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The List: The Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas

Welcome to the golden age of Texas barbecue.

By June 2017Comments

Photographs by Jody Horton

Texas barbecue has no peer on earth.” That’s what I immodestly declared in 2013, when we published our fourth list of the fifty best barbecue joints in the state. We were right, of course, but I did wonder: Had we peaked? Was there nowhere to go but down? Four years later, the answer is clear. There was nowhere to go but up! Our appetite for smoked meat remains insatiable, and I can say, with gusto, that we are living in the golden age of Texas barbecue.

June 2017. Subscribe to Texas Monthly.

And what defines this succulent era? First, quality. The cult-level popularity of barbecue has permanently changed the old landscape. When we compiled our very first list—twenty places—in 1973, smoking anything but the cheapest briskets was unthinkable; now, glistening slices of Top Choice—even Prime—beef are the norm. Restaurants serve butter-tender beef ribs and name-check the ranches they hail from on their menus. This is true from Wolfforth to Mercedes and Pecos to Spring, because excellent barbecue is also more widespread. A claim of “That’s great brisket” in Longview no longer has to be qualified with “for East Texas”; today’s pitmasters provide an excuse for a road trip to just about any far-flung corner. Once the term “Texas barbecue belt” meant the center of the state. Now it stretches far and wide.

Barbecue is easier to find too. Thanks to Twitter, Google Maps, Facebook, and Instagram, you can get a brisket or sausage fix when and where you need it. Decades ago, a barbecue trailer on a farm road could dry up and blow away in between customers. These days all it takes are a few raves on Yelp, and it has a good chance of success. This coincides with another trend: more than ever, barbecue is urban. Lockhart was once the smoked-meat capital, with three fantastic joints on our list in 1997; this year, the town has one representative. By contrast, Houston has four entries, Austin seven. At this rate, our next fifty best could come solely from our five or six biggest cities. (Don’t worry, it won’t.)

If there’s a dark side to all this, it is the cost—to our wallets and our patience. One reason cities are dominating is that they have customer bases that can afford brisket at $20 a pound and foodies who think nothing of investing time in a barbecue line. “Democratic” is hardly the word for an hour-long wait for a $35 beef rib. Still, I won’t complain too loudly, because cities also have armies of amateur reviewers who demand the best. Competition has a way of keeping the bar high for all of us.

Which brings me to a final trait of this moment we’re in: variety. In 2008 the quartet of brisket, pork ribs, sausage, and chicken ruled our list, and we lamented aberrations such as deli turkey. Since that time, the barbecue menu has been expanding faster than my waistline, with the addition of real turkey breasts, a renaissance in beef ribs, and a full-on embrace of pork steaks and chops. Great pulled pork has made a definitive invasion, and there’s even a little ham and pork belly to round things out. It makes you wonder what’s in store for the 2021 list. Anybody up for rattlesnake? —Daniel Vaughn


Stillwater Barbeque

Opened: 2013
Pitmaster: Matt Proctor, 33
Method: Oak; all-wood rotisserie smoker
Pro tip: Snag one of their “Make BBQ Great Again” hats.

“Matt’s gone to feed the governor,” Emily Hall told us on our visit. She was referring to Matt Proctor, the founding pitmaster of Stillwater, who’d been summoned to Austin to grill for a cohort of visiting Aussies. But Hall, Proctor’s twenty-year-old apprentice, handled the pit with aplomb. The beef ribs (offered daily) were long gone, but the pork spareribs we ordered were just the right amount of sweet. What set the brisket apart was its subtle smoke, a feature that can be rare in the mesquite-choked prairies of West Texas (though the thick cut did make it a tad tough). We completed the meat trinity with the house-made pork-beef jalapeño sausage, and for a palate cleanser, we wolfed down some pecan cobbler and Stillwater’s legend-in-the-making banana pudding. Rating: 4. 3365 S. 14th, 325-518-5071. Tue–Fri 11–8, Sat 11–3 or till meat runs out. 


Tyler Frazer of Tyler’s Barbecue.

Photograph by Wyatt McSpadden.

Tyler’s Barbeque

Opened: 2010
Pitmaster: Tyler Frazer, 49
Method: Mesquite and oak blend; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Go on Thursday for green-chile mac and cheese.

Tyler Frazer is at the heart of the operation, greeting customers and making recommendations—a lot of time and care go into the food and overall experience here. When we arrived, a little before noon, and joined the crowd of locals, it was the thick cuts of brisket that grabbed our attention. Equally as good were the tasty pork ribs, and while they weren’t the meatiest we’ve ever had, their distinct mesquite flavor held on right down to the bone. The runner-up was the black-peppercorn sausage. After you pick up your order, belly up to the garnish stand for assorted peppers and pickles. For sauce lovers (it’s okay, we know you exist), neither the regular nor the hot option will let you down. Rating: 4. 2014 Paramount, 806-331-2271. Tue–Fri 11–7:30, Sat 11–6 or till meat runs out. 


Franklin Barbecue

Opened: 2009
Pitmasters: Aaron Franklin, 39; Braun Hughes, 40
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Beef ribs are Saturday only, making them the hardest to get in Texas barbecue.

Four years ago, Franklin Barbecue was our hands-down pick for best barbecue in the state (i.e., the world). A couple of years later, Aaron Franklin published a best-selling cookbook and won a James Beard award for best chef in the region, a first for a pitmaster. He’s the most famous barbecue cook in the country, and he’s recently a co-founder of a new Austin food blowout, the Hot Luck Festival. Given all that, we wouldn’t have been surprised if the barbecue at his restaurant had started to slip. But one taste of the brisket, the one every pitmaster from Texas to Timbuktu wants to emulate, tells you otherwise. (Yes, Franklin has ceded its number-one place on our list to Snow’s, but that’s not a knock on it so much as a reflection that Snow’s is currently smoking hot.) On a lean cut of Franklin brisket, a line of soft, yielding fat gilds the edge, carrying with it the vanilla-tinged flavor of oak smoke and a black-pepper bite. The beef is tender enough to cut with a spoon but holds together until the first luscious mouthful. Needless to say, the quality extends across the menu, yea, even unto the turkey, which is not commercially brined and thus tastes fresh and fantastic. How does Franklin do it? With a little help from his friends: there’s his tireless wife and co-owner, Stacy; Benji Jacob, his best friend since high school, who tends the front of house and the restless line of customers; and meat master Braun Hughes, who ensures that a hundred or more briskets come out perfect every time. Rating: 4.75. 900 E. 11th, 512-653-1187. Tue–Sun 11–3 or till meat runs out. Closed for vacation Aug 1–10.


Opened: 2012
Pitmasters: Bradley Robinson, 27; Sam Maindonald, 38; Juan Morales, 23
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Come early to nab one of the few parking spots in back. The spaces in front on the left are up for grabs too.

Freedmen’s is no stranger to the pages of Texas Monthly. They made our list of the best new and improved barbecue joints in 2015 under the direction of talented former pitmasters Evan LeRoy and Chris McGhee. Now Bradley Robinson has taken the helm at the historic building. We worried that Freedmen’s might try to skate by on the strength of its great cocktails, sides, desserts (smoked banana pudding!), and interior (ancient stone walls, tufted leather upholstery). But in fact, the peppery spareribs are still smoky and the house-made sausage is as juicy as ever. The fatty brisket actually had us giddy. In tribute, we raised a glass of the bourbon-based cocktail they call the Ol’ Schmokey. Rating: 4.5. 2402 San Gabriel, 512-220-0953. Tue–Wed 11–10, Thur–Sat 11–midnight, Sun 11–10. 

LeAnn Mueller at La Barbecue.

Photograph by John Davidson

La Barbecue

Opened: 2012
Pitmasters: Francisco Saucedo, 30, and Brendan Lamb, 28
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Skip the line by ordering at least five days out on their website.

Owners LeAnn Mueller (yes, of the Louie Mueller clan) and Ali Clem have hunkered down at the Aztec Food Park in their fancy new food trailer. Until they move a block east this month, that’s where you’ll find folks lining up for a slow march to brisket and hot-guts glory. Since the departure of smoke shaman John Lewis for South Carolina, a string of young pitmasters, four in the past two years, have kept the oak fires burning, while Francisco “Franky” Saucedo has remained the steady influence. He’s been responsible for the spectacular sausages (order the chipotle version if you see it on the menu) and tender pork ribs. Monster beef ribs also get their rightful share of adulation here, but the buttery flavor of the all-natural beef brisket is as consistent as it comes. Slices of fatty brisket will likely make this place famous in California too, when it expands to Los Angeles later this year. Rating: 4.5. 1906 E. Cesar Chavez, 512-605-9696. Wed–Sun 11–6 or till meat runs out. (New location starting in June: 2027 E. Cesar Chavez.) 

Micklethwait Craft Meats

Opened: 2012
Pitmaster: Tom Micklethwait, 39
Method: Oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: The place is four tenths of a mile from Franklin Barbecue, and the wait is usually only 15 to 30 minutes.

With its rounded corners and neatly painted garlands of oak leaves and acorns, Micklethwait’s fat little cream-colored trailer looks like part of a Hobbit community. It sits amid picnic tables on a tree-shaded lot in East Austin and offers superlative victuals, including brisket (embraced by a super-peppery, midnight-dark bark), rosy pork ribs, pulled pork, chicken, and a spectacular, fat-slicked beef rib that will feed four (and set you back a very-much-worth-it $20 a pound). The word “craft” in the name also refers to a short list of fine homemade sausages such as kielbasa and andouille and the occasional specialty like coarse lamb-and-beef with tangerine zest, courtesy of owner Tom Micklethwait (the “th” is silent, by the way). Other standouts are jalapeño-cheese grits; a creamy, mustard-rich potato salad; and chef-quality lemon poppy-seed slaw. Oh, and leave room for buttermilk pie. Rating: 4.75. 1309 Rosewood Ave, 512-791-5961. Tue–Sat 11–6, Sun 11–3 or till meat runs out.

Stiles Switch

Opened: 2011
Pitmasters: Bill Dumas, 49; Alan Mykal Jackson, 24; Lance Kirkpatrick, 47; Christopher McGhee, 29; and Andy Stapp, 26
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: On Southern Comfort Sundays, you can indulge in the likes of smoked chicken wings and “hog-rub fries.”

You just feel good after a visit here. The super-friendly counter folks might hand you a bit of sausage or brisket to nibble. Plus, the roomy place, with beer signs and communal tables, is fun for families and groups. If you think you’ve had this style of barbecue before—heavy on the pepper and smoke—you’re right. Like many, pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick learned his technique in the barbecue belt of Central Texas. Our most lavish praise is reserved for the beef rib (owner Shane Stiles stopped by to say they’d been working on it; tastes like they got it right). The fatty brisket bests the lean, but the pork ribs are reliably meaty, and all three homemade sausages have a nice snap. Fun fact for train buffs: the name “Stiles Switch” comes from a Central Texas stop on the I&GN Railroad in the 1800s. Rating: 4.5. 6610 N. Lamar Blvd, 512-380-9199. Sun & Tue–Thur 11–9, Fri & Sat 11–10. 

Terry Black’s Barbecue

Opened: 2014
Pitmasters: Michael Black, 28, and Mark Black, 28
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: One of the few Austin barbecue joints on this list that’s open on Mondays.

Twins Mark and Michael Black jumped into the barbecue business with their father, Terry, three years ago just south of downtown Austin. It didn’t take long for them to get out of the shadow of Lockhart (Terry’s brother, Kent, runs the Black’s in that city as well as two other locations) and make their own mark on Texas barbecue. Service here is meat-market style: customers line up for sides and desserts before being ushered by a meat cutter over to the chopping block. Often the meats are out on display, making it hard to resist a peppery pork rib or a link of the plump, homemade beef sausage. The sliced brisket is excellent too, even from the lean side, but it’s the beef rib, lusciously fatty, that’ll have you coming back. This may well be the most underrated barbecue joint in Austin. Rating: 4.25. 1003 Barton Springs Rd, 512-394-5899. Open 7 days 11–9 or till meat runs out. 

Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ

Opened: 2013
Pitmaster: Miguel Vidal, 37
Method: Mesquite; wood-fired offset smoker
Pro tip: You definitely want the smoked corn with Mexican crema.

At the moveable feast known as Valentina’s—which still occupies a shiny truck but is headed for a brick-and-mortar home later this year—the term “fusion cuisine” has a very Texas twist. The cuisines getting fused are barbecue and tacos. Pitmaster Miguel Vidal’s fifteen-hour mesquite-smoked brisket, lush and moist, is at its best when tucked into one of their heavenly homemade flour tortillas, lightly crisped on the griddle, making the air smell of campfires and cookouts. Say yes to homemade tomato-serrano salsa and guacamole in your taco. The menu is rounded out with smoky chicken and carnitas as well as grilled fajitas (technically not barbecue, but so good). Rating: 4.25. 11500 Manchaca Rd, 512-221-4248. Open 7 days 8 a.m.–10 p.m. or till meat runs out; closed first Mon of month. 



The pits at Miller’s Smokehouse.

Photographs by Wynn Myers

Miller’s Smokehouse

Opened: 2008 (relocated 2016)
Pitmasters: Dirk Miller, 53, Dusty Miller, 29
Method: Post and live oak; indirect-heat pits
Pro tip: Check the meat case for take-home options like Miller’s Grillers sausage packs.

Miller’s roots are decidedly humble. They started selling sausage wraps part-time out of a meat-processing business (with a taxidermy operation in the back). A mere eight years later, after making our Top 50 list, they moved into bigger and better digs. These days they have it all: near-flawless brisket smoked for half a day; toothsome St. Louis–cut ribs; flavorful house-made beef-and-pork sausages; smoked turkey and chicken; and palate-pleasing piles of pulled pork. Standout desserts, handled by Momma Miller, a.k.a. Dirk’s wife, Lisa, range from red velvet cake to fluffernutter cookies. Visit on the weekend to fully appreciate the bar, craft beers, and live music. Rating: 4.25. 300 E. Central Ave, 254-939-5500. Sun–Thur 11–2, Fri & Sat 11–9 or till meat runs out. 



TRUTH Barbeque

Opened: 2015
Pitmaster: Leonard Botello IV, 28
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: The “Love Texas” sign makes a perfect background for selfies.

Truth looks too cute to be serving serious barbecue. The carefully curated interior—with its hand-lettered signs, Texas license plates, and Instagram-ready desserts—is a far cry from a no-frills meat market or a rusty roadside pit. The first bite announces the fact that youthful proprietor Leonard Botello IV has been an admirer of the handiwork of other masters of the craft, notably Franklin Barbecue’s Aaron Franklin. The pork ribs are decadently moist and slightly sweetened with a glaze. The brisket possesses an intense meaty flavor, subtle but deep smoke penetration, and a fine black-pepper crust. On occasion, they’re in a hurry to get a brisket out and the fat doesn’t render enough, but that’s a very rare flub. And the sides—can we talk about the sides? There is creamy mac and cheese with sizzling bacon crumbled on top; slow-cooked collard greens; rapturously buttery corn pudding; and bright, crisp slaw. The homemade white bread will make you reassess the spongy store-bought stuff. Somehow you must leave room for one of Truth’s five or so different monster cakes, which Botello’s mother, Janel, makes from scratch. Liberally slathered in homemade frosting, the slice you couldn’t finish will be your dessert that evening. Rating: 4.75. 2990 U.S. 290 West, 979-830-0392. Thur–Sun 11–4 or till meat runs out.



Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que

Opened: 1955
Pitmaster: Mando Vera, 56
Method: Mesquite coals; subterranean pit.
Pro tip: Get there early and ask to check out the pits where the barbacoa is cooked.

With roots in Mexico, barbacoa became a mainstay on South Texas ranches, where cowboys were hungry and cow heads were plentiful (Texans were expert at nose-to-tail eating long before it became trendy). Today, most commercial barbacoa is steamed or done in pressure cookers to comply with health codes. Vera’s time-honored method has been grandfathered in, and some suspect that local politicians simply couldn’t imagine life without their barbacoa tacos. The Vera family’s process calls for the heads to be tightly wrapped in foil and cooked for long hours in earthen pits over mesquite coals; their unpretentious place is the only restaurant in the state still doing it this way. You can get lengua (tongue), mixto (everything), or cachete (cheek, the leanest), all terrific tucked into a fresh corn tortilla along with Vera’s tangy avocado-jalapeño salsa. Rating: 4. 2404 Southmost Blvd, 956-546-4159. Fri–Sun 4:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.



Fargo’s Pit BBQ

Opened: 2000
Pitmaster: Alan Caldwell, 53
Method: Oak (and another unspecified wood); indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Go Wednesday for beef ribs.

We foolishly thought pitmaster Alan Caldwell might finally be ready to chat about the secrets of his smoking method. Ha. Caldwell said only, “You can ask . . .” and then broke into a big smile followed by silence. When we arrived, the eight or so tables were all taken, filled with locals and a handful of ravenous A&M students. We could see the piles of sausage links, stacks of soon-to-be-cut ribs, and beautifully blackened chicken all on display at the counter. The brisket, flaunting a rosy-pink smoke ring, was the stuff memories are made of—even the lean was plenty moist. Beneath the sausage’s casing was a wonderfully smoky pork and beef filling. And the chicken, the downfall of many a joint, had juicy drumsticks with deep flavor all the way to the bone. Rating: 4.25. 720 N. Texas Ave, 979-778-3662. Tue–Sat 11–7. (New location starting in August: 1701 S. Texas Ave.)  



The pit at Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak.

Photograph by John Davidson

Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak

Opened: 2011
Pitmaster: Robert Payne, 73
Method: Oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Go on the early side. As the sign says, “We are open till we close.”

Hugging the edge of Texas Highway 29, Payne’s is a true side-of-the-road joint, a turn-on-your-blinker-half-a-mile-ahead, career-off-the-road-in-a-cloud-of-dust kind of place. Once safely inside, you’ll take comfort in the wood-paneled walls, shiny picnic tables, dainty window coverings, and hospitality of Robert and Penny Payne, retirees turned pitmasters who work out of what looks like a home kitchen. The place is charmingly no frills, and so is the barbecue, a Platonic ideal of smoked meat embodied in the snap of the house-made sausage, the perfect bite of a substantial pork rib, the smoky flavor of the juicy, black-barked brisket. There are sides of potato salad, coleslaw, and Southern-style vegetables to round out your repast, as well as gratis beans. And the sandwiches are decidedly above average. Rating: 4. 616 Buchanan Dr (Texas Hwy 29), 512-756-8227. Wed–Thur 11–2:30, Fri 11–6, Sat 11–2:30.



