The 12th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party takes over Madison Square Park (and environs) this weekend, with 17 of the country's best pitmasters firing up their regional specialities to the delight an an expected 125,000 hungry people.

Yes, lines will be long, even with a FastPass (go early! like 10:30!), but the lure of all this amazing meat is just too tempting to resist, even for crowd-averse folks like me. Plus, being able to sample what barbecue means in, say, Texas, the Carolinas, St. Louis, Alabama, and Tennessee, as well as local interpretations from the likes of Brooklyn's Hometown and Delaney's, all in one day? Totally worth it.

We walked around yesterday afternoon chatting with a number of visiting pitmasters as they hacked up their pigs and stoked their smokers and, no surprise, they were an expansive, convivial bunch.

When asked what he liked most about coming up to the big town for the weekend, Charleston's Jimmy Hagood of Black Jack Barbecue, who's been doing this event for seven years now, said: "It's every Southern boy's dream to cook barbecue.... but to do it on Madison Avenue, well... that's a whole 'nother level."

And they all couldn't say enough about how much they love New Yorkers. Pitmaster Garry Roark, who will go through 4,500 pounds of pork at his Ubon's Barbecue of Yazoo (Mississippi) stand this weekend, put it this way: "In all my years coming here [it's been nine], I've only met ONE asshole."

Everyone was (diplomatically) excited about eating everyone else's barbecue, but clearly these guys like to go out on the town as well. Although Rodney Scott of Scott's Bar-B-Que, South Carolina, claimed that the best thing he's eaten in New York was a Shack Burger (his pit is located right next to the still-ridiculously-popular OG stand, so maybe he was just angling to jump the line?), others seem to have pricier tastes.

Pat Martin of Martin's BBQ Joint out of Nashville waxed poetic about his "legendary lunch" at Il Buco Alimentari; Mike Mills and daughter Amy of 17th Street Bar and Grill raved about the Lamb Burger at The Breslin and the Chicken Hearts at Maialino; and Memphis BBQ's John Wheeler somehow finagled a feast from Keith McNally last night at the not-yet-open French spot on Bowery, Cherche Midi.

Sam Jones of North Carolina's Skylight Inn is partial to Gramercy Tavern, Dallas man Joe Duncan of Baker's Ribs enjoyed his Peking Duck at Peking Duck, and Black Jack's Hagood loved Michael White's steak house Costata.

Glad you liked your pre-game meals guys. Now it's OUR turn to eat.

The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party takes place both today and Sunday from 11:00 to 6:00. Every plate of food costs $9, and you can either pay as you go (CASH ONLY) or spring for a FastPass, which is loaded with $100 and allows you to wait on shorter lines.