Feature

Texas’s Best BBQ Sandwiches

by Daniel Vaughn · February 14, 2014
Photo by Nicholas McWhirter Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

At Prause Meat Market in La Grange, there is a green paper sign right next to the barbecue counter. It reads “Sorry We Do NOT Make Sandwiches.” It’s a reminder to customers that this is a meat market where meat—smoked or raw—is sold by the pound. If you want a sandwich, you’ve got to bring your own bread. Others in Texas are more accommodating.

Prause Sandwich Sign

I dare you to order a sandwich (see sign above his left shoulder). Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

Some barbecue joints make a pretty incredible sandwich that goes beyond the familiar chopped beef, and one day I’ll make another list that explores the wonder that is the chopped brisket sandwich. But today I’ve focused on what I consider to be some of the greatest sandwiches across the state. (And a note to barbecue sandwich-makers across the state: rib sandwiches where three or four pork ribs with the bone still in them are soaked in barbecue sauce and stacked between two slices of bread does NOT qualify as an edible sandwich for obvious reasons.) I chose these sandwiches because they taste good (obvious), not just because they sound good. What I mean by that is a sandwich should be better than the sum of its parts, and it takes more than just a tempting description. I recently ordered what I thought would be a slam dunk at a popular chain in Houston. It included jalapeño cheese bread (great), sliced sausage (good), barbecue sauce (not bad), and rubber-like pellets of underdone chopped brisket (very bad). 

So without further delay, here is my ranked list of the top ten barbecue sandwiches in the state.

Mother Clucker

Mother Clucker

#1. Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ, Tyler – Mother Clucker
Components: Jalapeño cheese sourdough, smoked chicken thigh, fried egg, cheddar cheese, spicy barbecue mayo, candied bacon, and guacamole (on request).

This sandwich just sounds ridiculous, but it’s nothing short of ridiculously good. The smoked chicken thigh will make you rethink using a chicken breast on a sandwich ever again. It’s perfectly moist, tender and smoky. If the BBQ mayo doesn’t enrich it enough, the yolk will once it’s broken. Just because it has egg and bacon, don’t relegate it just to breakfast. Texas’s best barbecue sandwich should be enjoyed all day long.

 

Sutphens sandwich

Sutphen’s chopped pork with the works

#2. Old Sutphen’s Bar-B-Q, Borger – Chopped Pork with the Works
Components: Squishy white bun, sauced chopped pork, cole slaw, onion rings, pickles, and onions.

I ordered this sandwich to go, and it came with the cole slaw and onion rings on the side. I’m not sure if they meant for it to all go together on the bun, but I wouldn’t have considered anything else. Thankfully there were more of the fluffy, crispy, tempura fried onion rings than I needed for the sandwich so I got a bonus appetizer. The pork is stewed until it falls apart. It’s mixed in with some drippings and a sweet sauce. Add in the crispy cole slaw and it becomes one of the best barbecue bites in the Panhandle.

 

Pecan Lodge Pitmaster Sandwich

Pitmaster Sandwich. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

#3. Pecan Lodge, Dallas – Pitmaster Sandwich
Components: Sweet white roll, chopped brisket, pulled pork, sliced sausage, cole slaw, fresh jalapeño slices, and barbecue sauce.

It’s looks like a mess, but this one really comes together after a couple bites. The brisket is ultra smoky, while the pork is a bit more subdued. The back of your throat starts to feel those jalapeños on the third bite, but the heat remains in a constant dance with the cool slaw to keep things regulated. My only quibble with this one is the bun. It’s too substantial and a bit too sweet. Luckily they warm it on the griddle first, but I’d prefer if they just went back to the sesame seed bun in the photo above. No matter, it’s one of the best in Texas with either bun.

 

La Barbecue El Sancho

El Sancho

#4. La Barbecue, Austin – El Sancho
Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, pulled pork, sliced hot guts, and pickled onions.