BBQ on the Brazos

Opened: 2013
Pitmaster: John Sanford, 60
Method: Post oak; wood-burning gas-assisted rotisserie
Pro tip: You can eat on a second-floor balcony that overlooks the racetrack of MotorSport Ranch, a sports car club.

Not quite as scenic as it sounds, BBQ on the Brazos is located inside a Texaco station just off U.S. 377. Barbecue aficionados have already sniffed the joint out, though—the line was deep at nine o’clock on a weekend morning, with bleary-eyed customers ordering everything from brisket-and-egg tacos on handmade tortillas to Shanghai sandwiches (chopped brisket and sausage on a homemade bun). We were just as happy with our by-the-pound selection, with pleasantly fatty brisket, nicely glazed pork ribs, and spicy jalapeño sausage. The lightly sauced, cilantro-based coleslaw was the crowd favorite of the sides. Don’t skip dessert; you want some homemade pecan cobbler. Rating: 4.25. 9001 E. U.S. 377, 817-396-4758. Mon–Fri 6:30–3, Sat 9–3 or till meat runs out. 



Cattleack Barbeque

Opened: 2013
Pitmaster: Todd David, 59
Method: Post oak and hickory; indirect-heat pit and wood-fired rotisserie
Pro tip: For the best twenty seconds of ’cue porn in Texas, go to Cattleack’s website (sorry, it’s not on mobile).

Every ounce of your being recoils at the idea of eating barbecue in an industrial-area strip center in north Dallas. It’s just wrong! How could it have any soul! Calm down. Walk to the end of the line and start inching along (it’s like going through airport security). Pass the time identifying famous Texas pitmasters from their mug shots on the wall, and have your order well in mind when you get to the counter, because the meat cutters work at supersonic speed. Tote your tray to a varnished picnic table, amid all the cute signs and tchotchkes, and take your first bite. Prepare to feel the earth move, because, yes, it’s that good. Cattleack is the project of Todd David and his wife, Misty, who’ve given it all their love and then some. Their Akaushi ribs give new meaning to “well marbled,” while incredibly moist brisket is cradled by bark that melds into the meat. Elemental pulled pork separates into succulent strands at the touch of a fork. The pork ribs, hefty and high quality, beat the sausage, which is nice and coarse but awfully salty. Don’t pass up specials like house-made boudin or lamb-and-fig sausage. Rating: 4.75. 13628 Gamma Rd, 972-805-0999. Thur & Fri and first Sat of month 10:30–2.

Lockhart Smokehouse

Opened: 2011
Pitmasters: Damian Avila, 33, and Carolina Maldonado, 33
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: After you eat, poke around the eclectic shops of the Bishop Arts District.

It’s all in the family here. Co-founder Jill Grobowsky Bergus’s grandfather was Edgar Schmidt, the man who made Kreuz Market famous. That’s why three of the Lockhart joint’s specialties show up here: two great sausages and the cut known as shoulder clod. If you order actual brisket, you may find the best bites come from around its beautifully crusted edges. As for pork, the pulled stuff is nothing special, but the ribs are quite nice, with a magnificent bark. On Wednesdays, share a scandalously salted and peppered beef rib, a thing of shock and awe. There are antique signs galore on the walls, and tall ceilings with exposed rafters. Oh, and a full bar. (The Plano location—which has a pleasant, small-town feel—offers occasional smoking classes, announced on Twitter and Facebook.) Rating: 4. 400 W. Davis, 214-944-5521. Open 7 days 11–9 or till meat runs out. 

Justin and Diane Fourton; beef ribs at Pecan Lodge.

Photographs by Wynn Myers

Pecan Lodge

Opened: 2010
Pitmaster: Justin Fourton, 40
Method: Post oak and hickory; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: There’s no wait if you can find a seat at the bar.

The influence of Pecan Lodge on Dallas’s barbecue scene cannot be overstated. At their (relatively) new place in Deep Ellum, they crank out four times the amount they did before. It’s all cooked in an array of unique offset smokers, and the sausages, both the original pork and the jalapeño-cheese beef version, are still handmade. The $75 Trough is the best way to try it all, especially since a monster beef rib (the best of their smoked meats) can set you back $25 on its own. The pitmaster sandwich is another winner, with three meats, slaw, and the welcome bite of fresh jalapeño. A Pecan Lodge alum has opened up a barbecue joint named Melt in Paris, France, so the joint’s influence doesn’t end in Dallas. Rating: 4.25. 2702 Main, 214-748-8900. Tue–Thur 11–3, Fri & Sat 11–10, Sun 11–3. 



Kendon Greene of Top 5 BBQ; turkey breast at Baker Boys BBQ.

Photographs by Wyatt McSpadden and John Davidson

Top 5 BBQ

Opened: 2016
Pitmaster: Kendon Greene, 36
Method: Oak and pecan; convection-style gas rotisserie
Pro tip: The tortilla chips for barbecue nachos are made in house and dusted with a spicy rub. You can get the chips to go too.

Strip centers are seldom homey, but the first thing you’ll notice at Top 5 is a sense of community. Kendon Greene greets every customer with “It’s a smoking good day!” and the staff is equally friendly and chatty. They’re good people, and they produce great, highly distinctive ’cue, thanks largely to a dry rub consisting of, among other things, turmeric, cumin, curry powder, and smoked paprika. Greene calls it his universal rub—“because I put it on everything”—and you’ll taste it most clearly on the tender pork ribs. More traditional, the flawlessly smoked, heartier brisket and beef ribs were rapper Jay Z’s favorite during a recent visit to Texas. Note also the sides and desserts, all scratch-made by Greene’s wife, Davetta. The collard greens and mac and cheese are standouts, as is the peach cobbler. Rating: 4. 209 E. Pleasant Run Rd, 972-230-5559. Tue–Thur 11–9, Fri & Sat 11–10. 




4-T’s Bar-B-Q

Opened: 2010
Pitmaster: Mike Thomas, 56
Method: Hickory; indirect-heat smoker
Pro tip: Don’t miss the gooey chocolate pecan pie from Thomas’s wife, Cyndi.

Something moved Mike Thomas to purchase his first barbecue pit at the State Fair of Texas in 1988, and Kaufman County should be grateful for that. His backyard hobby slowly became a passion, and, after losing his telecom job in 2003, he set up a roadside brisket stand, which morphed into a food truck and ultimately a real building. Unassuming at first glance, it’s welcoming on the inside, with Texana kitsch and corrugated metal walls. A bustling lunchtime crowd tucks into Thomas’s masterfully executed fare. His brisket—under a simple salt-and-pepper rub—is magnificent, boasting a thick bark halo after eighteen hours of cooking. Rating: 4. 205 W. Broad, 972-552-3363. Tue–Sun 11–3. 


Fort Worth

Emma and Travis Heim; tray from Heim Barbecue.

Photographs by Wyatt McSpadden

Heim Barbecue

Opened: 2015
Pitmaster: Travis Heim, 28
Method: Oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: The bacon burnt ends have healing powers.

Travis and Emma Heim jumped into business ownership with little experience or capital in 2015. The Heim truck hadn’t been parked a year before they got an offer to build out their very own spot on West Magnolia. Their barbecue was that good. That location opened in late 2016 with a new fleet of smokers, a much larger staff, and a well-appointed bar designed to bring in a hip crowd. The barbecue initially suffered through some growing pains and inconsistency, but now it’s back to normal, and their excellent beef rib has thankfully made its way onto the daily menu. Just as the Heims are getting settled, a second location is already in the works. Rating: 4. 1109 W. Magnolia Ave, 817-882-6970. Wed–Mon 11–10 or till meat runs out. 



Baker Boys BBQ

Opened: 2015
Pitmasters: Phil Baker, 63, Wayne Baker, 35
Method: Oak lump briquettes; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Add some fried catfish to your barbecue platter on Fridays.

After Phil Baker and his son, Wayne, had some success on the barbecue competition circuit, they decided it was time to do more more than feed judges. They opened Baker Boys BBQ in a metal building on the east side of Gonzales two years ago. Their selections exhibit a subtler post oak–smoke flavor than is typical of the area, and the variety is ample. Pork loin and pepper-crusted turkey breast are eminently juicy, while the homemade beef and pork sausage links are fantastic, serving as a proper homage to the region’s sausage-making traditions. Unique—as far as we know—is their smoked boneless chicken leg, crispy-skinned and stuffed with onion and jalapeños. Beautiful it’s not; tasty it is. For dessert? Layered banana pudding, made from the excellent recipe of Phil’s late mother, Virgie. Rating: 4. 1404 N. Sarah DeWitt Dr, 830-519-4400. Mon–Fri 10–6, Sat 10–4.



Rio Grande Grill BBQ & Tex Mex

Opened: 2013
Pitmaster: Daniel Wright, 31
Method: Mesquite; offset smoker
Pro tip: The smoked-chicken tortilla soup makes a great side.

Whimsical art and bright colors are unusual in a barbecue joint, but Rio Grande Grill throws the rules right out the kitchen door. Daniel Wright and his wife, head chef Stefania, break the rules with the food too, even battering up the smoked chicken to make the best of both worlds: crispy fried smoked bird. Though Daniel uses local mesquite, he is an expert at keeping its robust flavor from overwhelming the black-pepper-crusted Angus brisket. Ditto the velvety shreds of pulled pork with bits of crunchy, caramel-hued crust. The homemade sides and condiments include a tomato-based barbecue sauce with caramelized onions and even a tangy chimichurri. Final don’t-miss? Chopped brisket enchiladas. Rating: 4.25. 417 W. Van Buren Ave, 956-423-1817. Tue–Fri 11–9, Sat 11–3. 



Rick Moon of Blue Moon BBQ.

Photograph by Wynn Myers

Blue Moon BBQ

Opened: 2007
Pitmasters: Rick Moon, 67; Toni Moon, 62; and Matt Moon, 32
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: If you’re going for dinner on a Thursday, call ahead to reserve some prime rib.

After driving down Old San Antonio Road for long enough to decide you’ve surely gotten lost, you’ll finally arrive at the tiny wooden building—and we do mean tiny—that belongs to Blue Moon BBQ. The address makes you think that the place is in the city of Hearne, but it’s actually a 23-mile jaunt into the middle of nowhere. So enjoy the scenic country roads and let those extra miles make you ravenous. With the exception of the chicken, which was slightly lacking in flavor, all the meats were top-notch. The brisket was perfectly juicy, with oaky smoke flavor throughout, and the pork ribs had just the right amount of pepper. It’s not crazy to order a couple of extra ribs to tide you over during your drive back to town. Rating: 4.25. 18746 E. OSR (at Macey Rd), 979-549-4800. Wed 11–3, Thur–Sat 11–7, Sun 11–3 or till meat runs out. 



Heavy’s Outdoor Bar-B-Que

Opened: 2008
Pitmaster: Darren “Heavy” Bernal, 55
Method: Mesquite; Southern Pride rotisseries
Pro tip: Chopped brisket, pinto beans, and barbecue sauce make a fantastic Frito pie.

The Hill Country west of San Antonio has always been something of a barbecue desert, but that may be changing as former cow towns like Hondo and Sabinal absorb a wave of urban professionals looking to become part-time gentlemen ranchers and weekend bikers. On Saturdays, the back roads are clogged with Harley-Davidson motorcycles carrying oldish men, often with youngish wives or girlfriends. Rare is the roadhouse without a “Bikers Welcome!” banner flying as proudly as Old Glory herself. Such is the case at Heavy’s. Pitmaster Darren “Heavy” Bernal took over the old McBee’s Bar-B-Que, inheriting a small, cozy dining room and adding a couple of Southern Pride rotisseries, which pump out fragrant mesquite smoke. The brisket is perfectly rendered, with a good salt-and-pepper bark. Meaty pork spareribs get the same simple dry-rub treatment. But the star of the show may be the girthy pork-and-beef sausage from Pollok’s in Falls City. Rating: 4.25. 1301 19th, 830-426-4445. Tue–Sat 11–8, Sun 11–3.


Pork ribs at Gatlin’s BBQ; Greg Gatlin.

Photographs by Jody Horton

Gatlin’s BBQ

Opened: 2010
Pitmaster: Greg Gatlin, 37
Method: Hickory and oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Avoid the lunch rush unless you love long, slow lines.

Pitmaster Greg Gatlin used to be a defensive back at Rice, which was no doubt good mental training for running a barbecue business. He upgraded his highly successful operation a couple of years ago from a small house to new digs with more than four thousand square feet of space. (One thing that has stayed the same, though, is the presence of Greg’s mom, Mary, greeting everybody at the door on weekends.) The menu too has grown with time. While the brisket is satisfying and smoky, it’s the pork ribs (both baby backs and St. Louis–cut) that are the winners: tender, juicy, and with an excellent rub. As for the fine sausages, it’s hard to choose, but you might try the venison just for the novelty. And do not skip the show-stopping dirty rice—Cajun comfort food at its best. Rating: 4. 3510 Ella Blvd, 713-869-4227. Mon–Fri 11–3 & 5–9, Sat 11–9 or till meat runs out. 

Pinkerton’s Barbecue

Opened: 2016
Pitmaster: Grant Pinkerton, 28
Method: Mesquite and post oak; offset smoker
Pro tip: Stay late and enjoy a cocktail from the bar.

When you go to Pinkerton’s, you are going to Grant’s house. No, really, he lives upstairs. It’s a family affair in more ways than one, because his parents help run things too (though they live elsewhere), and his mom does the baking. The smoking technique is a bit unusual, because Pinkerton starts his meats over strong mesquite and finishes them with mild post oak. The brisket’s smoky crust invites you back with every bite, and the fat is so well rendered it’s like butter. The pork ribs come in two options, glazed and unglazed, the former sweet and tender, like meat candy. The beef rib can hang with any of the big boys around the state, the meat pulling away from the bone with ease and sporting a nice peppery bark. Order some of the jalapeño-cheese rice as a side or try the duck and sausage jambalaya. The best finale? A slice of homemade banana cake. Rating: 4.25. 1504 Airline Dr, 713-802-2000. Wed & Thur 11–9, Fri & Sat 11–10, Sun 11–9. 

The pit at Pinkerton’s Barbecue; a brisket taco on a homemade tortilla at the Pit Room.

Photographs by Jody Horton

The Pit Room

Opened: 2016
Pitmasters: Michael Sambrooks, 31, and Bramwell Tripp, 33
Method: Post oak; offset smoker
Pro tip: Order the house-made chicharrones and drizzle them with hot sauce.

The smoked meats hanging under heat lamps might remind you of a Chinese barbecue restaurant, but the Pit Room’s culinary heritage is rooted in Texas and Mexico. They even make their own tortillas here, using fat drippings from the brisket. One of the secrets of the joint’s exceptional quality is that co-pitmasters Michael Sambrooks and Bramwell Tripp use USDA Prime beef and Berkshire-Duroc pork. The pork ribs in particular are deeply smoky yet moist. This is also a place where chicken and turkey are juicy and well worth ordering. And there are three types of house-made sausage: Czech (beef), jalapeño-cheddar (pork), and black-pepper garlic (venison). Hit the condiments bar for pickled veggies, salsa, and barbecue sauces. And have a homemade cookie ice cream sandwich for dessert. Rating: 4.25. 1201 Richmond Ave, 281-888-1929. Open 7 days 11–9. 

Roegels Barbecue Co.

Opened: 2014
Pitmaster: Russell Roegels, 44
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Roegels loves to talk shop—chat him up and you will learn a lot about barbecue.

Husband-and-wife owners Russell and Misty Roegels have been operating at this location since 2001, but three years ago they said goodbye to their Baker’s Ribs franchise and went their own way. Their hallmark is pepper—lots of it. The bark on the brisket and beef rib is a thing of black and spicy beauty, the meat beneath tender and moist. A sweet glaze distinguishes the juicy pork ribs, and even the pulled pork—which elsewhere is often indistinguishable from wet felt—has bits of crust and ample smoke flavor. Don’t skip the poultry here; the crispy-skinned chicken in particular is destination worthy. Excellent homemade sides and a fine bourbon banana pudding round out the picture. Oh, one final thing: Thursday’s lunch special, a smoked pastrami Reuben, is deliriously good. Rating: 4.5. 2223 S. Voss Rd, 713-977-8725. Mon–Sat 11–8, Sun 11–6 or till meat runs out. 



Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Cue

Opened: 1993
Pitmaster: Stephen Joseph, 49
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Ask about the “Swamp Fries challenge.”

Riverport is a quintessential small-town barbecue joint, sitting on a corner in a charming East Texas town. After the place burned to the ground five years ago, the city rallied around owner Stephen Joseph. When he could barely make a profit in this secluded small town, the townspeople stepped up their patronage. There was a line out the door on the Wednesday we visited. The sweet and salty spareribs were supremely tender, as was the combination of simple pinto beans and hot-water cornbread on the side. A new method Joseph was trying for the smoked turkey breast was also a winner. The Bewley pit in back turns out a great brisket even though this is one of the few spots on our list that doesn’t use premium beef. Folks in Jefferson aren’t gonna cough up $20 a pound for it, but happily for them, Joseph does a fine job with Choice grade for $14. Rating: 4. 201 N. Polk, 903-665-2341. Tue–Thur 11–6, Fri & Sat 11–7, Sun 11–3.



Tootsie Tomanetz; Kerry Bexley at Snow’s BBQ.

Photographs by Wynn Myers.


Opened: 2003
Pitmaster: Tootsie Tomanetz, 82, and Kerry Bexley, 50
Method: Post oak; both direct- and indirect-heat pits
Pro tip: This is some of the least expensive top-quality brisket around—$15.95 a pound, in case you’re planning a party.

