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TEXAS barbecue, best in the world

TEXAS barbecue, best in the world

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Old Jul 7, 13, 8:22 am
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TEXAS barbecue, best in the world

Years ago, we had some lively discussion about Texas BBQ in this thread:
http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/south...ere-south.html

But then they split apart Texas into its own forum, and the South forum retained custody of that thread. There hasn't been much or any discussion of Texas BBQ since then, which is just plain wrong. So here we go.

Every 5 years, Texas Monthly magazine publishes a BBQ issue, widely considered to be the "bible" on the topic. The most recent issue was just last month.

See it here (some parts are behind a pay wall): http://www.tmbbq.com/
Top 50 list (alphabetical): http://www.tmbbq.com/top-50/

If you're visiting Texas, traveling to a new part of the state, or just looking for some new local joints to try, the top 50 list above is a good place to start.

The article starts with some fightin' words:

Texas barbecue has no peer on earth. If you’re reading this in Texas, you may wonder why we need to begin with such an obvious statement, but there are people who contend otherwise. In Kansas City they tout paltry slices of gray beef covered in sweet ketchup; the whole thing resembles cold cuts more than barbecue, which is why their arguments generally center on sauce rather than meat. In Memphis they grill ribs over charcoal and fret about whether to hide the product under a pool of sugary sauce or cover it with flavored dust. In the Carolinas they lift their noses and say through pursed, vinegary lips that they invented barbecue. They may have a claim there, but luckily we Texans came along to perfect it.

Some history follows, and then it continues:

Unlike our friends in the South, however, our arguments involve only the important stuff—not who has the better sauce or rub but who has the best meat. And in Texas, this means beef. Sure, we smoke hogs, in the form of spareribs, pork chops, or even (gasp) pulled pork, but we specialize in the Mount Everest of barbecue: brisket. In all of barbecuedom, there is no greater challenge and no greater reward.
...

For most of the twentieth century, Texas barbecue was an indisputably rural phenomenon. Sure, there were a few iconic places in urban areas—Angelo’s in Fort Worth, Otto’s in Houston, Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas—but they were hardly citified. Our first fifty-best lists of the new century, compiled in 2003 and 2008, showed little change in that regard.

Then something happened. A tectonic shift occurred. Over a few short years, beginning around 2009, an unprecedented number of brand-new, very good joints opened up. (Sixteen of this year’s top fifty—including two of the top four—were not even in existence five years ago.) Even more unusual, most were in cities...

We are now in the golden age of Texas barbecue. A new generation has arisen to take its place beside the stalwarts, and together they are producing more truly exceptional brisket, ribs, sausage, pork loin, pork chops, pork butt, hot guts, prime rib, chopped beef, and chicken than ever before. The pitmasters featured on the following pages offer the closing argument in the long-standing case of Texas barbecue versus the world. That case may now be considered closed.
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Old Jul 7, 13, 5:13 pm
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2 things...

1. The author loses all credibility by mentioning the names Sonny Bryan's and Angelo's in an article about the best BBQ. He should have mentioned Louis Mueller's, Lulling, Smitty's, Lockhart, etc. if he wanted to talk about old time iconic places and be taken seriously. Campisi's is a Dallas icon, but no one would rank it in the top pizza joints. Might as well talk about how generous the sides are at Dickey's.

2. This is perhaps the most honest thread title ever posted on FT.
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Old Jul 7, 13, 5:18 pm
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Originally Posted by spankytoes View Post
1. The author loses all credibility by mentioning the names Sonny Bryan's and Angelo's in an article about the best BBQ. He should have mentioned Louis Mueller's, Lulling, Smitty's, Lockhart, etc. if he wanted to talk about old time places and be taken seriously.
The author does say "in urban areas", so I really can't fault him for not mentioning most of those.
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Old Jul 7, 13, 7:07 pm
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Originally Posted by FlyingDiver View Post
The author does say "in urban areas", so I really can't fault him for not mentioning most of those.
Lockhart and Taylor are both close enough to Austin. I'd consider them to be possibly suburban and at least exurban.

Sonny Bryan's is a f-ing joke. If DFW suburbs meet the "urban" test then there is vastly better BBQ to be found in Coppell (Hard Eight) than at any Sonny Bryan's. Or for truly urban there is a FTW Stockyards outpost of Cooper's now open (mediocre the one time I was there; not up to par with the Llano original).

Although recently on some business trips to SAT I have been driving and routing via the new Toll 130 extension in order to arrive in those towns at lunch time.

Smitty's was twice very disappointing. Louie Mueller was excellent (both on the enormous beef rib and brisket).
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Old Jul 7, 13, 10:30 pm
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Or Pecan Lodge at the Dallas Farmer's Market or Meshack's in Garland. Both are solid choices in urban/suburban areas.

