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Readers' Choice: Where is the Best Barbecue in Santa Cruz County?

Meat that falls off the bone, top-shelf soft and fat-less beef, seasonings that kick like a mule, crisp on the outside, melt in your mouth inside...where do you go locally to find all that?

It's a long drive to Oakland, but if you want the best barbecue this side of Texas or Kansas City, it seems like that's where you have to go.

Just like if you want great Jewish-deli style corned beef, you have to drive up to San Francisco.

Or am I wrong? Is there a BBQ joint down here that is as good as its Bay Area cousins with a lot less driving?

I've had some great burgers and ribs at in Scotts Valley, but I sure miss Aptos's , which I would put up against almost anyplace. I miss Armadillo Willy's which was a fine quick fix for a good beef sandwich. I ate there once a week.

But overall, I'm sorry to say that if I'm looking for great barbecue around Santa Cruz I'm at a loss, unless they are barbecuing tofu.

Help me Cruzans countywide and steer me to a good place for steer before I go veg.

I've heard is experimenting with 'cue, so I'll try that. There's a new place, Sid's, which has taken over my beloved Smoqe. Haven't been there yet, but will go if you say it's great.

is a favorite in Watsonville. There's , which looks the part, but, well, let's just say it's no Arthur Bryant's. There's the Aptos BBQ, which used to be Cole's and has live blues some evenings. But where can I find something like what we lived for in the Midwest?

If you've been to Kansas City you know what I'm talking about. In KC the meat is so good, they still serve it on white bread because they don't want anything to distract from it. If you live there, you are required to eat at Bryant's once a week. Even vegetarians go Old Testament and figure, hell, God says the animals are there for us to eat.

I gave up 15 years of vegetarianism in the KC home of 'cue and had no regret. The meat tastes like no other, like it walked over to your table because it wants to be there.

Sorry, I'm masticating here. Help a red-blooded meat eater who may switch to healthy tempeh if you can't give him 'cue to die for.

has a Kansas City-bred owner who knows his way around a steak and the does justice to ribs. in Scotts Valley comes highly recommended.

Lay it on me. Where should I queue up for 'que and have some great meat here without having to drive up to Flint's at 2 a.m.?

Vote in our great barbecue Readers' Choice poll. Voting ends at 9 a.m. Friday. The winner gets a Patch Readers' Choice certificate and a lot of new hungry customers. What's better than barbecue to start off the summer?

Brad Kava June 05, 2012 at 08:02 PM
George: you are correct. But it's funny. When I lived in KC at every party people talked about who had the best BBQ and they would trace the lineage of various chefs, such as Richards, Gates, etc. and many got their start or inspiration from AB's. BBQ there was like wine tasting here. I threw in the bit about Malone's burger, just because it was so good and I haven't tried enough other stuff to know. In KC Lou Piniella's place had the best burger I've ever eaten. This is getting me hungry.
Cathy P. June 06, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Ah Freddy, there is NOTHING BETTER than Henry's Hi Life, you're right about that one, but Smalley's Roundup on South Main Street in Salinas is pretty dang good too! Too bad neither are in Santa Cruz County.
Gill Majko June 07, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Thursday special at Upper Crust pizza is Ribs. So far the best I have had in Santa Cruz. But it is only Thursday and only Baby Back Ribs, served with a Salad and Garlic Bread.
Debbie June 08, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Freddy's right - Henry's is the best! But in Santa Cruz County, Aptos St. BBQ is delish, consistent, fast and melt-in-your-mouth GREAT!
Dave Lawsen June 09, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Sid's Smokehouse does it right! No BBQ sauce (unless you want some), just don't need it, if you havn't tried it, make sure you do, I put them against anyone in the area!

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