Trip Guides

Notches on Texas' Barbecue Belt

Texas' barbecue belt is packed with destinations that would each be number one in any other state. In Texas, it's a hotly contested toss-up. Whether you're a fan of pulled pork, fatty brisket, or tender ribs, we give a rundown of the state's meaty destinations, rivalries, and slow-smoked goodness.

Photo credit: Erica Ellis

“[At Snow's BBQ,] the pork shoulder falls away the instant you bite, the brisket is so flavorful it requires no sauce, the sauce does the miraculous by improving the brisket, the mayo-based potato salad is glorious, and the pinto beans are free. I saw nothing wrong with a“[At Franklin Barbecue,] I threw my head back, closed my eyes, and entered an umami wormhole outside the bounds of space-time.”


  • Food & Drink
  • Food & Drink
  • Hill Country
  • Prairies & Lakes

Some Texans debate barbecue the way others talk politics or the NFL. With an abundance of world-class barbecue joints throughout the state and more popping up all the time, it could be said that the golden age of Texas barbecue has arrived. We ventured to the most celebrated spots, because the only thing better than discussing barbecue is eating it.

Let It Be Snow's

In the small town of Lexington, about an hour east of Austin, sits a place that existed under the radar until Texas Monthly hailed it as the best in the state.

That was in 2008, and if business was brisk at Snow's BBQ before then, it's booming now. The famed spot, essentially an unassuming red shack and some picnic tables, opens only on Saturdays from 8 a.m. till everything's sold out. Pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz, a spitfire in her late seventies, and her crew slow-smoke their meats starting at 3 a.m., ensuring a sumptuous feast.

We showed up at 9:30 a.m. and were pleasantly surprised to find a small line, which only began to grow after we'd been served. Then we ate, and all those accolades made sense. The pork shoulder falls away the instant you bite, the brisket is so flavorful it requires no sauce, the sauce does the miraculous by improving the brisket, the mayo-based potato salad is glorious, and the pinto beans are free. I saw nothing wrong with any of this.

What's more, the service is superlative. Tomanetz, who's been smoking meat since 1967, often chats with customers, while owner Kerry Bexley and his staff are on hand with warm smiles to help. While Snow's accepts mail orders for its barbecue, nothing replaces a pilgrimage to the rural haven for a slice of Texas hospitality.

Franklin Barbe-queuing

There's a reason why customers wait for hours outside Franklin Barbecue, why the press hails it in frequent reviews, and why President Obama recently checked it off his Austin bucket list.

Open since 2009, the eatery on East 11th Street lives up to the hype. Its menu features the usual spread of brisket, pulled pork, and other smoked meats, but the trick lies in owner Aaron Franklin's attention to process. Every morsel is prepared with love, patience, and an uncompromising commitment to quality.

Our visit to the meat mecca, which involved a two-hour wait, was worth the early-morning effort. Franklin's pitmasters slow-smoke their brisket for up to 15 hours; the texture, seasoning, and consistency are so finely tuned that I threw my head back, closed my eyes, and entered an umami wormhole outside the bounds of space-time. Washing it down with a Mexican Coke and shoveling mounds of potato salad into my face, I harbored zero regrets about my choices that day.

More Notches

Texas' barbecue belt is lined with dozens of stops. Put some notches on your own belt—just remember to loosen it afterward—by visiting some of these favorites.

In Lockhart, there are Kreuz Market and Smitty's, two establishments owned by siblings who founded their joints after the dissolution of the legendary original Kreuz Market. Each keeps the tradition alive with succulent, lean brisket and superbly smoked meats all around. Kreuz eschews barbecue sauce altogether; that's how confident they are in the taste of their meat. Black's Barbecue in Lockhart also comes highly recommended.

In the trendy Galleria area of Houston, there's the Luling City Market, whose smoky meat gets its flavor from a non-gas cooking process over post oak wood. Try their beef sausage and special mustard-based barbecue sauce; the restaurant grills throughout the week, too. East Austin's John Mueller Meat Co., another joint in a revitalizing area, is also quite the crowd-pleaser.

My #TexasToDo

Founded by its namesake, a charismatic third-generation pitmaster, the John Mueller Meat Co. slings traditional smoked brisket, beef ribs, sausage, pork ribs, and more from a trailer on East 6th Street in Austin. Patrons can buy beers at neighboring bar Kellee's Place and can eat their meat inside. While you can't go wrong with anything on the menu, when it comes to sides, we recommend the baked squash.

Featured in this Trip

Food & Drink Food & Drink
Hill Country Hill Country
Prairies & Lakes Prairies & Lakes

Fun Fact:

For more than one Texas eatery, barbecue runs in the family. Smitty's and the current incarnation of Kreuz Market, respectively, were established by siblings Nina Schmidt Sells and Rick Schmidt. A third-generation joint, Schmidt Family Barbecue, opened in Bee Cave. And three children of Bobby Mueller, founder of Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, own three joints in Central Texas, including the original.

Austin

Originally called Waterloo, this city was renamed to honor Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.” Today, the city bills itself as the Live Music Ca...

Houston

Named after Sam Houston, general of the Texas army that won independence from Mexico and president of the Republic of Texas. The city grew from a smal...

Lockhart

The city was a southern terminus of the Chisholm Trail. One of Texas' oldest Protestant churches, Emanuel Episcopal Church is at Church and Walnut str...


Texas Monthly
Texas Monthly is an authority on the Texas scene, covering music, the arts, travel, restaurants, museums, and cultural events since 1973.
Ryan B. Martinez
Ryan B. Martinez is a freelance writer and editor based in Austin. He loves and has written about popular music, comic books, issues pertaining to the LGBTQ community, and his hometown of El Paso.
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