In Texas, a few towns are so closely associated with legendary barbecue joints that just uttering their names—Llano, Lockhart, Luling, Taylor—conjures up the smell of woodsmoke and prompts an irresistible urge to get in the car. And it used to be that a trip to the rural enclaves, especially in Central Texas, was necessary to find superlative smoked meat. But in the ten years that I’ve been covering the state’s barbecue landscape, I’ve seen buzzy new spots in Austin, Fort Worth, and Houston start to draw all the attention. That, plus the closing of many small-town joints—Prause Meat Market, in La Grange; the Swinging Door, in Richmond—had me wondering if I was witnessing the end of an era.

I’m happy to report that’s not the case. Texas Monthly’s most recent selection of the fifty best barbecue joints in the state, which we published in 2021, had already shown some promise. New additions proudly representing more far-flung parts of the state included Convenience West, in Marfa, and Rejino Barbeque, in Olton. And the trend continues with this latest batch of new and improved joints (“new” being those that opened since our 2021 report and “improved” including those that made significant changes to their menu or settled down in one spot long enough for me to catch up to them). I found destination-worthy barbecue from Denison and Decatur to Mabank and Montgomery.

Even the edges of Texas are getting in on the action. Two new places in El Paso embody that city’s growing barbecue culture, and the Rio Grande Valley has gone from a smoked-meat afterthought to a place where I can fill a whole weekend checking out new spots. Swinging back up to Central Texas, I feel as if I’m coming full circle as I witness three women with big-city barbecue experience plant their flag right on the square in Lockhart. No matter where I go, I find there’s no end to smoked-meat innovation. Thanks to ingredients and preparation methods from a medley of culinary traditions, we’re now blessed with dishes such as za’atar-spiced lamb, berbere-seasoned pork ribs, and brisket fried rice. It’s a glorious time to eat Texas barbecue, and I’m more excited than ever for what the future will bring.

Nidia Vargas with a customer at Vargas BBQ, in Edinburg.
Nidia Vargas with a customer at Vargas BBQ, in Edinburg.Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley


Smoke ’N Ash BBQ

Opened: 2018
Pitmasters: Patrick and Fasicka Hicks
Pro tip: Bring your vegetarian friends, because most of the sides are meatless.

Move over, white bread, and make way for injera at the state’s (world’s?) only Tex-Ethiopian smokehouse. Fasicka Hicks uses flour imported from her home country for the spongy sourdough bread that comes with the brisket and pork ribs that her husband, Patrick, smokes and coats with awaze, a deep-red sauce that combines clarified butter with bold berbere spice. In their first years in business, the Hickses kept the barbecue and Ethiopian dishes separate, but a new menu, introduced in 2021, combined the two, with items such as smoked-chicken doro wat (a spicy stew) and barbecue nachos with injera “chips.” 5904 S. Cooper, 817-987-7715. Open Tue–Thur 12–8, Fri & Sat 11–8.



Opened: 2021
Pitmasters: Christopher McGhee and Will Spence
Pro tip: Orders are taken only online, so save time by placing yours before arriving.

As the name suggests, this food truck combines brisket with biscuits. The truck is parked outside Radio Coffee & Beer, in South Austin, so get your drink there, then find a picnic table and wait for your name to be called. Your reward is the unusual combination of savory biscuit, chunky house-made strawberry jam, and sliced brisket (or pork belly or beef-belly bacon). The play between sweet and salty is barely contained by the made-from-scratch biscuits, which have pleasantly crunchy edges on each buttery layer. The rest of the menu looks more like that of a modern barbecue joint, with peppery chicken wings in a tangy buffalo sauce and pork steak with chimichurri. The jalapeño-cheese sausage is so good it will make you gasp. 4204 Menchaca Rd. Open Thur–Sat 9–8:30, Sun 9–3.

KG pitmaster Kareem El-Ghayesh (left).
Pitmaster Kareem El-Ghayesh at KG BBQ, in Austin. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
Lamb bacon ribs on the smoker at KG BBQ. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley


Opened: 2022
Pitmaster: Kareem El-Ghayesh
Pro tip: The hibiscus-mint iced tea is the best drink pairing for the barbecue.

