The Pit Parade

The fifty best barbecue joints in Texas.

ABILENE Betty Rose’s Little Brisket Briskets generally don’t get prettier by closing time, so at 4 p.m. Betty Rose’s juicy, tender, well-marbled, mesquite-smoked brisket and meaty, black-pepper-rub-encrusted pork ribs were nice surprises, expertly held through the long, post-lunch slump. Not so the wrinkled pork-and-beef sausage. We helped ourselves to above-average macaroni salad, coleslaw, cornbread, and pintos. The sauce is sweet-sour and peppery, the banana pudding larruping good. Pleasant, squeaky-clean former gas station. Brisket plate $5.25. BYOB. Rating: 4. 2402 S. Seventh, 915-673-5809. Cash only. Closed Sundays. Richard Zelade

AMARILLO Beans N Things The little corner pit on old Route 66 with the plastic cow on the roof has gotten even better since Shirley Gallmeier took over from former police chief Wiley Alexander four years ago. There’s the requisite array of smoked meats (brisket smoked over hickory for 12 hours and 45 minutes, mesquite-smoked ribs, sausage, chicken, and fajitas) as entrées, with brisket also added to salads, nachos, Cajun rice, and stuffed potatoes. But the real stars here are the sandwiches— the chunky, freshly cut chopped beef and the unique pig-and-chicken (piles of the smoked meats and melted yellow cheese on a bun). Confirming the place’s semi-secret status are the autographed photos of Mickey Gilley and local comedian Dangerous Don on the wall. Brisket plate $4.99. Beer. Rating: 4. 1700-A Amarillo Boulevard East, 806-373-7383. DS, MC, V, checks accepted. Closed Saturdays and Sundays. Joe Nick Patoski

AUSTIN Sam’s Bar-B-Que At this funky little East Austin joint, which was a favorite of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s, the locals hang out as if time didn’t exist. The barbecue is erratic, but when it’s good, the green-oak-smoked meat sprinkled with a secret dry rub is a religious experience. After a good mixed plate of Sam’s tender pork ribs, melting brisket, and Samson-strength mutton, you know God’s not a vegetarian. Good beef-and-pork sausage, dryish chicken. Peppery, velvety smooth red sauce. Spicy pinto beans, mustardy mashed-style potato salad. Brisket plate $5. BYOB. Rating: 5. 2000 E. Twelfth, 512-478-0378. Cash only. Open daily. Jim Shahin

AUSTIN Stubb’s Roadhouse-chic live music and ‘cue emporium named for the late, legendary pitmaster C. B. Stubblefield, located downtown in a sprawling stone building with hardwood floors, faded brick walls, and an outside deck. Stubb’s meats are pecan-smoked, including usually robust brisket (occasionally pot-roast bland), delectable beef ribs, and juice-oozing chicken. Also turkey breast, good pork-and-beef sausage. Numerous tasty homemade sides such as greens, mashed sweet potatoes, stewed okra, and jalapeño spinach. Desserts include wonderful banana pudding. Sauce is mildly spicy and medium thick. Brisket plate $5.95. Full bar. Rating: 3.5. 801 Red River, 512-480-8341. AE, DS, MC, V. Open daily. JS

BASTROP Bastrop Bar-B-Q With its acoustic-tile ceiling and rusted farm implements placed just so on a redbrick wall, this place has zero atmosphere. The character is in the oak-smoked barbecue: powerful brisket, fall-apart pork ribs, and huge, tender beef ribs as well as pork chops, ribeyes, and finely ground, home-recipe all-beef sausage. The thin dill-pickle-juice-based hot sauce is better than it sounds. Standard sides, homemade. Brisket plate $5.29. BYOB. Rating: 4. 919 Main, 512-321-7719. Checks accepted, no credit cards. Closed Sundays. JS

BEAUMONT Willy Ray’s Bar-B-Q Company The atmosphere’s way too nice for barbecue, but seventeen-month-old Willy Ray’s redeems itself with terrific meaty, unfatty ribs, moist pork, and tender brisket, all smoked over hickory and oak. The cafeteria line dispenses numerous daily-changing vegetables (including Cajun rice, turnip greens, a carrot soufflé that puts sweet-potato pie to shame, and an honest-to-god green salad). As for the sauce, it is of the stout, sweet-tart persuasion. Brisket plate $6.50. Beer. Rating: 4. 145 Interstate 10 North, 409-832-7770. AE, DS, MC, V. Open daily. Patricia Sharpe

BELTON Schoepf’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que The line forms at the serving pit outside; choose from equally fine brisket, pork ribs and inch-thick chops, chicken, pork-and-beef ring sausage, sirloin, and cabrito (as available), cooked over mesquite coals. Step inside the spacious dining room for potato salad, slaw, excellent pintos, and tangy, thickish sauce, all homemade. The place’s resemblance to Cooper’s in Llano isn’t a coincidence; the owners are friends. Brisket plate $5.95. BYOB. Rating: 5. 702 E. Central Avenue, 817-939-1151. Cash only. Open daily. RZ

BORGER Monkey’s Bar B Que Pit These days, Sutphen’s (see below) isn’t the only great pit in Borger. George “Monkey” Loftis, a former Sutphen’s pitmaster, has juked up the formula with some interesting twists—using mesquite instead of hickory, smoking ribs that are drier (a plus) and a bit saltier (a minus), and introducing delicacies such as the three-meat triple sandwich (choose among brisket, pork-and-beef sausage, smoked turkey, and pork strips), ribs by the slab, and barbecue enchiladas. The glutinous, sweet-spicy sauce is served on the side. In keeping with Loftis’ nickname, the dining area has a jungle theme. Brisket plate $6.25. Rating: 4 . 1408 S. Cedar, 806-273-3747. MC, V, checks accepted. Closed Sundays. JNP

BORGER Sutphen’s Pit Bar-B-Q Hickory House Sutphen’s closed the doors of its last, deservedly renowned Amarillo location last year, leaving Joe Sutphen to carry on the tradition at his restaurant in Borger. He does a fine job too, turning out consistently tender ribs good enough to win the nationals in Cleveland as well as ham and chunk-style brisket. Every meal is accompanied by a delightful bowl of puréed apricots, a chutneylike palate cleanser and condiment perfect for dipping crisp battered onion rings or even a rib. Brisket plate $5.30. BYOB. Rating: 4. 300 N. Cedar, 806-274-9472. MC, V, checks accepted. Closed Sundays and Mondays. JNP

BRADY Lone Star B-B-Q Spare but pleasant concrete-floored eatery with stained-glass Texas flag in the window. Mesquite-smoked unfatty brisket that comes from a company in … Green Bay, Wisconsin?! “It’s better meat,” says owner Chuck Dalchau. “It’ll make people mad when they hear that, but it’s a fact.” Also, thick pork chops, good sirloin, chicken, ribs, undistinguished beef-and-pork sausage, and on Saturdays, goat. Delicious homemade sides and fruit cobblers. Brisket plate about

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