At Prause Meat Market in La Grange, there is a green paper sign right next to the barbecue counter. It reads “Sorry We Do NOT Make Sandwiches.” It’s a reminder to customers that this is a meat market where meat—smoked or raw—is sold by the pound. If you want a sandwich, you’ve got to bring your own bread. Others in Texas are more accommodating.
Some barbecue joints make a pretty incredible sandwich that goes beyond the familiar chopped beef, and one day I’ll make another list that explores the wonder that is the chopped brisket sandwich. But today I’ve focused on what I consider to be some of the greatest sandwiches across the state. (And a note to barbecue sandwich-makers across the state: rib sandwiches where three or four pork ribs with the bone still in them are soaked in barbecue sauce and stacked between two slices of bread does NOT qualify as an edible sandwich for obvious reasons.) I chose these sandwiches because they taste good (obvious), not just because they sound good. What I mean by that is a sandwich should be better than the sum of its parts, and it takes more than just a tempting description. I recently ordered what I thought would be a slam dunk at a popular chain in Houston. It included jalapeño cheese bread (great), sliced sausage (good), barbecue sauce (not bad), and rubber-like pellets of underdone chopped brisket (very bad).
So without further delay, here is my ranked list of the top ten barbecue sandwiches in the state.
#1. Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ, Tyler – Mother Clucker
Components: Jalapeño cheese sourdough, smoked chicken thigh, fried egg, cheddar cheese, spicy barbecue mayo, candied bacon, and guacamole (on request).
This sandwich just sounds ridiculous, but it’s nothing short of ridiculously good. The smoked chicken thigh will make you rethink using a chicken breast on a sandwich ever again. It’s perfectly moist, tender and smoky. If the BBQ mayo doesn’t enrich it enough, the yolk will once it’s broken. Just because it has egg and bacon, don’t relegate it just to breakfast. Texas’s best barbecue sandwich should be enjoyed all day long.
#2. Old Sutphen’s Bar-B-Q, Borger – Chopped Pork with the Works
Components: Squishy white bun, sauced chopped pork, cole slaw, onion rings, pickles, and onions.
I ordered this sandwich to go, and it came with the cole slaw and onion rings on the side. I’m not sure if they meant for it to all go together on the bun, but I wouldn’t have considered anything else. Thankfully there were more of the fluffy, crispy, tempura fried onion rings than I needed for the sandwich so I got a bonus appetizer. The pork is stewed until it falls apart. It’s mixed in with some drippings and a sweet sauce. Add in the crispy cole slaw and it becomes one of the best barbecue bites in the Panhandle.
#3. Pecan Lodge, Dallas – Pitmaster Sandwich
Components: Sweet white roll, chopped brisket, pulled pork, sliced sausage, cole slaw, fresh jalapeño slices, and barbecue sauce.
It’s looks like a mess, but this one really comes together after a couple bites. The brisket is ultra smoky, while the pork is a bit more subdued. The back of your throat starts to feel those jalapeños on the third bite, but the heat remains in a constant dance with the cool slaw to keep things regulated. My only quibble with this one is the bun. It’s too substantial and a bit too sweet. Luckily they warm it on the griddle first, but I’d prefer if they just went back to the sesame seed bun in the photo above. No matter, it’s one of the best in Texas with either bun.
#4. La Barbecue, Austin – El Sancho
Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, pulled pork, sliced hot guts, and pickled onions.
It’s a miracle that the staff at La Barbecue manages to get this sandwich to stay upright. It’s taller than an iPhone 5, but if you can get all of the elements in one bite it is something special. Bags of buns are placed into a warmer, so when one is brought out for the sandwich it has been lightly steamed. The pickled onions provide the proper crunch with welcome acidity all in one topping. The brisket and pulled pork are so good here, so adding in some of Texas’s best sausage only helps matters. I really didn’t notice that it was missing barbecue sauce. It’s one of the few sandwiches that wouldn’t benefit from it. Warning – you’ll need more than a few napkins when you’re through with this one.
#5. Franklin Barbecue, Austin – Tipsy Texan
Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, sliced sausage, barbecue sauce, pickles, slaw, and onions.