Before Kareem El-Ghayesh’s first trip to Austin, in 2012, the Cairo native had no idea Texas was famous for barbecue. But once he tasted smoked brisket, he knew the flavors he grew up with would be a good complement. Wanting to learn more, he moved to Austin, in 2015. Seven years and nearly as many kitchen jobs later, he opened this trailer, which sits outside Oddwood Brewing, northeast of downtown. Pork ribs are dusted with za’atar, and the stunning lamb belly ribs are served with tahini, which El-Ghayesh calls the national barbecue sauce of Egypt. Find it in the brisket shawarma, where the smoky chopped meat is topped with salata baladi, a mix of diced cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and mint. Garnishes of pistachios and pomegranate seeds brighten up a barbecue tray more than pickles and onions ever could. 3108 Manor Rd, 512-586-9624. Open Thur–Sat 11–8, Sun 11–5.


Mum Foods Smokehouse & Delicatessen

Opened: 2022
Pitmasters: Geoffrey Ellis and Travis Crawford
Pro tip: Take home a loaf of the brioche, which is made with beef tallow.

Geoffrey “Geo” Ellis has been slinging smoked pastrami at Austin-area farmers markets since 2016, but he finally got to realize his vision of a full-blown restaurant when he opened Mum Foods. Ellis bakes his own breads, including the sourdough rye used for sandwiches that are generously stuffed with pastrami and slathered with house-made mustard. The brisket is also impressive, as are the ribs, but it’s the sausages that add that special Texas touch. The juicy beef links go great with the inspired side of potato chips and pimento cheese. And where else can you get spareribs alongside a bowl of matzo ball soup? 5811 Manor Rd, 512-270-8021. Open Wed & Thur 11–3, Fri–Sun 9:30–3.

Brisket sandwich at Douglas Bar and Grill.
The brisket sandwich at Douglas Bar and Grill, in Dallas.Photograph by Brittany Conerly

Douglas Bar and Grill

Opened: 2022
Pitmasters: Doug Pickering and Alex Meza
Pro tip: Weekday happy hour specials, such as the $10 Wagyu smashburger, are a heck of a bargain.

Too fancy to be called a joint, this restaurant in Snider Plaza has a bit of a split personality. Though barbecue can be ordered at all hours, Prime steaks dominate at dinner, along with a honey-glazed smoked salmon that’s an ideal mix of sweet and savory. Lunchtime is when barbecue takes center stage. The Wagyu brisket is always tender, the glazed ribs have just the right touch of sweetness, and the brisket bullets—bacon-wrapped, meat-stuffed jalapeños—are not to be missed. When you order your meal, go ahead and ask for the most perfect fried apple pie you’ll ever have. That way it will be ready when you are. 6818 Snider Plaza, 214-205-5888. Open Mon–Thur 11–9, Fri & Sat 11–10.


North Texas Smoke BBQ

Opened: 2022
Pitmasters: Derek Degenhardt and Taylor Shields 
Pro tip: Access the driveway from the northbound lane of the divided highway.

Parked along U.S. 287 between a fireworks shop and a motorcycle dealership, Derek Degenhardt’s food truck isn’t easy to spot at 65 miles per hour. He says he sells just enough barbecue to keep it open, but he carries on by sticking to the basics, such as a dynamic duo of classic beef and jalapeño-cheese links. The brisket is sliced thick, and even the lean is juicy, with a stout bark and plenty of black pepper. A brush of sweet barbecue sauce on the massive spareribs doesn’t overwhelm, and the smoked turkey is an underrated standout thanks to a flavorful rub. Degenhardt has never liked potato salad, but he loves loaded baked potatoes, so he combined the two and created his best side, a baked potato salad chock-full of bacon, shredded cheddar, and green onions. 2803 U.S. 287, 940-393-6776. Open Wed–Sat 11–3.