The truth of the matter is DFW has an overwhelmingly subpar BBQ scene...but not nearly as bad as Houston. At least San Antonio is a stone's throw from edible meat. In Austin, you simply have to cross the street.
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Old Jul 8, 13, 7:38 am
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I'll agree with the assessments of Sonny Bryan's, but my understanding is that it used to be much better. I didn't eat at the original Inwood location until the late 90's, and was disappointed, but maybe it really was much better back in the 60's? In any case, the article called it "iconic", not "great", and was talking about "most of the twentieth century".

You can disagree with some of the specifics, but I do think the general points he's making are hard to dispute: that there's been a recent a statewide resurgence in places serving great BBQ, and that the new great places are much more likely to be found in high-population areas compared to decades past.
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Old Jul 8, 13, 1:22 pm
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Originally Posted by spankytoes View Post
Or Pecan Lodge at the Dallas Farmer's Market or Meshack's in Garland. Both are solid choices in urban/suburban areas.
We were just talking about Pecan Lodge at work today. Going to have to try that place. Seems to be well regarded.

Might be difficult to order barbecue there though when their "Hot Mess" (barbacoa stuffed baked sweet potato) sounds so good.
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Old Jul 8, 13, 8:43 pm
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Originally Posted by swag View Post
I'll agree with the assessments of Sonny Bryan's, but my understanding is that it used to be much better. I didn't eat at the original Inwood location until the late 90's, and was disappointed, but maybe it really was much better back in the 60's? In any case, the article called it "iconic", not "great", and was talking about "most of the twentieth century".

You can disagree with some of the specifics, but I do think the general points he's making are hard to dispute: that there's been a recent a statewide resurgence in places serving great BBQ, and that the new great places are much more likely to be found in high-population areas compared to decades past.
But it's a shoddy point. Dallas, for example, has Lockhart, Cooper's, County Line, Salt Lick, Rudy's, etc. that are satellite locations of the real thing. There aren't a lot of great "born and bred" options in the city. Pecan Lodge is an exception to that rule. The same goes for San Antonio and Houston. The iconic places are opening up locations in the big cities during expansion. The author makes it sound as though you could swing a dead cat and find a decent mom and pops cue joint, which simply isn't true. Sonny Bryan's is iconic for those that don't know what good BBQ is supposed to taste like and it's longevity in the city.

Austin, however, I would agree with. Franklin and J Mueller's are solid places. Before that, they still had Ironworks, Stubb's, Ruby's and other homegrown non-mass produced places that were passable. But I ascertain that to the fact that Austin is a much better locally supported food scene than the bigger Texas cities will ever be. It's just the culture of the state.
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Old Jul 8, 13, 8:44 pm
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Originally Posted by Herb687 View Post
We were just talking about Pecan Lodge at work today. Going to have to try that place. Seems to be well regarded.

Might be difficult to order barbecue there though when their "Hot Mess" (barbacoa stuffed baked sweet potato) sounds so good.
It's typically an hour wait in line, so be prepared. It's worth it.
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Old Jul 8, 13, 8:46 pm
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How do you rate County Line in Austin?
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Old Jul 8, 13, 10:45 pm
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Originally Posted by spankytoes View Post
But it's a shoddy point. Dallas, for example, has Lockhart, Cooper's, County Line, Salt Lick, Rudy's, etc. that are satellite locations of the real thing. There aren't a lot of great "born and bred" options in the city. Pecan Lodge is an exception to that rule. The same goes for San Antonio and Houston. The iconic places are opening up locations in the big cities during expansion. The author makes it sound as though you could swing a dead cat and find a decent mom and pops cue joint, which simply isn't true. Sonny Bryan's is iconic for those that don't know what good BBQ is supposed to taste like and it's longevity in the city.

Austin, however, I would agree with. Franklin and J Mueller's are solid places. Before that, they still had Ironworks, Stubb's, Ruby's and other homegrown non-mass produced places that were passable. But I ascertain that to the fact that Austin is a much better locally supported food scene than the bigger Texas cities will ever be. It's just the culture of the state.
Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas isn't a satellite location. The owners learned their craft in Lockhart, but the Dallas place is their only location (though they did announce just today a 2nd one will open in Plano). I'd also point to Slow Bone, Three Stacks, and Cattleack as recent Dallas-area openings, all in the last year, all originals, and all excellent.

As many good choices as Austin? No. But orders of magnitude better than Dallas BBQ was 10 years ago. You bet.

BTW - There's a County Line in Dallas? A Salt Lick, besides inside the airport?
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Old Jul 9, 13, 11:38 am
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Originally Posted by FlyingDiver View Post
How do you rate County Line in Austin?
Not bad, but probably not top 10 in austin.

