Truth Barbeque (Houston)
The Heights neighborhood, in Houston, is packed with outstanding barbecue joints, but Truth (which opened its first outlet in Brenham in 2015) is transcendent. It starts with a homey atmosphere and staff who are both knowledgeable and helpful—no rushing customers through the long line here. The combination of both unconventional and classic sides makes it hard to choose (or not) between corn pudding and creamed spinach or potato salad and pinto beans. Swoon-worthy cakes are made by head pitmaster Leonard Botello’s mom, Janel, and head baker Laquita Wilkins. The three layers of the intense chocolate cake are best separated before eating, lest you devour the entire massive slice in one sitting. A selection of sauces adorns each table, from a spicy red to a vinegary mustard that pops like a hangover remedy. But we digress from the meat. Smoked by Botello and his crew, the ribs have a beet-red, satiny exterior, the perfect counterpoint to the sweet, succulent interior, which can definitely go sauce-free. Ditto the brisket, with its deep, peppery crust and just the right measure of glossy fat to bring out the best in the lush, smoky beef. Botello’s niche specialties are bold as well. Chunks of smoked brisket are stuffed into the Cajun-inspired burnt-end boudin (limited availability daily) and served with house-made hot sauce. Saturdays are for whole hog barbecue, prepared in a cooker dedicated to the job and as good as some of the Carolina versions Truth was inspired by. Get there before eleven to beat the worst of the line; visitors arriving after two will likely be disappointed.
Method: Post oak; offset smoker and direct-heat pit
Pitmaster: Searcy Booker Jr., 27; Leonard Botello IV, 32; Antioco Carino, 34; Reid Carson, 30; Edward Montoya, 35
Pro-tip: Windows into the pit room provide entertainment while you’re in line.