The Absolute Best Barbecue Restaurants In Texas, Ranked

California has wine trails, Kentucky has bourbon trails, and Texas has a long and winding barbecue trail. Low and slow is a way of life; state-wide competitions occur almost weekly to find the best brisket, burnt ends, ribs, and beans, inspiring backyard enthusiasts to become restauranteurs. 

Classics aren't the only thing on the menu in Texas. Pitmasters include every type of protein, history, and heritage. Today you can find Texas barbecue with influences from Ethiopia, India, Mexico, and Korea, cooking for hours in offset smokers over wood from Texas-grown trees. These influences incorporate into each region's typical fare. 

Traditionally, each part of the state has its style of Texas barbecue. And while each area is unique, it would take us a lifetime to compare the best in each regional specialty. Each of these pits is doing something special across the state. But just know this: it is all deliciously Texan.

25. Cattleman's Steakhouse

We can hear the lyrics for "Snake Farm" from Texas country music outlaw Ray Wylie Hubbard in our ears as we roll past the snake pit to the front door of the massive Cattleman's Steakhouse just outside of El Paso. Though the working ranch is primarily a steakhouse, it also serves various barbecue favorites available until sold out. 

This includes beef cubes (i.e., burnt ends), ribs, and brisket; all served with a side of Mexican chilies and all-you-can-eat spicy ranch-style beans and pineapple cole slaw.

24. Holy Smoke Barbecue at New Zion Baptist Church

Leave it to Texas to have a spot to feed your soul and appetite. Holy Smoke BBQ at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, TX, began 50+ years ago. Per reporting from ABC 30, church wives barbecued for their husbands and churchgoers; The aromas of smoked meat at the church attracted hungry diners asking to buy a plate. Every week the crowds grew until, with a $50 gift from the church, a group of wives opened a barbecue stand working out of the building. 

Today the pastor's daughter runs Holy Smoke BBQ stand and serves the classics Friday and Saturday with a side of love. At the time of writing, a two-meat plate runs $11 and comes with classic southern potato salad, beans, pickles, and onions. And be sure to add a cold glass of sweet tea to wash it all down.

23. Vera's Texas Barbecue

Vera's Backyard Bar-B-Que brings a Mexican flare to its meat in the Rio Grande Valley near the border. Since 1955 the Brownsville restaurant has been known for its underground pit-cooked barbacoa de Cabeza (barbecued cow's head). Slow-smoked in the brick-lined pit over mesquite for 12 hours and served in tacos with fresh salsas, cilantro, and onions.

In 2020 Vera's was named an American classic by the James Beard Foundation. The award came in recognition of Vera's border-town delicacy that honors the traditions of the vaquero-cowboy culture that was prevalent in the area in the 1800s.

22. Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse

Throughout the state, historical locations have been serving Texas-style barbecue for generations. The original Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse on Inwood Road in Dallas is one of these quintessential places. It has been an institution since 1958, when Sonny Bryan sold his gun collection to start his smokehouse. 

The restaurant became a hit with locals and visitors, including Julia Child, who would stop by anytime she was in town. Child enjoyed Sonny's barbecue sandwich, always accompanied by a cold Pearl beer. Today you can enjoy the sandwich any time, as the original location is open 24/7. We suggest pairing it with a local brew from Rahr, Four Corners, or Peticoles.

21. Dyer's Barbecue

There are too many reasons to love Dyer's Barbecue in Amarillo, Texas, a Panhandle destination for over 50 years. We appreciate that kids aged three to seven receive a complimentary dinner with their parent's meal on Tuesdays. Kids under two always eat free, meaning developing the love of barbecue occurs early in West Texas infants. 

We respect Dyer's grit, with the now third generation running the operations. But the main reason we love Dyer's is for the hand-battered onion rings. Thin, fried to the perfect crisp with a light tempura batter, and served with a surprising side of apricot puree for dipping. The combo is unconventional, but the sweetness of the puree brings out the natural sugars in the vegetable, creating the perfect bite.

20. The Salt Lick

Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, Salt Lick Barbecue draws visitors following the heavenly scent of smoking meat. Over five thousand diners walk through the doors daily to enjoy seared and live oak smoked meats cooked over an open pit filled with pecan shells in the main dining room. 

Thirty-six ingredients go into Salt Lick's barbecue sauce. You won't find ketchup as the owners believe it gives a bitter taste to smoky meat. Instead, sugar, warm spices, and pepper give Salt Lick's sauce a sweet, spicy flavor, perfect for slathering over a rack of spare ribs. 

The restaurant is BYOB and does not accept credit cards. We suggest grabbing a bottle of tempranillo from Fall Creek Cellars across the street and arriving with plenty of cash.

19. KG BBQ

With an Egyptian influence from owner Kareem El-Ghayesh, this Austin-based restaurant brings the spices and flavors of the Middle East to traditional Central Texas barbecue. 

