Texas barbecue, the classic version of which is found primarily in Central Texas and distinguished by its use of beef brisket and its indirect smoking method, is superior to all other regional varieties of barbecue. This is an incontrovertible fact. However, the state boasts tremendous variety of barbecue styles, from the cabrito pits of South Texas to the sweet tangy ribs of East Texas. Over the years, Texas Monthly has written about them all. In our first barbecue story, “The World’s Best Barbecue is in Taylor, Texas. Or is it Lockhart?” Griffin Smith Jr. wrote that, “at first blush, the East Texas chopped pork sandwich with hot sauce has little in common with the slab of Central Texas beef. . . . The emphasis in Central Texas is overwhelmingly on the meat itself—sauce, if available at all, is usually just a side dip.”

Central Texas barbecue owes its origins to the meat markets and grocery stores opened in the 1800s by German and Czech immigrants, who brought with them a style of smoking meat over wood with a simple preparation of salt and pepper. “Whatever fresh meat they couldn’t sell, they would smoke and sell as ‘barbecue,’” Katy Vine wrote in her 2012 story “Of Meat and Men.” “As demand grew, the markets evolved into barbecue joints, though the style of service didn’t change much. The meat was still sliced in front of the customer in line and served on butcher paper.”

The most famous of these meat markets became part of a canon—Louie Mueller’s in Taylor, Kreuz Market and Black’s in Lockhart, and City Market in Luling. The late 1990s brought on a subtle change to this lineup. After Kreuz Market’s owner, Edgar “Smitty” Schmidt died, the siblings who inherited the business parted ways. As a result, Kreuz Market moved to another part of town and the original building became Smitty’s. It made the “Best of the Best” barbecue in Texas Monthly’s 2003 round-up (the first in a series supervised by food editor Patricia Sharpe).

The front-runners had become so familiar that when the Texas Monthly staff hit the ground in 2008, for another “Top 50” review of barbecue joints, they were surprised by a completely unknown newcomer: Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington, “a small restaurant open only on Saturdays and only from eight in the morning until whenever the meat runs out, usually around noon.” A year later, in Austin, a little trailer called Franklin BBQ opened, causing such a fever that by the time it opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the spring of 2011, people slept on the ground overnight for a spot in line.

A shift was underway, highlighted by Vine’s 2012 story: “Whereas the legendary spots of yore had been primarily rural, now the widespread hunger for sublimely smoked meat, coupled with the boon of instantaneous buzz and feedback, made it possible for urban upstarts to enter the scene.”

Eat My Words|
September 16, 2010

Trailer Thursday: Old School BBQ and Grill

Good Samaritan that you are, if you saw a school bus on the side of the road with smoke billowing from its roof, you’d probably call 911. Now, it might seem counterintuitive, but don’t dial those digits. Pull over, whip out your wallet, and prepare for some of the best

Food & Drink|
August 31, 2010


Can your backyard brisket taste as good as the meat you’d get at your favorite barbecue joint? Bill Karau, a native of Pittsburg, thinks so. There’s only one catch—you’ve got to use one of his pits.

Eat My Words|
April 8, 2010

Once a Barbecue Fanatic, Always a Barbecue Fanatic

Many years ago, before he moved away from Austin to the Frozen North (the D.C. area), journalist Jim Shahin was one of the people I turned to in times of freelance need. He contributed to food stories for Texas Monthly, but mainly, he distinguished himself by possessing a barbecue fanaticism

Food & Drink|
May 31, 2000

The Meating

Three friends, seven years, untold pounds of barbecue pork chops and prime rib, and a single tradition that elevates the experience above mere food.

Food & Drink|
April 1, 2000

Hot Sauce

How the Stubb's barbecue empire outlasted the death of its namesake—and proved that spice guys sometimes finish first.

Food & Drink|
January 1, 1996

Virtual Vittles

From chili to chiles, there’s a heaping helping of Texas food on the Internet, including cookoff schedules, mail-order info, recipes, and restaurant reviews. Dig in.

July 31, 1992

A Goode Idea

How the owner of Goode Company in Houston took the three basic Texas food groups—barbecue, Tex-Mex, and burgers—and built an empire.

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