Texas is a big state. A big meat loving state chocked full of world-class barbecue joints. Beef is king in Texas, so bovine delicacies are of utmost importance for any Lone Star BBQ establishment to make this list. I was first tasked to identify the Top 10 places in Texas, but limiting my choice to so few proved tougher than a two dollar steak, so I expanded the list a might. I reckon y’all will just have to live a while longer so you can experience all 18 before the embers in your smoke box go out.
18. Smitty’s Market – Lockhart
Lockhart is undoubtedly the BBQ capital of Texas. Smitty’s has only been open since 1999, but nevertheless has a long smoky because of its location in the old Kreuz Market. Here the food is served on butcher paper sans sauce and utensils. The brisket is a must but for me it is their sausage that truly stands out.
17. Spicy Mikes BBQ Haven –Amarillo
There are bigger, fancier, better-known places up in the Texas Panhandle, but there is no better barbecue in the region than Spicy Mike’s. The ribs are spectacular but get there early, especially on Saturday because they sell out. Put a little zing in your mouth and try the namesake spicy sauce when you visit this out of the way spot on Amarillo’s south side.
16. Prause Meat Market – LaGrange
A La Grange landmark since 1902, Prause meat market is an all in one joint. They butcher and cut their own meat and smoke it on the same a cracked and decrepit pit the family has used for over a 100 years. Skip the sauce here, not that you need it anyway, and just dive into whatever smoked meat they still have available when you arrive.
15. Triple J’s Smokehouse – Houston
You can grab their tasty cooking at their regular site or at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo where I first tried it. Go for the Big J, a baked potato loaded with a variety of meat and more food than any one man should eat. Great sauce as well.
14. Fargo’s Pit BBQ – Bryan
The best thing about having a ton of Aggie friends is having them lead me to Fargo’s. Like many of these places, get their early as they often run out of grub. The brisket is as good as I’ve ever had, and the rib tips are a must. A friendly place for sure with easy on the wallet prices.
13. Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor
Giant beef ribs, baby backs, regular ribs… they have them all along with brisket and pulled pork. Again get there early and expect the line to move slowly. The place is rustic, or rundown, depending on your outlook. Tradition makes this a must stop despite those facts.
12. Gatlin’s BBQ – Houston
Great food but sort of hectic setup. The line moves slow, and there isn’t much seating at all and what there is entirely all outside. The sauce is great. Everything here is a bit spicier than most Texas BBQ as there are obviously Cajun influences at work as evidenced by the dirty rice side selection. The chicken is great as all of the meats.
11. Pecan Lodge – Dallas
I never made it to the old farmer’s market location where I heard the lines were even longer than they are now, but the food is worth a bit of wait. The burnt ends were my favorite, but the beef ribs are tasty as well. I didn’t like their sausage, as well as some of the others on the list, but Pecan Lodge is still a must on any meat lovers list.
10. The Salt Lick – Driftwood
Located in beautiful Driftwood near Austin, the Salt Lick serves up some of the best barbecue in Texas. The idyllic Hill Country setting, good food, and BYOB policy make this barbecue joint one great place to burn a weekend afternoon.
9. Killen’s BBQ – Pearland
Beef Ribs done right. This is another joint that sells out and typically has a long line. They do give free Lone Star to those who wait in line, but if you’re not a Lone Star fan, that’s not exactly a plus. Skip the beer, save the gut space for good Texas beef, and you’ll be so fat and happy you’ll forget you ever stood in line.
8. Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q – Tyler
Great food and great vibe with live music most if not every night. The brisket has a delectable crust, and the “Ex Wife” sandwich is a good blend of meats. I’m not a side guy but by all accounts skip the beans and go for extra slaw. The ribs are tasty, and the beer selection is solid.
7. Franklin Barbecue – Austin
I know, I know – This is the Mecca of Texas barbecue joints. Problem is, everybody else knows it, too. I’ve only been once and yes it was very tasty, but not hours and hours of waiting better than the other places on this list. That being said there are countless folks who routinely make the three or four-hour wait and believe the time is well worth it. It’s a must-visit place, so you can decide for yourself.
6. Snow’s BBQ – Lexington
This small little shack is only open on Saturdays. Get there early they open at 8 a.m. and close when the food is all gone. The place has exploded since Texas Monthly ranked them tops in the state a few years back. Rumor has it they brine their brisket before cooking. I can neither confirm nor refute this tale, but I can say the ribs are tasty, as are the ribs.
5. Mike Anderson’s BBQ House – Dallas
Best pulled pork in the state. And yeah I know I said beef is king, but don’t worry there are plenty of tasty offerings of the bovine variety as well. It is a shame more BBQ joints do not offer fried okra, but even if they did those other joints would be hard-pressed to beat Mike Anderson’s okra. My only complaint is no beer and the hours are somewhat limited, but hey, it takes time to make food this good.
4. John Mueller Meat Company – Austin
John Mueller is a third-generation meat master. He is helping keep alive the butcher/smoke shop tradition and doing so in very savory fashion. The joint has a backyard kind of feel but if any of your friends could cook like this you would pitch a tent and stay forever. The peppery crust on the brisket is as near perfection as I’ve ever tasted.
3. Coopers Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que – Mason, Llano
It’s all about the meat here, and they proudly tell you that upfront. There are now several locations around the state, but this is the original and the one you must visit. You order right out of the pit and have a variety of meats to choose from. Probably the best pork chops in the state. It is a no frill place and a bit pricey, but do you wanna pay for fancy plates and white linen tablecloths or do you wanna pay for top-notch food?
2. La Barbecue – Austin
La Barbecue is among the best places Austin has to offer. The lines are generally shorter here than some of the others on the list and if they are not, “Hey free beer.” But don’t be a complete sponge, toss some cash into the tip jars and soak up the food truck festive atmosphere.
1. Black’s Barbecue – Lockhart
An institution since 1932 this Texas barbecue joint looks, smells, and tastes like Texas. The best beef ribs around. Great hand stuffed, hand tied sausage. Turkey, sweet tea, Shiner beer. Of nearly every variety. Whole chickens, pork ribs (spare or baby back), and of course plenty of brisket, which is the smokiest most flavorful in all my exploits. No Black’s isn’t widely regarded as the best in the state or even the best in Lockhart, but meat admiration, much like love, is subjective, and this Texas boy puts stock in beef ribs and smoke flavor. Here you get the best of both.