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Texas Barbecue Roundup: 30 Must-Try Spots

By Zagat Staff
October 29, 2013

Barbecue is thicker than blood in Texas, and while that sometimes means family feuds, it also brings out the best 'cue imaginable. We Texans take our smoked meats seriously and are willing to wait in line through floods and fiery weather for the perfect fatty brisket, peppery ribs and burnt ends. Here are 30 outstanding spots where you can snag our state’s official food.

-By Amber Ambrose, Farah Fleurima and Megan Giller

  • Beaver's

    Not all barbecue joints have to be old-school, and Beaver's is proof of that. Oak- and maple-smoked brisket, sausage and ribs line the Smoker Sampler and give plenty of meat for the money. There's no shame in eating your 'cue off a real plate, in a comfortable dining room, with a killer cocktail to wash it all down. It's also a bonus that you can start the meal out with a bowl of smoky queso and chips.

    2310 Decatur St., Houston; 713-864-2328

  • Black’s Barbecue

    We always thought eating turkey at a barbecue joint was like riding a tricycle in a motorcycle rally, but Black’s birds have officially changed our mind. The buttery, smoky turkey melts in your mouth and rivals the brisket and ribs at this Lockhart joint, although nothing could ever touch their mouth-watering burnt ends. Black’s claims it’s the longest-running barbecue establishment by one family in Texas - open since 1932 - and they take great pride in their work, using oak that has been aged for a year to a year and a half. The interior is kitschy and quirky, with jackalopes and posters from high school athletic teams of yore.

    215 N. Main St., Lockhart; 512-398-2712

  • Burns BBQ & Catering

    There's nothing quite like a good spicy link, piping hot with a nice, crispy skin that snaps just so after taking the first bite. Burns BBQ is the place for those hot links, made in-house, and just spicy enough. Slather it in their tasty sauce and call it a day.

    7117 N. Shepherd Dr., Houston; 713-692-2800

  • Corkscrew BBQ

    Get here early. That is the No. 1 rule in hunting down great barbecue, and this humble trailer in Spring is no different, often selling out earlier than you might expect. All of their meats are excellent, but the turkey is sublime. Bring your own beverages, snag a picnic table under the shade area, and enjoy one of the best barbecue experiences in the area.

    24930 Budde Rd., Spring; 832-592-1184

  • Fainmous BBQ

    This strip-center barbecue joint isn't trying to hide the fact that pork is barbecue too (and not just the ribs). That might stem from the fact that the owners are from Tennessee, where pulled pork is top of mind and brisket is mocked as "that wacky Texas barbecue." In any case, the pulled pork is worth a trip, though they do serve brisket proudly.

    10400 S. Post Oak Rd., Houston; 713-728-9663

  • Franklin Barbecue

    Pitmaster Aaron Franklin is almost as famous for his cheery nature and hipster glasses as he is for his succulent brisket. Franklin started in a trailer but has since moved to a brick-and-mortar spot. He welds his own smokers and has put Austin on the international map for excellent smoked meats, as well as his unique espresso barbecue sauce (which you can now buy by the bottle). Get to the East Austin spot at 9 AM to wait, and be prepared for a line.

    900 E. 11th St., Austin; 512-653-1187

  • Gatlin's BBQ

    Part of the charm of Gatlin's is its snug but comfortable accommodations. Located inside a small converted house in the Heights, there's often a line outside the door. Former Rice University football player Greg Gatlin, alongside his family, is churning out some impressive versions of Texas classics, like moist, smoky brisket, just-right ribs and a tasty smoked sausage. The cobbler here is also worthy of a wait.

    1221 W. 19th St., Houston; 713-869-4227

  • Goode Co. Texas Barbeque

    This place has been in business since 1977 and has transformed into a mini-Houston empire. Of that namesake barbecue, perhaps the most unique would be their smoked duck. It's rich, it's tasty, and it's yet another excuse to find yourself with a slice of their famous jalapeño-cheese bread to accompany it. Also: pecan pie. Just do it.

    Multiple locations

  • John Mueller Meat Co.

    Fiery John Mueller’s temper, unpredictability, charm and genius precede him. He recently claimed to us that he made the Austin barbecue scene what it is, and it’s true that Mueller, the grandson of Louie Mueller, another barbecue legend, has had a heavy hand in the scene (for example, Franklin Barbecue's Aaron Franklin worked in his original barbecue joint on Manor Road). Mueller recently opened his own trailer on East Sixth Street, with picnic tables, free beer handed out by Mueller himself and plenty of brisket, ribs and squash casserole to go around.

