No one does BBQ quite like the Lone Star State. Everything in Texas is bigger and usually, let’s not kid ourselves, better! It’s not going to be easy to limit ourselves to just seven spots but we’re going to break down that mouth-watering beef, the brisket, wings, ribs and the sauces at the best BBQ spots in the Great State of Texas. Sorry vegetarians, we’re about to go on a meat-filled feast from the Great Plains to the city streets.
The best thing about BBQ is it’s never budget prohibitive for BUCKiTDREAMER’s, that means that whether you happen to live right next to one of our favorite spots or you’re doing a statewide tour of amazing eats in Texas, you’ll be able to save a dime while enjoying food that tastes so good it’ll make the rest of the country, no, the world, jealous.
We’re going to start our adventure in the capital of Texas, the wonderful city that is Austin; known for it’s progressive laid-back nature, history and the locale where you can bump into Matthew McConaughey banging some bongos. Austin is also home to Franklin BBQ, a place so delicious it deserves it’s own chapter in Texas’ storied history.
It may look slightly like a trailer from the outside and you may have to wait a few hours to even get a bite, but my lord is it worth it. The chef Aaron Franklin has just been awarded the James Beard award for best chef in the Southwest, they’ve even gone and given him his own show on PBS called BBQ with Franklin, so that alone should attest to the quality of the food.
Franklin sells their meat by the pound so you might want to bring a friend (or the entire family). The brisket is quite possibly the greatest we’ve ever had and the ribs will leave your mouth crying for more. All of this for less than a steak in a budget restaurant; you literally can’t buy something at Franklin BBQ that tastes bad. Seriously, it’s impossible.
Not far outside Austin in Taylor Texas, you’ll find a truly authentic BBQ joint in the form of Louie Mueller Barbecue. It’s got the wooden tables and a certain rustic charm that can transport you straight into your favorite Wild West film.
They make sure to slice every piece of meat directly in front of their adoring customer base to remind you just how good it is. As good as the brisket tastes, if you’re going to get one thing from Louie, you’re going to want to try the beef ribs. They are so succulent that they literally fall off the bone into your mouth while exploding with impossibly delicious flavors.
We know it’s not meat-related but their potato salad is truly magnificent, and the perfect side dish to your ribs. Louie Mueller Barbecue has received too many accolades to mention here and has been regularly featured in books, the press and television shows for their joyous celebration of all things meat.
Fargo’s Pit BBQ in Bryan, Texas offers one of the rarest of BBQ traditions in the city: they don’t display their pit. Instead, renowned Pitmaster Alan Caldwell likes to keep his exact smoking methods a closely guarded secret. For BBQ purists, this doesn’t sit too well, but for those of us who love good meat, once you taste it you really won’t care. The brisket is smoked to perfection and the ribs are some of the biggest you’ll find in the whole state of Texas. We’ve focused mainly on beef in this article but if you like your BBQ of the chicken variety, this is the place to have it. The juicy, yet smoked meat is somehow crisp as well and seasoned by, what we can only assume to be, some kind of BBQ angels. We’re not sure what Caldwell is doing in his pit in the back, but whatever it is, he’s doing it right!
Tucked into downtown Jefferson you’ll find Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue, which has been around for 33 years and has become a statewide institution. The original spot was destroyed by an unfortunate fire but Joseph’s bounced back with a magnificent tour-de-force.
Full of farm equipment and the odd stuffed animal heads Joseph’s has an old school Texas charm and a no-frills attitude. They don’t have a website – they let their meat do the talking. While, like the rest of the spots in this article, everything is good at Joseph’,s we have to say that the pork ribs are the real star of the show. They are cooked to perfection and there’s a sweet vinegar and mustard based glaze, which has the perfect amount of brown sugar to leave you smacking your lips for hours after you leave. With regards to the competition in this part of the state, Joseph’s pretty much stands alone.
The next stop on our meat-fueled culinary journey across Texas takes us to Houston and Gatlin’s BBQ, where a family team makes some of the sweetest smoked BBQ you’ll ever try. Gatlin BBQ, in line with Houston, is slightly more stylish and refined than some of the other spots on this list. They’ve got a cool logo and a hipster-esque feel to their spotless restaurant but – don’t worry, purists – that certainly doesn’t affect the quality of the meat, nor the genuine feeling of southern hospitality that you get from the Gatlin family when you visit.
Gatlin’s makes a mean rib and gives you the opportunity to stack a baby back alongside a St. Louis rib, and while we can’t tell you which is best, why not go and decide for yourself? However, for a one-of-a-kind, Gatlin’s experience get the Cajun dirty rice (impossibly good) and try it with their selection of sausages – it truly is BBQ heaven.
Next stop, Sweetwater Texas, and odds are if you’ve been you’ll know Big Boy’s Bar-B-Que. Patrons of Big Boy’s will travel hours to get to this BBQ mecca and, trust us, there really isn’t anything else to do in Sweetwater.
Gaylan Marth is the pitmaster and he prepares a brisket for 7 – 9 hours over a mesquite pit. We love the kitsch but genuine feel of Big Boys too. The restaurant looks like a tiny barn and they’ve made it as rustic as possible, while still being comfortable inside. It features everything from random logs and pigskin chairs to a smattering of stuffed animals and pictures of cowboys. It harkens back to a simpler, perhaps tastier time.
Last but certainly not least is Two Bros BBQ Market in picture-perfect San Antonio. This is probably the only high-end BBQ we’ve got on this list but the original and creative recipes and rich tastes ensure it makes the cut.
As you might have guessed the brisket and ribs are to die for but if you want the real Two Bros experience you’ve got to try the bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed to the brim with cheese. We’re not actually sure if there is a taste sensation like it anywhere on earth.
Finding an amazing BBQ joint in Texas is like trying to find a specific piece of hay in a haystack. We could have made this list over a hundred places long, but these are the true cream of the crop, seven joints that will not disappoint.
Every BUCKiTDREAMER who loves BBQ should make time to have a Texas meat odyssey. If you do, make sure to share your stops with fellow BUCKiTDREAMER’s across your social media channels of choice. Happy eating!