If you’ve spent any time on the interstates of Texas, you’ve probably seen barbecue restaurants advertised on numerous billboards, blue service signs, or obnoxiously huge structures situated along the access road. Who among hasn’t seen one of those logos and thought, is the food worth stopping for? If a place needs that much advertising, maybe the barbecue tastes terrible. Or, the food may be so good that thousands of customers stop in, adding dollars to a huge advertising budget. In any case, to save you, dear reader, from eating terrible food, I traveled along I-20 from the Louisana border to Fort Worth and stopped in at every barbecue joint with one of these signs. Starting at Exit 635 in Waskom, I listed the barbecue stops and gave them a ranking (see the color-coded key below.):
Green ♦♦♦ — Exit here for barbecue, even if you have a full tank of gas
Yellow ♦♦ — If you have to pee anyway, this might be a good stop
Red ♦ — Keep driving
Jim’s Bar-B-Que Exit 635 ♦♦
720 Texas Spur 156
Waskom, TX 75692
This spot holds an important position. For visitors from Louisiana, this is the first exit across the Texas border, and therefore an immediate opportunity for Texas barbecue. The brisket was overcooked and tasted of saucy roast beef, and the cheap sausage had little flavor besides salt and fat. The ribs were better with a good smokiness, and the sides of potato salad and beans were both above average.
Texas Best Smokehouse Exit 596 ♦♦
3302 South Eastman Rd.
Longview, TX 75602
Travel plazas complete with gas station, minimart, jerky shop, and barbecue joint seem to be popular along this stretch of interstate highway. With great sides like roasted potatoes, greens, and fresh baked biscuits, you can make an honest meal by pairing them with the sweet and pleasantly crusty pork ribs. Neither the brisket or the sausage were worth a return visit.
Bodacious Bar-B-Q Exit 587 ♦♦♦
7180 Texas 42
Kilgore, TX 75662
There was nothing bad on the menu, but the flavors of a migrating Louisiana cuisine was a welcome curveball here in Kilgore. A smoked jalapeño boudin had a snappy casing a pleasant kick. A side of sausage and chicken gumbo was hard to put down, though two sides alone could have made for a meal.
Crazy Bob’s Bar-B-Que Exit 582 ♦♦
6144 Old Hwy 135
Gladewater, TX 75647
The homemade sides were great, including a pickle-heavy potato salad. A sign out front welcomes visitors to Hog Eye, Texas, but the pork ribs here were the least impressive. There was more paprika than smoke on the turkey, but the slices were juicy just like the thick yet tender sliced brisket. As a bonus, Crazy Bob can tell you a good story about what prompted him to commission a cigar-smoking dill pickle painting on the wall.
Texas Best Smokehouse Exit 571A ♦♦
16243 US Hwy 271 N
Tyler, TX 75708
Bodacious Bar-B-Q Exit 562 ♦♦
13069 Farm to Market Road 14
Tyler, TX 75706
An order of sweet glazed pork ribs and salty slices of turkey breast can help ease a barbecue craving here at East Texas’s most popular barbecue chain, but don’t expect much from the brisket. The menus can vary a bit from location to location, so I’d hold out for the expanded offerings at the Bodacious in Kilgore at Exit 587.
Soulman’s Bar-B-Que Exit 540 ♦
2904 Interstate 20
Van, TX 75790
Baker’s Ribs Exit 527 ♦♦
18089 Interstate 20
Canton, TX 75103
It’s hard to ignore the fried pies here, so just give in. I’m partial to the brisket variety, but the pro tip is to order any combination of fillings. That’ll ensure that you get a freshly fried one. The chopped brisket also makes a pretty good sandwich. Ask for the end cuts to get some smoky bits of beef on a warm grilled bun.
Duke’s BBQ Exit 523 ♦
21620 Interstate 20
Canton, TX 75103
It was as appealing to the palate as it was the eye. A long voyage on the steam table didn’t help any of the meats, with the badly overcooked chicken suffering the worst. A side of button mushrooms was so odd I had to order it, and it competed with the chunky potato salad for the best item on the plate.
McDonald’s Cafe Exit 509 ♦
11469 E Interstate 20
Terrell, TX 75161
That McDonald’s Cafe (no relation to Ronald) hasn’t been sued to change its name is a miracle. They have a rib sandwich with bones in it that was bad enough to make you consider a run to the Golden Arches. Nothing on the three meat combo plate could be identified under the lake of sauce other than a few coins of fatty sausage.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit Exit 481 ♦
13000 Seagoville Road
Balch Springs, TX 75180
I haven’t been to all five hundred locations across the country, but I also haven’t found much worth returning for at any Dickey’s I’ve visited. If you want to venture into an outpost of the largest barbecue chain in the world, don’t go in with high expectations.
Soulman’s Bar-B-Que Exit 470 ♦
8018 S Lancaster Rd.
Dallas, TX 75241
I figured with brisket, ribs, and chicken there’d be one decent option on my combo plate. I was wrong. They had all spent so much time sweating away on the steam tables that there wasn’t much moisture left in any of them.
Spring Creek Barbeque Exit 465 ♦♦
2827 West Wheatland Road
Dallas, TX 75237
Spring Creek is a Dallas-based chain with locations all over the eastern half of Texas. They’re known for good homemade yeast rolls and efficient cafeteria-style service. They do a good chopped beef sandwich, and if it’s sliced brisket you want they won’t look at you funny when you order fatty brisket anymore. Skip the heavily sauced pulled pork.
Spring Creek Barbeque Exit 456 ♦♦
4108 South Carrier Parkway
Grand Prairie, TX 75052
Rudy’s Country Store Exit 451 ♦♦♦
451 East Interstate 20
Arlington, TX 76018
Rudy’s is a statewide chain that usually puts out decent barbecue. I’ve found the best bets to be the smoked turkey and creamed corn, but the brisket at this location can be very good. A recent comment on Twitter put it best. “Rudy’s is a poor first choice but a great last resort.”
Cousin’s BBQ Exit 432 ♦♦♦
5125 Bryant Irvin Rd.
Fort Worth, TX 76132
This is the lone Texas Monthly Top 50 joint right along this stretch of highway. The brisket and chicken are a half notch below what you can get at the original McCart location, but that’s still pretty good. The smoky ribs were a favorite along with the potato salad, and the classic desserts like chocolate sheet cake are always worth a second look.
The full map can be found here.
This is part of an ongoing series to try the barbecue advertised along highways across Texas. The guide for I-35 from Oklahoma to Austin another for I-30 from Texarkana to Ft. Worth and I-45 from Galveston to Dallas are already complete. If I missed any along this route, please feel free to comment below with any omissions.