It’s early morning and the air is not yet blistering, so you roll the car windows down. You turn off the highway onto a farm road and meander through pastures and farmland, anticipation growing with every mile. Thirty minutes later you arrive in the micropolis of Lexington (population 1,200) and head for a small red building. Joining the line, you turn to gaze at the big open-air shed out back. That’s where the magic happens. Moving deliberately amid an array of magnificently battered barbecue pits—which resemble something from the dawn of the industrial revolution—are three people oblivious to the gawkers fifty feet away. They consist of the dean of Texas pitmasters, Tootsie Tomanetz; her boss and the owner of Snow’s, Kerry Bexley; and the new kid on the block, pit hand Clay Cowgill. Their skill and the indelible experience that they create are the reasons why Snow’s is once again at the top of our list. They might lift the lid on a pit occasionally to prod a pork steak (the cut’s gnarly exterior belies the succulent meat within), they might pause to inspect the rows of briskets. Every so often, Tomanetz will take a little cotton mop and baste the chicken halves with a thin, sweet sauce. Periodically, trays of aromatic meats are toted inside to be sliced by the efficient crew overseen by Kim, Bexley’s wife, in the small dining room. Meanwhile, you’ve ordered and paid up. You look for a picnic table to share (if you’re lucky, there’s space at one under the shed—think of them as chef’s tables). You settle down and dig into brisket so succulent your eyes close involuntarily. But it’s the chicken (yes, chicken!) and salty pork steaks with pockets of buttery fat that will have you wondering why you don’t spend more Saturday mornings in Lexington. Rating: 5. 516 Main, 979-542-8189. Sat 8–1:30 or till meat runs out.



Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

Opened: 1963
Pitmasters: Kenny Oestreich, 52, Louis Garcia, 60
Method: Mesquite; direct-heat pit
Pro tip: The New Braunfels location may just be as good as the original—and it’s a lot spiffier.

“Blood makes you related, but barbecue makes you family,” said the camo-clad guy to a young boy across from him at our long communal table. It was three o’clock on a Saturday, but the bare-bones place was humming like Grand Central Station, nearly every table populated by smoked-meat devotees from near and far. If it’s your first visit, you’ll want the pork ribs, lightly glazed and perfectly porky, and the brisket, the meat tender and moist beneath a stratum of smoky fat and a coarse, beautifully seasoned crust. Or go for the pork chop, a pink, pepper-crusted behemoth that could feed four. That is, if you don’t get the hefty beef rib, which masquerades as a chunk of blackened firewood and then proceeds to melt in your mouth. Rating: 4. 604 W. Young, 325-247-5713. Sun–Thur 11–8, Fri & Sat 11–9. 



Kreuz Market

Opened: 1900 (current location since 1999)
Pitmaster: Roy Perez, 55
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat brick pit
Pro tip: BYOF. They serve on butcher paper and give you only a plastic knife.

We didn’t see pitmaster Roy Perez and his famous muttonchop sideburns on our last visit to the Lockhart institution, but the rest was reassuringly familiar. Rows of picnic tables ushered us back to a long, hallowed hall, and we soon found ourselves in a happy haze of post oak smoke. Kreuz (pronounced “Krites”) is a place where barbecue expectations are upside down. Your first choice should be sausage. Part-beef, part-pork, and all-around flavorful, it boasts a snap that is particularly satisfying. If you don’t fancy that, choose the remarkably succulent pork chop. And if you crave beef, go for shoulder clod, lean and tender. Only the brisket is unpredictable, often coming in dry and under-smoked. As for sides, both the sauerkraut and German potato salad have nibblets of brisket for added heft. Rating: 4.25. 619 N. Colorado (U.S. 183), 512-398-2361. Mon–Sat 10:30–8. 



Bodacious Bar-B-Q.

Photographs by Wynn Myers

Bodacious Bar-B-Q

Opened: 1968 (reopened in 2015)
Pitmasters: Jordan Jackson, 34, and Scott Turner, 30
Method: Mesquite, post oak; four different pits: vertical flow, offset, indirect heat, direct heat
Pro tip: The brisket is marathon-smoked for 24 to 26 hours. Get some.

Jordan Jackson graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, in Austin, in 2011, but he never wanted to be a chef. He moved back home to East Texas, honed his smoking chops at Stanley’s, in Tyler, and then made his move. In 2015, he took over the location of the original Bodacious mini-chain from founder Roland Lindsey. Then he enlisted another Cordon Bleu grad, Scott Turner, and they started upping their game, doing things like buying hormone-free Angus briskets from 44 Farms, in Central Texas, and making their own sausages (each falling-apart, gloriously greasy bite of the jalapeño version is a little different from the one before). The brown wooden building has a proper old-fashioned feel, with pictures of almost fifty years of the Lindsey family on the walls. Founder Roland Lindsey still stops in often to eat and check on the joint he opened in 1968. He’s entitled. In 2012, his daughter married Jackson, making the original Bodacious a true family business. Rating: 4.75. 2227 S. Mobberly Ave, 903-753-8409. Tue–Sat 10–5.



City Market

Opened: 1958
Pitmaster: Joe Capello Sr., 70
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: There are two separate lines for meats and sides; bring a friend.

The smoke room at City Market is worthy of a barbecue-lover’s bucket list. Tucked inconspicuously in the back right-hand corner of the building, its dark windows don’t let on about the meat magic happening behind them, but, boy, is it. The brisket on a recent visit was moist and flavorful, boasting a smoky, semisweet aftertaste (no assistance needed from the excellent mustardy sauce). And to our delight, the pork ribs were just as we’d remembered, with meat that let go of the bone when we bit into its sweet and salty crust. The sausage’s snap was almost audible at a distance, with an equally impressive pink interior that was juicy and pleasantly coarse. Rating: 4.5. 633 E. Davis, 830-875-9019. Mon–Sat 7–6. Cash only.



Smolik’s Smokehouse

Opened: 1989
Pitmaster: John Rodriguez, 53
Method: Mesquite and hickory; wood-fired rotisserie smoker
Pro tip: Go for the sausage (the family has been making it for a hundred years, so they know a thing or two).

Just off Interstate 37, Smolik’s second location (the 1989 original is downtown) is worth a detour. On our stroll up to the counter, we perused vintage knickknacks and newspaper clippings lauding the proud Czech family’s history of smoking meat in South Texas since 1928. They throw some beef fat right into the fire to burn along with the wood. It’s a trick to give the brisket the grilled flavor of direct-heat cooking, but in an indirect heat smoker. They impress with pig and poultry too. The ample pork spareribs had a barely sweet crust and ideal tenderness. The sausage was aromatic with garlic and pepper, and the plump halves of smoked chicken were remarkably moist. Among the usual sides, house-made onion rings and braised cabbage stood out. For dessert? Kolaches, of course. Rating: 4. I-37 at exit for Texas Hwy 359, 361-547-3700. Mon–Sat 10:30–9. 



Hutchins BBQ

Opened: 1978 (current location since 1991)
Pitmaster: Tim Hutchins, 36
Method: Oak (brisket only) and pecan; indirect-heat pits
Pro tip: “Texas twinkies”—brisket-stuffed jalapeños wrapped in bacon—are sold on weekends.

Four decades ago, when Tim Hutchins’s father first started serving food in far north Texas, catfish was king and his smoked meats were almost an afterthought. But along the way, the barbecue evolution happened, and now it’s tough to find a hotter ’cue operation anywhere north of Dallas. Wood-paneled walls and black and white photographs give the place an old-school country steakhouse vibe. Hutchins gets about a thousand hormone-free briskets a week almost entirely from Aspen Ridge, out of Greeley, Colorado. Cooked over oak and finished with pecan, they are cut to order on a butcher block at the front of the store, yielding black-crusted pink slices that are as spectacular to look at as to eat. Rating: 4.5. 1301 N. Tennessee, 972-548-2629. Sun–Thur 11–9, Fri & Sat 11–9:30. 



The Smoking Oak

Opened: 2015
Pitmaster: Mario Dominguez Jr., 40
Method: Oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: The pitmaster’s mom makes the desserts, so get whatever is on display.

After graduating from college, Mario Dominguez Jr. moved home to Mercedes, in the Rio Grande Valley, to join his family’s insurance agency. He enjoyed having his mama’s cooking once again, but he also found himself intrigued by Central Texas barbecue. After many barbecue “research” trips, he built a brick pit and eventually converted his home on Hidalgo Street into a barbecue joint. The man’s a purist. He even imports his joint’s namesake oak from the Hill Country. Fastidious technique is evident in everything he does, be it subtly smoked brisket with expertly rendered fat and salty bark or mountains of succulent pulled pork with a hint of sweetness. By the way, props to the fresh, tangy coleslaw. Rating: 4.25. 546 Hidalgo, 956-565-2246. Thur–Sun 11–4.



Manny Torres; pork ribs being glazed at Killen’s Barbecue.

Photographs by Jody Horton

Killen’s Barbecue

Opened: 2014
Pitmaster: Manny Torres, 44
Method: Post oak, hickory, and pecan; wood-fired rotisserie smoker
Pro tip: Fried chicken on Sundays pleases non-beef eaters.

Owner Ronnie Killen is first and foremost a chef. That training shows in sides (say yes to creamed corn), in desserts that exceed the norm (croissant bread pudding with tres leches sauce), and his restless quest for meaty perfection. One example is a recent dry-aged-brisket kick—yep, like dry-aged steaks. Not available regularly, said briskets are a treat, with a concentrated beefiness. But even when he’s using normal wet-aged brisket (which is USDA Prime, by the way), the meat is supremely tender under a nice, crunchy bark (although it can be dry). Everybody knows that his signature is the beef rib (stupendous), but the real aficionados get the hedonistic bone-in pork belly, essentially a sparerib with bacon attached. It goes beautifully with his mustard-based sauce. The building is designed with efficiency, not soul, in mind. Rating: 4.5. 3613 E. Broadway, 281-485-2272. Tue–Sun 11–8. 



Pody’s BBQ

Opened: 2011
Pitmasters: Israel “Pody” Campos, 42; Veronica Campos, 35; and Margaret Franco, 61
Method: Pecan, oak, and mesquite; offset smokers and a wood-fired rotisserie
Pro tip: Pody will show you his sheriff’s badge if you ask nicely.

It took the whole family to transform an abandoned laundromat into a barbecue destination. Inside you’re likely to find Pody Campos’s wife, Veronica, or his mother, Margaret Franco, tending the pits. Even his aunt, Erma Soto, helps out sometimes. They need to, because while Campos’s passion is smoking meat, he has another full-time job, as deputy sheriff in Reeves County. By 11 a.m., customers are queueing up for thick-cut brisket, monster spareribs, and signature green-chile hominy. You won’t need sauce, but if you like it tingly, ask for some of the West Texas hot sauce from behind the counter. Rating: 4. 1330 S. Cedar, 432-448-4635. Mon–Wed 11–2:30 & 6–9, Thur & Fri 11–2:30.


San Antonio

Brisket tacos with pickled nopales at 2M Smokehouse.

Photograph by Jody Horton

2M Smokehouse

Opened: 2016
Pitmaster: Esaul Ramos, 32
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Go for the tortillas, which are so much better than white bread.

In 2015 Esaul Ramos left San Antonio for Austin and became the lead pitmaster at La Barbecue. Now he’s back in his hometown with a barbecue joint of his own. 2M Smokehouse opened last year and quickly gained traction. Ramos could have done a La Barbecue copycat, but he went a different direction. The tender, fatty brisket is certainly familiar, but at 2M Smokehouse you can get it folded into locally made flour tortillas (top them with pico de gallo or spring for the house-made pickled nopales). The smoked turkey and pork ribs are both admirable, but instead of regular sausage, get the poblano-and-Oaxaca-cheese version. It’s another of the signature recipes that make this spot unique. Rating: 4.5. 2731 S. WW White Rd, 210-885-9352. Thur–Sun 11–4 or till meat runs out. 

The Granary ’Cue and Brew

Opened: 2012
Pitmasters: Tim Rattray, 34, Matt Coogan, 34
Method: Oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Go on a Tuesday for killer pastrami beef ribs.

From the outside, the Granary looks like hipster barbecue. The place inhabits a remodeled nineteenth-century house across the street from the brewery building in the Pearl development, with its pricey condos and upscale bakery. Inside, the place is sheathed in dark wood paneling and lit with filament bulbs. At one end is an anatomical image of a pig, its parts labeled in French. French! Curmudgeons who appreciate grungier spots where even the walls have smoke rings may well grumble. Until, that is, they try the meat. The well-barked brisket, though a touch dry, is incredibly flavorful. So are the pork ribs and the juicy chicken. A dual-purpose business, the Granary also brews beer, and Tim Rattray comes up with great sides like smoked collard greens and delicious burnt-end baked beans, not to mention desserts like bread pudding. Maybe the Granary has some old-school Texas in it after all. Rating: 4.25. 602 Ave A, 210-228-0124. Tue–Sat 11–4:30. 


San Marcos

Hays Co. Bar-B-Que

Opened: 2007
Pitmasters: Michael Hernandez, 43; Omar Serna, 44; Zach Junot, 26
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Beans are in a serve-yourself pot across the room; do not miss them.

You might find yourself pulling in here after a long stretch on I-35, not expecting much. Michael and Asenette Hernandez’s place sits on the frontage road alongside other restaurants you’ve probably never heard of. But two steps inside the door, you’re hit by a flood of rich meaty aromas and realize you’re one lucky son of a gun. The fluorescent lights and the low ceiling fade from consciousness as you dig in. The brisket has a smoky, rosy ring and dark crust with an almost sweet crackle. The jalapeño-cheese sausage will have you nodding your head as if to say, “Oh, yeah, that’s good.” The sizeable pork ribs may not quite measure up to the other two, but they are still convincing. When your feast is over, sit a spell in the restaurant’s Texas-size backyard, full of vintage delights. Rating: 4.5. 1612 S. I-35, 512-392-6000. Mon–Thur 11–9, Fri & Sat 11–10, Sun 11–4 or till meat runs out.



CorkScrew BBQ

Pitmaster: Will Buckman, 38
Method: Red oak; wood rotisserie pit
Pro tip: You know you’re in Texas when you can add pico to any item for a dollar.

Moving into a brick-and-mortar from a cute but cramped trailer was a blessing for owners Will and Nichole Buckman. Their numbering system is a blessing for customers, who can now hang out and avoid the line. It’s pleasant inside the new digs, with touches like canning jars 
for light covers and an array of vintage license plates. Finding the place is easy; just follow your nose through the historic neighborhood of Old Town Spring. We have recommendations, but everything on the menu is superb, from the Black Angus Prime all-natural brisket and the beef rib in a black-pepper jacket to the Duroc pulled pork and the succulent whole chicken. Visit on a Saturday to snag said chicken or a dino-size beef rib. And if you’re running late, check social media to see what’s sold out. Rating: 4.75. 26608 Keith, 832-592-1184. Tue–Sat 11–6 or till meat runs out.



The pit at Louie Mueller’s; Wayne Mueller.

Photographs by Wyatt McSpadden.

Louie Mueller Barbecue

Opened: 1949
Pitmaster: Wayne Mueller, 51
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: Call in your order to skip the line.

Many a barbecue joint is named the Shack. Louie Mueller could be the Court. Not only is its building a former basketball court/gymnasium, its place in the history of Texas barbecue is unquestionably regal. Its ownership is a dynasty—founded by Louie Mueller in 1949, passed down to his son Bobby in 1974, and assumed by Bobby’s son Wayne in 2008—and its inner circle has set standards for the realm, starting decades ago with skilled pitmaster Fred Fountaine, whose tricks of the trade made the barbecue a phenomenon. He shared that knowledge with Bobby, who presided over the restaurant’s rise to legendary status. But mainly Louie Mueller is a court because it has served its subjects wisely and well. It bestows upon them lavishly peppered brisket, beef ribs of monumental heft, and snappy house-made jalapeño sausage oozing with beefy deliciousness. Pork is treated with equal care, smoke penetrating every molecule of both the ribs and the shoulder that’s destined to become pulled pork. Finally, the enterprise’s size and character assure its place among barbecue royalty: vast rooms filled with a fragrant, smoky haze, walls cured to the color of post oak, an array of venerable wooden tables and chairs. Louie Mueller is the most enlightened of monarchies. Long may it reign. Rating: 4.75. 206 W. 2nd, 512-352-6206. Mon–Fri 11–6, Sat 10–6.



Tejas Chocolate Craftory

Opened: 2015
Pitmasters: : Scott Moore Jr., 53, and Greg Moore, 51
Method: Post oak; indirect-heat pit
Pro tip: The carrot soufflé will change your mind about what’s possible in a barbecue side.

Scott Moore and his partner, Michelle Holland, had a problem: their bean-to-bar chocolate business had a loyal following but not enough revenue. So they rented the oldest building in Tomball, roped in Scott’s brother, Greg (who just so happened to be a chef), and opened the most unexpected barbecue outfit in the state. They now serve, alongside house-roasted-cacao truffles, superlative smoked meats. The USDA Prime brisket is rich, juicy, and encased in a well-balanced pepper-and-salt bark. The pork ribs all but collapse with tenderness. The beef short ribs, available only on Saturdays, are damn near perfect. It all comes out of a double-propane-tank, nuclear-submarine-looking offset smoker Scott calls the Black October. Greg’s kitchen turns out sides that taste more like the work of a Parisian/Mexican bistro than a Texas smokehouse, specifically the tomatillo-based Verde Que sauce and cazuela-prepared mole sauce. As for desserts, well, remember how they started as a bean-to-bar chocolate shop? Rating: 4.75. 200 N. Elm, 281-892-1700. Tue–Fri 11–6, Sat 11–5 (barbecue).



Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue

Opened: 1959
Pitmasters: Nick Pencis, 41, Jonathan Shaw, 38
Method: Pecan; gas-fired smoker (ribs), indirect-heat pit (everything else)
Pro tip: Have a Breakfast Brother-in-Law in the morning and a Pork Brother-in-Law in the afternoon.

In 2009 Nick Pencis—a rock and roll drummer, two-time business-school dropout, and owner of Stanley’s—had an epiphany. He had driven all the way to Lockhart to eat at the legendary joint Smitty’s and, in his words, “to try to figure out the true meaning of barbecue.” Walking past Smitty’s floor fire pit, feeling the heat of the ancient ways, he saw the future in the past. He hired a new pitmaster, Jonathan Shaw, rebuilt the kitchen, and bought two new pits. Concentrating on ribs at first, Shaw came up with a piquant eleven-spice rub and a sweet glaze. They won “best pork ribs” at the first Texas Monthly BBQ Festival in 2010. With that under their belt, Pencis and Shaw next vowed to understand the true meaning of brisket. Their fanatical attention results in buttery meat with a thick, peppery black crust that glistens like a city at night. Today, Stanley’s is not just a restaurant but a community hub. Once you settle in, you may not want to leave. Rating: 4.5. 525 S. Beckham Ave, 903-593-0311. Mon–Fri 7–10 a.m. & 11–10, Sat 11–10. 



