Whether one is better than the other or just different is up to you. Here is what I know about the heavy hitters.
- Texas - Texas prides themselves on having dry BBQ. That means that they smoke their meats with a dry rub and use no sauce. If you want sauce you may have it on the side. These smoked meats are often ordered by the pound and served simply on a piece of butcher paper with some white bread. Beef is the big thing in Texas. Beef brisket, prime rib and sausages is what they are known for.
- North Carolina - Pig is king in both South and North Carolina. They like to smoke the whole hog and then pull or chop the meat. In North Carolina pulled pork is mixed with a vinegar based BBQ sauce and is served as a sandwich on a bun with vinegary coleslaw.
- South Carolina - Just like in the north, South Carolina likes their hogs cooked whole. Although, here which sauce you mix with your pulled pork depends on where in the state you are. In the north east Pee Dee region you will find a spicy vinegar based sauce. In the central midlands region (mostly Colombia) you will see mustard based sauces. Finally, in the Savannah river area (5 counties within the states of S. Carolina and Georgia) you will either be served a spicy tomato based sauce or a light tomato based sauce.
- Kentucky - West of Louisville there is an area that makes a unique style of BBQ. What makes it unique is that the meat of choice is mutton (mature lamb). They serve mutton chopped, sliced, chipped (a fine hash), in ribs or in burgoo (a hunters stew). There is a natural gravy that is served with the meat called mutton dip. Sides usually include pickles, onions, bread, baked beans and coleslaw.
- Santa Maria, California - Santa Maria is old cattle country. A style of BBQ was born here that does not use smokers, instead the meat is grilled slowly on an open fire with oakwood. The meat is always beef in the form of prime rib, filet mignon, top sirloin, rib eye or tri tip. Sides usually include pinquito beans, garlic french bread and salsa. Although there are restaurants in the area that serve Santa Maria BBQ you can also often find it being served outside from BBQ stands and wagons.
- Memphis, Tennessee - Memphis is home to the most prestigious BBQ competition called "Memphis in May". That alone makes the people of Memphis believe that they boast the best BBQ in the U.S. Pork is the most popular here. Although they serve pulled pork, ribs are really their passion. Mostly you will find dry ribs, ribs that are smoked with a spice rub and served with sauce on the side. BBQ sauce here has a mustard base giving it a pleasantly tangy taste. The high quality of meat they use in their BBQ is the most important thing to them.
- Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri - Both of these areas have very similar styles. BBQ sauce is molasses and tomato based and is used liberally on meat. Meats can include ribs (pork or beef), pulled pork, burnt ends (flavorful pieces of meat cut from brisket ends), sausage, brisket, chicken and turkey. White bread is always served along side.
- Chicago, Illinois - On the south side of Chicago they have created their own style of BBQ. Chicago style baby back ribs have a distinct italian taste, windy city red hots are hot links with a fiery spice and they love their rib tips (flavorful, yet chewy pieces of meat riddled with cartilage). Everything comes with mild or hot sauce on the side. Sides usually include white bread and french fries.
- Alabama - I've saved the weirdest (to me anyway) for last. Decatur, Alabama is known for their white sauce, which is a mayonnaise based BBQ sauce. Many times white sauce is used on chicken or turkey, but ribs are popular in Alabama as well. Potato chips on the side and banana pudding for dessert.