In Texas cities statewide, barbeque joints whip up their daily cuts, producing plates with hearty meats glazed in thick and glossy sauce, joined with the usual suspects: soft bread, crisp pickles, and freshly-sliced onions. These tasty meals attract Texans far and wide, in search of their next best barbeque meal. Here is a look at some of the Lone Star State’s barbeque restaurants, from Harlingen to Dallas to Tyler and everything in between.
The Salt Lick BBQ – Driftwood, Texas
Tucked away in the thickets of Driftwood, the Salt Lick BBQ is an experience every Texan should have under their belt. The restaurant’s roots run all the way to Mississippi, with current owner Scott Roberts’s grandmother Bettie Howard. Bettie met James Howard as he traveled through her town of Desoto, Mississippi, and as an orphan in search of more, she promised to bear and raise his children, but may never love him. The two married and traveled to Texas, landing in Driftwood. With a family of nine children, the idea to open the Salt Lick was born two generations later with Thurman Roberts. Known for his barbeque around the neighborhood, Thurman, his wife Hisako, and their two sons built the Salt Lick and have been serving Texas ever since.
Served family-style, Salt Lick is famous for providing large, or rather, Texas-sized, portions of their tender barbequed meats. Plates can also be ordered individually, for meat lovers, in anything from pulled pork, brisket, chicken, turkey, sausage, and bison and beef ribs. These flavorful meats can be tried in sandwiches, and come with beans, potato salad, and coleslaw. With several Texans yearning for a taste of the Roberts’ barbeque, a visit to the Salt Lick can involve a lengthy wait time. Good thing the idyllic scenery of the restaurant’s grounds provide an enchanting chance to taste wines at their Salt Lick Cellars tasting room and shaded deck to converse with your party. Try out the Sunday specials menu, including a tasty bread pudding dessert. Visit the original location in Driftwood, the Round Rock restaurant, or the airport dining locations at the Austin Bergstrom Airport (AUS) and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Pinkerton’s Barbecue – Houston, Texas
With a motto as Texan as “Come and Eat It,” Pinkerton’s Barbecue stays true to its Lone Star roots. A Houstonian through and through, Grant Pinkerton channeled his passion for meat and fire into a career after attending the University of Texas at Austin. According to its website, Pinkerton’s began with a barbeque pit and a dream. The barbeque establishment crafts their signature meats and side dishes from scratch each day, whipping up original and family recipes. The barbeque pitmaster turned restaurateur has attracted locals and meat lovers so much, Pinkerton’s is known for opening until “sold out” entirely of their coveted classics.
These recipes include the Southern classics: potato salad, coleslaw, and South Texas beans. However, Pinkerton’s does spice up their menu with the jalapeño cheese rice and the smoked duck and sausage jambalaya. Pair these flavorful sides with any of the savory meats offered by the pound: prime brisket, pulled pork, beef ribs, pork ribs, smoked sausage with or without cheese, turkey, and chicken. You will want to arrive at the Houston location on 1504 Airline Drive early to get a taste of what The Heights and the rest of Texas are talking about.
The Pit Room – Houston, Texas
Their motto of “two guys, two grills, and a dream,” equals a barbeque masterpiece that began with Michael Sambrooks. The Kingwood native attended Baylor University and the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. Sambrooks’s worked at high-end restaurants in the Houston area, including Liberty Kitchen & Oysterette, when he met Bramwell (Bram) Tripp, a graduate of Kent State University. A few years later when Sambrooks worked on launching The Pit Room, Tripp joined him, and the rest is history. Co-owned with Sambrooks’s family, the two pitmasters worked to perfect their craft by employing custom-made smokers resembling barrels to ensure their quality meat is smoked to a flavorful precision.
Crafted on hard work and dedication, their homemade recipes are poured into the meats, sandwiches, and sides. Sink your teeth into their mouth-watering brisket, ribs, pork, chicken, turkey, or sausage. Paired with their mac ‘n’ cheese, charro beans, and elote (corn in Spanish), The Pit Room knows a barbeque dinner. Arriving fairly hungry? Do not be afraid to order one of their Feast options, feeding larger parties with pounds of their meat varieties. The restaurant also incorporates a Tex-Mex aspect by providing tacos a la carte and the beloved breakfast tacos. Stop by the 1201 Richmond establishment to see what Michael Sambrooks and Bram Tripp are smoking up.