Harris Bar-B-Que

Opened: 2013
Pitmaster: Kelvin Harris, 50
Method: Hickory, oak, and whatever wood Harris can swap a chopped beef sandwich for; reverse-flow smoker
Pro tip: Ask for Texas toast instead of a bun for your sandwich.

A backyard warrior during his younger days in Oak Cliff, Kelvin Harris spent his downtime as a maintenance worker in an aircraft mechanic shop studying videos of the state’s barbecue masters on his phone. Eventually he opened his own place. When early critics of his otherwise stellar brisket suggested he’d benefit from cleaner smoke, he started discarding his old coals each morning. Now his brisket ranks with his YouTube mentors’. Our suggestion? He should focus next on the pork ribs, which taste fantastic but can be a tad tough. Other dishes are spot on. A pineapple juice–spiked sauce elevates his pulled pork sandwiches, while a side of pinto beans, finished with fresh tomatoes and scrap beef and pork, is a meal unto itself. Rating: 4. 220 U.S. 77, 972-923-0040. Tue–Sat 11–5:30 or till meat runs out.



Flores Barbecue.

Photograph by Wyatt McSpadden

Flores Barbecue

Opened: 2016
Pitmaster: Michael Wyont, 28
Method: Post oak; offset and reverse-flow smokers
Pro tip: Order extra of the homemade pickles.

When you see a red, white, and blue “BBQ” flag, you know you’ve arrived. Parked in a tiny patch of grass next to a hair salon, Michael Wyont’s popular trailer has been open for less than a year. On a stormy morning, we were grateful to be handed a sample of tender, well-seasoned brisket as we huddled under the overhang. The rest was just as welcome—the pulled pork was juicy, and the pork ribs crispy edged. Sides improved on the usual fare—chunky potatoes in a mustardy dressing, baked beans kicked up with bits of salty bacon. True, there’s no ambience, but as we sat in our rental car, eating the best barbecue in Whitney, we really didn’t mind. Rating: 4.25. 400 S. Colorado, 254-580-3576. Thur–Sat 11 till meat runs out.



Evie Mae’s Pit Barbeque

Opened: 2015
Pitmaster: Arnis Robbins, 33
Method: Oak; offset smoker
Pro tip: Grab a free Shiner from the beer tub while you stand in line.

Evie Mae’s shiny new strip-center spot has been open a little more than a year, but visitors from nearby Lubbock don’t seem to miss the food truck (conveniently, the new place is about a quarter mile from the old location). An early arrival meant we not only avoided a wait but also were able to secure one of the coveted beef ribs, massive in size, perfectly tender, and with just the right amount of bark. Ditto for the spectacular burnt ends, which actually bested the somewhat undersalted brisket. Three choices for sausage, including spicy green chile and German, satisfied everyone in our group. We pondered a huge array of sides and desserts as we moved along the cafeteria line, deciding on subtly spicy green-chile cheese grits, tangy smoked beans, and—to seal the deal—creamy coconut pie. Rating: 4.75. 217 U.S. 62, 806-782-2281. Wed–Sat 11–2 or till meat runs out.


Research assistance by interns Lauren Beccue, Cat Cardenas, Marisa Charpentier, Megan Hix, Lauren L’Amie, Courtney Runn, Virginia Scherer, Emily Varnell, and Katie Walsh. 

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  • Vanessa Beene

    I wish Texas Monthly would put these top 50 places on a map. I don’t know where a lot of these towns are but would be willing to detour if close to any of my travels!

    • UncleBleezy

      @carnivorecasey @tmbbq @TexasMonthly Brand new link, but this should work. https://t.co/zNsndsrALC— Daniel Vaughn (@BBQsnob) May 22, 2017

    • UncleBleezy

      @carnivorecasey @tmbbq @TexasMonthly Brand new link, but this should work. https://t.co/zNsndsrALC— Daniel Vaughn (@BBQsnob) May 22, 2017

      • TechxasRR

        Uncle Bleezy I see we share two interests! Can’t wait for the fall, using this list, revisiting Snow’s and some Red Raider football! (Hopefully a visit to Omaha before then).

      • Jay Magruder

        One issue: The Lockhart Smokehouse shown on the map is the one in old downtown Plano. The one in the article is in the Bishop Arts District of Oak Cliff.

        • Daniel Vaughn

          Fixed (they should both be listed). Thanks!

          • Jay Magruder

            Glad I could help.

    • White Pride Worldwide

      If you’re too lazy to Google the name of the place, you were never going to go there anyways.

    • FastRed

      TERRY BLACKS BBQ Barton Springs Rd –

    • bigpinch

      That’s why God invented Google Maps.

      • CRASH_Override

        God = Google? lol

        • bigpinch

          Well, it sure wasn’t Al Gore.

    • Michael

      Here’s my map. It separates out the top 10 for easy finding.


    • Wolfforth to Mercedes and Pecos to Spring, because excellent barbecue is also more widespread. A claim of “That’s great brisket” in Longview no longer has to be qualified with “for East Texas”; today’s pitmasters provide an excuse for a road trip to just about any far-flung corner. Once the term “Texas barbecue belt” meant the center of the state. Now it stretches far and wide.

    • the Black Angus Prime all-natural brisket and the beef rib in a black-pepper jacket to the Duroc pulled pork and the succulent whole chicken. Visit on a Saturday to snag said chicken or a dino-size beef rib. And if you’re running late, check social media to see what’s sold out. Rating: 4.75. 26608 Keith, 832-592-1184. Tue–Sat 11–6 or till meat runs out.

  • Mai Pham

    I know how much work goes into these lists, and I applaud you for the effort. I am curious about your rating system. Why not use a 10 point scale? What is the difference between a 4.5 and a 4.25 or 4.75 rating? What criteria are you using to assign the grades? Just skimming this list, every single entry is rated “4” or above. Curious about the places that didn’t make the grade and why.

    • Cody Smithers

      They are 4 or above because this is the top 50 list. The cut off was 4, there are probably some 4’s left off as well.

      • J. Meezy

        A bunch of 4.0s were left off. I’d be interested to learn how they made that cut.

        • Daniel Vaughn

          It has to be a 4.0 or better to be in consideration for the Top 50 (we started with about 70 this year). From there, we compare the individual visits, and start knocking places off the list that don’t hold up head-to-head.

          • J. Meezy

            Thanks for the reply! That had to be a tough process. I’d love to see a list of the 4.0s that didn’t make it.

          • brendanpittman

            Haven’t been in awhile but whatd you think of Sweetwater’s Big Boys this time around?

    • hhill76

      I wondered the same thing. An explanation of the rating criteria would be nice, wouldn’t it?

    • TXbywayofMS

      Search for Chet Garner’s Day Tripper Podcast. There is an episode where he speaks with the Editors and their rating system. I thought it was pretty informative.

      • Mai Pham

        Can you summarize quickly?

    • Jimmy Ho

      5 Super, 4 Above average, 3 Good, 2 Below Average, 1 Poor. Does it matter between 5 or 10? If you do increments, it doesn’t matter.

      • Mai Pham

        it would help if you all had an explanation of the grading system and how the scores came to be what they are. A variable of .25 separating the “best” from the rest seems like small margin of error. Also, the fact that some “4” ratings were left off means that there is room for improvement on the ratings.

  • Dan Schmidt

    Any list that ranks Stiles Switch at a 4.5……That place is so overrated, I’m not sure how a true barbecue fan could rate them so high. There is no way they’re on the same level as Freedmans or some of the other 4.5 slots. TM, I’ve lost faith in your list.

    • jake

      Lost faith cause of one place? Stiles Switch is incredibly consistent which is important. I really enjoy their ribs and brisket and they have some great specials. They deserve top 50 for sure.

      • TXbywayofMS

        Amen on that one.

      • jake — Totally agree.

    • Wes Anderson

      Stiles Switch is very consistent and they always have stuff ready to eat when you walk in the door. That is very important too. Oh, and Buford T’s Diablo Sandwich can not be beat.

  • Jay

    No Black’s BBQ (Lockhart, TX)? Wut….

    • Jordan Braun

      Black’s is garbage

    • Anony Mouse

      Agree with you, that’s an egregious oversight. Makes me think there’s more politics, or maybe underhanded cash-passing going on here than actual objective reviewing. Shame.

      • Daniel Vaughn

        Politics! Cash payments! Oh my! They forgot to give me a cut. Y’all are hilarious with your conspiracy theories.

        • grappler

          it happens, I own a bar and every few months the dallas observer or the ft worth weekly call and ask if we want to have them do a bit on us and they always want money to do it

          • Record it next time and post it publicly.

          • Carolkrobinson

            Google is paying 97$ per hour! Work for few hours & have longer with friends and family! !sv140c:
            On tuesday I got a great new Land Rover Range Rover from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. Follow this link for more information
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          • G_David

            Comparing the Observer to TM is like comparing Donald Trump to… well, any other human, really.

          • Race_Dissident

            In which case TM is the Communist Manifesto.

          • G_David

            And here you are reading it. What a waste of your life that must seem.

          • Race_Dissident

            Only for the laffs, Mack. Only for the laffs.

          • G_David

            Bless your little heart.

          • lisacole


        • Mickey Morris

          Good job, as always, Daniel. Looking forward to trying some of the new places on the list. Some of these people’s conspiracy theories are ridiculous. I guess they can’t comprehend that any “best” list of anything is subjective, and not everyone agrees. These attacks on the character of anyone who disagrees with them, for any reason, are absolutely ridiculous! Thanks for all you do, and for steering us to some good barbecue places. Keep up the great work!

      • KD

        The way it’s always the new “hip” places (cash payments) that keep on getting the press from this fishwrap is why their reviews don’t amount to a hill of beans— that goes for the Houston Barnacle, Austin Un-American Hoo-ha, and others as well. This is the list of BBQ to avoid, if anything. I see the author is very self-conscious about a scintilla of criticism—-Is that you, Obama?

        • Mickey Morris

          KD, undoubtedly you’ve never been to Snow’s, or Franklin’s, or Louie Mueller’s. Those 3 alone make your statement ridiculous. I will admit that from Daniel’s 2013 list of the Top-50, I have eaten at 30, including all in the top 24. For this list, I’ve only eaten at 18 of the 50. And, I’m glad some of the ones from 4 years ago didn’t make this list…and I’m glad that some received lower scores, and I believe some were given higher scores for good reason. This gives me the chance for a lot more road trips to try some great barbecue that I haven’t eaten before.

          • Jr Davis

            Love Louie Mueller’s for many years. Recently “found” Corkscrew and Woody’s Centerville(?), and we love both!

          • KD

            I have been to those places, and your asinine comments only serve to prove my point. You wouldn’t know good BBQ if it came up, bit you on the @ss, and said, “We’re here!”. Notice this PAID HACK JUST JOINED disqus TODAY in order to attempt to counter my truthful comments—obviously upset that I blocked the Village Idiot who was running around in a panic, attempting to defend these paid advertisements (if it isn’t the same guy). So anxious to make sure my comments don’t go unchallenged because you don’t want people to know The Truth, eh? Go spew your pablum to the sheeple who paid you to say it.

          • KD

            It must be Obama.

          • CarlaD


          • KD

            Only Obama can be THAT thin-skinned!

          • Mickey Morris

            LOL!! What “point”??? You have no “point”. And, why are you so angry?? We’re talking about a barbecue article that you seem to disagree with! And, is EVERYTHING a “conspiracy” to you. You keep challenging people’s opinions, and calling us Obama for disagreeing with you. Hey, you actually sound like one of the childish Libtards, who also can’t stand anyone disagreeing with them. LOL!! Lighten up, dude! And, please relay your superior wisdom upon us & tell us some superior barbecue joints that “YOU” believe have the best barbecue. I have yet to see that from you. Every “best” list is subjective, but you don’t seem to understand that…so, like a good Libtard, all you know to do is attack others’ opinions. LOL!! “You’re killing me Smalls!!” Smile!

          • Scott Fogle

            I work for Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ in Austin, TX and I can assure you that we have NEVER given Texas Monthly one dime for advertising, or to be on this list…in fact, Texas Monthly has paid us in full for every single thing that they have ever ordered from us…do you realize that you are discounting the incredibly hard work that each and every one of us on this list does, day in and day out, just hoping to be recognized by Texas Monthly? By all accounts, Daniel Vaughn has a very good reputation in the BBQ world and this list is respected on a National level…He didn’t get that reputation with a pay to play mentality. I cannot speak to other “lists” that Texas Monthly puts out, but this one is as legitimate as they come…

          • KD

            Likely story….. a “story” is all it is. Cry me a river, Obama!!

          • jake

            What is this good BBQ you are referring to that the rest of us have missed? I would like to go eat there.

        • Jerry

          KD is obviously the only “paid” hack in this group. I think he is either an owner/operator of a BBQ shack that didn’t make the list, or he is related to one. And just so we understand one another, I am neither. I am neither an avid fan of Texas Monthly, nor am I a diehard BBQ aficionado (meaning that I am unfamiliar with the subtle nuances in various BBQ recipes). But what I am capable of is sniffing out is a butt-hurt, whiny, safe-space seeking crybaby. Which KD here has obviously made about as strong a case for being one as can be made without actually wearing a sign. KD, you just need to crawl back under your bridge, there is no more trolling to be done here because once a troll has been identified, it loses all efficacy. Bye bye, little troll…

          • Keith Patrick


          • Jerry

            He is just proving my point…

          • Keith Patrick

            It’s perfect really.

          • KD

            Nope, I’m a real person, unlike you, TROLL!! LOL!!

          • KD

            LOOK at how hard they try and try and try to defend this drivel….. It’s so hilarious! ROFL!!

          • Jerry

            Thank you for proving my point, Mr Troll…

          • Mickey Morris

            I think, since he hides his profile info, he’s probably a 15 year old kid…totally clueless. Or, maybe just an ignoramus who never got past 6th grade. Either way, he’s definitely a fool. LOL!! And, he never did answer my question about what his mind considers good barbecue! He says he’s visited Snow’s, Franklin’s, and Louie Mueller’s…and according to him, they all suck! I am calling him a liar right here, right now!! Just a clueless little punk, probably having to hide his remarks from mommy!

          • Doc Last

            You took the words right out of my mouth

        • lisacole

          SO TRUE! I’m getting ready to come visit family in Texas and can’t wait to get to the best BBQ I’ve ever had in my life NOT on this list because they’re the REAL deal…not some pretentious hipster joint. REAL Texas BBQ is all across Texas in little towns these phonies have never heard of. I won’t even mention the place I’m going because it’s like going back in time about 40 years and they don’t want hipsters invading. Lol

          • MX King

            Lisa, stay in California. You would not know good Texas BBQ if it was shoved down your throat.

    • Buddy Cuevas

      Black’s can’t touch Kreuz or Smitty’s. Third best in town at best.

      • Stanley Cooper

        Locals know that.

    • Jay

      No way is Smitty’s better than Black’s. My family is from Lockhart and Smitty’s isn’t even worth noting, in my opinion. Kreuz is great, absolutely, but when I go back I don’t even go to Smitty’s–their brisket is awful and their ribs aren’t much better.

      • John W. Welling

        We had a ranch in Lockhart for over 10 years. During that time I ate a ton of BBQ. I actually think Smitty’s is best in town. Black’s does have the best pork chops though, without a doubt. Chisholm trail is also worth mentioning.
        And as cliché as it has become to say this, it still rings true to me– NO barbecue list is complete without a nod to that place out in Driftwood. Salt Lick BBQ. So good!

        • Mickey Morris

          John W. Welling, I have to totally disagree with you about Salt Lick. That is NOT Texas barbecue. It is a fun place to go with a group, and a huge tourist trap for people from other states thinking they are eating Texas barbecue. They have some of the worst brisket I’ve ever eaten…dry & totally tasteless. I can warm up brisket from my backyard smoker that will still be juicy & smoky & tender. They do not know anything about juicy & smoky & tender. Besides, they have 6 huge propane smokers that they use. And you can tell.

          • John W. Welling

            It’s fascinating how 2 people can eat the same thing and have completely different opinions. I have always had great experiences with them. I do takeout to avoid the 2 hour wait and I always get their chopped brisket and sausage sandwich. You’re right, their BBQ sauce is a honey mustard based sauce which is more of a South Carolina thing. But man, I love it! I dip my bread in it!
            While Salt Lick isn’t a top 5 for me, it’s definitely in my top 10.

          • Mickey Morris

            LOL!! I agree! I see the difference…you’re basically grading them on their “chopped” brisket & sauce. I grade them on sliced brisket and no sauce. IMO, any barbecue joint that puts sauce on their brisket is either hiding the dryness or trying to give it some taste. Being from Texas, I grade every joint on their brisket…and if they do beef ribs, I’ll throw them in there as well. That’s why, to me, Louie Mueller’s has been the best for at least the last 30 years. Day in, and day out, Wayne’s brisket & beef ribs can’t be beat.

          • Dominic Chew

            I agree. Real Texas Q has no sauce. If you have to use sauce, you’re hiding something. That being said, Salt Lick shouldn’t even crack the top 1000 as they’re not Texas bbq.

          • wade

            It’s almost ALMOST like rating food is subjective.

          • G_David

            Unless those 2 people go to the same place at exactly the same time, it’s not surprising at all. Barbecue, of all foods, can vary wildly. Especially based on the time of day you wander in.

          • MX King

            Salt Lick cooks on propane smokers. Same people who think Salt Lick is Texas BBQ are the same who love Rudy’s boiled brisket.

          • Michael Clark

            I agree with you, Mickey. I live 10 minutes from Salt Lick and rarely go there. Mainly for the entertainment value. Went to Louie Muellers one time with a motorcycle group ride, and won’t go back.. Overpriced and was not good. Day in and day out, my favorite is still Pok-E-Jo’s. Good value and always good!

        • Jr Davis

          (Smitty’s– is that the original Kreuz location, original name lost in the family squabble?
          If so, I have not been there since the split.)

        • Harold Wallace

          I’ll take Salt Lick BBQ anytime. This list is surely lacking. Moist, lip smacking, eye rolling good! Oh, and I’m a no sauce guy.

          • MX King

            I worked at Salt Lick. They cook with propane smokers. That pit is just a food warmer and for show. The food is good, but its not Texas BBQ.

        • Pete Estrada

          Salt Lick isn’t true Texas bbq. Chisholm Trail has since been sold off and the quality left as well.

      • Stanley Cooper

        You don’t go to Smitty’s or Kreuz for the brisket. It’s always been about the shoulder clod and it always will be.