Heritage Butchery & Barbecue

Opened: 2022
Pitmasters: Pete Gonzales, Arthur Finney, Garrett Nichols, and Marco Rios
Pro tip: Check the freezer for some good discounts on Texas-raised beef.

When you think of barbecue joints with an active meat market, you might picture an old-school place such as Dozier’s, in Fulshear. This is the modern version, with the raw beef, pork, and chicken in the case all coming from local farms. If you see a sausage in there, such as a spicy chipotle-and-jack-cheese, chances are you’ll also find it smoked on the menu. (Heritage sources the rest of its barbecue meat from larger commercial suppliers.) The burgers are a mix of ground Wagyu and Angus, and the chicken sandwich is made with a boneless thigh that’s smoked before it’s fried to a golden brown. 211 N. U.S. 75, 903-287-9390. Open Tue–Thur 11–8, Fri & Sat 7–10 (breakfast) & 11–9. 

Brisket Birria Tacos at Vargas BBQ in Edinburg.
The brisket birria tacos at Vargas BBQ, in Edinburg. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
Pitmaster Ram Vargas.
Pitmaster Ram Vargas. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Vargas BBQ

Opened: 2021
Pitmaster: Ram Vargas
Pro tip: Burgers made with freshly ground beef are available every day. 

Nidia Vargas didn’t even know how to cook rice when she and her husband, Ram, an aspiring pitmaster, began an underground business selling his smoked chicken out of their home to raise money to open a restaurant. Yet by the time Vargas BBQ debuted, she had developed most of their non-
barbecue recipes, such as a hearty brisket fideo, charro beans, and a creamy green spaghetti, the pasta bathed in pureed jalapeños, poblanos, and cilantro. It stands out on a tray surrounded by Ram’s beef-cheek barbacoa (a Saturday-only special) and brisket birria tacos. And if those Rio Grande Valley specialties aren’t enough, the brisket and pork ribs more than hold their own. 701 E. Cano, 956-278-0094. Open Thur, Fri & Sun 11–4, Sat 10–5.

El Paso

Hallelujah BBQ

Opened: 2023
Pitmaster: Blake Barrow
Pro tip: Ask about their pet leopard.

The Rescue Mission of El Paso has provided services for the homeless since it opened, in 1952. Director Blake Barrow started a catering operation from the mission in 2015, and this year he opened his long-awaited Hallelujah BBQ in a renovated historic building nearby. The restaurant is staffed exclusively by people who have benefited from the mission’s outreach. The barbecue options include tender brisket, peppery baby back ribs, and a sausage called 13 Habaneros, which is reminiscent of a spicy Italian link with plenty of caraway seed. As for sides, you’re in luck if you’re a fan of carbs, because you have your choice of tater tot casserole, au gratin potatoes, and mac and cheese. The green beans are cooked down with barbecue spices, green apple, and mushrooms—an unexpected combination that works. 130A N. Cotton, 915-307-7500. Open Wed–Sun 10:30–3.

El Paso

Smokin’ Joe’s Pit BBQ

Opened: 2022
Pitmasters: Joe and Martin Martinez
Pro tip: The banana pudding is better once the chill has faded, so let it bask a bit in the El Paso sun.

Joe Martinez had a reputation for barbecue long before he opened his food truck. At the same time the El Paso native was planning his retirement from a corporate job, his instructional barbecue videos on YouTube were collecting millions of views. He and his brother Martin smoke a black-barked brisket that could hold its own anywhere. Peppery spareribs get a brush of sweet barbecue sauce, and the meat comes off the bone with just a tug. There’s also a juicy cheeseburger on brioche, dressed with grilled red onions. Joe uses his sausage to bring some El Paso flavor, adding Hatch chiles and Muenster cheese. The Martinezes grew up with beans in their chili, so you’ll eat beans in your chili (and I bet you’ll like it). 10150 Montana Ave, 602-796-2211. Open Fri & Sat 11–8.

Harker Heights

Rossler’s Blue Cord Barbecue

Opened: 2021
Pitmasters: Steven and Kristen Rossler
Pro tip: Get all the meats and four sides in the $75 RBCB platter, which serves four to six.

