I write restaurant reviews for a regional magazine (yeah, it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it), and have eaten bar-be-que in just about every state and a good bit of Mexico as well. Never managed to find any in Canada, but they do have good french fries.
And when Mrs. Sahagan and I crave bar-be-que (and don't want to take the time to make our own), we generally drive the 200 miles to Memphis for a big bait of bar-be-que at the Bar-Be-Que shop at 1782 Madison in said Memphis town.
Actually, just about any pork shoulder or butt, cooked over a slow hickory pit smoke, will taste much like every other. It is the sauce that discriminates between a good bar-be-que meal, and a fantastic one. And the Bar-Be-Que shop keeps us awake nights, figuring out how to best emulate their tomato based sauce. I'll bet we've spent hundreds, in our experimental kitchens, doing our utmost to get that sauce right. And no point in asking those folks. The recipe is a closely guarded secret. I figure though, another ten years of intensive testing, and we'll have Memphis Bar-Be-Que sauce right here at home.
These folks are a standout as well for their bar-be-que spagetti. I mean after all, what does a body put on pasta? Sauce, right? And what is bar-be-que sauce, but really good sauce, right? Well, while at first glance it might appear strange, believe you me, it is lavishly tasty, and in Memphis, a must have on my plate. Oh yeah, by the way, the sauce is liberally accented by smaller bits of the bar-be-que shoulder as well.
We finish the Memphis day then, with a visit to DALE'S in South Haven, MS, before a wonderful night of tossing and turning in a motel, and listening to FedEx Jets taking off from the airport. I heard somebody say, sometime or other, that Memphis has museums, Graceland and lots of other sights. Never bothered....too doggoned busy eaten'.
And, it's important to mention that bar-be-que can be had on sandwiches (on buns, rolls, Texas Toast, you name it, somebody, somewhere, is serving bar-que-sandwiches on it), or on a plate or platter, where a big helping of minced or pulled, or chopped que is accompanied by necessary side dishes.
So, by region, here's my opinion....
Carolinas; we favor the Lexington style whole hog products, and vary between both the tomato based and mustard based "on the side" sauces. Both are good. In the western Carolinas, we dote on pulled pork and ribs. But they must be accompanied by hushpuppies, coleslaw (with a slice of dill pickle atop thereof, unless of course, you're using vinegar based slaw), and preferably, those zippered, zig-zag, crinkled fries.
The joining together of hushpuppies and bar-be-que was a stroke of pure culinary genius by somebody who ought to be identified and then given a Nobel prize for the betterment of society in general, and bar-be-que in particular. Although, we've been eating hushpuppies with Catfish (I always capitalize Catfish, inasmuch as it truly is the king of southern dishes) for generations.
We've covered Memphis, and while the Neely's are seen on national TV, we'll always end up at the Bar-Be-Que Shop (I think they spell it Bar-B-Que, but may be wrong).
In the deep south, you'll find beef, chicken, pork and ribs. But in lots of places, the meat is slow cooked, then tossed into a pot of sauce to keep warm. That's not a favorite of mine, but it'll do when the chips are down.
In Lousiana, you'll find Couchon Du Lait, which is whole hog bar-be-que cooked in anything that'll do the job. I've seen people bar-be-que whole hogs in front of their fireplace (make an almighty mess, but they do it often, although the folks who do generally aren't locally famous for household cleanliness), as well as in temporary pits made of pieces of tin surrounding fire and hog.
Sometimes, the law gets involved in those deep south bar-be-ques, having to settle domestic disputes over who gets that crispy and utterly deliciously tasty skin...
And then of course, in Lousiana and other parts of the deep south, there are lots of mobile bar-be-que cookers, my favorite being those who use old U-Haul trailers with hogs hanging inside, upside down on rotisseries, with the fire located just at the back of the trailer, on the ground. These folks usually surround the hogs while cooking, with chicken wire or woven wire used for fencing. Keeps all the pig where it's supposed to be. Tomato based sauces here, with lots of pepper for that added kick.
And finally, not being familiar with the Kansas product, I must have my say about Texas Bar-be-que. For a state famous for having everything, and lots of it, poor ole' Texas sure came up short in the hickory category. And to me, mesquite tastes disconcertingly close to coal oil (kerosene or diesel to you yankees and city slickers), so I generally give it a pass. And God forbid! that anyone try to pass off that fake mesquite flavor in any other state. It's a dead giveaway.
But brisket? Hmmm. Texas has the patent. But, the best I ever had came to be in Louisiana, and was cooked at a low temp for 24 hours....in coffee. Whoa! I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, reliving some of that incredible brisket.
That's all I've got to say for now though. Except, I've sure enjoyed reading your bar-be-que experiences and preferences.