Yesterday, the Texas Monthly BBQ Festival returned to the Long Center lawn for its sixth year. Two dozen of the best barbecue purveyors from across the state congregated to serve guests samples of their perfected meats as well as some unexpected surprises. The following were our 10 favorite bites at the state's biggest celebration of the art of smoke.
Miller's Smokehouse showed up with some serious barbecue gear
1. Pulled pork from Franklin Barbecue
As usual, Franklin Barbecue didn't fail to disappoint...or gather a huge line that wound around the perimeter of the fest. While their brisket often steals the limelight, their succulent pulled pork (lead photo) was especially on point.
900 E. 11th St.; 512-653-1187
2. La Barbecue's green accoutrements
With no greenery to be found at this fest, the fresh accoutrements served in La Barbecue's meat boats offered a welcome touch of acid, spice and brightness. John Lewis created a robust roasted green chile salsa for this year's fest and the spicy garlic pickles really hit the spot when served with their sausage and brisket.
902 E. Cesar Chavez St.; 512-605-9696
Burnt ends sprinkled with sea salt at The Granary 'Cue & Brew
3. Lamb pops from Louie Mueller Barbecue
Their beef rib and brisket bites were also delicious, but the lamb pops are what had everyone talking about Louie Mueller Barbecue, based in Taylor, TX.
206 W. Second St., Taylor; 512-352-6206
4. Burnt ends from The Granary 'Cue & Brew
The best part of this San Antonio–based barbecue restaurant's brown sugar–crusted brisket is the burnt ends (above), with just the right amount of char and fat and a sprinkle of sea salt to finish.
602 Ave. A, San Antonio; 210-228-0124
Buzzie's Barbecue served up ribs, jalapeño and cheddar sausage, pinto beans and tangy potato salad
5. Tator tot casserole from Opie's Barbecue
This year, the sides were few and far between, so Opie's famous (and addictive) tater tot casserole disappeared faster than ever before.
9504 TX-71, Spicewood; 830-693-8660
6. King Ranch chicken sausage from Freedmen's
For his first year participating in the fest, pitmaster Evan LeRoy created a special Texas-inspired King Ranch casserole chicken sausage (below), made with chicken, smoked cheddar, tortilla chips, cream, chile peppers, beer and tortilla chips. He served it with a thick cut of brisket, a spicy sausage he called "hot gut," and some lucky guests even got one of his secret brisket chocolate chip cookies.
2402 San Gabriel St.; 512-220-0953
Freedmen's King Ranch chicken sausage, brisket and "hot gut" spicy sausage
7. Jalapeño cheddar sausage with a fried boudin ball from Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
Pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick served up the characteristically spicy sausage Stiles Switch is known for, but with an added twist: these were topped with a crispy fried boudin ball for the fest!
6610 N. Lamar Blvd.; 512-380-9199
8. Beef rib from Killen's Barbecue
The boat being served by pitmaster Ronnie Killen was filled with a flavorful cube of pork belly, a slice of brisket and an impossibly moist piece of beef rib. Some guests who were also from the Houston area got rewarded with an entire rib!
3613 E. Broadway St., Pearland; 512-485-2272
Killen's offered both their tangy and coffee house sauces to enhance the meat trio they served
9. Bone-in prime rib from Lockhart Smokehouse
Lockhart Smokehouse (which is actually based in Dallas, just named after the barbecue capital) served up incredibly juicy, tender cuts carved from a bone-in prime rib.
400 W. Davis St., Dallas; 512-944-5521
10. Pumpkin spice sausage from Miller's Smokehouse
This Belton-based smokehouse deserved Most Unexpected Offering for serving their pumpkin spice sausage (below), made from pork and brisket. The subtly spiced links were sprinkled with powdered sugar and served alongside their brisket. Talk about having your dessert...and your sausage too!
208 N. Penelope St., Belton; 254-939-5500