In austin, franklins, jmueller, stiles switch, micklethwait and blue ox are all really good. Lockhart has dropped in quality lately. Snows in lexington is good. Elgin bbq is average. A lot of places are good some days and not so good on others. Stick with the top spots for consistency, and try to go for lunch. Dinner might yield meat that has been sitting out for hours.
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Old Jul 9, 13, 3:28 pm
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Originally Posted by FlyingDiver View Post
How do you rate County Line in Austin?
I've never been to the original County Line; seems like the place is now a chain with quite a few locations around AUS & SAT.

The one County Line I've eaten at, a branch on I-10 in Northern SAT, was mediocre. It was every bit a chain restaurant experience.


Originally Posted by eltex View Post
Not bad, but probably not top 10 in austin.

In austin, franklins, jmueller, stiles switch, micklethwait and blue ox are all really good. Lockhart has dropped in quality lately. Snows in lexington is good. Elgin bbq is average. A lot of places are good some days and not so good on others. Stick with the top spots for consistency, and try to go for lunch. Dinner might yield meat that has been sitting out for hours.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend a visit to the town of Taylor and Louie Mueller BBQ for someone in the AUS area. Taylor is not far at all (even less so if business has you up in Round Rock anyway). Louie Mueller was outstanding on a recent visit while two stops at Smitty's (Lockhart) in the past month were disappointing.
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Old Jul 9, 13, 6:00 pm
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No need to go to Taylor. His grandson, and former pitmaster, does the same thing

http://www.johnmuellermeatco.com/home/

Though Taylor Cafe is solid.
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Old Jul 9, 13, 7:19 pm
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Dallas

So here's my take on several spots around the Dallas area.

The best:

Pecan Lodge. Top of the heap. Texas Monthly ranked it in the top 4, and IMO that is deserved. Everything I've had there has been consistently great. The downside, of course, is the lines.

I was there on the Thursday (typically the least busy day) right before the top-4 announcement came out, and the wait was still 50 minutes. I'd be surprised if it's ever below an hour these days, and it could be much longer if you arrive at the wrong time on a Saturday. I've found you can get a reasonable estimate of the wait by counting the number of people; about a minute per person seems pretty accurate. One saving grace, the line is indoors, so protected from the heat and rain.



The rest of the top tier:

Slow Bone. One visit there, but liked it a lot. Excellent brisket & ribs. Good sides. Parking can be a challenge.

3 Stacks (Frisco). Good brisket, excellent ribs, both beef and pork. Open for lunch and dinner, and a large selection of micro- and craft brews on tap.

Cattleack. The newest entrant, still undiscovered but that's changing quickly. It's a catering company that just two months ago starting selling retail (takeout), only lunchtime on Fridays. Good ribs, superb brisket. And very friendly people.

Lockhart. TM top-50. Good brisket, very good ribs, excellent sausage.

Meshack's (Garland). TM top-50. My only visit there, they were closed, so I haven't tried it yet, but reviews they get are consistently good, so I'll include them here for now. Call before you go.



Best of the rest. These places are a notch below the ones above, but very good, worth a visit.

Hard Eight (Coppell). Just northeast of DFW Airport, it's my go to place if I want a big lunch before a flight. It's smoky enough that I'm always afraid when TSA decides to swab my hands. The brisket here is maddeningly inconsistent, sometimes fantastic and sometimes dry and dull; do you feel lucky? But the ribs are always solid. The place is huge, can easily handle a large group.

North Main BBQ (Euless). Just Southwest of DFW, $15 here gets you the all-you-can-eat buffet. Self-serve BBQ restaurants are a rarity here, but I like it, you can select the exact pieces of meat that look best to you. Snag the crusty pieces of brisket and pulled pork, and your taste buds will thank you. Ribs are great too. Fri-Sun only.

Cooper's (Ft Worth). Another huge place, overrated by some but still good. Right at the stockyards, the crowd here is touristy.

Kenny's Smoke House (Plano). A more upscale take on BBQ. If you want 'cue at a non-casual business dinner, this could be the spot. I've only been once, had the brisket, it was good.



Others

Rudy's (Frisco, Allen, Arlington). I think it's the best of the big chains. 10 years ago I would have been ecstatic to find this quality 'cue in DFW; now, it's less noteworthy. I almost put it with the prior grouping, maybe I'm docking it for chain-ness. But if I was staying way up in Allen and didn't want to drive too far, I wouldn't hesitate to eat here.

Hutchin's (McKinney). TM top-50. I haven't tried it yet but hope to soon.

Bartley's (Grapevine). TM top-50. I went once after the list came out and was disappointed. Nothing special.

Mama Faye's. I haven't been to their restaurant down in Deep Ellum, but I've had their brisket at some catered events and liked it a lot.

Work Bar & Grill. Another Deep Ellum spot, also brand new. I haven't tried it yet, but the brisket is getting some very good buzz, and it's on my list to try out.

Last edited by swag; Jul 9, 13 at 10:49 pm
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