The 10 Hottest Barbecue Joints in HoustonBy Marcy de Luna
July 14, 2014
"The best barbecue in Houston" — them's fighting words. While we've narrowed the list to our top 10, we want to know which places are dearest to your heart. Shout 'em out in the comments section. And now, in no particular order, our 10 can't-miss Houston BBQ joints.
Chef Ronnie Killen, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, owns and operates the barbecue place in Pearland (and the steakhouse next door). The beef ribs are tops in our book, and although we can't get enough of the tasty 'cue here, it's worth making room for sides of mac 'n' cheese and creamed corn. Although there's usually a line (get there early; Killen's only serves until the eats run out), you won't be disappointed, especially on weekends when your wait time includes a free cold brew.
A member of Texas Monthly's Top 50 Barbecue Joints, the small house in the Heights has a big following. What started as a catering company from former Rice University football player Greg Gatlin is now a booming brick-and-mortar location with can't-miss ribs (babyback and St. Louis-style). The line forms early here as well, and they usually run out of 'cue just after lunch.
Located in the Caverdale area, Virgie's was a burger place and grocery before Adrian Handsborough took it over from his parents and turned it into meat heaven. Your 'cue comes in a Styrofoam box with the usual accouterments: slices of bread, pickles, onions, pickled jalapeños. Get your fill Tuesday through Saturday; closed Sundays and Mondays. (Texas Monthly's best BBQ 2008 and 2013.)
Must-try fatty and lean brisket, links, pulled pork and more served out of a trailer in a parking lot in Cypress. The flair for barbecue runs in the family: pitmaster and owner Trent Brooks learned his skills from his father, who manages a barbecue catering company. (Texas Monthly's best BBQ list.)
For East Texas-style barbecue and A-list smoked boudin, you only have to venture to Homestead Road. After graduating from Purdue in 1990, owner Jarrett Scales opened the restaurant with his wife Rhonda. His family’s secret brisket recipe is a highlight on the menu. As of 1998, you can also get the mouthwatering barbecue annually at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
Taking over the place from former owner Leonard McNeill (who had run it since 1949), Erik Mrok continues to put the tried-and-true rotisserie smokers to good use. When he found out the dotted line for the new light rail was drawn right through his restaurant, he salvaged the joint (but lost the dining room), by keeping the back kitchen open and offering barbecue to-go. As of late last year, you can get Mrok's barbecue during weekday lunch at Medel’s Icehouse.
Smoking up meat for over 20 years, owner Roy Burns' beginnings include selling barbecue from a smoker on the side of the road. He built up his business to a storefront in Acres Homes, and while there's usually a line, we'll take it for perfectly smoked brisket, meaty ribs and the likes. (Texas Monthly's best BBQ list.)
Originally run by BBQ master John Davis, now owner Jerry Pizzitola preserves the pit-style barbecue (think delicious links, ribs, chicken, etc.) by continuing to operate the only brick pits in Houston.
“Smokin’ good with a whole lotta soul,” is the theme at this family-owned and -operated restaurant, adjacent to a gas station in the Third Ward. Although we can't make it past Ray Busch's smokin'-good BBQ and heavenly boudin, the menu offers something for everyone, including burgers, po' boys, seafood and salads.
Although temporarily closing from August 3 to August 26 while installing a new pit, we'd be remiss not to mention one of our top reasons to drive to The Woodlands. Alluring brisket, ribs, turkey and sausage plus housemade brines and rubs are served from a trailer. (Texas Monthly's best BBQ list.)