It’s a miracle that the staff at La Barbecue manages to get this sandwich to stay upright. It’s taller than an iPhone 5, but if you can get all of the elements in one bite it is something special. Bags of buns are placed into a warmer, so when one is brought out for the sandwich it has been lightly steamed. The pickled onions provide the proper crunch with welcome acidity all in one topping. The brisket and pulled pork are so good here, so adding in some of Texas’s best sausage only helps matters. I really didn’t notice that it was missing barbecue sauce. It’s one of the few sandwiches that wouldn’t benefit from it. Warning – you’ll need more than a few napkins when you’re through with this one.

 

Tipsy Texan

Tipsy Texan. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

#5. Franklin Barbecue, Austin – Tipsy Texan
Components: squishy white bun, chopped brisket, sliced sausage, barbecue sauce, pickles, slaw, and onions.

It’s hard to get to the front of this line and not order a few pounds of fatty brisket, but if you need a change of pace and a full stomach, the Tipsy Texan will do it. The sandwich is named after mixologist and author David Alan who must be very proud. When you pick it up, you’ll wish you had a third hand, and it’s best to slagle it (eat it all without setting it down). The bun just barely survives under the weight of all that rich, smoky beef, and the slaw provides much needed crunch. Get a few slices of brisket on the side if you feel like you must.

 

Mac's BBQ

Mac’s Chopped brisket and jalapeño sausage

#6. Mac’s Bar-B-Que, Dallas – Chopped beef and jalapeño sausage
Components: Squishy white bun, chopped brisket, sliced jalapeño sausage, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions.

Mac’s is an old school joint without any pretension. They also don’t have any specialty sandwiches on the menu. What they do have is a two meat sandwich platter where you can choose your own. My regular order here is the smoky brisket chopped and a generous amount of jalapeño sausage slices atop it. The buttered and grilled bun provides a protective sogginess barrier, so don’t even think about leaving off the deep red barbecue sauce made in house. Add an order of fries and ranch beans for a well rounded meal.

 

Prophets of Smoked Meat / Southeast Texas 2011

Bohemian Special. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

#7. Mustang Creek Bar-B-Q, Louise – Bohemian Special
Components: Squishy white bun, sliced brisket, quartered sausage link, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions.

The Bohemian Special was made famous by Robb Walsh when he called it the best sandwich in the state, and the legend only grew after it was featured in Garden & Gun. Sausage from Prasek’s down the street is cut lengthwise into four spears and placed onto a generously sauced bottom bun. Thick slices of smoky brisket were piled on top. The addition of pickles and onions provide a nice crunch. It’s a bit sloppy and hard to share, but you won’t want to anyway.

 

Freedman's

Freedmen’s chopped brisket and beef rib sandwich

#8. Freedmen’s Bar, Austin – Chopped Brisket and Beef Rib
Components: Squishy white bun, sauced chopped brisket, and beef rib mixture.

This is not your average chopped beef sandwich. Evan LeRoy uses the leftover beef ribs and brisket, chops them together, and folds in the sauce. It’s an impeccably simple construction, but the result is better than plenty of more complicated sandwiches I’ve enjoyed. The meat and sauce mixture starts to moisten the bun and they seem to lock together in smoky matrimony. You have to open up wide for each bite, but it’s gone before you’re ready to see it go. You’ll only find it on the special board, and it’s a mere $5.

 

Slow Bone pork sandwich

Pork sandwich at Slow Bone

#9. The Slow Bone, Dallas – Sliced Pork with Slaw
Components: Squishy white hoagie roll, sliced pork, cole slaw, and vinegar barbecue sauce.

This is a do-it-yourself sandwich for those Carolinians missing their pork and vinegar. Get the sliced pork sandwich and add a side of cole slaw. There are two sauces here at Slow Bone, but you want the thinner one on the condiment bar. Put it all together and it’s a flavor that isn’t normally found at a Texas barbecue joint these days. Given the length of the well made bun and the generous serving of pork, you don’t really need anything else for a good lunch.

 

Neely's Brown Pig

Neely’s Brown Pig. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

#10. Neely’s, Marshall – Brown Pig
Components: Squishy white bun, sauced chopped pork, secret sauce, lettuce, mayo, 87 years of history.

