Texas Monthly Staff

Hashknife on the Chisholm

Like a mirage in the desert, the Hashknife springs up out of nowhere at an otherwise unremarkable intersection just north of Mineral Wells. Pitmaster Jim McLennan and his wife, Lesa, have been in business here only since 2006, but Jim’s been serving up ’cue for oil field workers and nearby ranches since he was sixteen. We could taste the experience: His pecan-and-oak-smoked ribs were juicy and his vinegar slaw unparalleled.

Cowpoke’s

The brisket fell into delectable shards while remaining moist, even after sixteen hours in the smoker. We missed the ribs, but the porcine portion of the barbecue family was well represented by two kinds of sausage, plain and spicy. Darn-good sides rounded out the offerings. The thick, sweet, tomato-tart sauce had bite. A few branding irons carry out the squeaky-clean dining room’s cowboy theme.

Luling Bar-B-Q

Locals were in cheerful abundance: law enforcement, men in blue jumpsuits, kids lingering by the cooler of sweet tea. One taste of the juicy mesquite-and-post-oak-smoked brisket and ribs and we understood why. The potato salad and coleslaw each set the gold standard, and the red sauce was so rich and smoky that one diner committed his entire ration of white bread to it.

Scholl Bros. Bar-B-Que

When we asked a resident Parisian to impress us, he whisked us away to Scholl Bros. The ribs are prepared in the region’s signature style, using a sweet mustard rub, in a pecan-fed gas smoker. The thirteen-hour brisket wasn’t as good, but the sauce, a concoction flavored with brown sugar, gave the beef a much-needed boost.

Baby J’s Bar-B-Que & Fish

Pecan-smoked meats with dark, flavorful crusts are owner Jeremiah “Baby J” McKenzie’s game. It’s all good, so forget the sauce. Southern-style pulled pork provides a juicy wake-up call to jaded taste buds. Replace the usual sides with fried okra, turnip greens, and cornbread for a soul-food feast.

Van’s Bar BQ

The combination of the frequently awesome mesquite-smoked meats and a terrific vibe have attracted barbecue hounds from far and wide for more than a quarter century. Inside, you’ll find old-timey claw-foot tables and a relaxed attitude about housekeeping, which is to say the place hasn’t seen a mop in ages.