"It's hard to find someone who doesn't have a story about the best ribs they ever ate," says Lampe. "They've got a life of their own, and ribs inspire people." Pork ribs, that is. Popular all over the southeast, these particular pig products are also especially beloved in the north (i.e. in "non-traditional" barbecue locales). Generally speaking, when people outside the barbecue belt are talking about barbecue, pork ribs is what they're thinking of. And many people believe that meat is sweeter when it's next to the bone. "Ribs get more respect in the north," states Lampe. "They're a phenomenon."
Of course, not all pork ribs are created equal. There's the baby back rib, which comes from the top of the hog (sort of a white-meat equivalent), and then there's the spare rib, which comes from the side (it's down there next to the bacon -- making it the dark meat in this equation). The baby back is whiter and leaner, while the spare rib is darker and fattier. Then, to go one step further, there's the St. Louis cut rib, which is a spare rib with all the cartilage already cut out—which gives you good flavor with less mess to deal with. The good news: you can change up your rib choices almost as often as you change your shoes.