    2500 E. Sixth St., Austin

  • Kenny’s Smoke House

    This cozy Plano spot aims to elevate the barbecue dining experience from its picnic-tables-and-newspaper roots. To that end, you can order a fruity specialty martini with your meal, but mighty-fine meats remain the emphasis. Enjoy a veritable buffet of them with The Kinahora, a stack of jalapeño-cheddar sausage slices, brisket and pulled pork on a bun.

    5760 Legacy Dr., Plano; 972-473-7478

  • Photo by: Kimberly Park

    Killen's BBQ

    Ronnie Killen - of Killen's Steakhouse and now Killen's BBQ - is the master of meats. Of course, his barbecue is going to be legit: it's made with high-quality meats, a passion for the craft, and beef ribs that bring new meaning to "Texas-sized." For now, Killen's BBQ is a weekends-only operation, beginning at 11 AM until the 'cue sells out, but the permanent location in Pearland is well on its way to opening with an estimated date hovering around December 2013.

    3613 E. Broadway, Pearland; 281-485-0844

  • Photo by: Brad Istre

    Kreuz Market

    After the original switched its name to Smitty's, the Kreuz name came to this establishment in 1999, and it has helped put Lockhart on the barbecue map. But the most important thing to remember is that there’s no sauce at Kreuz, so you can really taste the meat itself. The dry, peppery pork ribs are the highlight, but the moist brisket, pork tenderloin, jalapeño sausage and regular sausage will do you right too.

    619 N. Colorado St., Lockhart; 512-398-2361

  • La Barbecue

    Pitmaster John Lewis hearkens from Franklin Barbecue, where he learned how to smoke meats from a master. Lewis took over the La Barbecue trailer after some Mueller family drama and pitmaster John Mueller’s departure (it was called JMueller BBQ back then). Now, Lewis has made the South First staple his own, and some say the ribs here are the best in town.

    1502 S. First St., Austin; 512-605-9696

  • Lenox Bar-B-Q

    If their longevity is any indication, Lenox Bar-B-Q is one of the best in Houston. They've been through a lot since opening in 1946, including a loss of their dining area (it's now only a takeout window) due to the Metro Rail construction. They may be down a dining room, but as of this summer, they've started serving lunch at nearby Medel's Ice House.

    5420 Harrisburg Blvd., Houston; 713-926-2649

  • Lockhart Smoke House

    Dallas barbecue tends to be sauce-centric, so Lockhart’s reliance on the rub is a nod to its Hill Country roots and the fact that owner Jill Grobowsky Bergus’ grandfather operated sausage haven Kreuz Market. The casual Oak Cliff eatery likes to throw ‘cue curveballs, serving up specials like whiskey butter pork chops, smoked porchetta and even rainbow trout. The smoked deviled eggs are not to be missed.

    400 W. Davis St., Dallas; 214-944-5521

  • Louie Mueller BBQ

    This Texas barbecue staple almost doesn’t need an introduction. Taylor, Texas, is synonymous with Louie Mueller, and the family restaurant knows how to smoke meat, though a recent fire destroyed one of their 54-year-old pits. The addictive pork ribs might not leave room in your stomach for much else, but we advise getting the gamut of meats in order to find your favorite.

    206 W. Second St., Taylor; 512-352-6206

  • Mike Anderson’s BBQ

    Opened in 1982, this Dallas stalwart's hickory-infused ‘cue has diehard fans, even if the spot is not as buzzed about as newer barbecue places. Unique sides such as a black-eyed pea salad, double-breaded fried okra and cheesy corn bake with poblanos pair wonderfully with pork hot links, beer brats, brisket and ribs. Stuffed and smoked jalapeños kick off the meal in spicy fashion.

    5410 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas; 214-630-0735

  • Off the Bone BBQ

    Chef and founder Dwight Harvey honed his culinary chops working with high-profile chef Kent Rathbun, and now he’s created an instant classic with his own barbecue joint. Show-stopping ribs, chicken and brisket rule, best slathered with piquant housemade sauce. Sides are winners too, with the tangy bacon and blue-cheese-flecked potato salad tops among them.

    1734 S. Lamar St., Dallas; 214-565-9551

  • Opie’s

    What’s the biggest draw at this Spicewood locale? The moist brisket, tender ribs and snappy sausage? The tater tot salad and spicy corn? The gauntlet of warm cobblers as well as brownies and cookies? Whichever part is your favorite, they all add up to make an authentic, enjoyable Hill Country barbecue experience.

    9504 E. Hwy. 71, Spicewood; 830-693-8660

  • Pecan Lodge

    Tucked away in a farmers' market shed, Pecan Lodge is known for having an hours-long line. It's plenty worth the wait, as the brisket and crispy-outside-juicy-inside burnt ends are by now legendary, though most groups simply order the family platter and dig in with hearty abandon as reward for their patience.

