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Meat Our Top Five: Your Texas Roundup

A very meaty Texas roundup.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY


“Let it be said: We are living, deliciously and indisputably, in the golden age of barbecue.”

—Texas Monthly in the June 2017 issue. By our own declaration, we’ve entered into an unparalleled era of Texas ‘cue, and our latest 50 best barbecue joints introduces you to the visionaries behind it. Like Johannes Vermeer and his mastery of painting with light, these pitmasters have ushered in a new gold standard. Their masterpieces might not make it in a museum, but they make for a pretty solid Instagram.


BIG NEWS


Photographs by Jody Horton

Meat Our Top Five
After four long years of eating, eating, eating, Texas Monthly has updated our top fifty barbecue joints in Texas, and it is our most exhaustive (and delicious) list to date. The competition was fierce, with ten places ranked as the best of the best. After falling from number one in 2008 to number three in 2013, Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington, is back at the top spot. A visit to Snow’s the weekend before the list released confirmed what the barbecue team already knew to be true: just the pork steak alone could have earned Snow’s its perfect rating. Franklin Barbecue, the Austin spot known for its fabled brisket and serpentine queue, slipped down to number two after topping our last list. Dallas’s Cattleack Barbeque, which opened in 2013, came in at number three, making a strong showing in its first appearance on the top 50 list. Two old school barbecue stalwarts capped off the top half of the exemplars. Longview’s Bodacious Bar-B-Q, the original outpost of the East Texas mini-chain, came in at number four, and Taylor’s Louie Mueller Barbecue (opened in 1949), snagged the number five spot. Want the rest of the top ten? Check it out here.


MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS


How We Did It
This is the fifth time that Texas Monthly has created a list of the top fifty barbecue joints, beginning the noble pursuit in 1997. We’ve refined our process since then, acquiring a barbecue editor, Daniel Vaughn, in 2013. Vaughn did most of the legwork in getting the current list started, traveling 65,000 miles and dining at over 400 places. Last fall, Vaughn put a handful of staff members, restaurant reviewers, and freelancers through barbecue camp. There, Vaughn trained the ‘cue crew on the finer points of flavor, bark, smoke penetration, and fat rendering. Then, armed with score sheets, Vaughn’s two dozen eaters set out across Texas. Over six months, they covered 23,000 miles, visited more than 350 places, and got two speeding tickets (jury is still out on if those can be added to the expense account). The resulting list had 29 newcomers and 21 old-timers. There is no hard data available on the amount of Tums ingested during the making of this list.

Meatheads
Disclaimer: The results of this highly unscientific survey should not be taken to mean that small town barbecue is dead (see: our top five). But we’ve noticed that an increasing number of big city joints are creeping onto the top fifty list. In 1997, our first list, only nine of the top fifty places were in Texas’s six biggest population centers. In 2017, seventeen of the city slickers made it onto our list. At the same time, the average joint age of our top fifty has decreased steadily. The average age of joint in 1997 was 32. In 2017, the average joint age is 13. 

Meat Up
How does the Texas Monthly barbecue editor spend the weekend before the top fifty joints in Texas drops? At a barbecue festival, of course. Aaron Franklin’s inaugural Hot Luck Festival was held in Austin over the weekend, and Daniel Vaughn couldn’t stay away. But rather than writing, Vaughn was serving up his own creations at the event kickoff. Austin American-Statesman food critic Matthew Odam called Vaughn’s New York strip tacos the “best bite of the night.” Texas Monthly fact checkers have confirmed that the tacos were, indeed, very good.


WHAT WE’RE READING


The fortieth annual Memphis in May world champion barbecue competition has its winner. The Commercial Appeal

A lot of people made their predictions about our top fifty list… Culture Map Houston

…some of them were right(ish)… Texas BBQ Posse

…but also wrong. Texas BBQ Posse

Nine steps to a healthy food cleanse (we’re reading this for a friend). Today

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  • Gene White

    I don’t buy Bodacious at #4. Not even in the top 50 the last time I ate at one. Unless I ate at the wrong one in Longview.

    • Casey Stewart

      Every Bodacious is independently owned and operated, so no two are alike. They don’t use the same ingredients, recipes, smoking methods, etc. This one is absolutely fantastic. The brisket is the best I’ve ever had, and the ribs are phenomenal as well. Another location for great ribs is the Bodacious in Marshall.

      • Gene White

        Thanks Casey…I’ll try that particular
        one.

  • Jeff Smith

    While I have my own preferences in the ranks of the Q, I truly respect the effort that goes into covering so many mom and pop pits. I always look forward to trying the new ones on the lists. I will always have Salt Lick and Killens in the top 10. Great job again this year!

  • Electra

    We’ve refined our process since then, acquiring a barbecue editor, Daniel Vaughn, in 2013.
    What great job to have.