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8 next-generation Texas barbecue places you have to try

Evie Mae's Pit Barbecue in Wolfforth, Texas Dishes served at Evie Mae’s Pit Barbecue in Wolfforth. | Photo courtesy Evie Mae's Pit Barbecue

There’s a new age of barbecue in our state, and it demands exploration. In cities and small towns, a younger breed of pitmasters from down south to way up in the Panhandle is fueling new ideas for smokehouse goodness. The young guns’ techniques remain true to the masters who made Texas barbecue famous generations ago, and their flavors still derive from low, slow burning of mesquite, pecan, hickory, post oak, or a combination of woods. But trust me: This isn’t your grandpa’s barbecue.

Cooks are using better-quality ingredients—prime beef brisket, anyone?—and some are incorporating their ethnic heritage into their creations. The fact that customers will stand in line for an hour to try the newcomers’ interpretations tells you all you need to know. Here’s our guide to eight buzz-worthy favorites across the state.

La Barbecue, Austin

2027 E. Cesar Chavez Street

La Frito Loco at La Barbecue in Austin. | Photo by LeAnn Mueller/Courtesy La Barbecue

La Frito Loco at La Barbecue in Austin. | Photo by LeAnn Mueller/Courtesy La Barbecue

Barbecue pedigrees don’t get more serious than LeAnn Mueller’s. LeAnn, the co-owner of this funky spot in East Austin, is daughter of Bobby Mueller from the nearby town of Taylor and granddaughter of Louie Mueller—Texas barbecue royalty. But instead of adopting her father’s “hot and fast” technique, LeAnn follows the long-standing Texas tradition of smoking brisket over post oak up to 10 hours. She exemplifies the nouveau barbecue spirit at La Barbecue by sourcing beef from a local ranch, where cows are fed a hormone-free, grass diet. Order a La Frito Loco and you’ll get that beef chopped and combined with pulled pork, beans, jalapeño, chipotle slaw, cheese, and Fritos. The Bobby Dawg is another treat, made with jalapeño sausage and topped with brisket or pulled pork, beans, cheeses, onion, and jalapeño on a big Martin’s hot dog bun. Ask for chipotle slaw on the side.

Cattleack Barbeque, Dallas

13628 Gamma Road; (972) 805-0999

Cattleack Barbeque's Que-T-Pie | Photo courtesy Cattleack Barbeque

Cattleack Barbeque's Que-T-Pie | Photo courtesy Cattleack Barbeque

This white-hot spot in a North Dallas industrial setting has been at the top of every important barbecue critics’ list in the past couple of years. That means lines are perpetually long, but patience is rewarded. Take a couple of longnecks (BYOB is fine) for company as you make your way to the order counter. Order the magnificent Akaushi (Texas-raised Japanese cattle known for its tender, heart-healthy qualities) beef rib. It’s about 2 pounds, so pace yourself. It pairs well with the baked beans loaded with brisket burnt ends; mac-and-cheese teased with Hatch chiles; and apple-broccoli seasonal salad. Into sandwiches? Don’t skip the Toddfather, a mountain of brisket, pulled pork, sausage, and slaw drizzled with barbecue sauce. If you arrive when the Que-T-Pie—house-made pastry dough filled with smoked brisket, cheese, onion, and sauce, and baked—is a special, it’s your lucky day.

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Panther City BBQ, Fort Worth

201 E. Hattie Street; (214) 532-3657

Panther City BBQ's brisket elote cup

Panther City BBQ's brisket elote cup | Photo courtesy Panther City BBQ

The willingness of Panther City devotees to wait in long lines has paid off. In 2019, the smokehouse moved from a barbecue trailer to a permanent joint next to Republic Street Bar. In addition to serving massive beef ribs (available in summer), prime brisket, smoked turkey breast, and cracked pepper sausage, the smokehouse team works wonders with creations like barbacoa chili topped with jalapeño and Mexican crema, pork belly poppers, and smoked wings. La Pantera Tacos Y Mas, the on-site spin-off and late-night taco shop, offers barbacoa tacos wrapped in house-made tortillas. Don’t forget the brisket elote cup, a bowl of creamed corn topped with chunks of tender brisket, queso fresco, sliced jalapeños, minced cilantro, and a lime wedge. Leave room for smoked pecan bread pudding.

