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Some like it pristine; others prefer it slathered in mustard sauce. When picking the best cities for barbecue, Travel + Leisure readers were ready to face some hickory-smoked heat.

No. 17 San Diego

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The blue-skies city is not known for its decadent eating, but the active locals appreciate the high-protein benefits of good barbecue. One favorite is Phil’s BBQ, which focuses on ribs and chicken; locations include Petco Park, home of the Padres. Downtown’s Kansas City Barbecue is another bucket-list barbecue stop in the SoCal city—in part, of course, for the legit pork spareribs, but also because it was the location where Tom Cruise musically wooed Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. Readers still have that loving feeling for San Diego—it ranked in the top 10 for both good-looking locals and romance.

America's Best Cities for Barbecue 2014

No. 17 San Diego

The blue-skies city is not known for its decadent eating, but the active locals appreciate the high-protein benefits of good barbecue. One favorite is Phil’s BBQ, which focuses on ribs and chicken; locations include Petco Park, home of the Padres. Downtown’s Kansas City Barbecue is another bucket-list barbecue stop in the SoCal city—in part, of course, for the legit pork spareribs, but also because it was the location where Tom Cruise musically wooed Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. Readers still have that loving feeling for San Diego—it ranked in the top 10 for both good-looking locals and romance.

imagebroker / Alamy

America's Best Cities for Barbecue 2014

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