It’s hard to get to the front of this line and not order a few pounds of fatty brisket, but if you need a change of pace and a full stomach, the Tipsy Texan will do it. The sandwich is named after mixologist and author David Alan who must be very proud. When you pick it up, you’ll wish you had a third hand, and it’s best to slagle it (eat it all without setting it down). The bun just barely survives under the weight of all that rich, smoky beef, and the slaw provides much needed crunch. Get a few slices of brisket on the side if you feel like you must.
#6. Mac’s Bar-B-Que, Dallas – Chopped beef and jalapeño sausage
Components: Squishy white bun, chopped brisket, sliced jalapeño sausage, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions.
Mac’s is an old school joint without any pretension. They also don’t have any specialty sandwiches on the menu. What they do have is a two meat sandwich platter where you can choose your own. My regular order here is the smoky brisket chopped and a generous amount of jalapeño sausage slices atop it. The buttered and grilled bun provides a protective sogginess barrier, so don’t even think about leaving off the deep red barbecue sauce made in house. Add an order of fries and ranch beans for a well rounded meal.
#7. Mustang Creek Bar-B-Q, Louise – Bohemian Special
Components: Squishy white bun, sliced brisket, quartered sausage link, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions.
The Bohemian Special was made famous by Robb Walsh when he called it the best sandwich in the state, and the legend only grew after it was featured in Garden & Gun. Sausage from Prasek’s down the street is cut lengthwise into four spears and placed onto a generously sauced bottom bun. Thick slices of smoky brisket were piled on top. The addition of pickles and onions provide a nice crunch. It’s a bit sloppy and hard to share, but you won’t want to anyway.
#8. Freedmen’s Bar, Austin – Chopped Brisket and Beef Rib
Components: Squishy white bun, sauced chopped brisket, and beef rib mixture.
This is not your average chopped beef sandwich. Evan LeRoy uses the leftover beef ribs and brisket, chops them together, and folds in the sauce. It’s an impeccably simple construction, but the result is better than plenty of more complicated sandwiches I’ve enjoyed. The meat and sauce mixture starts to moisten the bun and they seem to lock together in smoky matrimony. You have to open up wide for each bite, but it’s gone before you’re ready to see it go. You’ll only find it on the special board, and it’s a mere $5.
#9. The Slow Bone, Dallas – Sliced Pork with Slaw
Components: Squishy white hoagie roll, sliced pork, cole slaw, and vinegar barbecue sauce.
This is a do-it-yourself sandwich for those Carolinians missing their pork and vinegar. Get the sliced pork sandwich and add a side of cole slaw. There are two sauces here at Slow Bone, but you want the thinner one on the condiment bar. Put it all together and it’s a flavor that isn’t normally found at a Texas barbecue joint these days. Given the length of the well made bun and the generous serving of pork, you don’t really need anything else for a good lunch.
#10. Neely’s, Marshall – Brown Pig
Components: Squishy white bun, sauced chopped pork, secret sauce, lettuce, mayo, 87 years of history.
This sandwich isn’t for everyone. It’s somewhere between sloppy joe and pulled pork. The pork is smoked then minced in a buffalo chopper. The Neely family’s secret sauce is mixed in, and a heaping scoop of the whole mixture is placed on a bun. The addition of lettuce and mayo sounds way out of place, but it ends up tasting like slaw after it’s warmed by the meat. You can also try the brisket version instead. It’s called the Brown Beef, but you might as well just go ahead and order both.
Baby Back Shak, Dallas – Chopped Beef with Boudin
Components: Squishy white bun, chopped brisket, boudin, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions.
Every sandwich at Baby Back Shak comes with a side. Fortunately they let you pick boudin as your side if you’d like. Their brisket isn’t great because it’s pretty tough, but it’s just fine chopped up. Once you add sauce, pickles, onions it’s even better. To really crank it up you have to empty the filling from the boudin on top. It’s like a cajun chopped brisket sandwich.
Coleman’s BBQ, Clarksville – Sliced Pork Sandwich
Components: Squishy white bun, sliced pork, cole slaw, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions.