This sandwich isn’t for everyone. It’s somewhere between sloppy joe and pulled pork. The pork is smoked then minced in a buffalo chopper. The Neely family’s secret sauce is mixed in, and a heaping scoop of the whole mixture is placed on a bun. The addition of lettuce and mayo sounds way out of place, but it ends up tasting like slaw after it’s warmed by the meat. You can also try the brisket version instead. It’s called the Brown Beef, but you might as well just go ahead and order both.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Baby Back Shak Chopped Boudin

Baby Back Shak

Baby Back Shak, Dallas – Chopped Beef with Boudin
Components: Squishy white bun, chopped brisket, boudin, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions.

Every sandwich at Baby Back Shak comes with a side. Fortunately they let you pick boudin as your side if you’d like. Their brisket isn’t great because it’s pretty tough, but it’s just fine chopped up. Once you add sauce, pickles, onions it’s even better. To really crank it up you have to empty the filling from the boudin on top. It’s like a cajun chopped brisket sandwich.

 

Colemans-BBQ-01

Coleman’s sliced pork sandwich

Coleman’s BBQ, Clarksville – Sliced Pork Sandwich
Components: Squishy white bun, sliced pork, cole slaw, barbecue sauce, pickles, and onions.

The barbecue here has received praise from Texas Monthly in the past when it made it into the Top 50 in 2008. When I went back last year I noticed this Texas rarity on the menu – a sliced pork sandwich. It comes on a large buttered and grilled bun, and is served with a piping hot bowl of barbecue sauce. This thin spicy sauce seeped into everything when poured over top, making it the best item at Coleman’s.

 

Jambo Texan

Jambo Texan

Jambo’s BBQ Shack, Rendon – The Jambo Texan
Components: Texas toast, sliced brisket, chopped brisket, bologna slice, pulled pork, split sausage link, and pork ribs.

This behemoth would get a higher spot on the list if you could actually eat it as a sandwich. It’s about eight inches tall and includes a couple of pork ribs which makes wrapping your mouth around it pretty challenging. At just $12, it’s the best value six-meat sampler plate you’ll find anywhere in Texas.

 

Da Jasper

Da Jasper

Meshack’s Bar-B-Que Shack, Garland – Da Jasper
Components: Squishy white buns, sauced chopped brisket, sliced hot link, and barbecue sauce.

What you see above is not two sandwiches. That is Da Jasper which cannot be contained by a single bun. Just grab a fork as soon as you get your order. The bottom buns disintegrate almost immediately after soaking in several ladles of barbecue sauce. Meshack’s is to-go only, so don’t eat this in or on your car if you care about its condition.

 

Prine's BBQ

Prine’s chopped brisket & pimento cheese

Prine’s BBQ, Wichita Falls – Chopped Beef and Pimento Cheese
Components: Squishy white bun, chopped brisket, brisket au jus, barbecue sauce, and pimento cheese.

This isn’t on the menu, but I was staring at an enormous tray of pimento cheese in the case as I waited on my sandwich to be constructed. When I sheepishly requested that it be added, owner Allen Prine smiled and said people ask for it like that all the time. The brisket here is minced pretty fine with a knife then mixed with barbecue sauce and brisket drippings to form a sort of meat paste that is spread onto the bottom bun. Jalapeño slices are added on top for good measure. Prine placed the whole shebang into the microwave for about eight seconds to warm the bun and melt the cheese into the meat a bit. It was a gooey mess, but it was truly unique.

 

Spicy Mike's Taos

The Taos

Spicy Mike’s Bar-B-Q Haven, Amarillo – The Taos
Components: Squishy white bun, chopped bottom round, green chiles, and spicy barbecue sauce.

Mike Havens doesn’t use brisket in his chopped beef sandwiches. He grabbed a chunk of smoked bottom round (which tends to be a bit drier than brisket) and placed it on the cutting board along with a couple spoonfuls of green chiles. Those chiles find thei way into plenty of other menu items, and they’re the reason he calls this one the Taos, after the city in New Mexico. It all goes onto a bun and is topped with your choice of barbecue sauce. At Spicy Mike’s, you choose the spicy sauce.

