Potato salad, coleslaw, and pinto beans have long been the foundation of Texas barbecue side offerings. But smoked-meat fans now expect greater variety from the supporting players. Collard greens, mac and cheese, brussels sprouts, and even broccoli salad commonly appear on plates and trays these days. None, though, are as wildly popular as corn, which you can now find served up in nearly every form, including popped. The luscious and widely praised creamed corn that Killen’s Barbecue, in Pearland, has served since 2014 proved to be a trendsetter. Creamed corn can be sweet, or it can be infused with jalapeños, green chiles, or chipotles for some heat. More joints are offering up their spins on elote, the popular Mexican street food, while others are making buttery cornbread. Our Top 50 list includes a handful of places that serve excellent corn dishes, but even spots that didn’t make the winner’s circle boast corn sides worth stalking. Here are a few of our favorites.
Green Chile Cream Corn
407 BBQ, Argyle
Creamed corn often has the consistency of soup, thanks to an overabundance of dairy. This version shows restraint, allowing the flavors of cilantro and green chiles to shine through. There’s enough cream and butter to balance out the spice, but the kernels aren’t drowning.
225⁰ BBQ, Arlington
This take on the classic cup of elote is all about the layers. To reach the base of sweet corn, you have to scoop down through chopped brisket drizzled in barbecue sauce, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, crumbled cotija cheese, and a dollop of mayonnaise. It’s made to order, so the Cheetos stay crunchy.
Smokin’ Z’s BBQ, Bayou Vista
Though this weekend-only food truck serves up a very respectable jalapeño creamed corn, the soufflé is the way to go. The rich corn filling lies beneath a golden, buttery crust that, when it crackles under the pressure of your spoon, brings crème brûlée to mind.
Charred Corn “Elotes” Salad
Pustka Family Barbeque, Hutto
Dustin Pustka chars whole ears of corn before shucking them for his elote. The lime-and-mayo dressing makes this cold dish incredibly refreshing.
Hot Water Cornbread
Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Cue, Jefferson
For this East Texas staple, hot water is poured into cornmeal to make a thick batter, which is scooped into a deep fryer. The beige orbs aren’t much to look at, but biting into one is like eating a savory doughnut. Pair a few with a bowl of pinto beans and you’ve got a meal, no meat required.
Fire Roasted Hatch Chile Hominy
Pody’s BBQ, Pecos
Pody’s is located near the New Mexico border, so it’s no surprise that the joint roasts Hatch chiles rather than jalapeños for its most popular side dish. The peppers bring some heat, but it’s tempered by the cheesy cream sauce that binds everything together.
Creamed Corn Maque Choux
Black Board Bar-B-Q, Sisterdale
Owner Jake Gandolfo takes liberties with this Native American–Creole side, but nobody’s complaining. He sautés onions and poblanos in bacon fat; mixes in cream, kernels, and bacon; and tops it off with fried brussels sprout leaves for extra flavor and crunch.
This article originally appeared in the November 2021 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Maybe We’re Amaized.” Subscribe today.