Courtesy of Teddy’s Barbecue
While there’s no shortage of great barbecues in Texas’ big cities, it’s worth driving a few miles – or hours – to explore the state’s tastiest destinations that lie beyond the main hubs. tourist. These pitmasters and chefs serve up destination-worthy smoked meat (and sides!) in locations ranging from a small desert intersection to the Rio Grande Valley. So wherever you’re from, curate the perfect playlist for a Texan artist road trip and buckle up, because you’ve got a to-do list.
A pilgrimage to Evie Mae’s requires some commitment – unless you live in the nearby town of Lubbock – but oh, well worth it. Texas monthly ranked it #9 on its most recent list of “50 Best BBQs in Texas” and for good reason; everything they do is out of this world. The brisket melts in your mouth, the German sausage has the best taste and flavor, and the homemade sides like jalapeño cornbread and green chile cheese grits explode with flavor. Enjoy a free beer while you wait, but save room for those daily drool-worthy pies and pastries!
Big-city barbecue might not be what you think of when you hear a quaint name like “Mimsy’s,” but this East Texas barbecue restaurant offers seriously artful dishes with a gourmet edge. of gastronomic sensibility. Well, the word is out. In 2020, husband and wife team Wade (a self-taught pitmaster) and Kathy Elkins (a classically trained chef) opened Mimsy’s in the small town of Crockett, Texas after working in some of the best restaurants and barbecue restaurants of Houston. Since then, the couple have garnered a lot of attention and praise for their Central Texas-style smoked meats and menu of delicious sides, tacos and desserts. Must-haves include: juicy smoked turkey and brined chicken for two days; the American burger topped with cheese made with brisket trimmings (available on Wednesdays); the El Jefe taco, a fatty brisket flour tortilla filled with chopped brisket, crispy fries, smoky queso and pico; and Kathy’s Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Cheesecake. Mimsy’s is open until 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and until 3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
At this family-friendly, local-approved spot in Bryan (just down the road from Texas A&M University), Alan Caldwell and Belender Wells deliver glorious barbecue and sides, perfectly seasoned and perfectly smoked—no frills. Pitmaster Caldwell’s Handbook brisket highlights the beautiful contrast between crunchy bark, melted fat and juicy meat, while his incredible smoked chicken with both super moist meat and more than crispy skin defies all logic. Sides made from scratch are so good you’ll want to take some away; order the creamy mac and cheese and the homemade peach cobbler for your return. (Fargo’s Pit BBQ is a two-hour drive from Austin and an hour-and-a-half drive from Houston.)
In a state where the chest is the litmus test for a “tail joint’s” abilities, it’s refreshing to see a pitmaster take the humble chicken and knock it out of the park. That’s the case at Helberg Barbecue, opened in 2018 by Phillip Helberg and his wife Yvette just outside Waco, halfway between Dallas and Austin. Pitmaster Phillip Helberg brines the chicken halves before they are smoked, then, as they are ordered, they are fried in beef tallow for incredibly moist meat and crispy skin coated in spices . Also don’t miss the USDA Prime beef brisket and mac and cheese with crispy fried onions and bacon.
You can count the number of places to eat in Marfa on two hands, but even if there were hundreds of options in the four-stop desert town, you’d still choose Convenience West BBQ. Pitmaster Mark Scott, a staple in the Marfa community, worked in fine dining and ran other concepts before teaming up with his wife Kaki, Food Shark’s Adam Bork and baker Katy Rose Elsasser for Convenience West. Moist and juicy smoked chicken and turkey, well-salted blackbark brisket, lightly sweetened ribs and crispy links are served with sides that reveal the team’s culinary pedigree. Try the cornbread with blue corn, the tangy Mexican street corn salad, and the tangy, tangy fire-roasted carrot “dip” served with a pile of corn chips. Make it a weekend – Convenience West is only open Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. while supplies last.
Before opening Teddy’s Barbecue in their hometown of Weslaco in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, siblings Joel and Jesse Garcia honed their skills in awesome barbecues. (Joel’s experience includes stints at Austin’s Freedman’s and Terry Black’s, as well as Pharr’s Smoking Moon alongside Jesse.) The brothers strayed from the typical RGV barbecue in favor of the Central Texas style, but with some surprises in the mix. The rubs have a generous amount of pepper and everything is smoked slowly and slowly over post-oak, resulting in a moist brisket, tender pork ribs, surprisingly juicy turkey and links that have to be tasted to be believed. Don’t miss the Thursday smash burgers (made with brisket trimmings). The Saturday Wagyu beef ribs, or the melted beef fat tortillas handmade by the brothers’ mother, Ana.
About 45 minutes southeast of Austin, just off Smithville’s Main Street is Carne Lenta, the smoked meat hub for all of Austin’s Taco Flats restaurants, also from owner Simon Madera. Here, a range of proteins and cuts are smoked daily over local oak wood, but instead of a typical menu sold by the pound, these tender meats end up being slipped into fresh corn and flour tortillas and made by hand. Many restaurants offer the same cuts, but Carne Lenta’s use of real fire adds a smoky dimension you can’t get in your ordinary commercial kitchen. The smoked chicken taco is a favorite with its moist smoked chicken breast, crunchy seasoned cabbage, guacamole, pico de gallo, queso fresco and tangy aioli, as is the barbacoa – cheek, tongue and smoked beef chuck slowly, plus cilantro, pickled jalapeño and onion. Even better, Carne Lenta has a full bar, plenty of seating, live music, and is open until midnight Thursday through Saturday.
A hike to Seguin’s Burnt Bean Co. is a no-brainer – check out THIS. At this location, an hour’s drive from San Antonio and Austin, pitmasters and barbecue competition champions Ernest Servantes and Dave Kirkland are not only masters of their craft, they’re having fun with it, too. Along with a masterfully executed holy trinity – tender blackbark beef brisket with a perfectly rendered fat cap, sweet and spicy tender pork ribs, and downright heavenly homemade sausages with a snappy casing – we love playful and special Tex-Mex-inspired side dishes. Get the macaroni and cheese queso topped with crunchy corn puffs and the street corn pudding sprinkled with tangy lime seasoning.
Halfway between Houston and Austin, Brenham is brimming with both wholesome Americana charm and great, great barbecue. (The town is home to the original location of the famous Truth BBQ.) Pitmasters Matt Lowery, Corey Cook and their team whip up expertly executed smoked meats and awesome specialties that locals and visitors alike can’t wait to line up for . Don’t worry, the line goes very fast and there’s free beer on Friday and Saturday! The tender peppercorn brisket is a must, as is the juicy sausage, but don’t skip the creamy, buttery macaroni and cheese. LJ’s also offers inspired and tasty daily specials and creative mashups – think pork belly bánh mi, smoky cheeseburgers and Philly cheese steaks.