Texas barbecue culture is spreading far outside the state, so I spent more time traveling the country this year in search of the best. After numerous trips, I came home thoroughly impressed with how our cuisine is being replicated from Connecticut to California. Steel offset smokers fueled with hardwood are no longer the exception—they’re pretty much required these days if you want to call yourself a Texas-style joint. I’ve had some of my best barbecue trays outside the state this year, and this is where you can find them. If you’d like to know where to get the good stuff here in Texas, refer the 25 Best New and Improved BBQ Joints list we published in September, or our most recent Top 50.
2Fifty Texas BBQ
Riverdale Park, Maryland
Debby Portillo and Fernando González originally moved to the D.C. area from El Salvador to run a pupusa restaurant, but barbecue was their calling. González was inspired by a visit to Franklin Barbecue in Austin, so brisket has been the main focus since 2Fifty Texas BBQ opened in Riverdale Park, Maryland, in 2020. It’s great, whether you choose the Prime-grade or Wagyu option. Both the poblano and spicy cheddar sausages are house-made, and the cooks torch the casing just before serving to give it extra pop. For some Salvadoran flavor, try the sides of red beans, mashed sweet potatoes, or fried plantains.
Bark Barbecue Café
Berj Ghazarian’s visit to the Salt Lick in Driftwood while in college left a lasting impression. He and his father, Boris, opened Bark Barbecue Café in Stevensville, Maryland, in 2021. Dual steel offsets are on display outside the restaurant, and inside you’ll find trays loaded with Armenian red rice and fried Laser Potatoes based on a Lebanese dish, alongside tender slices of smoked pork belly and some of the finest smoked brisket outside Texas. Ask for some of the burnt ends.
Blake’s at Southern Milling
Six years ago, Blake Stoker traveled to Texas for the first time and had a religious experience at Louie Mueller Barbecue. By the time he left Franklin Barbecue the next day, he knew the agriculture business degree he was pursuing would take a back seat to barbecue. Blake’s at Southern Milling opened last year, serving a Texas barbecue menu along with some of Stoker’s family favorites like tomato pie, smoked cream cheese, and pimento cheese. The smoked turkey and sliced brisket hold their own, but try them on the signature Bubba Cole sandwich with a hefty scoop of pimento cheese.
Matt Blanchard is the only pitmaster on this list using a gas-fired rotisserie, but he gets the most out of it at Blanchard’s Barbeque. He smokes peppery brisket until it’s perfectly tender and juicy. The savory pork ribs are meaty, and the house-made smoked sausage has a kick from Cajun spices. From the brisket drippings, Blanchard makes a brown gravy to pour over crispy, hand-cut fries, chopped brisket, and queso fresco for the house specialty, Poutine Dream.
Never have I seen a barbecue menu outside of Texas so loaded with smoked beef options as the one at Boomin Barbecue. This one-time Minneapolis-based food truck decamped across the border to smoker-friendly Wisconsin where Dylan Boerboom is serving out of the Nova Bar kitchen. Depending on the day, you’ll find smoked brisket, shoulder clod, or silky beef cheeks. The beef ribs are cut individually before smoking, so they get a salt and pepper coating on all sides for the barkiest ribs ever. Just note that the truck is closed for the winter.
El Granada, California
An offset smoker chugging away just a couple blocks from the Pacific Ocean is an unexpected sight, but that’s what you’ll find at Breakwater Barbecue. Owner Wyatt Fields uses mostly brisket trim in the house-made sausages that have a heck of a snap. Both the brisket and spare ribs glisten on the platter, the former from a coating of rendered fat, and the latter from a sweet glaze often found on Texas ribs these days. The well-seared burger made from brisket trim would feel right at home in Texas, too.
City Limits Barbeque
West Columbia, South Carolina
Robbie Robinson melds South Carolina–style and Texas-style barbecue into the menu at City Limits Barbeque, which started as a pop-up in 2016. He’s now in a building of his own, cooking with both direct-heat and indirect-heat pits. The spectacular spare ribs are done directly over coals in a Texas-built smoker modified for direct-heat cooking, while the brisket and sausages are done in an offset. A course at Texas A&M got Robinson on the right path for smoked sausages. The hot link and a garlicky Hill Country link were highlights. This is likely the only place you’ll find smoked brisket in barbecue hash, a South Carolina staple traditionally made with pork.
