Some Texans debate barbecue the way others talk politics or football. With an abundance of world-class BBQ joints throughout the state and more popping up all the time, it could be said that the golden age of Texas barbecue has arrived. We’ve rounded up some of the state’s most famed barbecue joints for your eating pleasure.
The small town of Lexington, about an hour east of Austin, is home to Snow’s BBQ. The spot seems unassuming, a red shack and some picnic tables, but its barbecue is anything but. Snow’s is only open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. till everything’s sold out, and pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz and her crew start slow-smoking their meats at 3 a.m., ensuring a sumptuous feast.
Lucky visitors get an opportunity to meet Tootsie, one of Texas’ great pitmasters. Although her brisket is mouthwatering, Tootsie believes her pork steak is her true specialty. Be sure to taste for yourself.
There’s a reason why customers, the press and even the President of the United States rave about Franklin Barbecue. Open since 2009, this East 11th Street eatery lives up to the hype. Its menu features the usual spread of brisket, pulled pork, and other smoked meats, but the trick lies in owner Aaron Franklin’s attention to process.
Every morsel is prepared with love, patience and an uncompromising commitment to quality, with the brisket slow-smoking for up to 15 hours. Arrive early, as a two-hour wait is common any day of the week. Anyone that’s eaten at Franklin’s can attest it is well worth the wait.
Also located in East Austin is John Mueller Meat Co., founded by its namesake, a charismatic third-generation pit master. The John Mueller Meat Co. slings traditional smoked brisket, beef ribs, sausage, pork ribs and more from its trailer on East 6th Street. While you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, when it comes to sides, the baked squash is second to none.
Another Austin favorite is La Barbecue, which was founded by LeAnn Mueller, sister of John Mueller. Not to be outdone by her brother, LeAnn founded La Barbecue in 2012 and its ‘Cuisine Texicana’ received immediate success. The restaurant combines traditional barbecue flavors with a spicy kick, and the pulled pork moistened with a tangy vinegar-based sauce and the chipotle coleslaw are must-eats.
If you are looking for the barbecue capital of Texas, you’ll have to take a drive to Lockhart, which was designated asthe official state barbecue capital by the 76th Texas Legislature and is located just 40 minutes south of Austin.
In Lockhart, BBQ standbys include Kreuz Market and Smitty’s Market, two establishments owned by siblings who founded their joints after the dissolution of the legendary original Kreuz Market. Each keeps the tradition alive with succulent, lean brisket and superbly smoked meats all around, and Kreuz eschews barbecue sauce altogether; that’s how confident they are in the taste of their meat.
Other famous Lockhart barbecue joints include Black’s Barbeque, which was established back in 1932, and Chisholm Trail Barbeque, which was founded in 1978. One of Black’s Barbeque’s claims to fame is that in the 1960s President Lyndon Johnson asked Black’s to provide barbecue sausage for a meal at the U.S. Capitol. The sausage was prepared and flown into D.C., with the Secret Service and Department of the Agriculture supervising the Presidential affair.
The Galleria area of Houston may be known for its shopping but it offers up some serious barbecue as well. Luling City Market is a local standby, and its smoky meat gets its flavor from a non-gas cooking process over post oak wood. Must tries are the Market’s beef sausage and special mustard-based barbecue sauce.
Texas’ barbecue belt is packed with destinations that would rank number one in any other state. Other iconic favorites include the Salt Lick, which is located in the town of Driftwood about half an hour south of Austin, Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas, Angelo’s Bar-B-Que, a Fort Worth Institution, and Killen’s Barbecue in Houston.
In Texas, it’s a hotly contested toss-up. Whether you’re a fan of pulled pork, fatty brisket or tender ribs, visitors’ mouths will be watering at any of these iconic eateries.