A skeptical reader has issued a challenge. He noticed that all of our top five picks in the barbecue feature (June 2008) were from Central Texas. Very suspicious, he says, given that the TM headquarters is in Austin. How do I know you guys didn’t just go to the places nearby and sort of phone in a lot of the rest? Fair question. Two answers: First, we have the receipts to prove all 400-plus visits. Just ask our poor accountant, who double-checked the math on the expense reports. But that’s still internal. More importantly, there is indeed a Central Texas “barbecue belt,” where the ‘cue is the best (by and large) in the state. It’s because of the long tradition of German and other Central European settlers opening meat markets here in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century and smoking the leftovers to sell on Saturday. Lots of experience, lots of dedicated folks. Other parts of the state don’t have that. Not to say they can’t do good barbecue, but there’s not a bedrock tradition like there is in and around Austin. If you’re still not convinced, ask Bud Kennedy, columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Robb Walsh, author of The Legends of Texas Barbecue and a food critic for the Houston Press, or Virginia Wood, food critic for the Austin Chronicle. They all have written about barbecue and none of them has any idea I’ve just mentioned his or her name.