Even though our latest Top 50 BBQ list came out just over a year ago, I’m already working on a new ranking. I’ve been searching for contenders to include in the 25 best new barbecue joints, which will be named in an issue of Texas Monthly next year. This has involved scoping out promising up-and-comers, revisiting old favorites, and attending events where I’m sometimes surprised by the amazing smoked meat. The top fifty joints need no further exaltation, so I’m highlighting more under-the-radar spots in my favorite Texas barbecue bites of the year.

Barbecue Platter

B4 Barbecue & Boba, Mabank

I don’t normally find great barbecue inside a feed store, but that’s where Nolan and Emily Belcher have created something special. It’s hard to choose between Wagyu brisket, Texas Twinkies stuffed with brisket, competition-style spare ribs, and pork belly burnt ends seasoned to taste like peach cobbler. Just get them all, and a grab a pair of boots on your way out the door.

Smoked Chicken Quarter

The Barbecue Station, San Antonio

In my quest to keep up with visiting new restaurants, I sometimes overlook the stalwarts that have served their neighborhoods for decades. I’d heard great things about the smoked chicken quarters at this thirty-year-old joint, but they were sold out on my first visit. Thankfully, I came back the next day to get a juicy quarter, perfectly bronzed from the smoker.

My Ribs

Big Boys Bar-B-Que, Sweetwater

Gaylan Marth cooks two kinds of ribs over direct heat out in West Texas. On the menu, he calls the standard St. Louis–cut ribs “Your Ribs,” while the country-style ribs he prefers from the pork shoulder are called “My Ribs.” The latter is essentially a sliced pork steak, and it takes on the flavors of Marth’s direct-heat cooking admirably.

Favorite Texas BBQ Bites of 2022
A full tray from Brantley Creek BBQ & Co. in Odessa.Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Pork Ribs and Brisket

Brantley Creek BBQ & Co., Odessa

Brandon McPherson opened this food truck out of necessity after being laid off from his pipeline job. Instead of veering toward the competition-barbecue flavors he was used to cooking, he stuck with just salt and pepper on both the smoky brisket and the tender spare ribs. By keeping it simple, he produces the best barbecue I’ve had in Odessa.

Jalapeño Cheese Sausage

Brix Barbecue, Fort Worth

Owner Trevor Sales swears his brick-and-mortar is coming soon, but for now, you can get some of Texas’s best smoked sausage from the food trailer known as “Smokestream.” Biting into the taut casing of the jalapeño cheese link unleashes a torrent of fat, heat, and flavor. Make sure to ask them to not slice the link when you order it so you, too, can enjoy this memorable experience.

Green Onion Sausage and Spicy Boudin

Bud’s House of Meat, Houston

Open since 1977, this old-school meat market on the south side of Houston has always been a neighborhood stop for raw meat. Since Wayne and Twila Adair took over from Wayne’s father in 1989, they’ve added sausage-making to their repertoire. The green onion link is a pork sausage with a little sweetness and heat. Get it smoked from the barbecue counter where you can add the superb spicy boudin as a side to any barbecue plate.

Ribs and Sausage

City Market, Luling

I’ve always had a soft spot for the sausage rings at City Market in Luling, especially dipped into their orange-hued barbecue sauce. It has been great on a couple visits this year, and so have the pork ribs. Just a bit of sweetness from a brush of sauce goes well with the smoke on the salt-forward spares. As a bonus, the restaurant is now accepting credit cards.

Smoked Tomahawk Ribeye

Crimson Creek Smokehouse, Dripping Springs

It requires a special order 24 hours in advance and can run up to $125, but this three-pound behemoth from the Crimson Creek truck is worth it. Pitmaster Marcus McNac smokes the steak, then grills it to order. Before slicing into one, drizzle on the seasoned butter and duck fat served alongside.

Peacemaker Sandwich

GW’s BBQ, San Juan

The crew at this Rio Grande Valley joint cures and smokes its own bacon and makes pimento cheese from scratch. They’re both layered onto thick slices of juicy, peppery pork loin that’s expertly smoked, and tucked into a grilled bun. I’d like to think the sandwich was named this way because you don’t want to talk while enjoying every bite.

Smoked Picanha Sandwich

The Half Acre, Midland

John Scharbauer makes great beef on his ranch, and sells it at his meat market in Midland. Many of those cuts also make it to his barbecue joint, where pitmaster Aaron Lesley smokes them for specials like this one. The beef—a cut from the sirloin—is incredible on its own, but it’s even better in a flatbread sandwich with queso blanco, pico de gallo, and grilled onions and jalapeños.