Harker Heights is next door to Killeen, where Steven Rossler was stationed at Fort Hood. When he retired from the Army, in 2021, he launched this food truck with his wife, Kristen. They are open on Wednesday and Thursday only, leaving the weekend free for catering opportunities and barbecue festivals. The menu has a few unexpected items, such as brisket ramen and deviled eggs topped with a brisket burnt end. The rest is standard fare, and the Rosslers do it well. There’s a stout bark on the brisket, and any leftovers become a great brisket chili. The sides are well made; picture an eggy potato salad and cheesy poblano grits, which are even better when deep-fried into hush puppy–like balls. 300 Morgan, 254-345-2313. Open Wed & Thur 11:30–4.


Brisket & Rice

Opened: 2022
Pitmasters: Hong and Phong Tran
Pro tip: Try the house-pickled jalapeños made with soy sauce and a hint of sweet lemon-lime soda.

It’s not often you’ll find a great barbecue joint at a gas station, but don’t worry—the wood-fueled smokers are far from the pumps. Owners Hong and Phong Tran say their second-most-important piece of cooking equipment is a well-seasoned wok. That’s where they craft their barbecue fried rice, with chunks of smoked meat and Chinese sausage, as well as their namesake dish: jasmine rice topped simply with slices of tender brisket and a drizzle of barbecue sauce. It’s an homage to the way their Vietnamese mother would use rice to stretch takeout barbecue. The brothers grew up in Brenham, and the simple salt, pepper, and garlic seasonings in the sausages from that area inform their snappy house-made beef links. 13111 FM 529, 713-936-9575. Open Wed–Sun 11–7.

A Texas Grazing Board from J-Bar-M Barbecue in Houston.
A Texas Grazing Board from J-Bar-M Barbecue, in Houston.Photograph by Brittany Conerly

J-Bar-M Barbecue

Opened: 2021
Pitmasters: Alec Varnell and Nick Orozco
Pro tip: Study the patio wall mural, which traces the history of Houston barbecue.

When I visited J-Bar-M last year, everything was sunshine and rainbows at the recently opened joint. The barbecue was spectacular, and longtime Houston-area pitmaster Willow Villarreal was finally getting his turn in the spotlight. Within a few months, though, he and his wife, the talented chef Jasmine Barela, had departed, citing disagreements with owner John Toomey. The team they left behind, though, has done a good job expanding on the recipes the couple developed. Clues that you won’t get basic sides here are a bright tomato salad and cauliflower au gratin with melted Gouda and fried leeks. Drinking the pot likker from the collard greens will fortify you to tackle one of the massive spareribs. The smoky brisket is still superb, as are the house-made sausages and the half chicken, but it’s best to get them before they start to show their age, which is around 5 p.m., when the steak-focused dinner service begins. 2201 Leeland, 713-534-1024. Open Tue–Thur 11–11, Fri & Sat 11–midnight, Sun 11–6.


Barbs B Q

Opened: 2023
Pitmasters: Chuck Charnichart, Haley Conlin, and Alexis Tovias
Pro tip: Dunk a smoked lamb chop into a tub of the salsa verde.

Months before it opened, there was plenty of media coverage of this women-owned joint located in the barbecue capital of Texas. Such high expectations are daunting, but Barbs delivers. Chuck Charnichart, Haley Conlin, and Alexis Tovias’s combined barbecue experience—all three at Franklin, in Austin; Conlin at Micklethwait, in Austin; and Charnichart at Goldee’s, in Fort Worth—already spoke volumes about their chops, but this isn’t some big-city barbecue copycat. The pork spareribs are a revelation, salty, spicy, and sweet, with an acidic kick from lime zest. The brisket is already in contention for best in town, if not the state, and Barbs is able to pull more flavor out of turkey than seems possible. The green “spaghett” already has a cult following thanks to its spicy, creamy sauce consisting of pureed poblanos and cream cheese; soak up any extra with the house-made blue corn tortillas. 102 E. Market. Open Sat 11–3.