El-Ghayesh gave up a career in finance in Cairo in 2016, moving across the world to follow his meaty dreams after tasting authentic Texas barbecue while visiting the state. He spent the next few years dedicating his life to becoming a craftsman, hosting pop-ups until he was able to start the food truck in 2022.

Menu combinations enhance classic Texas barbecue flavors, like pomegranate and za'atar glazed ribs and cinnamon, sumac smoked lamb shoulder, and KG's signature brisket bowl. Smoked brisket is piled on top of Mediterranean rice, layered with candied nuts and pomegranate seeds, and finished with tahini sauce.

18. Smoke 'N Ash BBQ

At Smoke and Ash Tex-Ethiopian Smokehouse in Arlington, Texas,Patrick and Fasicka Hicks swap Texas toast for housemade injera, an Ethiopian type of flatbread. Slightly sour and spongy, the African flatbread soaks in the smoky, spicy flavor of the couple's amazing slow-cooked meats. w

Meat platters come with a choice of beef and pork or beef and lamb, and a mix of Ethiopian finger food options, including smoked doro wat, a spicy chicken stew, stir-fried rib tip tibs, awaze brisket and awaze pork ribs (both heavy on berbere spice), spicy misir wat lentils, and beefy collard greens. The aromatic African flavors and the smoky richness of each slow-cooked meat make a flawless, flavor-packed combination.

17. Kelly's Hill Country BBQ

In a food truck in Wimberly in the Texas Hill Country, a former social studies teacher got the bug for competitive barbecuing in 2010 and never looked back. Diving in with both feet and winning many competitions, Kelly Evers quit his day job to smoke meat full-time six years later. 

Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 am until sold out, Evers serves Central Texas classics, including ribs and brisket, slow-cooked over post oak. But, the jalapeño cheddar sausage keeps us stopping by his stand just off Highway 12. The link is smokey and spicy, with the perfect amount of snap. It is made extra delicious with a side of apple pecan cole slaw, with the slaw's sweetness softening the peppery spice.

16. Brantley Creek Barbecue

With a focus on southern hospitality, you are more than a customer when you dine at Brantley Creek BBQ in Odessa; you are a part of the family. After years of perfecting his craft, pit master Brandon McPherson threw caution to the wind just days before Covid-19 locked down the world. He began smoking full-time in 2019, naming the food truck after his newborn son. It has quickly become a destination for premium West Texas Q.

The menu features the classics, and it's all good. We love McPherson's take on a nacho plate. The loaded nachos begin with a layer of crispy tortilla chips piled high with smoked brisket, jalapeño sausage, white queso, beans, and sweet barbecue sauce, topped with slices of pickled jalapeños.

15. Stanley's Famous Pit Barbecue

Stanley's Famous Pit Barbecue has fed the people of East Texas for decades. Before JD Stanley purchased the building in the fifties, two previous owners also had barbecued meats. Today, Nick and Jen Pencis own the spot, keeping the name that JD made famous. Stanley's can smoke up to 100 briskets a day, leaving each to smolder for about 16 hours. It is always tasty. We suggest opting for poultry instead and trying the restaurant's signature sandwich, the Mother Clucker. 

The sandwich starts with a smoked chicken thigh, spicy mayo, and cheddar cheese. A runny fried egg adorns the top; all layered inside jalapeño-cheddar sourdough bread. Consider going the Cadillac Clucker route with candied bacon and guacamole.

14. Hurtado Barbecue

In the past five years, Pitmaster Brandon Hurtado went from smoking meat for pop-ups to becoming one of North Texas' favorite barbecue spots with Hurtado Barbecue. Known for Central Texas-style barbecue with a Tex-Mex spin, we recommend visiting with friends and ordering the El Patron. 

The meaty platter serves four and includes one and a half pounds of brisket, one pound of pulled pork, two sausage links, four melt-in-your-mouth birria tacos, and four sides of your choice. You must include the hatch-chili mac and cheese and tater tot casserole.

13. Smitty's Market

Lockhart is the barbecue capital of Texas. About 20 minutes outside of Austin, Lockhart welcomes 250,000 diners each year to enjoy barbecue from one or all of the six spots in town, including Smitty's Market. 

When Kreuz Market relocated to Colorado St, the original Lockhart location became Smitty's Barbecue, owned by the sister of Kreuz's owner, Nina Sells. Smitty's is named after Sells' father, honoring the legacy of her father, who ran Kreuz Market until his passing in 1990. Sells grew up around the pit with her father and brothers; its fire has warmed her heart for decades.

Smitty's isn't where you come for fancy sides or imaginative combinations. The establishment focuses on the meat piled high on butcher paper with efficient service. But we are perfectly content with it because the flavors are always on point.