Feges BBQ, Houston

3 Greenway Plaza, Suite C210; (832) 409-6118

The husband-and-wife team of Patrick Feges and Erin Smith make barbecue at Feges BBQ in Houston

The husband-and-wife team of Patrick Feges and Erin Smith make barbecue at Feges BBQ in Houston. | Photo by Robert Jacob Lerma/Courtesy Feges BBQ

At last, carnivores and herbivores can feast together at a barbecue place. The husband-and-wife team of Patrick Feges and Erin Smith offer a menu that balances his passion for whole-hog smoking and her elite culinary background. She has worked with Thomas Keller and other notable chefs. Along with brisket, pulled pork, ribs, and sausage, you’ll find entrée-size kale salad, as well as sides such as loaded potato salad, pimento mac-and-cheese, and roasted corn grits. For breakfast, tacos can range from brisket to vegetarian. Dessert is never an afterthought: Check out the PB+J chocolate cake.

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Brick Vault Brewery and Barbecue, Marathon

102 NW First Street (US Highway 90); (432) 386-7538

Brick Vault Brewery and Barbecue's pulled pork and Vaquero sandwiches.

Brick Vault Brewery and Barbecue's pulled pork and Vaquero sandwiches. | Photo courtesy Brick Vault Brewery and Barbecue

A 1939 gas station building found new life as a smokehouse just a few doors down from the vaunted Gage Hotel. Its name comes from the 1880s brick vault in back; the building was a mercantile store before its service station tenure. Smokers were installed next to the store’s old vault, and a brewery was added, too. Brews on tap go with brisket beef, pulled pork, turkey, and memorable sausage, like the one I had one recent visit: jalapeño-cheddar. The kitchen pays special attention to sides like fresh, crisp skillet-cooked green beans and pickled red onion. Brick Vault is also known for its colossal sandwiches, such as the Vaquero, piled with slices of brisket and jalapeño-cheddar sausage. The peach cobbler is worth every ounce of guilt.

Two Bros. BBQ Market, San Antonio

12656 West Avenue; (210) 496-0222

Two Bros. BBQ Market's Big Bro Sandwich

Two Bros. BBQ Market's Big Bro Sandwich. | Photo courtesy Two Bros. BBQ Market

Chef Jason Dady and brother Jake created their dream Texas pit barbecue place, blending traditions with their inspirations. Texas oak smoke permeates the usual offerings, such as beef brisket, turkey, and pulled pork. You’ll find surprises like chicken thighs and cherry-glazed baby back ribs. Shareable noshes include smoked bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños and smoky spinach-artichoke dip. For a deep dose of comfort, dig into the Cheesy Chop, a bowl of chopped beef nestled next to mac-and-cheese. For belt-busting indulgence, look to the Big Bro Sandwich, a towering work of brisket, smoked sausage, pulled pork, slaw, pickles, and barbecue sauce.

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Davila’s BBQ, Seguin

418 W. Kingsbury Street; (830) 379-5566

BBQ Frito pie at Davila's BBQ. | Photo by Julia Keim/Courtesy Davila’s BBQ

BBQ Frito pie at Davila's BBQ. | Photo by Julia Keim/Courtesy Davila’s BBQ

This 1959 smokehouse near San Antonio is renowned for showcasing the South Texas vaquero influence. Now, it’s run by third-generation pitmaster Adrian Davila, who brought this smokehouse to renewed popularity and cowrote Cowboy Barbecue. The cookbook captures the magic you taste at the restaurant, where Davila rustles up his family’s long-loved mesquite-smoked meats (beef brisket, pork ribs, lamb ribs, Southern fried catfish, turkey breast, or ham). Or check out his own dishes, such as Matador Nachos: cheese, shredded brisket, and refried beans piled atop corn tortilla chips, with sour cream and jalapeños on the side. Depending on when you stop in, you might find Frito pie topped with chopped brisket, smoked sausage slices, pinto beans, grated cheese, pico de gallo, jalapeños, and barbecue sauce.

Evie Mae’s Pit Barbecue, Wolfforth

271 US Highway 62; (806) 782-2281

Prime rib, green beans, cucumber salad, and cornbread at Evie Mae's Barbecue. | Photo courtesy Evie Mae's Barbecue

Prime rib, green beans, cucumber salad, and cornbread at Evie Mae's Barbecue. | Photo courtesy Evie Mae's Barbecue

Pitmaster Arnis Robbins and his wife, Mallory, built a significant following at their roadside food truck, serving gluten-free barbecue just outside of Lubbock. Now, folks line up outside their storefront. You’ll want green chile–cheese grits on the side, as well as corn bread muffins. The list of reasons to keep returning include Evie Mae’s smoked prime rib dinner (served on select Saturdays by reservation), one of the great pleasures of West Texas dining. Bring an oversized appetite for gluten-free treasures from the bakery case, such as the house-made coconut meringue pie, the chocolate–peanut butter pie, or the chocolate pecan pie.

Food writer and cookbook author June Naylor leads barbecue tours in North Texas.

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