B4 Barbeque & Boba

Opened: 2021
Pitmaster: Nolan Belcher
Pro tip: Don’t miss the sopaipilla cheesecake bites for dessert.

Two years ago, Nolan and Emily Belcher opened a barbecue truck that was too successful. The couple just couldn’t keep up with demand, so they took a hiatus to regroup. Not long after, Kevin Carter, a fan of the truck and the owner of Mabank Feed & Southern Glitz Boutique, offered the couple space inside his store, and they were back in business. The menu’s bold flavors run the gamut, from the bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños to the pork belly burnt ends topped with peach jam and crumbled shortbread (they’re called Meat Candy for a reason). The juicy brisket is coated with a sixteen-ingredient spice blend, while the pork ribs are done competition style, with a heavy combination of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. Charred elote and mac and cheese with a brisket garnish are tops for the side options. 1100 N. 3rd, 903-910-5272. Open Wed–Sat 11–3.


Midland Meat Co.’s Half Acre

Opened: 2019
Pitmaster: Aaron Lesley
Pro tip: Don’t come on the weekend. Unlike a lot of joints, this one is closed Saturday through Monday.

Owner John Scharbauer opened MMC’s Half Acre as a food trailer, in 2019, closed it during the pandemic, and then reopened it in a building left vacant by another barbecue joint. He’s better known locally for his family’s cattle-ranching business, as well as Midland Meat Co., a market he opened to showcase their Texas-raised Wagyu. At Half Acre you can always find a cut of that prized beef on the specials board, and whatever form it takes—shaved ribeye in a taco, smoked picanha (top sirloin cap) atop flatbread with queso blanco—be sure to order it. The sliced brisket is tender (try it in the brisket-stuffed egg rolls), but the star of the menu is the St. Louis ribs; they’re well seasoned, with a great bark and a sweet glaze that shows off pitmaster Aaron Lesley’s barbecue chops. 1101 Washita, 432-218-7735. Open Tue–Fri 11–8.


El Sancho Tex Mex BBQ

Opened: 2019
Pitmaster: Danny Sanchez
Pro tip: Prepare to pay with cash or online, as credit cards are not accepted. 

The husband-and-wife team of Danny and Ale Sanchez parked their barbecue truck behind Jitterz Coffee Roasters, in downtown Mission, back in 2019. It was an on-again, off-again business until Danny quit his day job, in 2021, to focus entirely on cooking. The gamble seems to have paid off. Early this year the couple upgraded to a larger, air-conditioned truck, and their barbecue, offered four days a week, is usually sold out before noon. The menu is heavy on tacos; breakfast brings the Iron Mike, a flour tortilla stuffed with a thick slice of mesquite-smoked brisket, shredded cheese, and your choice of bacon or sausage, plus a fried egg on top. It’s so big you could start and finish a meal with it, but you won’t want to miss the brisket burnt-end taco or the one filled with crispy smoked pork belly, both of which feature blue corn tortillas. 1625 N. Conway Ave, 956-424-2493. Open Thur & Fri 7:30–noon, Sat & Sun 8–12:30.



Opened: 2019
Pitmasters: Cooper, Shelby, and Caleb Abercrombie
Pro tip: Breakfast tacos, biscuits, and klobasniky are served from 8 to 10:30 on Saturday mornings.

With just a folding table and a tent, Cooper and Shelby Abercrombie started out serving barbecue at pop-ups. In 2022 they upgraded to a food truck, and this year saw the grand opening of their permanent location, in downtown Montgomery. Business has grown, and Cooper’s brother, Caleb, is now on board. The brisket and pork ribs hold their own, but it was the trio of house-made sausages that caught my attention. There are two mainstays: a classic beef link and one called the South Texan, with jalapeño and cilantro. To those Cooper adds a monthly rotating sausage featuring ingredients that range from Oaxacan cheese to Spanish rice. The Abercrombies make all the sides, including the fried onion strings on the stellar green bean casserole. 21149 Eva, 940-445-0148. Open Wed–Fri 10:45–6:30, Sat 8–6:30.


