Texas Monthly Staff

New Zion Bar-B-Q

For more than 30 years, holy smoke has wafted from ancient black pits in front of this rickety, low-slung hall next door to the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church. The provender that emerges from the glowing embers (mostly oak, with a little hickory and pecan mixed in) has funded congregational activities and created an East Texas legend. Was it just our imagination or were the ribs, brisket, chicken, and sausage even better than in the…

Virgie’s Bar-B-Que

Three-plus years ago, Adrian Handsborough converted the neighborhood convenience store his mom, Virgie, ran for 35 years and began cooking over oak and pecan in two small barrels. His brisket, only a tad fatty, smokes for ten to fourteen hours; we could cut ours with a plastic fork. Well-seasoned pork ribs boasted a generous meat-fat ratio, and beef sausage came on slow but strong. Host and dining room were both cheery and inviting.

Vincek’s Smokehouse

The deer-processing guidelines and Future Farmers of America trophies make one thing clear: Vincek’s loves meat. The brisket, pork ribs, and sausage verified the impression. In a sense, so did the irrelevant, too-sweet sauce. Arrive before noon for homemade bread and kolaches. Stay late for conversation with the regulars.

Austin’s BBQ and Catering

This converted gas station, its service bays occupied by two portable cast-iron pits, immediately filled our tanks with pecan-smoked brisket and tender pepper-crusted pork ribs. The fresh coleslaw made up for a tomatoey sauce better suited to pasta. We ignored the five chain-link-enclosed picnic tables and ate by the car—whose own tank was soon filled by the Buc-Ee’s next door.

McMillan’s Bar-B-Q

The secret? “Love,” says Louis McMillan, the owner of this six-table outpost in this tiny town, just west of Victoria. Corny, sure, but that love—along with sixteen-plus hours over an oak-pecan-mesquite mix—turns out moist, tender brisket and fat little baby back ribs that are nicely charred on the outside and pink on the inside.

Bubba’s Bar-B-Que

Twenty minutes after opening, the wood-paneled dining room was already filling up with patrons. The hickory-smoked ribs were so good we ate everything that wasn’t bone . . . and kept the bones for marrow-sucking. Sides vary daily, but don’t miss the crisp coleslaw mixed with just enough mayonnaise and a hint of sugar. Forgo the too-sweet sauce.