While Texas carnivores bide their time waiting for the next edition of Daniel Vaughn’s quadrennial Top 50 Barbecue Joints, which is due in 2021, Texas Monthly has delivered something new to chew on. On April 22, the barbecue editor fired up his midterm report on the state’s most promising newcomers.
The unranked list is the result of frequent trips to every corner of the state, to taste dozens of spots with every possible spelling iteration of the word "barbecue." Despite the title, the timeframe for openings is relative with one eatery: Charlie’s Bar-B-Que in Beaumont, which originally opened in 2012, but Vaughn explains he didn't discover until late 2017.
Otherwise Vaughn held fast to a set of rules, confining the list to only places with permanent addresses — food trucks included — and eliminating satellite locations like Truth Barbeque’s Houston location.
Although San Antonio proper did not have any restaurants on the list, nearby Sisterdale in the Texas Hill Country did nab a spot with Black Board Bar-B-Q. Oddly enough, Vaughn started his write-up by praising the fried catfish and battered quail halves known as Luckenbach Lollipops. But pitmasters Jake Gandolfo and Jo Irizarry’s brisket burnt ends were also noticed for having “just the right amount of chew in the bark.”
Elsewhere, Central Texas racked up six nods — more than a fifth of the entire list. Vaughn was especially taken by the innovators of the Austin scene, shouting out LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue for being “ahead of the curve with barbecue trends,” Loro for being “unfamiliar and exhilarating,” and The Switch’s unique Cajun-Texan mix.
Vaughn found other Central Texas towns just as promising. Pustka Family Barbeque in Hutto, Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue in Pflugerville, and John Mueller Black Box Barbecue in Georgetown.
More remarkable was the inclusion of two new restaurants nearby in Waco, once scoffed at for being just a highway pit stop between San Antonio and Dallas. Helberg Barbecue won high praise for its pastrami beef cheeks and Guess Family Barbecue for “the ideal version of Texas spareribs.”
Though Central Texas shined, Vaughn’s report proves that superlative barbecue is never hard to find in the Lone Star State. The selections traversed the entire map, from the Panhandle to the Gulf Coast, as follows:
- Blood Bros. BBQ, Bellaire
- LJ’s BBQ, Brenham
- 1775 Texas Pit BBQ, College Station
- Panther City BBQ, Fort Worth
- Feges BBQ, Houston
- Reveille Barbecue Co., Magnolia
- Brick Vault Brewery & Barbecue, Marathon
- Butter’s BBQ, Mathis
- Rejino Narbeque, Olton
- Brett’s Backyard Bar-B-Que, Rockdale
- Smokin’ Moon BBQ & Beer Garden, Pharr
- Smoke Sessions Barbecue, Royse City
- Pitforks and Smotherings BBQ, Slaton
- Harlem Road Texas BBQ, Richmond
- Convenience West, Marfa
Read the full list of Vaughn's pro tips at Texas Monthly, then hit the road for a meaty adventure.