Brantley Creek Barbecue

Opened: 2019
Pitmaster: Brandon McPherson
Pro tip: The barbecue may sell out, but the smashburgers won’t.

Brandon McPherson lost his job in the oil and gas industry in 2019. Thankfully he had a food truck already outfitted from his days as a barbecue-competition cook, so he and his wife, Ashley, shifted their entrepreneurial dreams into high gear. It didn’t take long for them to start serving the best barbecue in town, but I was a little late finding it. The couple moved the business around Odessa for a few years looking for a permanent home, and they have finally settled into a newly constructed space on the east side of town. Expect the same superb brisket, simply seasoned with salt and pepper and smoked with post oak. The pork ribs glisten with glaze, but the flavor of smoky pig comes through above all else. Brandon now has the room to make his own sausage, and Ashley’s side options have expanded to include cucumber salad and jalapeño creamed corn, alongside the always satisfying pinto beans and mac and cheese. If you fell in love with the apple cobbler at the trailer, you’ll be thrilled to rediscover it here. 3541 Faudree Rd, 432-275-0037. Open Wed–Sat 11–8, Sun noon–5.

A spread from Reese Bros BBQ in San Antonio.
A spread from Reese Bros BBQ, in San Antonio. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
The dining area at Reese Bros BBQ.
The dining area at Reese Bros BBQ. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
Left: A spread from Reese Bros BBQ, in San Antonio. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
Top: The dining area at Reese Bros BBQ. Photograph by Mackenzie Smith Kelley
San Antonio

Reese Bros Barbecue

Opened: 2022
Pitmasters: Nick and Elliott Reese and Gabriel Perez 
Pro tip: If the parking lot is full, there are more spaces available a half block north, across the street.

Brothers Nick and Elliott Reese wanted to help forge a distinct San Antonio barbecue style when they opened Reese Bros, down the street from the Alamodome. They brought on Gabriel Perez, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, and the results have been incredible. Boring white bread and pedestrian barbecue sauce are replaced with homemade flour tortillas and charred-jalapeño salsa, the better to cradle the juicy brisket and the queso fundido sausage, made with Oaxaca cheese and serranos. Their signature sandwich is a torta stuffed with carnitas, pickled onions, guacamole, refried beans, and a smooth jalapeño-and-serrano salsa. Slaw dressed with a blend of mayo and lime juice and topped with pea tendrils is refreshing, and the unexpected addition of okra to the pinto beans lends a pleasant texture variation. The poblano mac and cheese is as green as an avocado and anything but ordinary. 906 Hoefgen Ave, 512-925-9205. Open Fri–Sun 11–3.

San Juan

GW’s BBQ Catering Co.

Opened: 2017
Pitmasters: George Watts Jr. and George Watts III
Pro tip: If you need a break from barbecue, the Sunday special is fried chicken.

After closing their food truck at the start of the pandemic, the father-and-son team of George Watts Jr. and George III reopened in a brick-and-mortar, in August 2021. Rather than focus on Rio Grande Valley specialties such as fajitas and barbacoa, the Wattses lean completely into Central Texas–style barbecue. That means oak-smoked brisket sliced thick and served on a butcher paper–lined tray. House-made sausages vary, from habanero and Havarti to brisket burnt-end boudin. For a side, it’s hard to choose between the braised cabbage and the jalapeño creamed corn, so get both. Specials—pastrami, chicken-fried brisket, smoked pork belly porchetta—really show off this family’s creativity. 107 N. Nebraska Ave, 956-601-0056. Open Wed–Sun 11–4.


Rosemeyer Bar-B-Q

Opened: 2021
Pitmasters: Jordan Rosemeyer and Ben Maxwell
Pro tip: The ice cream is made in house, and flavors change monthly.