 

Stiles Switch Diablo

Buford T’s Diablo Sandwich

Stiles Switch, Austin – Buford T’s Diablo Sandwich
Components: Squishy white bun, sliced brisket, split sausage link, pickled jalapeños, and barbecue sauce.

This is a sandwich full of good stuff. The sliced fatty brisket is incredible as are the links. Pickled jalapeños add some bite, but they were all piled in the middle making for a mouthful of them. The cold bun straight out of the bag could use some warming of some kind. It kept the sandwich from really coming together as it likely would have if it were grilled or steamed. It’s still a great sandwich, but I found myself picking off that beautiful brisket when I was halfway through it.

 

Vencil brisket sandwich

Brisket and sausage sandwich at Taylor Cafe

Taylor Cafe, Taylor – Chopped Beef and Sausage Sandwich
Components: Squishy white bun, sauced chopped brisket, split sausage link, pickles, and onions.

It’s not fancy. They chop yesterday’s leftover brisket and mix it with some barbecue sauce and top it with some pickle chips and sliced onions. A link is a homemade beef sausage is the foundation. It will make you full and it will make you happy, but none of that really matters. If you eat it at the west end of the counter just inside the door you can talk with the ninety-year-old owner and legend Vencil Mares while you eat. Have a beer. Chew slowly. Listen more than you talk.

If we missed your favorite barbecue sandwich in Texas, please list it in the comments below. Feel free to tell us your favorite chopped beef sandwich too, and we’ll make sure to try it before the next sandwich list is completed.

Comments

  • C.d. Gibson

    I’ve eaten a lot of barbecue sandwiches but none has ever compared to the chopped brisket sandwiches we used to get at Johnny’s Barbecue in Pharr, Texas. Johnny’s is gone now, but I’ll never forget the perfectly smoked brisket, the sauce that had just the right amount of sweetness, all topped with onions & dill pickles.

    • margecee

      Yaa gotta love ole PAPPAS BBQ on toasted sourdoh bunzzz!!!

  • Jeramy

    Sometimes simple is better. Tyler ‘ s BBQ (in amarillo) Pulled Pork sandwich shines. Simple and simply addicting.

    • Shane Baker

      “The Whole Hog” at CorkScrew BBQ in The Woodlands.

  • Andrea Araujo

    Please come to Victoria Texas and check out The Fire Pit, his sliced Brisket sandwich is amazing! So flavorful!

  • FattyFatBastard

    None in the Houston area, yet 3 in Dallas; a town renowned for mediocre food.
    Someone doesn’t travel enough to be writing about this, does he?

    • Daniel Vaughn

      Suggestions welcome, if you have any. Don’t say Goode Co.

      • FattyFatBastard

        Killens BBQ & Corkscrew BBQ need to be tried. Gatlin’s is also worthy. Goode Company does great poultry, but the rest of it is sub par.

      • GE2289

        Jim Goode is a mastermind! Everything there is handmade, some of the best BBQ!

      • GE2289

        Jim Goode is a mastermind! Everything there is handmade, some of the best BBQ! I said it Goode Company, hands down!

      • Kimberly Cavett

        Nita’s and Glen’s was written up in late 2012. Located on Hywy 281 south in Hamilton Texas. Please revisit. His pulled pork sandwhich is to die for. Of course I am a little bias. He is my brother. He also has brisket and other meats.

    • Eatme2

      Fattyfat, you should refer to yourself as dumbbastard instead. I’ve lived in Houston and dallas. Both have a great selection in restaurants that are well beyond mediocre. I’m guessing your food experiences in dallas consisted of chili’s and mcdonalds. Also, Austin has both cities beat in the BBQ arena.

  • JC

    Classic Texas Monthly. No Houston. Gatlin’s has two sandwiches that would shut down anything from Dallas.

    • flyboy

      There are several DFW BBQ joints that are much better than Gatlin’s. Pecan Lodge, Slow Bone, Lockhart Smokehouse, and Hutchins to name a few.