      • The one thing I liked a lot at Smitty’s was the pork ribs (not that pork ribs are central to Texas BBQ, of course). For brisket & beef rib, we’d put Blacks’ and Kreuz’s above them. However, we’ve only been to each place a couple times, and early/late, etc., makes such a big difference that I wouldn’t want to generalize. For us, we go to Kreuz’s to pick up Jalapeno Cheese sausages, or Blacks’ to get some chicken to take home, or brisket to eat in.

    • oldtexasguy

      Black’s is disappointing, at best.

      • Ashley Clark

        Everyone realizes the one in Austin is the same family right? haha and it’s better.

        • FastRed

          Same Blood family – but – hugh problem when old brother kicked out the younger brother – so
          They opened TERRY BKACK BBQ on Barton Springs Rd
          The old brother knows nothing about BBQing !!

          • Ashley Clark

            I graduated with Mark and Michael. When I say it’s better I mean theirs haha. Super proud of them.

        • FastRed

          Same Blood family – but hugh family fight – older brother kicks younger out of the family !!

          Younger builds his own empire with his twin sons and – old brother try’s over and over to shut the younger brother down !!
          The older brother knows nothing about BBQing !!
          Sad / but the TERRY BLACKS BBQ in Austin is some of the BEST / you will ever try !

      • FastRed

        This is NOT the Blacks BBQ in Lockhart!!
        It’s TERRY BLACKS BBQ on Barton Springs Rd Austin !!

        • oldtexasguy

          You need to pay attention to which message you are commenting on. This one is about the Black’s in Lockhart that wasn’t on the list. Still, maybe you prefer you CAPS, YOUR EXCLAMATION MARKS AND YOUR IGNORANCE!!!

          • FastRed

            Blacks in Lockhart – sucks !!

    • Gigem

      We traveled to Lockhart and hit all 4, trying brisket and sausage at each. Our opinion: Blacks, Smitty’s, Kruez, and Chisholm Trail..in that order.

      • Jr Davis

        Spent many lunch times at Black’s in the 70s. Loved their lean, black charred ‘cue. I do not like the “moist”/fatty ‘cue of today’s Black’s.

        Reminds me of Rudy Mikeska’s Taylor place where I got 1/2 fat brisket too many times.

    • Mickey Morris

      Jay, actually I was glad Black’s didn’t make it. If they had, it would’ve been by name only. Their brisket is tasteless & way too fatty. And, I love fatty brisket from the point, IF it’s smoked long enough to render into the meat. Theirs is just fat cap that does not render. Same with their beef ribs…not smoked long enough.

    • James Winterle

      I’ve tried Blacks several times and find them just so-so.

    • Phil Ostrand

      Added Black’s in Austin. Pretty much the same, though I like the feel of Lockhart better

      • We’ve had two really awful experiences with the Black’s in Austin (NOT Terry Black’s, which we usually like, but the Black’s Satellite). Disappointing, since we like the Black’s in Lockhart.

        • Phil Ostrand

          Hhhmm my was great. Sorry to hear that. I would mention it to them. Can’t fix it if they don’t know.

    • Keith Patrick

      I was first in line at Black’s last July and it was incredibly disappointing. I guess the trick is you need to ask for today’s cook? Dry brisket, once I sawed through that sausage casing grease literally poured out, flavorless ribs. The chicken and the creamed corn, those were the highlights, which wasn’t saying much. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2e3eb14e7e922fcf4b4d6119aa1ea6264b57c8fa22f9d985380947fa7cc7dff3.jpg

    • CarlaD

      Blacks is seriously overrated. Dried out brisket, c’mon. Fooled me once…

    • Gary

      Yep, Black’s is #1. I’ve been to several listed, and none hold a candle to Blacks.

    • Pete Estrada

      Blacks is one of THE worst I’ve ever had. And I grew up locally.

    • Stanley Cooper

      Having eaten barbecue in Lockhart for more than five decades, Black’s will almost always be rated behind Kreuz and Smitty’s by locals.

  • yep

    No Creekside in Wimberley????

  • Brian Hodge

    Okay I understand no Black’s, but I have never found Kreuz to be better than Smitty’s. Both good, but Smitty’s has always had the edge on my visits.
    Also if you want an map, TMBBQ has a nice app for that (which I assume they will update with new list).

    • FastRed

      Now – go try TERRY BLACKS BBQ on Barton Springs Rd – Austin
      No business affiliation to Lockhart BlackBbq

      • Brian Hodge

        I agree Terry Black’s was very good but I have only been once so far.

        • FastRed

          Try again if you can get in you won’t be disappointed!

    • When we were doing bird photography in Texas, towards the end of the day we’d load up the Texas Monthly list (back then there was no app, just a Google Maps .kml file) and set sail for wherever was closest. Ate a lot of good food that way!

  • fpbiv375

    I’ve eaten at a lot of these spots. Hands down Louie Mueller’s is the best Brisket, Beef ribs, and beef sausage in Texas. It is ALWAYS as good as the last time you were there. No need for Korbuta pork or Wagyu beef. Pretty sure the slaves that started all of this years ago didn’t have the finest cuts, injectors or refrigeration to brine the crappy cuts of meat they were handed. BBQ isn’t about cooking top cuts of meat! It’s about taking tough crappy cuts no one else wanted and turning it into delicious and tender meat over low and slow heat. PERIOD. I am a Chef/Owner of a BBQ Company. I am passionate about BBQ because it is America’s only cuisine. It tells the history of our Nation, both good and bad. It is something to be celebrated and enjoyed with friends, family, and neighbors. I had the privilege of sitting with both Arron Franklin and Wayne Mueller. Both are incredibly passionate about BBQ and it’s history. I look forward to meeting more of these postmasters and trying their BBQ.

    • robizzle

      Try Vencil Mare’s/Taylor Cafe next time you are in town.

      • Katherine Morris

        yes – Vencil Mareš has the best turkey sausage and homemade tater salad. aaaand stop in at Best Quality Meat & BBQ in Temple – been ’round since 2002 and kicks butt!!!

      • Katherine Morris

        yes – Vencil Mareš has the best turkey sausage and homemade tater salad. What a legend!
        In Temple, stop in at Best Quality Meat & BBQ – meat market/bbq joint. Been ’round since 2002 & kicks butt!!! aaaand they have the best handcut, seasoned, marinated YOU-CAN-ONLY-GETTUM-HERE steaks…ever!!! A bit hard to get to ’cause of I35 construction, but sooooo worth it! https://facebook.com/bestquality.meats

        • Amy Waller Hill

          Please, let’s not forget Vencil Mares brisket sandwich on white bread! Arguably the best in the world.

      • Gabby Mares

        Must have to look for this place

      • bigpinch

        Vencil’s has the best BBQ joint ambiance, too.

    • Mickey Morris

      Absolutely, fpbiv375. It’s basically the same today, maybe better, than it was the first time I ever went there, 39 years ago. And, you are right…Wayne and Aaron are two of the most personable guys around, and are plenty open & sharing about what they do and how they do it. When I was having some questions about the end-taste of my beef ribs, I emailed Wayne to ask, never expecting an answer. He emailed me back with a couple of things to try, and explained everything he did. It worked…I can do some pretty dang good beef ribs now. I don’t care about all those other things in barbecue joints. This is Texas, where beef is king…and it’s all about the brisket & beef ribs. Pork is easy, and very forgiving, anyone can do it. It’s hard to mess up some pork ribs, and I think it’s practically impossible to mess up a pork butt. But, a brisket…to get it perfect is a challenge. And, it’s the only piece of meat I know of that is tough if undercooked, and tough if overcooked. You have to find the precise time to take it off…and every brisket is different. That’s why I personally grade every barbecue joint I eat at on their brisket. It is a must to do great brisket, as a barbecue joint in Texas. 🙂

      • Roguewave1

        I’ve managed to over-crispy the hell out of my ribs. It can be done.

    • Don

      Been eating at L Mueller’s almost 50 years, but after the last 3 times I have quit them for good. Not only have they failed to meet the standards of yesteryear, but the ‘que is simply not at the T-50 level at all. Some one at TM must have told them they were coming to judge and Muller went over to Franklin’s and brought it back. That said, LouAnn Muller (LA BBQ in Austin) makes some of the best ‘que, in fact I think its better than Franklin’s by a slim margin.

      • Keith Patrick

        That’s why the reviewers go multiple times, this was my La Barbeque experience in March 2016. Kind of reminded me of an HEB pre-cut. Certainly nothing I ate there was special in any way.


        • Roguewave1

          Mmmmmm, made me hungry!

          • Good point.

          • Nicholas Conrad

            This is the weirdest viral marketing campaign I’ve ever seen… but you got me, I clicked your link.

      • Colonel Travis

        Last time I went it was disappointing. I was legitimately shocked how poor the brisket was.

      • We’ve only been to L Mueller’s once (August 2015, weekday) and the Beef Rib was the best we have ever had. Brisket was also top notch. It goes to show how hard it is to have consistency in BBQ at scale, and how hard it must be to come up with these lists. In contrast we’ve also been to La BBQ once, and were disappointed. Terry Blacks, Blacks, Smittys, all seem to vary — although I’m happy to eat at any of them any time! Only place we’ve found where the brisket has always been amazing is Franklin’s. However, there are certainly plenty of places we haven’t been to!

    • Keith Patrick

      Well at least we have your expertise keep us all from going astray. I’m a big fan of the USPS too, the postmasters deserve far more credit than they get.

      • bigpinch

        Every rural post office in Central Texas has their own, secret spice rub. They’ll kill to keep that secret, too!

    • Dave Yakubik

      When BBQ began, there was no such thing as industrially-produced beef and pork. What was a throwaway cut from a random cow or pig back then was a much higher grade of protein than a throwaway cut you pick up at the nearest supermarket today. The economics of meat production have changed irrevocably, so pitmasters who are willing to pay more for healthier, more natural animals is a long-overdue adjustment that’s bringing the substance of the form back closer to its roots. I heartily welcome it and will gladly pay more for it.

    • Jefferson Rees

      Anybody know how to find the Honorable mention list?

    • MX King

      None of these postmasters are selling crappy cuts of meat and would not be in business long if they did. Same with any high end steak house. They sell aged steaks, not sirloin. You sound like an idiot.

      • @HoustonMonkey:disqus –For sure. Mostly Prime beef (or at least carefully chosen) at the top joints these days. I do think it’d be interesting to compile the “Value” list of places that do the most with cheap meat and pass the savings along. After all, that is how many of us cook (or at least got started cooking) at home. Especially for experimenting it is great not to trash $100+ of beef.

  • rockindubya

    Wright’s in Mexia. Had some this weekend. Only time I get back there is for a funeral. Every bit as good as it was in the 70’s when I was in school.

  • Allison Korenek

    Bodacious Longview at #4 is sacrilege – it shouldn’t even be in the top 10. Sorry, I know a lot of work goes into this list. But, that really makes me question the reliability of the ranking system or… something.

    • JDV

      If you are thinking that because of the 20+ franchises….you need to reconsider. This is a Bodacious in name only. The owner reopened the original location in 2015 after spending time a Stanley’s in Tyler. It is excellent BBQ and nothing like the other locations. Small menu with different specials…beef rib, burnt end boudin links, etc.

      • Allison Korenek

        Dude, this is why I specified Bodacious Longview. To be clear, I am not thinking of the 20+ franchises. I went, I tasted. It was disappointing. Stanley’s is kind of gross and dry, too, if I’m being real. We clearly have different ideas about what constitutes good BBQ – so, I’m glad you enjoy Bodacious Longview, that’s great. The venue is awesome, I’ll give it that.

        • JDV

          Easy killer. I’ve been to the original Bodacious once since it reopened. It was fantastic and many people don’t realize that the locations are all individually owned and operated (i.e. different). That’s all I was saying. I am originally from Tyler and have frequented Stanley’s for decades. Since Nick bought it and hired Jonathan Shaw as the pit master I have yet to eat a single thing I would consider “gross”. That sounds like something my young child would say. Yes, I have had a couple pieces of brisket and even their famous ribs that were dry. It happens. I’ve had the same at Franklin and plenty of other Texas BBQ giants. It’s all subjective and your mileage may vary.

          • Allison Korenek

            I’m aware the locations are all individually owned and operated, and also went after that location reopened. We have different tastes, and that is fine. I completely agree it’s subjective. Enjoy your next Mother Clucker – those are excellent.

          • Tom Servo

            Agree with you completely, JDV. I was just at Stanley’s last Thursday, and the brisket I had tasted like meat-flavored candy! I didn’t even want to put any sauce on it, since it tasted so good as it was.

            A favorite item of mine there that doesn’t get mentioned often is the bbq turkey breast – most places tend to overcook turkey and dry it out, but Stanley’s makes the juiciest, most flavorful turkey breast I’ve ever had.

        • Jimmy Ho

          There are two Bodacious in Longview you know?

          • Allison Korenek

            This is starting to get entirely frustrating. We went to THE Bodacious on Mobberly. I’ll just chalk it up to them having bad day – why not? Dry and unseasoned brisket, unseasoned ribs, meh sausage, and zero smoke. They’re the greatest, best ever Top 10 BBQ joint ever. Is everyone happy now? I don’t know why everyone keeps assuming I don’t know how to read a freaking address.

          • Piraeus

            Are you sure you went to the right one?

          • Jimmy Ho

            How long ago? They closed for a little bit and changed things when they reopened about a year and half ago. I can’t imagine a brisket smoked for 20 hours would have no smoke.

    • Allison, make it a point to try out Hickory Hill BBQ sometime. It is on Hwy 31, between Longview and Tyler, about 5 miles past The Country Tavern. https://www.facebook.com/HickoryHillBarbeque/

      • Allison Korenek

        I remember driving by that place a few times and we wanted to try it! Unfortunately, we moved back home after living in Tyler for a while before we got the chance. If I’m ever behind the pine curtain again, I will definitely go!

    • Daniel Vaughn

      The original location of Bodacious on Mobberly in Longview has consistently been one of the best places to eat BBQ since they reopened in 2015. I have no second thoughts about their place on the list.

  • Steve Wheeler

    Wow…. Pecan Lodge from #2 after Franklin, now out of the top 15 even. As my mamaw used to say…”Well I never…..”

  • Bob Bland

    Winners in Plano is an egregious oversight!

    • Daniel Vaughn

      I really like that place. They’re on the honorable mentions list.

      • Bob Bland

        Where is the honorable mentions list posted? I don’t see it anywhere on the site.

      • Jefferson Rees

        How do I find the honorable mention list? Thanks in advance.

  • Don

    I am not going to name the joint, but its in a small town on the Tex Gulf Coast. It was a Tex 50 couple of years ago. Went in, bought about $50 bucks worth of various ‘cues to eat when we got back to our RV…ended up washing off the sauce and feeding it to the dogs, it was horrible to the point of inedible. So either TM does not always get it right or when someone wins they sit down to rest or maybe they sold it…but I KNOW my ‘cue and I ate better “C” rations in Vietnam than they put out. Somehow they are still there, still claiming to be a Top 50, but I rarely see more than a couple of cars there the week we are there.

    • jake

      I know which place you are referring to, if I’m not mistaken the business was either sold or pit master fired right after the list and the quality was destroyed. I think TMBBQ may have even mentioned it in a story and that it is technically not the same place, just the same name.

      • Don

        Thanks for the update, yea, after giving $50 bucks worth of ‘que to my dogs, I have not been back and yes it was that bad…

        • jake

          This is in Rockport right? wondering if we are thinking of the same place. Here is the link to the story I was thinking of: http://www.texasmonthly.com/bbq/which-hatfields-is-the-real-mccoy/

          • Don

            Yea, its there. HORRIBLE, was not kidding when I said I washed off the sauce and fed it to my 5 dogs. We bought about $50 worth, brisket, pork, ribs etc, tasted all of it, nothing there was edible (from the standpoint of just good ‘cue) it was greasy, the sauce was horrible, ribs little meat all of it over cooked. Brisket so dry it was almost dusty…I lived in Phoenix fora while and they to have the ‘Top _____”, so I went to the #1 BBQ joint and order up a mixed meat plate…my first thought was meat with sauce they bought at the local grocery. I walked over to the owner and gave him my congrats on the the #1 BBQ in Phoenix, then asked him where his pit and smoker were? He showed me as he was quite proud. There was NO pit or smoker. It was as I had guessed, Roast Beef from the oven with BBQ sauce (Kraft Hickory) basted over it, nothing more…That’s OK, lived out there in Scottsdale for 6 years and never found a decent Mexican joint to eat at…

  • Gerry Jones

    As usual Texas Monthly thinks Austin is the center of the universe….way too many on here from Austin.

    • Oil in TR’s head

      Central Texas has a great BBQ culture. Not much you can do about that.

      • Jim Hawarden

        Agreed! Central Texas IS the center of the universe for Texas BBQ. I live in Dallas and, while there are some great places up here, there are nowhere near as many as in Central Texas…

    • Daniel Vaughn

      Ok. I can’t argue about our love for Austin barbecue (even as a Dallasite). When you consider the sheer number of high quality barbecue joints in Austin, it’s the best barbecue city in the world.

      • Dallas Hunter Van Winkle

        Unfortunately for your viewers it seems liberals run the best restaurants 😉

    • White Pride Worldwide

      Last I checked, Austin was a BBQ hotspot. El Paso is not.

    • CRASH_Override

      That’s because Austin is full of artisans. When they get their hands on something, it’s all about passion and craft first. I never knew BBQ could be so good until the explosion of it around here.

  • DanggoodBBQ

    Interesting statewide BBQ tour, but leaving out consistent top 10 contenders like Smittys BBQ Lockhart, Its All Good BBQ, Spicewood, & Kenny Smokehouse, Plano sure seem worth a closer look next time.

  • Meredith Chastang

    This is so awesome! Makes me hungry!

  • hhill76

    Here’s the thing. If you taste these BBQ joints individually, you’re going to rank them higher than they deserve because of a lack of comparison. I did a blind taste test last month with 5 Austin BBQ restaurants and Mickelthwaite was damn near last on my list. Stiles Switch was average, barely better than Rudy’s. And Cooper’s was right up there with La Barbeque in the moist brisket category.

    I just take pleasure in seeing that they haven’t yet discovered my all-time favorite BBQ restaurant and that it remains a small town secret. They’ll always have a slab of moist brisket waiting for me and no line.