Jordan Rosemeyer ran a barbecue catering business and did pop-ups on his own until 2021, when he opened a food truck next to a gas station and brought on his best friend since kindergarten, Ben Maxwell, as his partner. Their accommodations are sparse, just a few picnic tables under a shade tree, and most orders are for takeout. Even so, demand is high. I suggest digging into the jalapeño-and-Oaxaca-cheese sausage as soon as possible; it’s got extra burn from chile pequin. The brisket is simply seasoned and perfectly executed, and the tender spareribs get a splash of honey simple syrup. Rosemeyer entered a few barbecue competitions before his food truck days, and his pinto bean recipe always scored high marks. You can see why here; pair a bowl with the green beans, which are sautéed with bacon and onions. 2111 Riley Fuzzel Rd, 281-205-0625. Open Thur–Sat 11–3.


Hill City Chop House

Opened: 2022
Pitmasters: Dustin Martin and Jack Allison 
Pro tip: Pay attention to the hours.

With just about a thousand residents in tiny Tolar, Dustin Martin knows his barbecue has to be good enough to draw folks from farther afield. But he’s no stranger to challenging circumstances. A wakeboarding accident on Lake Granbury, in 2007, nearly cost him his leg. Then, in 2020, he and his family lost everything in a house fire. At that point the Martins decided that a barbecue joint would be the fresh start they needed. The smoked brisket is the star, plenty tender with a peppery bark. And the trimmings go into the smashburger, which boasts a thin patty with a proper sear and lacy edges. As for the sides, I enjoyed the mustardy potato salad, but the well-seasoned borracho beans in a rich broth were better. For dessert Martin dries bread in the smoker to make crumbs for the base of his berry bread pudding. 8718 W. U.S. 377, 254-834-4224. Open Thur 4–9:30, Fri noon–9:30, Sat 11–5, Sun 10:30–2.

Van Alstyne

Pit Commander Barbecue

Opened: 2022
Pitmaster: Stephan Nedwetzky 
Pro tip: Pit Commander will be closed in September and October to serve its famous pork belly burnt-end pizza at the State Fair of Texas.

Stephan Nedwetzky had been trying to find a home for his barbecue for years. The Marine veteran and former heavy metal guitarist tried Plano, Murchison, and Fort Myers, Florida, before settling into a storefront in Van Alstyne’s historic downtown. He and his wife, Yolanda Russotti, open the place just twice a week, and for such a little shop, they serve an unexpected variety of smoked meats. Tender and more juicy than any beef brisket, the smoked pork belly steals the show, whether it’s the burnt ends or the slices they call bacon brisket. Nedwetzky makes a beef sausage with jalapeño and cheese that’s spectacular, and it goes great with a side of savory pinto beans. Russotti uses an Austrian-style white-bread dough to make knotted rolls for burgers and barbecue sandwiches. When the couple aren’t cooking barbecue, they fire up their oak-fueled pizza oven. 224 E. Jefferson, 972-400-0234. Open Fri & Sat 11–3.

White Oak 

Sunbird Barbecue

Opened: 2021
Pitmasters: Bryan Bingham and David Segovia
Pro tip: The brisket taco is far superior if you ask for sliced meat instead of the standard chopped.

Bryan and Kimmy Bingham and David Segovia personify perseverance. Since leaving the original Bodacious Bar-B-Q, in Longview, in 2021, they’ve been serving smoked meat from a food truck they’ve parked at convenience stores, car dealerships, and even a brewery in Louisiana, all the while searching for a permanent home. Until they find it, they’ll keep serving exceptional barbecue from the window of their faithful truck, currently parked in White Oak, about six miles west of Longview. Of course the sliced brisket is good, and you can get it chopped in a stuffed baked potato, a taco, or even a quesadilla. The sweet-glazed baby back ribs and the juicy smoked turkey are always smart choices, and the well-seasoned pulled pork is great. Kimmy makes a few sides that are destination worthy as well, including a sticky-sweet honey butter corn bread and some of the best mac and cheese in the state. 1908 E. U.S. 80, 903-399-6562. Open Wed–Sat 11–3. 

This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “The 25 Best New and Improved BBQ Joints in Texas.” Subscribe today.