Towns like Memphis and Kansas City are known as the barbecue capitals of America. Shacks serving some of the finest brisket and cornbread are as common across Texas and Tennessee as church pews and bar stools.
When I got to Iowa City and felt that carnivorous desire to consume smoked red meat, I wasn’t sure what I’d find. I polled some friends and all of the internets. I wanted to find the best pulled pork, the best sides. As Jimmy from Tennessee once told me: “Dude - a real good barbecue shack will make cornbread that is so good, it makes you wanna smack your mama.” A personal gauge of any barbecue spot is the brisket.
There was much to be learned. So with an empty gut, two friends (also with empty guts) and a three-day weekend, I got started. The tour included Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack, Mosley’s Barbecue and Provisions, and Pop’s Old N’ New Bar-B-Que.
Jimmy Jack’s has two locations. We stopped by their east side spot and ordered a Fatty Beef Brisket sandwich. Layers of tender, smoked brisket topped with melted provolone? Okay! We shared ribs and pulled pork and not a word was said because it’s not polite to talk with your mouth full. The sides were standard barbecue joint fare: cole slaw and potato salad. The baked beans had outstanding flavor.
Our next stop was Pop’s. The menu options at Pop’s are equal parts daunting and delightful. The smoked chicken, the turkey, the brisket… We filled our table, and our faces, with pulled pork, and fried brussels sprouts, and St. Louis style ribs, and cornbread. Their classic bbq sauce was true to its name and we discovered that the sweet potato fries dipped in blackberry habanero sauce was a flavor unlike any other. We had Millstream root beer to wash it down and we looked at each other wondering where we found the gumption to consume such quantities.
We looked at Mosley’s menu and decided it best to try them the next day. Good decision. Their signature sandwich is called The Mosley. It’s closer to the Carolina style BBQ with the vinegar and mustard based sauce drizzled over pork shoulder that has been smoked for twelve hours. The Mosley's chicken was also tender and tasty. Their macaroni and cheese is beyond description. Their cornbread? One bite, and I knew what Jimmy was talking about. Oh, my.
The cornbread at Mosley’s is beyond comparison. The brisket at Jimmy Jack’s stood out as the best. The variety of sides at Pop’s complemented their entire meaty line-up. If you visit Iowa City and just need some good BBQ, you can’t miss with any of these great local spots.
Image credit: Jimmyjacksribshack.com