    • Forrest M

      Taste testing 5 at one time means at least 3 of them were dried out by the time you tasted them. If you tasted Cooper’s at the same time as the others then at least 4 of them were dried out.

      • hhill76

        That’s nonsense. We purchased all of the BBQ within a 2 hour window of time, took it home, plated it with the names written underneath, and served it. If BBQ dries out in the wrapper within 30 minutes to 2 hours, it wasn’t good to begin with. Not sure what you have against Cooper’s, but in the taste test we did, it ranked #2 on the lists of 5 testers. I had one bad meal at Cooper’s in New Braunfels, but every other occasion has been great. With the exception of the cuts being overweight due to a huge slab of fat that tipped the scale, they haven’t done me wrong.

        • Forrest M

          Brisket dries out very fast once it’s sliced. Unless you bought whole briskets from each location and kept them warm in a faux cambro, then those slices were going to be various levels of dried out. Nothing against Coopers but Llano is 90 minutes from Austin. If you don’t think sliced brisket dries out quickly…but a few slices from your favorite place and eat half immediately and the rest 2 hours later. There will be a significant difference. This isn’t my opinion…it’s merely a well known fact in the bbq community. Here’s one of many links on the topic: http://www.texasmonthly.com/bbq/the-importance-of-resting/

          • hhill76

            There’s a Cooper’s at 2nd and Congress. And I don’t have them slice the brisket. We did not test with the ends. I’m not an amateur here. I know I look young, but I’ve got many, many years of BBQ eating experience under my belt. And frankly, it’s beginning to show.

          • Cooper’s in Austin and Cooper’s in Llano have two different cooking style. The Coopers in Austin is nowhere as good as the one in Llano.

          • hhill76

            And frankly, if your idea held any water here. La Barbecue would have been the worst, since it was picked up first and Stiles or Blacks would have been the best, since they were picked up last. But they weren’t, not even close. Coopers and La Barbecue were still good on reheat days later. I enjoyed my brisket breakfast tacos a good 5-6 days after the initial pickup. They were just fall apart, buttery, melting goodness.

    • jake

      so your order was LA BBQ, Coopers, Stiles Switch, Rudy, Micklewaithes?

      And I’m sure your local small town bbq store is super happy that you are not sending business their way.lol

  • How is Mike Andersons BBQ not on here!?

  • Oil in TR’s head

    Reporting in from Amarillo, Texas:

    Spicy Mike’s is better than Tyler’s. Better ribs, better brisket, better sausage, more consistent, everything. Sorry guys, but you dropped the ball here. Two other good options: Wesley’s Bean Pot and Shi Lee’s BBQ.

    Oh, and don’t eat at the Rudy’s. It’s terrible.

    • Daniel Vaughn

      Spicy Mike’s is good, but didn’t reopen (after a fire) in time to be considered for the list.

  • Wes

    You need to think about Taylor’s Smokehouse in Hillsboro. Good stuff.

    • Daniel Vaughn

      I didn’t enjoy it on a recent visit.

  • Cindy

    How is Salt Lick not on the list?

    • branchwater

      Because, while their reputation is excellent and their surroundings above average, their food is just so-so

    • Jon Curtis

      Just no. That place is a tourist trap. They put sauce on the brisket before it gets to the table.

    • James Ayres

      Has to be on the list. I mean total FAIL of a list without Salt Lick. Writer also was too scared to rank them.

      • Forrest M

        They were too scared to rank them? That makes zero sense. Salt Lick is an excellent outdoor venue that serves below average meats covered in incredibly addictive sauce.

      • Piraeus

        Why would they be scared?

      • Keith Patrick

        It’s on the honorable mentions list.

    • Eric Hicks

      Because it isn’t very good.

    • leoingle

      LMAO! @ Salt Lick. This isnt 2003 anymore.

    • White Pride Worldwide

      Umm….because Chili’s has better food.

  • Augustus McCrae

    I had the pleasure of partaking in the goodness at Louie Mueller’s last Friday. I thought I had been dropped into heaven. I’m sure the others in the Top 5 are great, but I don’t see how anyone can top his brisket. Long live Louie Mueller!!

  • Sed

    Luling city markets is better then blacks and all the other places! If you never tried it your missing out on some great BBQ

    • Daniel Vaughn

      And it just keeps getting better.

  • James Irish

    Remember folks… Texas Monthly is a pay to play list when it comes to BBQ, hamburgers or whatever. If you don’t pay their $1000.00 + entry fee and give their tasters free food you are not included in the taste test let alone allowed to be in the rankings. I know this first hand from the MGMT of my favorite bar in Austin, TX as when I asked why their burger was not included in the annual rankings of best burgers they conveyed that were asked to pay $1,000.00 by Texas Monthly just to be included in just the taste test not including the cost and labor of free food. Essentially these rankings are PAID ADVERTISING!

  • James Irish

    Remember folks… Texas Monthly is a pay to play list when it comes to BBQ, hamburgers or whatever. If you don’t pay their $1000.00 + entry fee and give their tasters free food you are not included in the taste test let alone allowed to be in the rankings. I know this first hand from the MGMT of my favorite bar in Austin, TX as when I asked why their burger was not included in the annual rankings of best burgers they conveyed that were asked to pay $1,000.00 by Texas Monthly just to be included in just the taste test not including the cost and labor of free food. Essentially these rankings are PAID ADVERTISING!

    • Daniel Vaughn

      Damn! Nobody told me, and I didn’t get my cut! Have you ever thought about what a convenient and comforting story that is for an establishment to put out there? “We didn’t make the list because other restaurants do it better,” doesn’t have the same ring to it. If anyone comes into your restaurant demanding free food because they’re from Texas Monthly, they’re lying.

      • James Irish

        While your funny point is noted its unfortunately far from accurate. I know for a fact that my favorite burger place has been approached numerous times by Texas Monthly sales people but since they do so much business it often becomes standing room only they don’t need a paid award to keep the customers coming in the door. Thanks for your opinion though…

        • Daniel Vaughn

          The people who sell advertising and the people who make the lists are different groups within Texas Monthly. Just because you buy an ad doesn’t mean you get on a list, and there are plenty of places on our barbecue and burger lists that have never, and will never advertise with us. It’s a comforting fantasy, but nobody can buy their way onto the list.

          • Scott Fogle

            James Irish, I work for Valentina’s Tex Mex and I can assure you that we have never paid Texas Monthly to be included on this list, in fact we have worked very hard for a long time hoping that it would earn us our spot and they have paid for everything they have ever ordered from us…everyone on this list has worked very hard for their spot…thank you for including us Daniel Vaughn, we are honored to be a part of it!

          • James Irish

            Thanks for your input Scott…much appreciated.

          • James Irish

            Not a fantasy but your notions are quite entertaining especially considering that your part of the Texas Monthly team and have something to gain by your assertions. I on the other hand have zero to gain as I do not own or work at a restaurant let alone Texas Monthly.

          • Piraeus

            Do you think little Snow BBQ paid to get on the list back in 2008 when it first appeared?

          • jake

            If you could provide some proof to this pay to play scheme at Texas Monthly I’m sure many of the local newspapers would love to run a story on it (or are they in on the scheme also?) I have actually been lucky enough to be in line with DV once or twice in the past 3 years and chat him up, and I’m sorry to report both times I did see him pay for his entire meal. Although once at Franklins I did notice that his free taste of the brisket end was noticeably bigger then mine. No wonder Franklins ended up at #2!!!!!!!

          • KD

            It’s hilarious how dogged they are to claim “I am not a crook!” (Nixon voice) LOL!!

    • Shawn Waldrop

      Right you are, James. Its just like when TM or D Magazine runs their “Super Doctors” or “20 Best Realtors” sections. They are called advertorials, in the print biz. Read the fine print, people!

    • Ringo

      Absolutely correct- There is a boat company in Abilene that has put out garbage for years, but they are sure to keep the boating magazines happy to keep the appearance of making a quality boat.

      • Keith Patrick


    • KD

      It’s hilarious how rabid people are on here that jump up to SWEAR they aren’t paid advertising!!

      Anyone care to pay me to clam up? LOL!!

      • Keith Patrick

        Hard pass, I don’t feed trolls. Especially those that can’t write.

  • Albert Nurick

    Epic list. Thank you for the amount of work that went into this. I was thrilled to see Tejas Chocolate appear in the Top 10, right alongside my long-time favorite, Corkscrew BBQ. I have a feeling the five-minute line at lunch is a thing of the past.

  • C.d. Gibson

    No Hoegemeyer’s in Corpus? Damn good que there. None better in Corpus Christi.

    • Daniel Vaughn

      I didn’t have a good meal there when I visited last year.

      • C.d. Gibson

        You apparently don’t like a lot of places others like. We eat at Hogemeyer’s often & have never had a bad meal.

        • Piraeus


        • KD

          Don’t mind these TM goons…. they’re in constant damage-control mode because people see through the BULL in their article.

  • They forgot Hickory Hill. It is so small, I’m guessing they didn’t know to visit. Small means attention to detail, though.


  • Rachel Grzymkowski


    • Daniel Vaughn

      It’s on the honorable mentions list, but definitely one of my favorites.

      • Sally Howard Pratt

        HARD 8 even make an honorable mention?

        • rickljgl

          I have eaten only 2 times at Hard 8 and was totally unimpressed. Maybe there aren’t any better BBQ places nearby is why everyone up there raves about it. But for someone who lives where there is really good BBQ available within 15 minutes wherever you happen to be in my town…Hard 8 just does not rate.

          • Jed

            Totally agree. Hard 8 has no smoke flavor whatsoever. Its all show and no quality. If I want roast beef, I will go elsewhere.

    • Monte Butts

      Went there yesterday. Due to a stupid delivery site that clogged up the line waited for 30 minutes in a short line at 1:30 while they busted their ass to get it done. TOTALLY worth the wait as every time I go. Props for the special of the day….beef short ribs that were amazing. Them and Smitty’s are some of the best bbq I’ve had.

  • Wade Hinkle

    Ditto on Black’s. Egregious. I’ve had 14 or 15 of this top 50 and Black’s threatens the top 10.

    • Jefferson Woodruff

      One of the Black Brothers has a shop on Guadalupe Street in Central Austin. that place is outstanding. I have always been a Kreuz’s partisan in Lockhart, but as i say the Guadalupe station meats all the criteria,

      • FastRed

        Try the younger brother and his twin boys BBQ on Barton Springs Rd !!
        O M G !! The Best !!

    • FastRed

      Very well spoken !

    • Christopher Huang

      you’ve had 15 out of 50… so how could you possibly say anything needs to be in the top 10?? You have to have at least 41 in order to do that…


      • Wade Hinkle

        millenial safe-spacer assumes absence of evidence is evidence of absence.


  • kgaustin

    There are bad drugs involved if The Salt Lick isn’t on the list…

    Other noticables are missing, such as Blacks in Lockhart..

    It is ridiculous that Kreuz Market is on the list, since the food went down 100x when they moved from their old location to their new location.

    • leoingle

      2008 called, they want their Texas BBQ opinions back.

    • White Pride Worldwide

      Whataburger has better food than Salt Lick.

    • Dumbfounded

      With all due respect, Salt Lick is plain terrible. We have family come in from out of town every year and the have to have Salt Lick. One thing I can say is that they are consistent. As in consistently getting worse. I rank them right down there with Dickey’s.

    • michaelbiggs

      There is only one proper response to you thinking The Salt Lick should be on any list of Texas BBQ.

      “You’re not from here… are you?”

  • Mike Flores

    Viewing this from my phone, the thing that stuck out was how few of these “top” BBQ joints conducted business in the last century. Not sure what the rationale was for selection, however, longevity should be considered – doing something well for many years.

  • mark ware

    Folks, you just don’t know how good you have it down in the Great State. What an embarrassment of riches. In central Colorado, the local Rudy’s shines like a diamond in a goat’s butt. Pernicious KC style rib chains are everywhere but that handcrafted flavor is only found among a few backyarder pitmasters. Understand that you are blessed.

    • Daniel Vaughn

      Road trip!

    • Anna Darrell Caldwell

      Agree w/ Rudy’s in COS as a stand out for Texans looking for BBQ in Colorado. I’ve also grown to like Burnt End BBQ in the DVR Tech Center (although not Texan it’s close.) But, like Tex-Mex, I think I’ve been away too long to know any better if Rudy’s is worthy of a two hour round trip. We are finally getting two Chuy’s locations, but trying to get good Texas BBQ is not easy.

      • MX King

        Rudys boiled brisket and ribs is not worth a 2 hour drive.

    • White Pride Worldwide

      Rudys brisket is pretty good. Everything else sucks though.

  • Herbie Hess

    Country Tavern in Kilgore? Best ribs you will lay a lip on.

  • J P

    They didn’t even mention Country Tavern between Tyler and Longview. Best pork ribs EVER. A certain Texas Governor used to fly a helicopter in to get ribs and take them back to Austin.

    • JDV

      I grew up going to the Country Tavern. 15 years ago I would agree with you. I’m pretty sure that after the son took over they got rid of the old smokers in favor of electric and made other changes. The BBQ has been really, really subpar the last several times I have been, which is sad. Also, their prices are outrageous.

  • chuckt12345

    funny how must of these BBQ’s are under 10 years old with young owners,, trendy trendy
    i dont put to much stock in this list

    • Piraeus

      You should actually try eating their food. I predict you’d be quite impressed.

      • chuckt12345

        ive tried a few, not saying they weren’t good, its just i think you have to spend money to be apart of this list and a lot of the old school joints do not advertise like the new schools so they are left out.

        • Keith Patrick

          You don’t. I can tell you with absolute certainty that no one paid to be on this list. I can also tell you that one of the top 10 has never spent one penny in advertising, marketing, or paid for media coverage in their 2+ years.

          • KD

            Honest Injun! Like anyone believes that.

          • Keith Patrick

            No one asked you to believe it, but you don’t speak for anyone else.

            “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.” – Benjamin Franklin

    • KD


    • Keith Patrick

      Almost 30% of the list is 10 years or older. That’s not about being trendy, that’s about an explosion in the Texas BBQ scene in the last 10-15 years. We should be happy to see so many new joints absolutely killing it and making some of the best ‘cue in the world. I’m a big fan of the free market, and competition drives the best possible product for the consumer.

      Vera’s: 62 years
      Fargo’s: 17 years
      Blue Moon: 10 years
      Joseph’s Riverport: 24 years
      Snow’s: 14 years
      Cooper’s (Llano): 54 years
      Kreuz: 117 years
      Bodacious: 49 years
      City Market (Luling): 59 years
      Smolik’s: 28 years
      Hutchin’s: 39 years
      Hays Co.: 10 years
      Louie Mueller: 68 years
      Stanley’s: 58 years

    • CRASH_Override

      What a strange position to take. Just because they are newer/younger they shouldn’t be considered?

      • MX King

        Young jealous kids who only eat at Rudys.

    • MX King

      Young owners and new places have to automatically suck? They are not allowed to be good??

  • goodwater

    Where is Vencil’s/Taylor Cafe? Venci has been smoking longer than any of these johnny come lately guys and gals.

    • MX King

      McDonald has ben selling burgers since 1940. Thats longer than all these new hip burger places. So McDonalds must be really good then right?

  • Matt

    I sure do love me some Hutchins! My go to is the one in Frisco though. Have you paid a visit to that location?

  • leoingle

    I love reading all the butthurt when these list come out.

    • Piraeus

      It’s insane.

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        • harrylime


    • MX King

      I like the butthurt and the “I can make better” old farts.

  • HolySheets

    Just came back from Turkey on 287.
    Check out Leeper Creek in Decatur.

  • Diane

    Stellar list! As a Houstonian, I often found myself having to travel for a good que fix. It’s nice to have pretty damn delicious smoked meats in and around H-Town now.

  • Raymond Flowers

    The listing here for Kreuz says it’s open Mon-Sat. They are open Sundays now, 10:30 till 6:00. They added Sunday several months ago.

  • George6112

    I quit paying attention to TM when they can’t seem to vote for the same chicken fried steak twice in a row. If it’s the best one year what happened to it year two where a CFS wins just because it comes with a fried egg on top?? At least the BBQ Inn isn’t in the top 10. It never was any good.

  • Lisa Rasor

    Opie’s in Spice Wood????

  • White Pride Worldwide

    I thought Rick Moon was a chick till I saw the name.

  • Ray W

    I miss Harold’s.

  • wsmith1984

    This list is pure bull…..and not the brisket.

  • Travis Fisk
    • KD

      Brits pretending to be Frenchies….. he truly did *BALDLY* go where no man had gone before!! LOL!!

  • Anye Freer

    Big D in Mansfield is IMNSHO much better than Heim in Fort Worth. Heim isn’t bad, and it may be popular because it’s in a hip area but the food is better at Big D. I’d include Big D over Heim on this list any day.

    • Monte Butts

      I like Big D’s and it is much closer to me (with a great beer list) but the brisket is super inconsistent. Many times overcooked, tough, and dry even on the fatty. I keep going back because again they are close, and when they are on it is great.

  • Kevin Seiden

    I think Tyler’s Bodacious BBQ is better than Stanley’s… but I don’t eat pork so obviously my opinions are based on their beef.

  • Lauri Bordelon

    Congrats to Mike and Cindy Thomas of 4 T’s in Forney, a well deserved honor! In this foodie ‘s opinion, you are leaps a d bounds above the rest!

  • Buck Rogers

    What! No Angelos Barbecue in Fort Worth. They got the meat! Best ribs going away!

  • Craig Hutchinson

    Hard to believe Franklin was un seated as number 1. Who is ranking this?

    • Mickey Morris

      Undoubtedly, you’ve never been to Snow’s.

  • Fantasy Maker

    I can personally vouch for Corkscrew BBQ in Spring- EXCELLENT brisket but be prepared to wait in line.at least an hour.

  • John Turpin

    Ponderosa in post TX not on here that’s nuts!

    • Keith Patrick

      TC’s Ponderosa is in Dickens.

  • I applaud TM, and DV especially, for their dedication and overall good taste. But so much of this list is simply subjective, and driven by a style of barbecue that was unheard of until just a few years ago.

    My rancher grandfather would not eat the beef and pork served at most of these spots. Even though his concerns are mostly unwarranted today, many of the true old-style BBQ joints have been forced out of business for not changing with the times, and those that have stayed the ‘cooked meat’ course are usually dismissed out of hand.

