The 10 Hottest Barbecue Joints in Houston
"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 BBQ joints in Houston.
Bill Floyd and chef Bryan Caswell (both of Reef and El Real) teamed up with pitmaster Greg Gatlin (Gatlin's BBQ) to open up this 8,000-sq.-ft. barbecue emporium, complete with stellar 'cue favorites (brisket, chicken, sausage, ribs), a killer burger and sides like the can't-miss fried mac 'n' cheese.
209 Jackson St.; 713-224-2400
Before hitting the butcher paper, meats get their flavor from an intense 16-hour smoking in both oak and pecan woods. The Brisket House special includes a little of everything: your choice of meat, a chunk of aged cheddar cheese, kosher pickle, half an onion and bread. If you're still hungry, add the cream corn or baked potato salad to your mix.
One of our top reasons to drive to The Woodlands, the parking-lot trailer — which serves up alluring brisket, ribs, turkey and sausage cooked in housemade brines and rubs (pictured above) — is getting an upgrade thanks to a new permanent spot in Old Town Spring set to launch in early August. While the tasty ‘cue will stay the same, the new locale will be complete with a beer and wine license.
Wood Winds Shopping Center, 24930 Budde Rd.; 832-592-1184
Chef Ronnie Killen, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, owns and operates this barbecue place in Pearland (and the steakhouse nearby). 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. While 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.
3613 E. Broadway St.; 281-485-2272
What started as a catering company from former Rice University football player Greg Gatlin turned to barbecue gold. He followed up with a small house operation in the Heights, which gained a big following. With the lease now expired, the pitmaster is in transition awaiting construction to be completed on an Ella Boulevard storefront location (we're waiting with bated breath for the 4,200-sq.-ft. joint to open anytime now). Luckily, fans of Gatlin's can still get can't-miss ribs (babyback and St. Louis–style), dirty rice, ranch-style beans and the likes via his catering service.
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 must-try brawny pork ribs and brisket come 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.
5535 Gessner Dr.; 713-466-6525
Must-try fatty and lean brisket, links, pulled pork and more are 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. While sides change weekly, baked beans, bacon-onion-garlic potatoes and cranberry-almond slaw are standard.
18020 FM 529, Cypress; 832-893-1682
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 are side items from chips to beans. Don’t forget your margarita or daiquiri to go. And as of 1998, you can get the mouthwatering barbecue annually at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
6715 Homestead Rd.; 713-635-6381
“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 sides, including cucumber salad and coleslaw (pictured above).
4529 Old Spanish Trail; 713-748-4227
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 2013, you can get Mrok's barbecue during weekday lunch at Medel’s Icehouse. Skip the side and go straight for the chopped beef sandwich and banana pudding dessert.
5420 Harrisburg Dr.; 713-926-2649