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A Nod to the Honorable Mentions

by Texas Monthly Staff · May 21, 2013

While the list of the best barbecue in the state of Texas (therefore, the world) is limited to just fifty joints, there’s plenty more out there to love in the Lone Star State. Our team of dedicated tasters came back from their travels with notes on everything great about Texas barbecue including sides, desserts, atmosphere, and of course smoked meat. These mentions didn’t get them into the Top 50, but they’re still worth a visit.

The open fire at the base of the ancient brick pit just inside the doors of Smitty’s Market in Lockhart can leave one entranced like no other sight in Texas. The smoke belching steel barrel pit outside of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Hunstville is a welcome sight as is the charming ramshackle building with family style seating inside. Outside of Longhorn Cattle Company in San Benito horses and donkeys graze in a pasture out back providing and idyllic setting for a stroll after dinner. The Texas kitsch is laid on thick at Rose Bar-B-Q in Odessa, but it seems to fit nicely into the wood clad building with a decidedly frontier look. Just the fact that Cotten’s BBQ & Catering exists in Calallen is heartwarming after the original Joe Cotten’s in nearby Robstown burned to the ground. Any serious barbecue fan must visit Taylor Café in Taylor if only to pay homage to the ageless Vencil Mares who opened this joint in 1948. Get both the homemade beef and turkey sausages.

A few interesting sides were found that can help supplement your meal like the crispy French fries at Ernie’s in Greenville or the deep fried corn on the cob at Rafter J BBQ in Iowa Park. Strong opinions exist on either extreme when it comes to Pittsburg hot links, but the best version might just be in the inexpensive bowl of hot link chili at Outlaw’s in Mount Pleasant. It’s tough to find a side not to like at Peggy Sue BBQ in Dallas where they’re known for squash casserole and chunky mashed potatoes. Even the broccoli and spinach are worth ordering.

It always refreshing to find a few off the wall smoked meats on the menu, and sometimes they even become memorable. A chili relleno filled with your choice of chopped smoked meats (we liked the brisket) at Del Norte Tacos in Godley was the most colorful presentation of smoked meat found in the state, and Goode Co. in Houston might be the only joint around doing smoked duck. Mutton ribs (they’re actually lamb) at Southside Market in Elgin were the best we found, and don’t leave there without having a link or twelve of the famous hot guts. A spicy boudain at Hemphill BBQ reminds you just how close the Louisiana border is to Hemphill, while an even bigger kick is provided by the rice and pork filled links at Ray’s BBQ Shack in Houston. Smoked barbacoa is the singular best bet at Briskets and Beer Smokehouse in Laredo, but you can choose from eight meats at Peete Mesquite in Marble Falls.

Sausage is a defining link to the roots of Texas barbecue where meat markets ground and stuffed and smoked their leftover meats. If you want both a taste of great sausage in one of the last true meat market/barbecue joint hybrids left, look no further than Prause Meat Market in La Grange. A much newer venture, Smoke in Dallas, makes three of their own with stuffings that include rabbit. The homemade beef sausages at Swick’s in Groesbeck taste like a salty Cooper’s brisket stuffed into a casing, while there’s nothing to compare to when eating the spicy, fatty all beef links at Patillo’s in Beaumont. The most creative sausages in the state may be coming out of the Micklethwait Craft Meats trailer in Austin with versions like kielbasa and a lamb sausage with thyme and tangerine zest.

Texas is known for its smoked beef like the excellent fatty brisket at Off the Bone in Dallas, but we have plenty of pork too. A great version of the pulled variety can be had at Big Jake’s Bar-B-Que in Texarkana. Ribs, ribs and more ribs should be your order at Country Tavern in Kilgore where the baby backs are sweet and smoky. The same can be said for the ribs at Odom’s in Dallas, Clyde’s in Corsicana and Off the Bone in Forest Hill. In Austin, Blue Ox BBQ does some fine smoked meat including a juicy pork tenderloin. Sliced pork, thin sauce and a crunchy slaw make for a great sandwich at Coleman’s Barbecue in Clarksville, but take note that the sauce on the side will be served boiling hot.

Sometimes chicken is derided as barely barbecue, but Sam’s Bar-B-Que in Midland does an admirable job. If you find anything at Petty’s in Killeen to be barely barbecue, you won’t have any trouble hiding it under any of their five excellent house made barbecue sauces.

The salty smokiness of a good barbecue meal calls for something sweet at the end, and plenty of Texas barbecue joints go further than those sad premade trays of peach cobbler. Chappell Hill Bakery & Deli in Chappell Hill does right by the fruit of the state tree with their pecan pie while Texas Pride in Adkins uses the nut to create their exceptional pecan cobbler. Don’t miss them even if you’ve already filled up on the smoked meat.