12. Gatlin's Barbecue

Since 2010 Gatlin's has been serving traditional South Texas barbecue with artisanal flare and a comforting, country heart. Beginning with breakfast at 7 am every day except Sunday, Greg Gatlin serves Houstonians craft barbecue in a former Cajun po-boy shop. 

Keeping things straightforward, the mom-and-pop restaurant brings the flavors Gatlin grew up with to your table. We highly recommend the two-meat platter with brisket, pulled pork, collard greens, and dirty rice. Or stop by in the morning for brisket and egg breakfast tacos.

11. Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ

Tex-Mex accouterments have always accompanied the Vidal family's weekend barbecues. When Miguel Vidal and his wife, Modesty, began Valentina's Tex-Mex BBQ in a permanently parked South Austin food truck, they brought hand-made tortillas, salsas, guacamole, and queso to the menu. 

Today you can purchase a brisket and fajitas by the pound or order sandwiches or tacos featuring pulled pork, smoked chicken, and meat, including his smoked brisket tacos. These may be the best tacos we have tried as they combine everything we love, including mesquite-smoked brisket, creamy guacamole, and spicy serrano salsa, all wrapped around a freshly made flour tortilla.

10. Terry Black's BBQ

Lockhart's Terry Black's Barbecue is owned by brothers Mark and Michael Black and started by their father, Terry Black. The family has been barbecuing in Lockhart since the 1930s. There is another Black's Barbecue in town. However, some recent irrefutable business dealings give our vote to Terry Black instead. 

Slow cooking over post-oak, the brothers create traditional favorites, including top-notch pork ribs, peppery brisket, sausage, and incredibly moist turkey. We love the sides — creamed corn, ranch-style pinto beans, baked potato salad, mac and cheese, and more are available in five to 128-ounce portions.

9. Pecan Lodge

Pecan Lodge is one of the best joints for Q in Dallas. New parents, Justin Fourton and his wife Diane, wanted to run a business that meant something to them. Both are passionate, unprofessional cooks who love barbecue. They began working by hitching a pit filled with smoking brisket to the back of their truck, selling sandwiches at lunchtime. In 2010 they moved to a shed at the outdoor Dallas Farmer's Market and in 2014 to a brick-and-mortar on Main Street in the city's historic Deep Ellum district. 

Since the start, those brisket sandwiches and tacos, and a loaded sweet potato have been menu favorites. Diane named the potato "Hot Mess" because that is how the utterly delicious South Texas barbacoa, cheese, and bacon stuffed spud looks. Today Pecan Lodge operates out of a 4000+ square foot space with three pits smoking 24/7, a full menu, and a wine and beer license.

8. LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue

Sawyer Lewis and Pitmaster Evan LeRoy bring modern flare and flavors to traditional Texas barbecue in Austin. Using locally sourced meats from small Texas ranchers, the duo produces inventive combinations unusual to Central Texas Q lovers. Still, just because it's different doesn't mean it isn't delicious; it is, so much so that LeRoy and Lewis will open its first brick-and-mortar in late 2023.

Menu highlights include pulled whole hog with beet barbecue sauce, low and slow beef cheeks, barbacoa, and crave-worthy cauliflower burnt ends that could turn any meat lover into a vegetarian. Save room for dessert; you don't want to skip the cheddar cheesecake with Ritz cracker crust and sweet apple butter, making this place one of the original and best Texas barbecue restaurants out there. 

7. Kreuz Market

The legacy of Lockhart's Kreuz Market began almost 150 years ago when pitmaster Jesse Swearingen started a meat market selling barbecue in the center of town. In 1900 Charles Kreuz Sr. purchased the meat market. Since then, the restaurant has passed to family members and long-time employees, all passionate about low/slow cooking. 

In 1999, Pitmaster Roy Perez transported the coals from the original pits across town to a new location, creating today's Kreuz Market and, eventually, the Lockhart Barbecue chains around the state. The menu includes the common Central Texas mix, adding prime rib, pork chops, and clod. We recommend the clod, or beef shoulder, perfectly smoked for about four and a half hours until you can cut it with a spoon.

6. Pinkerton's Pit Barbecue

Grant Pinkerton was one of those who began on the competition circuit. After graduating from the University of Texas, Austin, the entrepreneur was wondering what to do with his rhetoric and writing degree. That's when barbecue came calling. 

He turned a trailer into a smoker pit and began working across the state competing. He smoked three whole alligators at the Houston barbecue festival in 2016, earning credibility and notoriety that helped him open his first brick-and-mortar location in Houston.

Pinkerson's feeds hungry Houstonians flavors more similar to Central Texas barbecue favorites, including pulled pork, pork ribs, boudin, and slow-smoked brisket served sliced or chopped. We recommend saving room for dessert, as Aunt Ruby's southern blueberry cobbler is deliciously sweet and slightly tart.

