Some folks say there’s no such thing as bad barbecue. I’ve eaten enough barbecue to know there’s no truth to that, but I can honestly say the one barbecue item in Texas that has never let me down is the humble sausage wrap. When a salty, fatty, juicy sausage link is enrobed in a slice of fluffy white bread, it’s a beautiful thing. Some sausage wraps are better than others, but unlike dry brisket or tough spare ribs, they’re never a disappointment.
While traveling the state searching for the next great barbecue joint, it’s easy to get caught up in critiquing. I’ll admit that judging one barbecue joint against the next sometimes takes the joy out of a road trip. Making time for a sausage wrap or two in the itinerary is a reminder of the bounty of simple barbecue pleasures we have in Texas: this comfort food can be found in gas stations, meat markets, and barbecue shacks alike. I’ve made a point to seek out some great ones along the way and catalog them with the #roadsausage hashtag on Twitter and Instagram.
Road sausage is best when the place selling the sausage wrap also makes the sausage. You might be surprised at how often your local meat market will have a few links hot and ready to eat. A sausage wrap is usually the least expensive item on the menu too; anywhere from $2 to $3.50 apiece is commonplace. Sometimes it’s not even listed on the menu, but only once have I had to explain what a sausage wrap is when asking for one. It was a memorable exchange between me and the cutter at the original Cousin’s Bar-B-Q, in Fort Worth. He asked, “What’s a sausage wrap?” I explained it, and he replied, “Sounds like a wish sandwich. Like, I wish I had a real sandwich.” He made a couple anyway, and we both had a good laugh.
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The makings of a sausage wrap are simple, which is why any barbecue joint can make one, whether it’s on the menu or not. It starts with a link of smoked sausage and a slice of white bread, basically an open-faced sausage sandwich. There are exceptions; the base can sometimes be a hot dog bun or a tortilla. While I love a good tortilla, the ones you get at most joints are the stale and dry grocery-store variety. A predictable slice of cheap white bread is a safer bet. Hot dog buns are also a nice option. There are even a couple joints on the list below that use Texas toast or hamburger buns, but a single slice of white bread is most common. I prefer the sausage to be laid on the diagonal.
For the toppings, I like a few pickles slices and some raw onion. Many joints will ask if you want barbecue sauce or yellow mustard—I like a combination. Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I love a sweet tomato-based sauce alongside the acidic bite of mustard. And the never-put-ketchup-on-a-hot-dog crowd never seems to complain when you put barbecue sauce on a smoked sausage.
I’ve put together a map of my favorite stops below. This #roadsausage search is just like the rest of my barbecue scouting. It’s a work in progress, so please let me know if I missed your favorite stop for a sausage wrap. I welcome the possibility of new destinations. I tried to create some rules for who got on this list, but I think every rule is broken by at least one spot that made the cut. The idea is to point folks to places that make their own sausage but not ones that are already in our Top 50 BBQ list or a joint that already has long lines. These #roadsausage stops are supposed to be quick and painless. Portability of the sausage wrap is also important. You shouldn’t have to dine-in to enjoy one. A sausage wrap tastes better outside anyway, preferably on the way from the front door of the establishment to your car.
Now, I’m not going to mention every dot on the map, but there were some notable road sausage stops that are worth more than just a detour.
Bellville Meat Market, Bellville (since 1981)
There’s not a sausage wrap on the menu inside this meat market, but ask for one from the barbecue take-out counter and they’ll make one up for you for just $2.17. I opted for jalapeño cheese sausage that had a real bite. Their house sauce is also great. It’s similar to the old-style sauces made for community barbecues in the area and has plenty of onion.
City Market, Schulenburg (since 1944)
A sausage wrap here starts with a generous pork and beef link that requires two pieces of white bread to capture it all. That means two sausage wraps for just $3.50, which includes the standard garnishes plus pickled jalapeño slices. This might be the best #roadsausage value in Texas.
Clem Mikeska’s Pit Bar-B-Q, Temple (since 1965)
Bypass the sausage sandwich on the menu for $5.95 and ask for a sausage wrap instead. For half the price, they’ll give you a quarter pound of their homemade pork sausage, pickles, onions, sauce, and two slices of homemade white bread. Fancy bread is unnecessary for a good sausage wrap, but classing it up like they do at Clem’s doesn’t hurt.
Green’s Sausage House, Zabcikville (since 1946)
So it’s not a sausage wrap. It’s not even a sausage link, but I can’t leave off this juicy sausage patty at Green’s Sausage House. You can get it with pickles, onions, and mustard, or ask for a kraut burger and get a good helping of sauerkraut on top, all for under $4. There are plenty more sausage varieties available in the meat case, but you’ll have to heat them up at home. Honestly, I’ve always been puzzled as to why they don’t offer more of their sausage varieties in the restaurant, but the sausage burger won’t disappoint.
Janak’s Country Market, Hallettsville (since 1938)
The Janak’s sausage sandwich that I loved isn’t exactly portable, and it costs a whopping $5.70, which is high for #roadsausage. The lady at the counter said she could make a sausage wrap, but when I learned that their specialty sausage sandwich came with grilled onions, homemade sauerkraut, and whole pieces of dill from the owner’s garden, I couldn’t resist. It’s a beautiful sandwich and worth sitting down for.
Krolczyk Meat Market, Hempstead (since 1984)
There’s a fully functioning butcher shop inside this Exxon station. In the back, by the drink cooler, there are buns in the warmer and Krolczyk’s special recipe Polish links warming in a sausage carousel. Choose your bun and your sausage, add all the toppings you’d like, and pay just $3.25.
Meyer’s Elgin Smokehouse, Elgin (since 1949)
Choose a beef sausage wrap for $3.29 or get the stubbier pork and garlic sausage for just $2.49. The pork is so juicy, it’s best to eat this one before you get back in the car. I love pickle chips on a sausage wrap, but it wasn’t until I ate at Meyer’s that I realized just how perfectly their pickle spears nestle next to their excellent sausage.
Southside Market and Barbeque, Elgin (since 1882)
The oldest barbecue joint in Texas was built on smoked sausage, and it still makes one of the all-time great sausage wraps, for $3.25. I like to order the sausage on the dry side to stave off excessive drippage. Before you leave, be sure to pile on the onions, pickles, pickled jalapeños, and some of the spicy barbecue sauce. It’ll taste like Texas barbecue history.
Tallent Sausage, Riverside (since 1977)
I passed the billboard for Tallent Sausage on I-45 many times before making the fifteen-minute detour. When I finally did, I was rewarded with two fine sausage wraps, one original and one German sausage, from the rear counter. I couldn’t pick a favorite, but they both came with mustard and barbecue sauce on a hot dog bun for just $2.99.
There’s no fuss to this $2.50 sausage wrap (cash only). It comes with sauce and white bread, wrapped in wax paper to go. You can choose from beef sausage or owner Vencil Mares’s unique turkey sausage. However, the real attraction isn’t the sausage but being able to talk with Mares, who opened this joint 71 years ago. He’ll be happy to discuss the importance of the meat and fat ratio in his turkey sausage, and he’ll convince you that eating a link is as healthy as a salad—if you’re lucky he will offer up an autographed copy of the Taylor Daily Press from 2010, with him on the front page. He keeps a stack beside him, and that’s a good #roadsausage souvenir.
They don’t make the sausage, and it’s not the best sausage wrap in Texas, but Buc-ee’s sells a sausage on a stick that’ll cure that cased-meat craving. Junior’s Smokehouse in Wharton makes the sausage, which comes wrapped in a tortilla. It’s a fine #roadsausage that’s also easy to find in any of the 34 Buc-ees locations in Texas.