    So don’t worry about these subjective ratings based upon the tastes of mostly city-slickers (who are just as likely to rave about vegan fare). Enjoy the list, enjoy the spots, go to an FFA/4H fund-raiser bbq in West Texas or the Coastal Plains (or any town along the old Chisholm Trail). Reset your taste buds on occasion. Most of all, enjoy Texas Barbecue wherever you chance upon it. Learn to enjoy sauce-driven Bill Mitchell’s and Dickey’s.

    Eat more barbecue.

  • Kirt

    Rib Masters in Whitehouse is better than Stanley’s … no doubt!

  • Lesley

    Kat’s BBQ, Santa Fe, Texas. Less than a year old and making a huge name in the BBQ world around Houston. Best I’ve ever had. I take it my customers, and they say the same. Awesome place, and the owner, Andrew, is beyond generous with portions. The sides are amazing, too.

    • soccermomx3

      I’m in the area where this is and he was getting raves right off the bat. They have great specials too – like one of today’s – 2 BBQ sandwiches for less than $7 and each is enough to make 2 hefty sandwiches. I’m a spice ninny though and wish he would use less pepper. People that want it can always add it but those that don’t can’t remove it.

  • Michael Dominici

    No Black’s? No Smitty’s? Egregious and unforgivable oversight.

  • Greg Word

    Is this the top 50 “NEW” BBQ places or the best “Joints”??? Its seems everyone on the list has opened in the last 3-4 years, many in the last year? Far too many trucks and trailers on this list… How can that be a great BBQ Joint Daniel? Come by my place, I’m on Yelp Greg’s Burger and Smoke Shack in Dallas and I’ll cook you Some great BBQ to get in TM next year…. I could go on and on about the great Texas “joints” left off this list!

    • jake

      Did you list your backyard on yelp with your BGE or can I just not find your place?

    • Keith Patrick

      30 of the 50 on the list are older that 4 years old. Average age of those is almost 24 years old, average age of joint for the whole list is over 15 years old.

      Tyler’s: 7 years
      Franklin: 8 years
      Freedmen’s: 5 years
      La Barbecue: 5 years
      Micklethwait: 5 years
      Stiles Switch: 6 years
      Miller’s: 9 years
      Vera’s: 62 years
      Fargo’s: 17 years
      Payne’s: 6 years
      Lockhart: 6 years
      Pecan Lodge: 7 years
      4-T’s: 7 years
      Blue Moon: 10 years
      Heavy’s: 9 years
      Gatlin’s: 7 years
      Joseph’s Riverport: 24 years
      Snow’s: 14 years
      Cooper’s (Llano): 54 years
      Kreuz: 117 years
      Bodacious: 49 years
      City Market (Luling): 59 years
      Smolik’s: 28 years
      Hutchin’s: 39 years
      Pody’s: 6 years
      The Granary: 5 years
      Hays Co.: 10 years
      CorkScrew: 6 years
      Louie Mueller: 68 years
      Stanley’s: 58 years

      Why does it matter if it’s cooking in a trailer, food truck, the Cowboys Stadium, or the back of a ’73 Chevelle? Good is good.

    • JDV

      Name them.

      ….and FYI, Franklin started out as a trailer. Heim in Ft. Worth started out as a trailer. Pecan Lodge started out as a food stall in the farmer’s market. I could go on and on.

  • Mark Burrow

    Can’t believe you didn’t list anything in Waco, we have probably two that should be on the list. Show us some love !

  • Keith Patrick

    I feel real pity for some of you, I truly do. To think that after four years of work, thousands of plates of food (I’m sure the majority mediocre at best), unending conversation and critique, and assembling teams of people to assist, that you jackwagons would get on here and accuse Daniel Vaughn of accepting bribes is a glimpse into your sad reality. It’s not only laughable, it’s insulting to a guy that literally does one thing, he is the national mouthpiece for the greatest BBQ in the world. He has played an instrumental role in the total explosion of the Texas BBQ scene since 2013, he deserves a little more respect for the work put in.

    I have a bone to pick with all of the “experts” commenting as well. If you believe that “I eat at this place, and only this place all the time” is some kind of argument to discredit the aforementioned work, please immediately go to YouTube, you should be commenting there with the rest of the geniuses.

    I shouldn’t be so harsh, it’s not really your fault though, you just don’t know what you don’t know. You’ve lived your life sawing on undercooked brisket, or slathering cardboard with sugar sauce, or slurping down Rudy’s chop like it’s going out of style. So when you have Black’s or Salt Lick, or whatever, it’s a whole new world. And I get it, it’s easy to get emotionally attached to a joint. I’m nostalgic about the sauce and chocolate pie at Bill Miller’s, but I’m no longer fooling myself that it’s great BBQ. What you don’t realize is how many more levels of awesome are out there. You’re like a guy with a horse and buggy who falls asleep and wakes up with a Model T, he just simply couldn’t imagine an Aston Martin, his brain doesn’t work that way.

    Well I’m challenging you to go eat the list. Find a little excitement in the prospect of what’s out there that could be better. Could it be that the place you eat all the time is possibly mediocre? Maybe you just needed a little more perspective. What is there to lose? You’ll either prove yourself right and supreme master of the BBQ universe, or you’ll eat a ton of fantastic ‘cue, see our great state, meet great folks along the way, and you’ll be supporting the Texas BBQ scene and the fine folks out there busting their humps to feed all of us fantastic food. Maybe you’ll even come to appreciate Daniel Vaughn, since he’s literally eaten the list multiple times, and he’s eaten everywhere else that didn’t make it too.

    So give it a go, inform your opinion a little bit, broaden your smoked meat horizons. Everybody wins if you do.

  • RK Harm24

    Sherman, Tx. Cackle & Oink is slap your momma good. Don’t make me no difference but Ex Prez Obummer ate there once while visiting the area. http://www.cackleandoink.com/menu.html

    • soccermomx3

      Funny name!! I’d visit just for the humor in that if I were near it.

  • Christopher Walker

    I work for Southside in Bastrop. Even had the pleasure of being critiqued by Daniel a year or so ago when I was pitmaster. Didn’t make the list, and you know what? We still had business today. Amazing. Southside is the oldest bbq joint in Texas. We must be doing something right. Even had Ronnie Killen from Killen’s come in today and enjoy our smoked goodness. I respect TM and Daniel and if there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that BBQ taste and preference is subjective. I don’t believe in any big conspiracy, just one interpretation versus another. We will keep doing what we are doing, and props to all that made it.

    • Keith Patrick

      Southside in Elgin is an Honorable Mention.

    • soccermomx3

      I don’t see it as such a bad thing if a place doesn’t make one of these completely subjective lists (and I don’t mean just TM’s) because once a place IS on a list they can get so busy that the regulars – who made the place – can get shut out due to long lines and increased demand. I’m sure the extra profit would be welcomed by some owners but it also means a lot more work when it might not have been expected.

      • Yep. We were concerned that a couple “local” joints we like would be rated so high, we’d never get back in. One is on the list, but hopefully not high enough that the lines will be out the door all day.

  • Yohan Vigilante Beebe

    Kent blacks>hays county BBQ. Kretuz has pretty solid brisket. Chisholm trail BBQ has an amazing hot link

    • Kent Jones

      That’s a good debate right there in regards to bbq in San Marcos. For me, it’s a toss up/tie between the two places. Kent Black’s has better pork ribs, while Hays County has the edge when it comes to sausage. I’m not a fan of Hays County’s brisket, and I’ve never tried the brisket at Kent Black’s, so maybe that will be a tiebreaker for me.

      While you’re at it, check out San Marcos BBQ. It’s in Hays County’s old building on Hunter Road. The brisket, ribs, and chicken are ok, but the sausage is damn good, probably the best bbq sausage in San Marcos, and definitely some of the best Central TX style bbq sausage. It’s one of my favorites, along with the bbq sausages from City Market in Luling and Gonzales Food Market in Gonzales.

  • Jeffrey Wallman

    Texas has the best BBQ brisket in the world. But, IMHO, it is not the best BBQ in the world. Not even close. That is because there is a lot more to BBQ than brisket. Short ribs, pulled pork, chicken, sausage. Texas BBQ is not the best for these meats. Northern hardwoods provide a much better flavor for most meats than either pecan or mesquite. Hickory for smoked meats? Overbearing! Yuck! And, what about sauce? People have said to me, “If it’s good BBQ it doesn’t need sauce.” OMG. People just say that when their sauce is no good. Tell that to the people of St. Louis who consume more BBQ sauce per capita than anywhere in the world. Which Texas BBQ has the best sauce? Beats me. Travel the world and you will find BBQ everywhere. Texas has great BBQ, but no need to insult the BBQ of the rest of the world just to hype brisket.

    • Keith Patrick

      Are you not paying attention? Chicken, lamb, cabrito, variations of handmade sausage, pork belly, bacon burnt ends, prime rib, pork chops, pulled pork, smoked turkey breast, pork ribs, beef ribs, pastrami, I could keep going. If you think Texas BBQ is only about brisket, you need to eat more bbq.

      Also, the majority of pitmasters in Texas use oak, plain and simple. Mesquite gives people heartburn and a strong aftertaste. The real hallmark of Texas bbq is the perfect rendering of fat and tendering of muscle tissue for a juicy, flavorful, well-balanced bite. That’s how strong bbq process is displayed, in a bite. It’s true, sauce isn’t necessary, rendered fat, smoke, and bark provide the flavor. But a great homemade sauce of any variety can be a welcome addition, albeit not required.

    • DubYa

      Bless your heart!

    • Christopher Huang

      just like you don’t add steak sauce to good steak, or soy sauce to good sushi, well-cooked BBQ should be able to stand alone without it, and of course that’s how you’d judge it.

      Nobody judges a bodybuilding contest while asking the contestants to wear fur coats.

    • pwt7925

      Oh, hush.

  • Grace Matuska

    The TM staff obviously haven’t made their way down to Port Aransas to eat at MacDaddy’s. If they had, it would be on the list.

    • Keith Patrick

      Have you been to all of the places on the list? if not, how do you know?

  • Ken p

    1) I’m happy and sad, happy for the recognition of some well deserved BBQ establishments, sad for the extra time I’ll have to stand in a line.
    2) Not a lot of talk about BBQ sauce (which I don’t use), I’m guessing more people are realizing that really good Q doesn’t need it.

    • MX King

      Of course no talk about BBQ. This is TEXAS BBQ. If you want pork smothered in sauce go to Memphis.

  • Jane Boyd

    Disappointed that “Meat You Anywhere” in Grapevine not listed. Best Brisket I have ever eatten.

  • Robby

    I use to love Coopers in Llano. Every time we would pass through on the way to the Austin area, we had to stop to get some pork ribs, chicken and brisket. Stopped there recently and just got some brisket. Nothing but fat!

  • Keith Patrick

    I feel real pity for some of you, I truly do. To think that after four years of work, thousands of plates of food (I’m sure the majority mediocre at best), unending conversation and critique, and assembling teams of people to assist, that you jackwagons would get on here and accuse Daniel Vaughn of accepting bribes is a glimpse into your sad reality. It’s not only laughable, it’s insulting to a guy that literally does one thing, he is the national mouthpiece for the greatest BBQ in the world. He has played an instrumental role in the total explosion of the Texas BBQ scene since 2013, he deserves a little more respect for the work put in.

    I have a bone to pick with all of the “experts” commenting as well. If you believe that “I eat at this place, and only this place all the time” is some kind of argument to discredit the aforementioned work, please immediately go to YouTube, you should be commenting there with the rest of the geniuses.

    I shouldn’t be so harsh, it’s not really your fault though, you just don’t know what you don’t know. You’ve lived your life sawing on undercooked brisket, or slathering cardboard with sugar sauce, or slurping down Rudy’s chop like it’s going out of style. So when you have Black’s or Salt Lick, or whatever, it’s a whole new world. And I get it, it’s easy to get emotionally attached to a joint. I’m nostalgic about the sauce and chocolate pie at Bill Miller’s, but I’m no longer fooling myself that it’s great BBQ. What you don’t realize is how many more levels of awesome are out there. You’re like a guy with a horse and buggy who falls asleep and wakes up with a Model T, he just simply couldn’t imagine an Aston Martin, his brain doesn’t work that way.

    Well I’m challenging you to go eat the list. Find a little excitement in the prospect of what’s out there that could be better. Could it be that the place you eat all the time is possibly mediocre? Maybe you just needed a little more perspective. What is there to lose? You’ll either prove yourself right and supreme master of the BBQ universe, or you’ll eat a ton of fantastic ‘cue, see our great state, meet great folks along the way, and you’ll be supporting the Texas BBQ scene and the fine folks out there busting their humps to feed all of us fantastic food. Maybe you’ll even come to appreciate Daniel Vaughn, since he’s literally eaten the list multiple times, and he’s eaten everywhere else that didn’t make it too.

    So give it a go, inform your opinion a little bit, broaden your smoked meat horizons. Everybody wins if you do.

  • Slater0239

    Hutchins BBQ is AWESOME!

  • PJ Bear

    Rudy’s isn’t on this list? Either their quality went downhill..or the people writing this article don’t know what good BBQ is!

    • Piraeus


    • James Winterle

      I always like Rudy’s for good reliable BBQ, but I think because it is a chain, they don’t even consider it.

    • Keith Patrick

      He didn’t get it.

  • GGBM

    The Granary in San Antonio is terrible bbq.

    • James Winterle

      I know, right? They even mention in the article that it was dry. How did it even make the list? Big Bib need to be on the San Antonio list.

  • fooltx

    UNDERWOODS, hands down the best

  • rach

    went to City Market in Luling just recently. it did not live up to the hype. Brisket was plentiful and you get your money’s worth quantity-wise but it was dry. Sausage was average. Texas Pride BBQ in Adkins, TX…now THAT was great BBQ!! we’re talking fall-off-the-bone meat from the ribs, tender brisket, and the sausage was excellent!

  • Last Rational Person on Earth

    They need to slip out to 407BBQ in Argyle. Simply outstanding BBQ. Every bit as good as Heim’s. Has great reviews from Star Telegram and Observer.

    • Keith Patrick

      Maybe so, but they use a gas-fired rotisserie smoker, so maybe they weren’t eligible.

      • Last Rational Person on Earth

        They use a smoker that’s wood burning and gas fired. Would be a silly reason to keep really great BBQ off the list. Hopefully TM sends someone down to check it out. I feel blessed to have it in my back yard. I think it’s sort of strange a place like Cattleack BBQ get’s the #1 ranking in Dallas and #3 in the state, and they are only open 2 days a week, and only for lunch on those days. I’d like to try it but that’s a VERY limited window of opportunity.

        • mswarning

          They’re open on the first Saturday of every month now as well.

    • Jimmy Ho

      DV has gone out there recently -http://www.texasmonthly.com/bbq/argyle-texas-bbq-destination/

  • AMDG

    My thanks to Texas Monthly’s staff for a sublimely-mouthwatering article. My memories of the ribs and brisket at County Line (Austin) in the ’80s often tempt me to chase some barbecue here in my silicon valley exile; but I know by now that nothing advertised as “Texas barbecue” out here deserves the label. Even the most basic Shell-station Rudy’s beats anything the Bay Area has to offer.
    Texans, don’t ever take for granted that y’all have these places.

    • Yep, out here in Norcal best bet is to smoke your own!

  • John Fletcher

    No Elgin Southside or Myers BBQ….? Who are the judges?

    • Keith Patrick

      Elgin Southside is an Honorable Mention

    • KD

      Paid stiffs.

  • Irish Summit

    I’m hungry. I need some of this Barbecue in MN.

  • bigpinch

    No BBQ tour of Texas is complete without a stop at The Taylor Café. The atmosphere, alone, would make a can of Vienna Wieners a contender in this crowd.

  • peralez2383

    Rudy’s is better than most of th ose

    • RaidingTexas


    • Keith Patrick

      Delete your account.

  • RaidingTexas

    Daniel, if you’re listening, just curious if Post Oak Smokehouse in Irving (Las Colinas) got a visit? The couple of times I’ve been there, the shoulder clod was outstanding.

  • Lisa Wostal Smith

    Blue Moon BBQ…They didn’t mention the incredible pulled pork and their BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce is so good you can put it on or in anything and it will taste great! You can buy it and we keep a bottle on hand. The Ribs are some of the best I have ever had, and I loves Ribs. They have a side called The Bean Pot, that is pinto beans, Chopped Brisket, BBQ sauce and covered in cheese!

    • JDV

      Blue Moon is awesome and I’m glad they were included. I would have never heard of it if not for the fact that my company bought an oil and gas asset in Robertson and Leon Counties. Spent many a days driving down OSR with stops at Blue Moon. Cheers!

  • Chloe Rowles

    I have been a faithful follower of TM top 50, but THIS year, someone goofed. They didn’t spend enough time in Lockhart. When the reviewer admits that Kreuz’s brisket is below par and still lists them above Black’s, there is something wrong! Yes, judging is subjective, but THIS is a blatant miss.

  • sparrowAXE

    Truth of the matter, no one will ever fully agree on whats the best. I have personally been first in line to some of these places and agree for the most part. I have my specific meats I like to buy at specific places. For example, the ribs at Black’s in Lockhart aren’t worth the calories but the brisket is to die for.

    • Keith Patrick

      Maybe when you went there, when I went the brisket was trash. That’s why consistency matters.

  • TheJustOne

    This could be a list of a thousand and there would still be great barbecue that is left off.

  • David Yount

    pretty white washed list if you ask me. perhaps they afraid to hit the hood where the real bbq happens

    • Jimmy Ho

      I drove all over Houston for this list.

    • MX King

      Why would anyone want to go to the hood for anything, much less BBQ?

  • Bubba T

    Surprised Corkscrew bbq in Old Town Spring Spring, TX didn’t make the list. Have heard great things.

    • Keith Patrick

      They’re #7.

  • Michael Scott

    I haven’t been to all the BBQ joints in Texas but I have to agree with Mr. Vaughn regarding Roegels. That is some of the best brisket and wonderful side items (potato salad, collard greens….etc.) I’ve ever tasted. My question: Is there a list of BBQ places that were reviewed but did not make the top 50? My friend feels his favorite spot, Big Horn, in Pearland should have been on the list but we’re not sure if it was reviewed.

    • Keith Patrick

      You can search on http://www.tmbbq.com for reviewed restaurants, there’s also a map here http://bit.ly/2rNSueI that includes all Top 50 and the Honorable Mentions. I’m not seeing Big Horn, that doesn’t mean DV or his team has never visited though. He often Tweets about places he goes with quick thoughts as well, so that’s a good follow!