5. Heim Barbecue

Barbecue and bacon have equal love among Texans. Given the opportunity to have them both together confirms there is a God. At Heim's Barbecue, Travis and Emma Heim offer just that in the form of bacon burnt ends. 

Though Heim's melt-in-your-mouth brisket, hunky ribs, and pulled pork are consistently delicious, the bacon burnt ends are why we go. Heim keeps the recipe a secret. However, we're sure the chewy, charred, intensely caramelized bites receive a healthy rub of brown sugar and pepper before smoking over slabs of post oak. Slow smoking renders the fat from the pig until the bacon becomes pure pork pleasure.

A lifelong barbecue believer, Travis Heim smoked his first brisket at 13 with his grandfather, instilling a passion for Q, leading to one of the most popular spots in North Texas. Heim started with church barbecues, moved to a highly successful food truck, and now has three locations statewide. Portions are large, and every dish is flavor-packed and on point.

4. Cattleack Barbecue

There is nothing fast about Cattleack's barbecue technique. Housemade sausages take days to complete. Beef and pork ribs smoke for hours until the meat falls off the bone. Out back, Cattleack has a half-dozen smokers and pits, where owners Todd and Misty David have instituted an in-house coal-making program.

Expect to find the usual suspects on the Cattleack BBQ menu in Dallas. Whole hogs and brisket are slathered with peppery spice and slow-smoked over post oak at 210 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, as buttery and melt-in-your-mouth as the standard options are, arrive early for the featured specials of the week. Items like flavor-packed Jerk chicken, pastrami-style burnt ends, spicy garlic andouille sausage, and Carolina-style whole hog are regularly offered, elevating the experience beyond your typical barbecue. Cattleack is only open on Thursday, Friday, and the first Saturday of every month and only for lunch beginning at 10 am until the food runs out. The restaurant is BYOB, so bring a six-pack of Shiner and get there well before noon.

3. Goldee's Barbecue

In Fort Worth, life-long barbecuing friends began Goldee's in 2020, naming it after a gold Ford F-250 that towed their first pit. The friends grew up together in North Texas, but each moved to Central Texas to learn barbecue from the best of the region. 

After several years of smoking for others, each moved back to North Texas, coming together to create their version of Central Texas-style barbecue. Instead of heavy sauces or 20-ingredient spice rubs, Goldee's confidently allows the meat to shine using minimal seasonings and post oak. 

Goldee's may only use salt and pepper, but Lawry's seasoning salt has an extra kick. A layer of it is added to everything from brisket to pork ribs. The salt extracts the meat's optimal flavor, punching up the umami notes and adding dimension to succulent brisket, savory beef ribs, and smoky sausages. Goldee's also makes its bread in-house daily, every plate coming with several slices of warm Texas toast to sop up the juices.

2. Snow's BBQ

We can say many things about Snow's BBQ, but it always returns to "Tootsie" Tomanetz. Without her, Snow's would just be another place serving meat.

Owner Kerry Bexley had spoken with pitmaster Norma Frances "Tootsie" Tomanetz for years before she finally agreed to join him in creating Snow's BBQ. The former owner of a spot in Giddings, Tomanetz is one of the finest pit masters in the country and a member of the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame.

The duo began Snow's in Lexington, TX, in In 2003. Keeping things simple is the key to the success of Snow's; Tomanetz uses only salt and pepper, along with a buttery mop sauce to keep everything moist. 

The menu is limited and traditional — with one addition — Snow's signature pork shoulder. Instead of creating a mound of pulled pork, Snow's slices pork shoulder into steaks, ensuring the pig remains extra juicy without needing sauce. Meats are sold by the pound, and the sides are kept simple. And, at 88, Tomanetz keeps on smokin'.

1. Franklin Barbecue

Aaron Franklin has raised the bar on Central Texas. Good barbecue takes time, so expect a long wait to get his heavenly post-oak smoked meat.

Franklin Barbecue began as many do, hosting backyard barbecues with friends. His flavors were on point, encouraging him and Stacy Franklin to start a barbecue trailer. Quickly gaining popularity, Franklin opened his East Austin restaurant in 2010. Though the James Beard award-winning chef, author, and American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame inductee has gained national notoriety, his barbecue has stayed the same. The flavors are classic, and the perfection of traditional, time-honored low-and-slow style is why we love Franklin's.

There is something wonderful about the precision Franklin delivers. It is tough to be good day-in-day-out. However, if there has been a bad day yet, we haven't tasted it (and we've waited in line multiple times through the years).

All the meats are good. However, the brisket is why you go to Franklin. About 44 hours of work (at least 12 smoking hours) go into each hunk, and Franklin serves around 2000 pounds daily. Juicy, smoky, and perfectly fatty, the fat cap melts into the meat, enhanced by a substantial bark filled with peppery spice. Each decadent slice proves why Franklin Barbecue is the best in Texas.