  • Kimberly Cavett

    where is Nita & Glenn’s BBQ in Hamilton, Tx

    • Daniel Vaughn

      I can’t seem to find it. Does it go by another name? Is there a particular sandwich you like there?

  • Michael Bilger

    I don’t know about who judged this TM! BBQ sandwiches don’t have fried egg, slaw or onion rings on them. Ill stick with meat bread and sauce which makes up a BBQ sandwich. Ill take the sides as sides and the boudan with an Abita beer! Keep up the good work

  • MJ

    You guys should come to Tomball, Texas and try the BBQ at The Rib Tickler, yummy!!!

  • TomEmbleton

    My accidental best; country-style pork ribs, cut no-shiner style (loses a rib bone every other rib) on bakery, fresh bolillo rolls. Each rib gets one roll to hold the rib, as you eat it keeps your hand clean and the rib ends up clean add well. No sauce on any BBQ!!!

    Ribs; Cowboys, Alice
    Buns; HEB, Alice (yep, retail…)

  • David Houston

    I can’t believe The Whoop Stop on Hwy 21 (near 290) didn’t make this list. I don’t care if you’re a Longhorn, an Aggie, Sooner, or even a [insert obscure mascot here], you’ve GOT to try their chopped beef sammich.

  • PistonPushers-ATX

    Houston has never had top quality BBQ like central Texas. Goode Co is not good and Pappas is horrible. I’m an Austin guy born in Houston and have to say recently I ate at Killens in Pearland and that place has top quality BBQ. They rival the best in central Texas so if you want BBQ in Houston and you want it to be good. This place is the only choice.

  • Jan Eric Welch

    The combo sandwich at House Park bbq beats all these other fancy schmancy sandwichs with pickled onions and slaw at the other Austin Spots on this list.

  • Dee Bond

    In Sweeny there is a super bbq place. They have the best bbq sandwich ever since the little red bbq place in Brazoria closed down. Their Hot Chop was the best bbq sandwich ever!!

  • Mel

    I vote for Risky’s BBQ in Fort Worth!!!!!

  • Thomas Longbotham

    I’ll go out on a limb here, but I would put most of these sandwiches in the same lot as the “three or four pork ribs with the bone [...] stacked between two slices of bread”. Sandwiches are for making eating easier and less messy, right? So you can play cards or what have you.

  • Jacquelyn Johnson

    Beeville texas ….elders meat market….best bbq in south texas……50 yeats running

    • Carl Zepeda

      You’re kidding right? My inlaws are from Beeville and i’ve eaten at Elders many times. They’re not even on the same playing field as spots in Texas. I love the Beeville pride though!

  • omaflinger

    I just love living in the best state for fine BBQ for whatever your taste buds are needing. Lockhart TX wasn’t mentioned nor some great places close to Houston like Central TX BBQ found in Pearland TX or the “CountyLine” in Austin and Houston. Oh oh oh, then when SXSW happens, yew haw to Austin. One cannot go wrong B/C BBQ is at it’s best in TX and not “oven baked” in other states that want to claim fame.

  • Collin Eastland

    the chopped bbq sandwich at Woody’s in Centerville is killer. Hell, everything at Woody’s is amazing. Definitely worth a stop.

  • Brad Bradley

    Now that we have the only BBQ editor in the world makes one wonder how many times Daniel has been asked “come try this”

  • suziequzie61

    I live inTyler & LOVE Stanley’s BBQ, but have never tried the Mother Clucker. My favorite sandwich there is the Brother-in-Law(hamburger bun, chopped brisket, butterflied hot link & cheese w/BBQ sauce), but to improve on that you order the Super Deluxe, which is the same components but on a jalapeño bun. YUM!!

  • Carol

    The fine folks at Tyler’s BBQ in Amarillo make the best chopped brisket sandwich I have ever had in my 60 years of loving BBQ. $7 for a sandwich with so much meat I have to make two meals out of it, really good sauce, a side (their potato salad is great) and a drink. Can’t beat that with a stick.

  • Michael Matthews

    http://www.popsrealcountrybbq.com/ Try out these guy’s Great BBQ and the sausage is the best in town hands down!

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