  • Mark Klapmeier

    I don’t know, man….. had a beef rib @ Julians in Corpus the other day, I wanted to grab another, don a bib, and curl up in the corner………… Coma time-

  • Rus ridge

    Pretty decent list except for Stanley’s Group of eight made special trip there. What a dump. Terrible service and teenie portions of ice cold food. I guess Tyler has pretty lax health department

  • four11posse

    1980 we use to drive from Ft Hood to Austin and on the way we always stopped at Slims BBQ just outside Austin. It was a tiny place owned by a black fella, Vietnam vet. There might have been 4 or 5 tables inside and a tiny screened in porch with 2 picnic tables. He specialized in brisket and whole chickens. You rarely were able to get chicken cuz locals had pre orders that he could barely keep up with. To this day I have never had brisket and his sauce any better. We may have been the only white guys who patronized his store. He didn’t serve alcohol but would let us bring beer inside to have with our meat and bread cuz that’s all he served. No side items. On about our 10 visit there we suggested he have some hats made cuz he had no advertising cept word of mouth. On our next visit sure enough he had baseball caps with Slims BBQ in them and gave all of us in for free. Really miss those days of cliff diving in the San Gabriel river, eating Slims BBQ and tripping on purple microdot in Austin primarily at Raul’s and Club Foot and Occasionally Madison Square Garden.

    • Rus ridge

      My brother lives in Westlake now Back then he lived down 38 1/2 St. Used to drive us to Slims when we came to Austin and it was damn good

      • Keith Patrick

        But did you also drop acid?

    • Dallas Hunter Van Winkle

      Damn. I take it the place is gone?


    I understand you have quite a few places to review but to have bodacious barbecue on your list leaves me to believe your research was incomplete. You left off in my opinion one of the best BBQ stands and Texas thats Grants barbecue in Clarksville Texas. The Grants have been featured on Bobby Flay show and Dick Grant has been doing Texas bbq for over 50 yrs and his daughter opened Grants bbq in Clarksville carrying on the tradition that Grants made over 50 years
    Don Webb

    • Jimmy Ho

      You know Bodacious is a chain with independent owners? The one that made the list is the original in Longview on Mobberly. Have you been to that location within the last year and a half?

      • DON WEBB

        Can’t say that I have been to that one but I lived in Lindale for awhile and did visit the one off I20 and 14 was good but like you said a chain store. You must try Grants BBQ tell Marsha Grant Tedras husband said so.

  • Rus ridge

    Hated to see Bartleys in Grapevine fall off list. Great que and super nice folks. Nothing fancy for sure. But rock solid food every time.

  • Terrence HILL

    whats needed to join this list…free food for the staff? or take an ad out in the magazine?

    I have eaten at some these places..but the newer ones in the last 2 -3 years..have not tasted their bbq.

    the best I have tasted and I am not from Houston…but there is place called Burn’s BBQ..I know you did not go by there because…well its not off the main freeway.. Lol..Not knocking the others on your list..Burns should have been listed..

    • Jimmy Ho

      I personally went to Burns. It was good that day. When trying to put a list of 50 together, you will leave out good spots. Spots that are even your favorite.

    • Roguewave1

      This list, and especially this time, where the author has personally eaten multiple times at each spot, must be a true labor of love. I can’t imagine how much time, effort and money over the years to compile this list must have been invested. I would get pretty sick of bbq if I had to do it, which would necessarily affect the judging. Although his opinion is just his opinion, it must be acknowledged that it is highly informed and therefore useful. Thanks Daniel and TM.

  • scotto

    Okay, @daniel_vaughn:disqus, but it is true that Meshack’s has been on nearly every “top in Texas” list you’ve published until this one, going back to Full Custom. I am biased because I have eaten there at least once a month for almost a decade, and I acknowledge that, but I have not noticed a decline in quality in that time.

  • Mickey

    Arlington – did you forget us? … David BBQ has been serving excellent meals for years … beside the tasty ribs and brisket they have outstanding side dishes including some of the most flavorful beans in Texas …

  • Annewallace1

    I am not sure what the judging criteria was for this, but I also know that Texas Monthly has a bone to pick with Corpus Christi and will not go there for anything. Therefore, they missed probably the best in Texas, Hoegemeyer’s BBQ. Texas Monthly may have determined their list by advertisers.

  • Aaron Lavender

    How could you leave Iron Works BBQ in Austin out?

    • Keith Patrick
      • Aaron Lavender

        They have fantastic Chili. Probably some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Brisket is always moist. Love their ribs. I’m not saying they’re the best in Texas, but at least they should have been listed under Austin. There’s so many fantastic BBQ joints in Texas, you just have to get down to the nitty gritty to rank them above each other.

  • 20pizzapies

    “Worst BBQ in Texas “, on the westbound side of I-10 just on the western edge of San Antone . Best BBQ I ever had .

  • ar

    Anybody know when the TM Que app will reflect the new list? Is it even still supported?

    • Keith Patrick

      The app is dead at this point. But DV has indicated that they plan to relaunch it.

      • ar


  • ar

    Anyone know when the TM Q app will reflect the new list?

  • Mandy Kay Ammons

    Outlaw. BbQ in lonestar tx is great if yall are in the nieghborhood

  • Mandy Kay Ammons

    I love BbQ

  • Travis Fisk

    Once upon a time, the Salt Lick used to be worth going to when they put out decent BBQ. Now it’s all about making mass amounts of food for the hoards of locals that don’t know any better.

    • MX King

      Salt Lick uses propanes smokers. That should be an automatic DQ.

      • Travis Fisk

        Who told you that?

        It may not be what it used to be, but they still smoke their meat in the open pits.

  • Carolkrobinson

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  • Bill Nichols


  • Rcanderson

    Luling City Market for sure. Was there in 1983 and again in 1999. Best barbecue I’ve ever had. Hope to get back there later this year. Yeah, it’s that memorable.

    • Keith Patrick

      I thought that too when I went back in 1999, but the rest of the state has really upped its game.

  • JDV

    @daniel_vaughn:disqus cool to see Vera’s in Brownsville on the list. I believe it is the only commercial spot in Texas that is still allowed to cook true, authentic cow head for barbacoa.

  • Michael
  • Jim

    “Taste” is in the mouth of the eater……like “Beauty” is in the eye of the beholder

  • Paul

    is there any chance all of these are mapped out on a map of Texas? Planning a road trip in and around Austin in July, had many of them on my list but would love to see all 50 of these plotted on a map!

  • Suzy Baker Thorby

    I have to nominate Meat You Anywhere in Grapevine. We had a little family debate concerning which BBQ was better, Pecan Lodge or Meat You Anywhere so my daughter and I set up a blind tasting for husbands, boyfriends and sons, Meat You Anywhere had the unanimous win. We didn’t have a loser that day, we were all pretty happy!

  • mark ware

    Tootsie Tomanetz…. now folks, right there is a beautiful woman. I’d sure be proud to have her as friend. I remember a story my old Momma told me about a barbecue joint in the hill country that she went into back in the 40’s. Out back under a live oak were some picnic tables and at one of them sat four cowboys with their hats pushed back on their heads, elbows on the table, steadily eating their barbecue. That’s a picture of Texas I’ll always carry.

  • BeeBop-a-LooBa

    Soon to be on tha list……Mine….homemade, Shiner required!!

  • Aardvark

    What?! McRib didn’t make the list? I can’t trust the rest of the list now.

  • Rik Rodriguez

    Has anyone made a google map of these ?

  • Monte Butts

    What about Naaman’s in Texarkana? Have you been since 2014?

    For us it was always a must stop when we were living in Mississippi on the way back and forth to DFW. That brisket never disappoints.

  • dman1000

    As of 5/27, Snow’s is now $20/pound, so the review needs to be updated. Everything seemed too dry too. Definitely not as good as Franklin’s but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they had to prepare for a much larger than normal crowd given that the review just hit. I did see Franklin and Governor Perry there congratulating Tootsie which was cool.

  • subtext9

    As my Mom used to say: “You missed a spot.”

  • Charlie Salas

    Come on, really? Smitty’s is the best! Not even a mention! Franklin is all hype! Black’s is not good!

  • Raul Casarez

    I can’t believe… Swinging doors in Richmond, Texas isn’t on this list. It beats all the places mentioned for Houston, Texas… by a long shot

  • Eric Keller

    And the Beast in Paris, France!

  • Roguewave1

    Let me be the heretic in this crowd…the sauce on brisket is vitally important. Brisket without a good sauce is like pancakes without syrup, yet no rating or even mention is made in the article. Some of the highly rated ‘ques here that I have sampled have truly reprehensible sauces on the table. Makes me want to bring my own, which I have been known to do. The sauce from Earl’s Barbeque in Houston is one I would recommend for beef and that from Luling City Market (mustard based) for sausage, for instance. Pork ribs are best w/o sauce and prepared dry-rubbed by my tastes. North Carolina sauce is a shooting offense.

  • Jefferson Rees

    Anyone- Any idea where the Honorable Mention List is?

  • Roguewave1

    Next up for Texas Monthly has to be a list of the state’s best Tex-Mex restaurants. I would sign up for a spotter position, but I warn that I leave without tasting if their cheese enchiladas are listed in the menu with “chili gravy,” which eliminates 95% of them right off the bat.

  • Linda M. Lee

    Love Texas- love Texas Monthly. However, I find it difficult to be enthused
    or impressed by an issue devoted to all things BBQ, especially in juxtaposition
    to the scary cuts to school nutrition programs occurring at the federal level. There’s something very wrong w /this picture.

    I’m also dismayed by the lack of honorees who are people of color. Best BBQ in Fort Worth is an authentic “hole-in –the-wall” on East Berry- Robinson’s BBQ,
    rather than a hip & trendy “craft meat” location. At Robinson’s the secret’s in the sauce- thick & sweet w/ a kick that creeps up on you.

    • Keith Patrick

      You seem to be intimating that BBQ is unhealthy, perhaps its time for our society to stop pretending that low fat, low calorie, high sugar foods are good for our children. It’s time to accept that there are alternative ways of eating that are much healthier than the restrictive diets through which federal school nutrition programs attempt to legislate obesity.

      Also, lighten up. BBQ makes people happy, the issue comes out every four years, and BBQ is intensely difficult to produce at the standards now demanded. The people that make it well deserve their moment in the sun, regardless of their color. If the food is good enough it will demand attention.

  • G_David

    Just finished the cover story of the print edition. The photography alone could be considered soft-core porn.

  • Cameron Kinvig

    Texas Monthly Gets it Way Wrong on Pecan Lodge

    If you know us, you know we’re huge fans of Texas BBQ. We love brisket and beef ribs, pork ribs and sausage. We’re OK eating pulled pork, and chicken if we have to. In our opinion, smoked turkey, pork steaks, and any manner of other smoked meats may be tasty, but don’t deserve to be included in the pantheon of Texas BBQ. We like authentic, beginning with beef and going from there.

    Whenever we travel, we try to visit local BBQ establishments to see whether they live up to the high standards set by our local favorite –Pecan Lodge. Now, we will disclose that we frequent Pecan Lodge all the time, and have for years. But when they first came onto the scene, we were skeptical–surely they weren’t as good or as consistent as everyone said. Come to find out, they were. And we sing their praises to anyone who will listen, just like we aren’t afraid to call out a death in the BBQ family when a staple like Lockhart Smokehouse loses its way (although not according to Texas Monthly). That’s why we were so surprised when Texas Monthly recently came out with its list of Texas’ 50-best BBQ joints, and knocked Pecan Lodge from its previous rank of #2 to completely out of the top 20. An utter travesty we say, and here’s why.

    First, let’s look at the establishment listed at #1 on the list–Snow’s. Now, don’t get us wrong, we’ve heard amazing things about Snow’s for years. How they have the best brisket. How it is so much better than anyone else’s. How their extra-moist cut makes you see God. How they are only open . . .

    Read more at:


    • Daniel Vaughn (editor) lives in Dallas, and he frequents it all the time.

      • Cameron Kinvig

        So I guess he lives in Dallas and got it way wrong on Pecan Lodge then. Even worse. :0)

  • GadjetGriller

    Ummm They seem to have skipped over Lubbock Tx?? Usually at least Tom & bingo’s merits a mention. Now though there is “The shack BBQ” some of the best Ribs I have ever had, Evie Mae’s Pit BBQ (started out great Have gone down in quality since opening but still good) and then there is the Quirky yet very good Chopped and Sliced BBQ. All (ok maybe not Tom&Bingo’s) should be good enough for inclusion to Texas top 50 BBQ’s

    • Keith Patrick

      I’m thinking maybe you need to read more closely? Evie Mae’s is #9, and their bbq is fantastic. I’ve eaten there weekly since early in their trailer days and I can confidently say their quality has increased significantly over time. That’s an impressive feat considering they’ve increased cooking capacity by a factor of 12 since those early days.

      • GadjetGriller

        I’ll admit I stopped looking after they skipped Lubbock. I just lump Lubbock and Wolfforth together. My mistake on that one. The 1st time I went it was fantastic. Then tried to go back a few other times and they were closed. Sunday and Monday are the 2 days I really crave BBQ. Sunday you can smell people grilling in their backyards and it holds over to Monday Lunch time. Then (which is good for them) Went on the days they are actually open and the line was out the door. Cant wait that long on my lunch hour. I’ll go back at the right time and I’m sure it will be great.

        • Keith Patrick

          I don’t understand how you can say they’ve “gone down in quality since opening but still good” if you haven’t been and the line is admittedly out the door. Sunday and Monday are their only days off, they have a small staff and have to spend all day Tuesday prepping. They have a sandwich line with all but sliced brisket and burnt ends available, there’s rarely a wait for that line so it’s a good quick lunch option. You can also place bulk orders (5lb minimum) in that line. Just for reference, the line from standing at the door to getting meat is usually about 25 minutes, so not too shabby.

          • GadjetGriller

            Its nice for Them that they have such a good friend in you! Ok you talked me into it. I’ll go and try it again. I did not know about the sandwich line (good idea on their part) The time I was there and it was ok was right as they were running out of everything (according to the whiteboard) so I probably didn’t get their best. See you there. 🙂

      • GadjetGriller

        Ok just wondering I don’t see any ranking (numbers) may be something that is just in the Mag? I did see the score (with 5 being the highest and Snow got that of course down around Austin) Didn’t really look that hard the 1st time but did notice that Evie Mae’s got a 4.75 Along with Franklin’s and a few others. So TM agrees with your assessment. I need to go back and try again.

    • Texas Monthly did visit the places you mentioned.

      • Yes if your talking about the BBQ in Wolfforth I stopped looking after not seeing Lubbock (Wolfforth is a tiny town on the outskirts of Lubbock, just think of them as Lubbock) if your talking about The shack they did 2 years ago right after they opened. now they have expanded and are much better. But thanks for the heads up.

        • Texas Monthly stopped at The Shack (yes, DV did do a review a few years) and Tom Bingo (former top 50) in research of this list. It was done earlier in the year.

          • Ok I guess my tastes have always been a little different than everybody else. To Bad The shack didn’t make the list but as long as they had a chance. Its probably a good thing Tom & Bingo’s didn’t Their prices seem high, to everybody I talk to, always wondered if it was due to the TM write up? (Admittedly I didn’t try them until after the write up, dang good brisket though)

  • Eli Sanders

    Here is a map of all of them I put together for myself and thought I would share it.

  • Kenny

    There is a place in Freeport called Sista White’s Cafe that should be in this list!

  • Laura Villarreal

    I can’t believe this list if Salt Lick didn’t make the cut! It should be ranked in the top ten!

  • lisacole

    Hipster list. REAL Texas BBQ is in small towns all across Texas with no desire to win accolades. They keep it traditional and to themselves. Lol

    • Keith Patrick

      So knowing about great bbq makes it unworthy? I’m pretty the hipster population is pretty low in Wolfforth, Pecos, and Amarillo, to name a few. Great bbq is found by people looking for it and word spreads. I desperately hope there are undiscovered places out there, but if there are it doesn’t make this list less valid.

  • Leon A.

    In Houston, Killen’s has most likely the best meat but their sauces are pretty bad in my opinion. The best sauce in town is by far the one over at Goode Company. In Texas, there are many BBQ joints that know how to smoke a pretty good brisket, many times the trick is in the sauce and the vast majority of those are just ok or mediocre but not so with Jim Goode’s recipe which has bits of the smoky beef on it and a real texture (unlike many that are smooth as the high-fructose corn syrup that they use to make it. Too many of these places tout Post Oak or Hickory as such a big deal when in Texas, Mesquite grows like weed. Mesquite has a unique fantastic flavor and I definitely would grill and smoke with it over any other wood, specially for beef and ribs. I don’t know what the magazine’s criteria is but when I go to a BBQ place, it is for the overall quality of the food. The tender meat with crispy edges and a sauce that doesn’t taste is if it were processed. Many places use tomato ketchup, corn syrup and even corn starch on their sauces. That sort of nastiness with the ingredients doesn’t fly with me.

  • dis666

    Rather than read all 50 reviews, I just sought out the highest rated, Snow’s. The review was poorly written, telling almost nothing about the style or flavor of anything. When I read about barbecue, I need to know about the rub, the tenderness, the smoke. I plan to travel to Texas from this steamed pulled pork with sweet spaghetti sauce poured over it wasteland of barbecue called North Carolina, so I’m wanting some details, more specifically “meatails”. The word succulent was there, but little else. I don’t care much about the topography of the landscape along the road, the color of the building, or how often the cooks poke the meat. The review was 90% filler. I rate the reviewer 2.5.

    • I don’t think that was the purpose. You can only print so much in a magazine.

  • dis666

    Zagat and a couple of other lists put Black’s in Lockhart at the top, with Snow’s around 5th. Does Texas Monthly have a “beef” with Black’s?

  • MGMMEI17

    Brown’s BBQ truck in Austin along S. Lamar is the best brisket in Austin. I’ve been to Franklin and others in Austin, but Brown’s is better.

  • Mark Machado

    Psst. An’t no Bill Miller’s? Don’t talk to me. hehehe. J/K

  • Edgar

    I do not see Elgin, Texas on the list. I thought our nickname was Capitol Sausage of Texas. We have Meyers and Southside.

  • Kozmo

    Is there any reason for TM to run this feature *every year,* except to bump up circulation for a month? Honestly, explain please.