Tejas Chocolate + BBQ – Tomball, Texas
Nestled approximately 34 miles from Houston, Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue in Tomball puts a sweet spin on what it means to serve barbeque (and chocolate) in Texas. Founders Scott Moore, Jr., and Michelle Holland, along with Scott’s brother Greg who is the pitmaster and head chef, work to make the restaurant a one-of-a-kind experience for guests. Using post oak wood, their pit runs off logs daily to fuel the demand of their choice meat selections. The pork shoulder, ribs, and belly, along with brisket, turkey, chicken, and house-ground sausage are incorporated into their signature sandwiches. Chef Greg introduced the Moore family vault of recipes for their side dishes and specialized sauces, with a traditional Mexican mole sauce made with chocolate and chiles.
Come for the barbeque but stay for the chocolate at the small craftory. From what they call “bean to bar,” Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue sources cocoa beans from exotic farms worldwide to produce their premium chocolate. Their award-winning dessert uses the lightest ingredients to let the cacao reveal its true colors on your tastebuds. By handpicking each and every cocoa bean for the utmost flavor, the fire roasting process ensures exclusive flavoring specific to Tejas. Truly a labor of love, the cocoa is refined and aged to perfection. Their hand-wrapped chocolate bars display historical Spanish missions, staying true to when Texas was Tejas. Get a taste of Texas-made chocolate and barbeque at their two locations: 200 North Elm Street and Tejas To-Go on 106 Commerce Street.
Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor, Texas
Louie Mueller Barbecue is about barbeque and family. Founded in 1949, the Mueller family has served the Lone Star State quality barbeque for three generations. Founder and namesake, Louie Mueller passed the torch to his son Bobby after 25 years of working the pit. Taking over as pitmaster in 2007, Bobby’s son Wayne Mueller continues the time-honored tradition of having a family member working in the kitchen. Louie Mueller Barbecue joins the prestigious lineup of top tier restaurants on the James Beard Foundation’s “American Classics,” originally the first barbeque restaurant in the United States to grace the list.
With the same precision applied to smoking methods, the dedication to Louie Mueller Barbecue is undeniable through their meat. They are famously known for their massive “dino” beef ribs, a serving so large you will have to (but may not want to) share. Through the continuation of adopting their family recipes, the legendary establishment continues to attract barbeque fans throughout Texas to their 206 West Second Street in Taylor, just outside of Austin. If you do not live in the uniquely shaped state, not a problem: the restaurant features a delivery service through third-party Goldbelly, transporting their meat anywhere in the United States.
Pecan Lodge – Dallas, Texas
The name Pecan Lodge, both special and reminiscent, was derived from family ties in Abilene, Texas. Owner and third-generation Texan, Justin Fourton, remembered his grandfather’s 700-acre cattle ranch where he played as a child. In 1996, the ranch, coined Pecan Lodge after the large pecan trees on the property, was sold. When Justin and his wife, Diane, met in 2000, the two traveled before moving back to Texas in Dallas and began a catering company almost a decade later. After experiencing a boom of business, the husband and wife duo found Shed 2 at the Dallas Farmer’s Market and made their dream into a reality. Word about the Pecan Lodge’s sizzling meats spread faster than the fire on the pit and soon lines of people out the door became the norm. A feature on food aficionado Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives catapulted the Fourton to savory success, and purchasing real estate in the, then, newly renovated Deep Ellum set the stage: Pecan Lodge would be Texas barbecue royalty.
Their smoked meats, brisket, beef, pork, and hand-made sausage, are served straight from the pit to the plate and can be devoured sandwich style. A menu item as original as their story, the “Hot Mess” draws barbeque lovers in: the mighty and salty-sweet potato is filled with South Texas barbacoa, cream cheese, butter, and topped with green onions. Their recipes, from Aunt Polly’s Banana Pudding to the Homemade Peach Cobbler, embody the handcrafted taste reflected in their name. Visit the Deep Ellum location in Dallas when their fire burns.
Heim Barbecue – Fort Worth, Texas
The love of barbeque for Heim Barbecue begins with high school sweethearts, Travis and Emma Heim. After the two married and moved back to their hometown of Dallas, they invited friends over for impromptu dinners appropriately named T & E MEATclub. The club, initially jovial and light, transitioned into a traveling crew serving quality meat and side dishes at friends’ homes and local restaurants after dark. Travis and Emma grew from the support of their family and leased a food truck in Fort Worth, but this was just their beginning. Meeting their business partners allowed the Heims to create their dream restaurant in August of 2016. They quickly grew out of the thriving Magnolia Avenue location, later renovating an old Veterans of Foreign Wars building and remodeling it to include a beer garden and covered patio. Maintaining their commitment to genuine Southern hospitality paired with quality food, Heim Barbecue strives to create an enjoyable environment for all who walk through their doors.
