranking colleges) to rank Kansas City as the third-best barbecue city in the country is thoroughly misguided. Perhaps the only thing that U.S. News & World Report got right in its seven-city rankings was placing St. Louis seventh.
Memphis, Tennessee, tops the list. That is a city that is a worthy barbecue foe — an inferior foe, but a proper match nonetheless. But Lockhart, Texas? The city sits 70 miles
southnortheast of San Antonio and boasts, according to the magazine, four barbecue joints. Those four might be special, but that's not enough to claim the second spot. Small enrollment is the kind of story best left to Hollywood. I'll believe that tiny Hickory High can win in Hoosiers. I'm a lot more skeptical that Lockhart uses its hickory better than Kansas City. We need to stop looking for quaint or new and simply accept the inevitable: This is a city that for a very long time has done barbecue very very well.
Barbecue isn't a science, but it's time we got a bit more scientific about these rankings. Let's set some standards for smoking or figure out a playoff system — maybe the guys working to reform the Bowl Championship Series have some ideas. Until then, America will just be eating ribs in the dark.