Fork Grove Barbecue
Anderson, South Carolina
Dylan and Tiffani Cooke have never been to Texas, which is hard to believe when a tray from Fork Grove Barbecue is in front of you. Dylan learned from books, fellow pitmasters, and YouTube, and had some Texas-built offset smokers shipped over to South Carolina. He heavily peppers the briskets, which have a clean smoke flavor. Smoked turkey and pork belly burnt ends are an expectation for just about every new barbecue joint in Texas, and Fork Grove does them both ably. I also loved the cheesy turkey sausage, which is made in-house along with a host of rotating flavors.
Fox & Fire Barbecue
The Fox & Fire Barbecue food truck is parked in Kearney, Missouri, which is less than a half hour northeast of Kansas City, but has its barbecue roots in Texas. Owner Andy Fox loved the barbecue he grew up with in KC, but didn’t understand the full potential of smoked meat until he visited Texas. His burnt ends are unsauced chunks of fall-apart-tender brisket. The flavor of smoke and salt dominate here, unlike the sweeter burnt ends more common in KC. Slices of brisket are also nicely done, but you’ll know you’re not in Kansas City anymore when you get a link of the exemplary jalapeño cheese sausage.
To try all the barbecue, you’ve gotta show up early on a Friday to Gonzo’s Smokehouse. Owner Jason Gonzalez serves a truncated menu of brisket burgers and barbecue tacos on Thursdays, but Friday is when the crowds line up in tiny Luling, Louisiana, west of New Orleans. They’re hoping to get the smoked boudin studded with chunks of brisket or the trio of brisket, beef belly, and pork belly burnt ends. The simple smoked brisket is impressive, but smoked pork jowls are the showstopper. They’re cooked so long and slow that the fat becomes tacky and sweet, flavoring the tender, smoky pork in every bite.
Green Street Smoked Meats
When I first visited Green Street Smoked Meats years ago, I came away impressed with the smoked salmon and pastrami. This summer I tried most of the smoked meats prepared under the watchful eye of pitmaster Dave Bonner. Lightly glazed St. Louis–cut ribs were spot on, as was the smoky brisket. The sliced pork belly was peppery and tender, but the sleeper hit was the incredibly juicy smoked chicken leg with skin so crisp it shattered. Green Street is owned by the same restaurant group as Au Cheval next door, which is famous for its burger. In a head-to-head tasting, all three of us at the table chose Bonner’s smoked and grilled double cheeseburger as our favorite.
The last time we wrote about Harp Barbecue, owner Tyler Harp was serving his impressive barbecue from the back of a brewery. About a year ago, he opened a brick-and-mortar in Raytown, Missouri. Harp served leftover barbecue two ways when I visited this summer. The deep fryer gave new life to the crispy pork ribs dipped in sweet barbecue sauce, but the dry brisket was a disappointment. A month later, Harp was back to his old self, with luscious brisket slices, peppery ribs, and jalapeño cheese sausages oozing with cheddar. The sausage options get creative with flavors such as pepper-jack taco or blueberry and white cheddar, so check the specials board.
I didn’t know much about Hindsight BBQ when I visited, but the collection of offset smokers and the ample woodpile outside put me at ease. Inside, the walls are decorated with framed Texas barbecue T-shirts, including one from LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue’s New School BBQ University, which Hindsight owner Jeff Schmidt attended in 2020. Saucy spare ribs were perfectly tender, and the brisket slices had great bark and an expertly rendered fat cap. The maple blueberry sausage was unexpected and well executed. A thick slab of pumpkin cornbread slathered with honey butter was also a nice touch.