Guests today can still be part of the T & E MEATclub: the Heim Barbecue on the River location serves their variety of smoked specialties by the pound for meat lovers to test out. If you are looking to experience Heim for the first time, combo plates, portioned with a selection of sides ranging from a twice-baked potato salad to green chile mac and cheese are available upon order. Whether you visit the original Magnolia location or the Heim Barbecue on the River, there is no doubt the Heims will serve you a wholesome meal.
Franklin Barbecue – Austin, Texas
If you have not heard of Aaron Franklin, you might have been living under a rock. Franklin wears many hats: pitmaster, author, television star, businessman, and so on. The owner of Franklin Barbecue has taken the world, and Texas, by storm. It all began in 2009, when Aaron and his wife Stacy opened a barbeque trailer in Austin, after hosting numerous barbeque bashes at their home with friends. Since then, the taste of Franklin’s smoked meats captivated Texans, and a whirlwind of success has ensued: a television show on Austin PBS called BBQ with Franklin, a New York Times bestselling book called Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, and the newly published Franklin Steak, and receiving the James Beard Foundation Award of Best Chef: Southwest in 2015. The man of many talents is also launching his own line of barbeque pits, appropriately named Franklin Barbecue Pits. The Franklins have truly capitalized on the barbeque frenzy, serving the likes of the late Anthony Bourdain to Jimmy Kimmel.
Want to see what all the hype is about? The menu at Franklin Barbecue consists of an all-star lineup: brisket, ribs, pulled pork, turkey, and sausage. The tipsy Texan sandwich, along with other classics like chopped beef, also grace their pages. Be sure to drench your order in their barbeque sauce, which, if you take a liking to, can be purchased online. Commemorate your visit to the famous Franklin Barbecue with a koozie, t-shirt, or baseball cap.
Rio Grande Grill – Harlingen, Texas
The tip of Texas is a region known for many things: South Padre Island, rich Mexican culture, and barbeque. The Rio Grande Grill, which opened in 2007, serves the residents across the Rio Grande Valley at their Harlingen restaurant. Owned and operated by Daniel and Stefania Wright, the two have embodied their motto, “Where there is a grill, there is a way.” Daniel, the pitmaster, smokes the meats while Stefania, executive chef, spices up the menu with flavorful sides and dishes. The husband and wife stayed true to previous owners’ ideas but are testing out new waters by incorporating original concepts and introducing an ever-changing menu of sides and specials. The South Texas natives work to support sustainable efforts in agriculture by using local farmers and ranchers in their restaurateur endeavors.
Purchase South Texas smoked meat by the pound, via sandwich, or do as the locals do: order a plate of barbequed tacos or enchiladas. Rio Grande Grill takes the Mexican influence of the region and combines it in the kitchen, filling their traditional Tex-Mex dishes with their tender barbeque. A stop by the huge mural of a colorfully decorated longhorn, largely inspired by the local Mexican heritage that engulfs the Rio Grande Valley, will entice your taste buds.
Lockhart Smokehouse – Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
The history of Lockhart Smokehouse begins almost a century ago with the legendary Kreuz Market. Jill Grobowsky Bergus was raised in a family rooted in Texas barbeque. In fact, her grandfather, Edgar Schmidt, purchased the meat market from the Kreuz family in 1948 and established their legacy. Bergus and her husband Jeff moved to New York as newlyweds but became enticed by the idea of Texas barbeque legends in the family. Their relocation to the Dallas/Fort Worth area prompted the duo to search for quality barbeque. With a little luck, they found pitmaster Tim McLaughlin and the Lockhart Smokehouse came to be. Keeping meat in the family, the fires at Lockart, “never die because if the pits go out, the smokehouse shuts down.” -Lockhart Smokehouse
The three locations throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex allow for Texans to come and taste for themselves. From brisket to pork to chicken and sausage, Lockhart produces some of the smokiest meat in Texas. Their unique side dishes like deviled eggs and blue cheese slaw pair perfectly with their savory meats. Join the restaurant on their themed days: on Beefed Up Wednesday the joint serves beef ribs and Burnt Ends Thursday provides the legendary burnt ends.