After a big meal of smoked meats, there’s always room for dessert. I don’t mean that in the cliché sense but in the biological one. Our sugar-craving brains (carbohydrates are brain food) fool our stomachs into thinking they can hold a little more after the sugar rush provided by that first bite of banana pudding. I’m convinced it’s the reason a bowl of cobbler always seems like a good decision after a hearty barbecue meal.
Some barbecue desserts in Texas justify a trip of their own, like the key lime pie at Big Boys BBQ, in Sweetwater, or the chocolate-covered beef bacon toffee bar at Bodacious Bar-B-Q, in Longview. Heck, I once ordered a full tray of cornbread pudding from the Slow Bone, in Dallas, as my birthday cake. But what about the joints that have more than just one or two sweet standouts? Here are some of our favorite barbecue restaurants where you’ll want to save plenty of room for dessert.
As the line for barbecue stretches along the cutting block and toward the register, a plethora of desserts is on display for the taking. It’s a saccharine siren song that can’t be ignored. There might be three versions of pecan pie, and none of them disappoint. A classic banana pudding is layered with whipped cream. If you’re having trouble making a choice, opt for the towering slice of coconut cream pie. It’s a masterwork, and like many of the fantastic finishes here, it’s gluten-free.
217 U.S. 62, Wolfforth.
Hiway 77 Cafe
Barbecue is just part of the home-cooking menu at this roadside restaurant. Rosebud is a notorious speed trap (there are large warning signs on both ends of town), but you’ll want to slow down for the desserts here anyway. Banana pudding is lightened with whipped cream, and the seasonal cobbler, most recently with cinnamon-spiked peach wedges, is always a winner. The star, though, is a perfect cube of bread pudding. This version, which uses white bread, is smoother than more traditional bread puddings made with stale, crusty bread. The texture is surprisingly light, but it’s rich, like French toast that’s been whipped into an egg custard.
1101 U.S. 77, Rosebud.
Pancake syrup is the not-so-secret ingredient in the pecan pie here, which may be why a slice seems like a good choice for breakfast. The bread pudding, made with croissants, is as decadent as they come, but is it good enough to abandon the creamy banana pudding? Luckily, you don’t have to. A popular order is a scoop of each in the same bowl, kind of like bread pudding à la mode.
3613 E. Broadway St., Pearland.
Dirk Miller has always gotten the barbecue glory here, but the baking skills of Lisa “Momma” Miller are just as impressive. Her seemingly endless number of dessert recipes keeps the display cases full of favorites like chocolate cream and buttermilk pies. There’s always a cheesecake to choose from, too, but keep a keen eye out for the sopaipilla variety. It’s got a crunchy coating of cinnamon and sugar and goes great with a freshly pulled espresso from their new coffee maker, which people say cost more than one of the giant steel smokers in the pit room.
300 E. Central Ave., Belton.
At the Pit Room, they don’t bother with barbecue dessert standards like cobblers, pecan pie, and banana pudding. That’s because they’ve got a buttery crumble-topped cherry pie. A slice of the decadent dessert, stuffed so thoroughly with cherries that the crust edge is almost obscured, will quickly have you forgetting about cobbler. And for banana lovers, it’s hard to find a more creative and refreshing option than a sandwich of warm brown sugar cookies and cool banana caramel ice cream.
1201 Richmond Ave., Houston.
Pitmaster Leonard Botello IV comes from a restaurant family. His parents owned an Italian place outside of Houston where his mother, Janel Botello, made layer cakes. She revived the recipes for the tiny barbecue joint, where the counter might have five different flavors on display at any moment. They’re so tall, it’s hard to know where she found cake domes to cover them. One slice could probably feed four, but it’s fun to mix and match anyway. I’m partial to the banana caramel and the rich chocolate with chocolate icing. Go for the carrot cake if you need some extra vegetables after all that barbecue.
2990 U.S. 290, Brenham.
There’s something satisfying about a generous bowl of well-made banana pudding with plenty of banana chunks and Nilla wafers. At Two Bros. BBQ Market, the dessert standard isn’t gussied up with meringue or other flourishes. An excellent fruit cobbler is also always on the menu (look for the blueberry version). I’m also partial to the sugar-dusted strawberry fried pies, which come two to an order, in empanada-sized pockets—the warm strawberry filling reminds me of the summer fruit pies my mom used to bake.
12656 West Ave., San Antonio.