Here is the full list in alphabetical order by city:

  • Adkins, Texas Pride, pecan cobbler
  • Austin, Blue Ox BBQ and Pancake Cabin, smoked pork tenderloin
  • Austin, Micklethwait Craft Meats, creative sausages
  • Beaumont, Patillo’s, fatty beef links
  • Calallen, Cotten’s BBQ Catering, for coming back from the ashes
  • Chappell Hill, Chappell Hill Bakery & Deli, pecan pie
  • Clarksville, Coleman’s, sliced pork sandwich
  • Corsicana, Clyde’s, pork spare ribs
  • Dallas, Odom’s, saucy St. Louis cut pork ribs
  • Dallas, Off the Bone, fatty brisket
  • Dallas, Peggy Sue BBQ, great sides across the board
  • Dallas, Smoke, all three homemade sausages
  • Elgin, Southside Market & Barbecue, lamb ribs & Elgin hot guts
  • Fort Worth, Off the Bone, baby back ribs
  • Godley, Del Norte Taco, smoked meat filled chile relleno
  • Greenville, Ernie’s, crispy, salty fries
  • Groesbeck, Swick’s, salty and smoky homemade beef sausage
  • Hemphill, Hemphill BBQ, spicy boudain
  • Houston, Goode Co., smoked duck
  • Houston, Ray’s BBQ Shack, smoked jalapeno boudin
  • Huntsville, New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, great barbecue setting and atmosphere
  • Iowa Park, Rafter J BBQ, deep-fried corn on the cob
  • Kilgore, Country Tavern, legendary baby back ribs
  • Killeen, Petty’s, five good homemade barbecue sauces
  • La Grange, Prause Meat Market, for being a great meat market for over a century
  • Laredo, Briskets and Beer Smokehouse, smoked beef cheek barbacoa on homemade tortillas
  • Lockhart, Smitty’s Market, the quintessential barbecue atmosphere
  • Marble Falls, Peete Mesquite, eight meats on the menu
  • Midland, Sam’s Bar-B-Q, crispy smoked chicken
  • Mount Pleasant, Outlaw’s BBQ, chili with Pittsburg hot links
  • Odessa, Rose Bar-B-Q, Texana kitsch
  • San Benito, Longhorn Cattle Company, donkeys and horses in a field out back, fun for kids
  • Taylor, Taylor Café, Owner Vencil Mares is the godfather of Texas barbecue, and he makes great sausage
  • Texarkana, Big Jake’s Bar-B-Que, smoky pulled pork

Comments

  • et ‘Que critic

    Here’s one BBQ joint that definitely should draw consideration for mention on TNBBQ’s next listing. Dubya’s Smokehouse in Gilmer might very well be a “sleeping giant” among East Texas BBQ establishments. Driving up to the solid red metal building, I entered to find inside classic red and white checkered table clothes, and a simple, no fuss decorum. Home of the Flying Pig – A turkey & sausage sandwich is a favorite. I, however, ordered something else off the chalkboard menu. I sampled the brisket, sausage, turkey & ribs. The brisket is simply okay, the turkey held more smoked flavor, while the sausage has a certain “bacon-like” flavor kick to it. The pork ribs are simply fabulous. They fall off the bone and have a rich, spicy flavor. Owner Wes Wilson does it right. It’s with the variety of sauces that Wilson sets himself apart from others. Dubya’s offers up three choices for your culinary taste. There’s the standard, traditional thick, sweet sauce and Wilson’s secret recipe sauce with a mustard base and trace of brown sugar. The third sauce takes it up a notch from the traditional with a dose of pepper for heat. The mustard sauce is not your typical BBQ coating, but it’s tangy and tasty and a must try. Dubya’s uses pecan to smoke with and usually leaves their briskets on for 13 hours. Wilson plied his trade in Austin before opening up Dubya’s two years ago in Gilmer. I see no reason why Dubya’s doesn’t warrant 3 stars. It’s definitely worth going out of your way if you want some good Que. I know I plan to make a return visit.

    • Steven Bodiford

      If you have to talk up the sauce that much, the meat must be sub-par!

  • Chris Creel

    I updated the map to include these joints as well: http://goo.gl/maps/QPYCu

  • Ron Erdrich

    I’m simply amazed at how scared you guys are to drive west. It’s like there’s some kind of zombie plague on the sunward side of i-35. Are you worried about getting the sun in your eyes? It must be real easy to find barbecue east of 35, I’ll bet you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting at least four.

    No, Odessa and Midland don’t count and neither does one trip to Sweetwater, either. What about Square’s in Abilene, Big O’s in Valera or Smokey Joe’s in Rowena. For cryin’ out loud, that last guy was invited to this year’s American Royal!

    So congratulations on another Top Fifty Barbecue Joints of East Texas. Next time swing a longer cat.

  • DJK

    The best beef back ribs your BBQ editor has eaten anywhere are not worthy of an honorable mention.

    Odd.

    Are back ribs, like barbacoa, not really BBQ?

  • Jeff Woods

    Haven’t tried Kirby’s in Mexia… His dad’s place (Hyden’s) was just across the road from Wright’s. I always gave the nod to the preacher’s place. (Closed on Sunday, the church was at the back of the parking lot.) Might have to get some to go when there for the next funeral…..

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