    920 S. Harwood St., Dallas Farmers Market Shed 2, Dallas; 214-748-8900

  • Pizzitola's Bar-B-Cue

    The famous spare ribs smoked in Pizzitola's more-than-70-year-old hickory-fired open brick barbecue pits are just a part of the story. The pits are so seasoned, so full of that magical barbecue energy from being fired up for over seven decades, that they impart a special oomph into those racks time and time again. Whatever it may be, the simple salt-and-pepper rubbed ribs are a Houston classic for barbecue lovers.

    1703 Shepherd Dr., Houston; 713-227-2283

  • Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen

    In the beginning, Rathbun’s served up its barbecue only at lunch - perfect if your craving for slow-smoked pork shoulder and/or brisket in entree or sandwich form hit right at midday. Now, BBQ Mondays offer a choice of meat, a side and house-baked bread, day and night. The scratch-made ancho chile barbecue sauce adds a nice, slow burn to the affair.

    6130 Luther Ln., Dallas; 214-890-1103

  • Photo by: Robert Jacob Lerma

    Schmidt Family Barbecue

    The feud between the family behind Kreuz Market and Smitty’s is over, and as a public declaration, they came together to open a Bee Cave restaurant on October 28. Even though it’s brand-new, the place is garnering a lot of attention. We’re excited about all of that meat mastery in one place, with an enormous, 7,500-sq.-ft. restaurant to boot.

    12532 FM 2244, Bee Cave; 512-263-4060

  • The Slow Bone

    Brought to you by Jack Perkins, who upped Dallas’ burger game with Maple & Motor, The Slow Bone represents his second Design District food institution. A line that stretched into the parking lot awaited the restaurant’s opening, and crowds keep coming back for more hickory-smoked brisket and imaginative links, like jalapeño bratwurst and cilantro sausage. Grab a plastic cafeteria tray and invest time in the wait.

    2234 Irving Blvd., Dallas; 214-377-7727

  • Smitty’s

    One of the oldest barbecue joints in Texas, this restaurant in Lockhart opened in 1900 as Kreuz Market, but a family feud resulted in a name change in 1999. That hardly matters when you’re faced with moist fatty and lean brisket, sweet-glazed pork ribs and sausage, as well as Blue Bell ice cream to finish you off. Beware of the lines, which sometimes spill out the back door.

    208 S. Commerce St., Lockhart; 512-398-9344

  • Smoke

    Anyone who regularly smokes a whole hog has a certain confidence and flair in the pit, and chef-owner Tim Byres shows it in spades at this Oak Cliff establishment. Coffee-rubbed brisket simply melts on the tongue, and pork spare ribs arrive with velvety mac 'n' cheese. The gigantic Big Rib - a beef shank adorned in a perky chimichurri - has been delighting Sunday brunchers for years.

    901 Ft. Worth Ave., Dallas; 214-393-4141

  • Photo by: Wyatt McSpadden

    Snow’s

    A few years ago, no one had ever heard of Snow’s. But after Texas Monthly discovered the tiny stand and rated it as the best barbecue in the state, the Lexington locale almost went under due to the overwhelming demand. These days their supply has caught up, and their brisket is still superb. Plus, with a pitmaster like sweet 78-year-old Tootsie Tomanetz, it’s hard not to fall in love with this place.

    516 Main St., Lexington; 979-773-4640

  • 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House

    To pit master and “Rib Whisperer” Trace Arnold, smoking is a religion, and his slate of fork-tender meats is his daily offering. Happily, he smokes enough to share, making this Frisco outpost well worth the drive. Ribs and brisket are the stars here, though smoky pork loin and chicken stand out too. 3 Stacks is also one of the few spots in town where you can get giant beef ribs.

    4226 Preston Rd., Frisco; 469-287-9035

  • Virgie's Bar-B-Que

    It's not just Houstonians that love Virgie's: barbecue lovers from around the state have commented on just how perfect those St. Louis-style pork ribs are. In the world of Texas barbecue, Virgie's is still a baby - it opened in 2005 - but that hasn't stopped it from creating a loyal following and plenty of deserved accolades.

    5535 N. Gessner, Houston; 713-466-6525

  • Woodshed Smokehouse

    Tim Love’s ode to meat and fire has been an instant hit since opening in Fort Worth in 2012. Here, there’s nothing he won’t smoke or grill, including the garlic for the aïoli. Classics like beef and pork ribs and ham shine here, though Love throws in some unusual cuts like lamb brisket and a hefty, hearty beef shin on the bone.

    3201 Riverfront Dr., Fort Worth; 817-877-4545

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