The barbecue here has received praise from Texas Monthly in the past when it made it into the Top 50 in 2008. When I went back last year I noticed this Texas rarity on the menu – a sliced pork sandwich. It comes on a large buttered and grilled bun, and is served with a piping hot bowl of barbecue sauce. This thin spicy sauce seeped into everything when poured over top, making it the best item at Coleman’s.
Jambo’s BBQ Shack, Rendon – The Jambo Texan
Components: Texas toast, sliced brisket, chopped brisket, bologna slice, pulled pork, split sausage link, and pork ribs.
This behemoth would get a higher spot on the list if you could actually eat it as a sandwich. It’s about eight inches tall and includes a couple of pork ribs which makes wrapping your mouth around it pretty challenging. At just $12, it’s the best value six-meat sampler plate you’ll find anywhere in Texas.
Meshack’s Bar-B-Que Shack, Garland – Da Jasper
Components: Squishy white buns, sauced chopped brisket, sliced hot link, and barbecue sauce.
What you see above is not two sandwiches. That is Da Jasper which cannot be contained by a single bun. Just grab a fork as soon as you get your order. The bottom buns disintegrate almost immediately after soaking in several ladles of barbecue sauce. Meshack’s is to-go only, so don’t eat this in or on your car if you care about its condition.
Prine’s BBQ, Wichita Falls – Chopped Beef and Pimento Cheese
Components: Squishy white bun, chopped brisket, brisket au jus, barbecue sauce, and pimento cheese.
This isn’t on the menu, but I was staring at an enormous tray of pimento cheese in the case as I waited on my sandwich to be constructed. When I sheepishly requested that it be added, owner Allen Prine smiled and said people ask for it like that all the time. The brisket here is minced pretty fine with a knife then mixed with barbecue sauce and brisket drippings to form a sort of meat paste that is spread onto the bottom bun. Jalapeño slices are added on top for good measure. Prine placed the whole shebang into the microwave for about eight seconds to warm the bun and melt the cheese into the meat a bit. It was a gooey mess, but it was truly unique.
Spicy Mike’s Bar-B-Q Haven, Amarillo – The Taos
Components: Squishy white bun, chopped bottom round, green chiles, and spicy barbecue sauce.
Mike Havens doesn’t use brisket in his chopped beef sandwiches. He grabbed a chunk of smoked bottom round (which tends to be a bit drier than brisket) and placed it on the cutting board along with a couple spoonfuls of green chiles. Those chiles find thei way into plenty of other menu items, and they’re the reason he calls this one the Taos, after the city in New Mexico. It all goes onto a bun and is topped with your choice of barbecue sauce. At Spicy Mike’s, you choose the spicy sauce.
Stiles Switch, Austin – Buford T’s Diablo Sandwich
Components: Squishy white bun, sliced brisket, split sausage link, pickled jalapeños, and barbecue sauce.
This is a sandwich full of good stuff. The sliced fatty brisket is incredible as are the links. Pickled jalapeños add some bite, but they were all piled in the middle making for a mouthful of them. The cold bun straight out of the bag could use some warming of some kind. It kept the sandwich from really coming together as it likely would have if it were grilled or steamed. It’s still a great sandwich, but I found myself picking off that beautiful brisket when I was halfway through it.
Taylor Cafe, Taylor – Chopped Beef and Sausage Sandwich
Components: Squishy white bun, sauced chopped brisket, split sausage link, pickles, and onions.
It’s not fancy. They chop yesterday’s leftover brisket and mix it with some barbecue sauce and top it with some pickle chips and sliced onions. A link is a homemade beef sausage is the foundation. It will make you full and it will make you happy, but none of that really matters. If you eat it at the west end of the counter just inside the door you can talk with the ninety-year-old owner and legend Vencil Mares while you eat. Have a beer. Chew slowly. Listen more than you talk.
If we missed your favorite barbecue sandwich in Texas, please list it in the comments below. Feel free to tell us your favorite chopped beef sandwich too, and we’ll make sure to try it before the next sandwich list is completed.