HooDoo Brown Barbeque
Once Connecticut native Cody Sperry had his first bite of brisket from Louie Mueller Barbecue, his perspective on barbecue changed. Three years later, in 2015, he opened HooDoo Brown Barbeque in southwest Connecticut. In the beginning, he had to explain what brisket was to customers, but now it sells itself. Pitmaster Tyler Hodge produces a variety of snappy sausages inspired by Texas barbecue. Sperry’s signature dish is Cracklin’ Pork Belly, which has a big enough following that he served it across the country this year during a twenty-stop tour. The glassy skin on the decadent pork belly provides a loud crunch with every bite.
The pits at Horn BBQ are in a forced hiatus as owner Matt Horn works on rebuilding the restaurant after a devastating fire. The fire came just two days after the building was defaced with graffiti. Horn has vowed to return, so Oakland barbecue fans will once again be able to enjoy his Texas-style brisket, gooey jalapeño cheese sausage, and the juicy smoked chicken that impressed me during my visit.
Phat Tabb’s BBQ
Of all the spots on this list, Phat Tabb’s BBQ is the closest to Texas. Tabb Singleton returned to his hometown of Idabel, Oklahoma, just fifteen minutes from the Red River, and left his executive sous chef position in New Orleans behind. He’s smoking massive spare ribs that have plenty of spice beneath their honey glaze. Slices of fatty brisket and smoked beef sausage were flawless. There’s some Louisiana flavor with the red beans, but the garnish of Bac-Os on the White Trash Potato Salad is a tribute to Singleton’s humble upbringing. But he brings a chef’s sensibility to the Nashville hot turkey sandwich made with breaded slabs of his sweet tea–brined smoked turkey in a sauce amped up with Korean chile flakes and fish sauce.
Ridgewood Brothers BBQ
The menu at Ridgewood Brothers BBQ in Russellville, Arkansas, reads like a greatest hits of Texas barbecue. House-made sausages of the garlic black pepper and jalapeño cheddar variety are skillfully crafted. Sweet nuggets of bacon burnt ends get a drizzle of house sauce. Peppery smoked turkey is eminently juicy, and a thick slice of fatty brisket had a deep smoke ring beneath a black bark. Sides of smoked green beans and cheese grits aren’t as common in Texas, but would be plenty welcomed if done this well.
Shotgun Willie’s BBQ
How much more Texan can you get than naming your barbecue joint after a Willie Nelson album? Owner Bill Laviolette noted Shotgun Willie’s BBQ is partially named after himself too. The Houston native was missing Texas barbecue in Nashville, so he made his own. After a poorly timed opening in early 2020, the restaurant is now flourishing and looking to expand. The popularity is based on well-smoked brisket, juicy half chickens, and sausage brought in from San Antonio–based Kiolbassa. I was most taken with the perfectly executed pork ribs, which had meat that came away from the bone with just a slight tug.
Slow Fire BBQ
Chef Terren Williams didn’t know what Texas brisket was when he moved from Georgia to Dallas in 2011 to work in a hotel kitchen. A road trip down to Smitty’s Market in Lockhart a few years later was his aha moment for smoked meat. After moving back to Savannah, he was laid off from a kitchen position, and used his newfound freedom to launch Slow Fire BBQ. The foil-boat brisket has a pleasantly crunchy bark, the sliced pork belly is smoky and tender, and Williams continues to produce exemplary beef short ribs even if the locals aren’t sure what to make of the behemoths. For some local flavor, be sure to try the Low Country sausage made with shrimp-boil spices and chunks of shrimp mixed in with ground pork.
It had been five years since I visited one of the first and best outposts of true Texas-style barbecue in the country. ZZQ in Richmond was born as a pop-up in 2014. Just a few years before, Texas native Chris Fultz tempted Alex Graf out of vegetarianism with a brisket he’d smoked, and now they’re partners in life and business. Their pit room is equipped with smokers from Austin Smoke Works. Fultz spritzing the black bark of the briskets and wrapping them in butcher paper looks like a scene out of a Texas pit room. The smoked sausages are excellent, and even the chicken quarters stay juicy into the afternoon hours when the ribs are already sold out. For the smoked burger you’ll have to go next door to their new concept, Eazzy Burger, for the Big Iron burger with smoked cheddar, bacon, and a smoked tomato jam.