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Dining Guide

The Smoking Oak

Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

In an area where most barbecue joints offer tacos along with beans and rice, Mario Dominguez Jr., owner of The Smoking Oak, wanted to bring a flavor of Central Texas to the Valley rather than duplicating what was already here. He may be from Mercedes, but his barbecue schooling is straight out of Austin. The brisket is a stunner; tender, well-seasoned, and juicy, no matter which end it was cut from. The brisket is not just good for the Valley, it would hold up in Central Texas too. Praise for the pork shoulder, however, need not be bound by state lines. Every tender chunk of meat and bark is warmly embraced by luscious pork fat. Smoke and spices mingle amongst morsels of meat that a blind man would swear had been smoked confit. This is barbecue that makes you want to close your eyes so your mouth doesn’t get distracted.

City: Mercedes


Method: oak in an indirect heat pit

Pitmaster: Mario Dominguez Jr.

Price: $

Rating: ★★★★

Address: 546 Hidalgo St., Mercedes, TX, 78570

Hours: W-Sun 11-4

Phone: (956) 565-2246

Year Opened: 2015

Last updated: November 12, 2015


  • janet

    I’ve heard feedback regarding the sides not being “local”, but as a local I appreciate something other than the usual Spanish rice and charro beans. Their baked beans are the perfect combo with the mouth watering brisket! Did I forget they even include a coupon at our supermarket for an extra 1/4 pounds of meat?!?!

  • Alex

    Fantastic BBQ for South Texas. The food is unparalleled down here, maybe with the exception of Rio Grande Grill in Harlingen. I’ve been waiting for the RGV to get a quality BBQ place that doesn’t serve overcooked brisket. Their ribs are also some of the best I’ve ever had, and their quality is consistent no matter what day you go. Definitely the standard now for the region.


    A slice of central Texas in the middle of the Rio Grande Valley, SO’s bbq is easily the best in the valley. After reading this review I had to find out for myself and we were not disappointed, easily a once a week visit is justified. Brisket kissed by oak and passion from the pit master, pork ribs with a savory and sweet wonderfulness to them, and a free sampler of pulled pork that left me wanting more. Keep it up SO we will see u again soon. Only one complaint just a little more mustard in the potato salad, but that’s just me .

  • Jesse

    Two words, PORK CHOP. Enough said.