Favorite Texas BBQ Bites of 2022
A platter of ’cue, including the smoked chicken, from J-Bar-M in Houston.Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Smoked Half Chicken

J-Bar-M BBQ, Houston

Most of the meats go into a fleet of offset smokers at this barbecue palace in Houston’s EaDo neighborhood, but the half chickens get their own special treatment. They’re seasoned liberally, then mopped with a thin sauce while being cooked over direct heat in a BQ grill. It’s the ultimate in juicy poultry with a perfectly crisp skin.

Smoked Brisket

Jay’s BBQ Shack, Abilene

The team had moved the kitchen indoors since the last time I visited what was once the Jay’s BBQ Shack food truck, and the brisket was hard to recognize—in a good way. This new version was tender and sliced thick. The fat was well rendered, and the smoke flavor balanced the simple seasoning, making for some spectacular sliced brisket.

Brisket Bowl

KG BBQ, Austin

Kareem El-Ghayesh served his Egyptian-inspired barbecue at this year’s Texas Monthly BBQ Fest in Lockhart. That’s where I first tried his bowl of Mediterranean rice topped with tender chunks of smoked brisket and garnished with pistachios, cashews, almonds, golden raisins, and pomegranate seeds. To that he adds baladi salad made with cucumber and tomato, and a dollop of tahini sauce to create a dish that’s as colorful as it is filling.

Pork Ribs

Pustka Family Barbeque, Temple

In a barbecue world where sweet-glazed ribs are surging in popularity, it’s nice to eat a savory pork rib. That’s how Dustin Pustka prefers his ribs, so his food truck, which recently moved to Temple, is one of the best places to get an old-school spare rib that’s just pork, smoke, and a simple seasoning blend.

Smoked Turkey Torta

Reese Bros Barbecue, San Antonio

Brothers Nick and Elliott Reese serve some kind of torta every weekend their barbecue truck is open. When I visited, peppery slices of smoked turkey were tucked into buttered and griddled telera bread along with guajillo mayo and cilantro-basil slaw. Raw red onions sliced paper-thin and mixed with lime juice and salt were the refreshing garnish on top.

Lebanese Pork Ribs

Riverport Bar-B-Cue, Jefferson

Stephen Joseph is of Lebanese descent, but his barbecue is all East Texas. To bring a bit of his heritage into the menu, he has been doing a Thursday special of Lebanese pork spare ribs. Instead of the sweet rub and glaze he normally adds, he uses a mix of salt, black pepper, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, and garlic. The aroma is incredible, and the pork flavor shines through the savory seasonings.

Favorite Texas BBQ Bites of 2022
Ethiopian-Texan barbecue from Smoke’N Ash in Arlington. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn
Favorite Texas BBQ Bites of 2022
The three-pound smoked tomahawk ribeye from Crimson Creek Smokehouse in Dripping Springs. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Smoked Chicken Doro Wat

Smoke’N Ash BBQ, Arlington

Order a platter of the Ethiopian-Texan barbecue here, and it’ll come atop house-made injera, a spongy flatbread. Owners Patrick and Fasicka Hicks blend his Texas roots with her Ethiopian heritage to create unique dishes like traditional Ethiopian doro wat, made with smoked chicken. The smoke flavor paired with their proprietary berbere spice is magic.

Pastrami Taco

Vaqueros Texas Bar-B-Q, Grapevine

This barbecue food truck is known for its birria tacos, but when the house-made pastrami is available, opt for a pastrami taco. The pink and peppery brisket is garnished with pickled onions and mustard seeds and drizzled with what looks like mustard but is really a habanero salsa pureed with yellow bell peppers. 

Barbecue Platter

Vargas BBQ, Edinburg

The formerly takeout-only Rio Grande Valley joint has added a few tables, so there’s good reason to enjoy a full platter here. The smoked brisket and house-made sausages are great, but get into the regional specialties like smoked fajitas, green spaghetti, and brisket fideo. Save enough room for the excellent brisket birria tacos too.

Smoked Jerk Chicken

Willie Meshack’s BBQ, Plano

Trinidad and Texas come together to bring a new twist on jerk chicken. The Plaza family’s jerk chicken recipe was already popular at their Caribbean Cabana counter in the Dallas Farmers Market, but at their barbecue joint they’ve added smoke. Squirt on some of their Trini pepper sauce—marked with “XXX” on the bottle—for some serious heat.