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Kent Wang

The best Texas barbecue

263 posts in this topic

This is an important and highly contentious title, for the best BBQ in Texas would also mean the best in the world, the galaxy and the entire universe! Kansas City and the Carolinas may have their own styles but there is no question that Texas-style is the One True Barbecue.

However, Texas can be further divided into two different styles, sauce and without. From an Austin perspective, Salt Lick is the epitome of the sauce style. Their brisket is remarkably tender but the cooking process robs the meat of its moist fat. The no sauce style, as done by Louie and John Mueller, depends on the smoke and the spartan salt and pepper rub for flavor. If one had to choose between these two styles, I think it's obvious that the no sauce style is more Texas and True as it allows the meat to really shine through. After all, when judging steaks one would never even consider anything marinated.

Brisket is the cut that is the most important in Texas BBQ. I do like sausage, beef ribs and turkey but there really is nothing as quintessentially Texas as brisket. Sure, I've laid down a lot of seemingly arbitrary rules (Texas style, no sauce, brisket) but if one were to go about the contentious -- and possibly pointless -- task of crowning the King of Texas BBQ, one has to lay down some rules.

Texas Monthly said/says the best in the state is Louie Mueller's in Taylor. I've been there about three times and I go to his grandson's John Mueller's in Austin all the time. I think Louie's is a cut above John's as the briskets I've had there are consistently better with deeper smoke rings and Louie's serves beef ribs while John's does not. There are actually only a few establishments in town that still use wood, and John's is one of the last.

Salt Lick is very good as well, but I've disqualified it because they employ the sauce style. It's not a blind disqualification though; if you ask me to simply choose whether Salt Lick or John Mueller's (or Louie's) is better I will flatly tell you that I prefer Mueller's.

I'm sure there are many many more establishments in our fair state that deserve attention, but as many of them are often located in remote locations it is not practical for me to go to them all, but I certainly hope to do so eventually.

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Your honor, I would like to submit "No Chains" (i.e., more than three sites) as a rule as well?

This should be an interesting thread. You've got courage, my friend!

Your rules may raise some hackles though; it seems to be skewing things in favor of Central TX/Austin barbecue styles, particularly the "no sauce" bit. That said, 3 of my top 5 would be Austin-area joints.

Some essential reading threads on the Texas Barbecue scene:

Texas Gluttony, Road Trip Across Texas: barbecue & more

Lockhart TX Barbecue

Tex Mex and BBQ in the Dallas Area

My top five, in my very limited experience:

1) Kreuz

2) Cooper's in Llano

3) Angelo's in Ft. Worth

4) Salt Lick

5) Goode Co. in Houston

Goode Co. was, for the longest time, my favorite, until I started tracking down the pantheon. I went there a few years back and was really disappointed (and sad) about how it didn't measure up any more. Everything seemed really underseasoned. Others who have been recently echo my sentiments as well. But I won't write it off just yet.

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My 3 faves:

1. City Market in Luling

2. Kreuz in Lockhart (I've still not tried Smitty's due to the family feud! A Kreuz employee brainwashed me before the move.)

3. Williams Smokehouse in Houston

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what I find somewhat fascinating in Texas BBQ, is the difference between Austin and Dallas. In Austin, I've found that the only seasonings they use on their brisket and ribs, is salt and pepper. In Dallas/Fort Worth, they use a rub. 200 miles, yet worlds apart.

personally, I much prefer the brisket in Austin, and the ribs in Dallas.

The best ribs I've had in the Dallas are at Clark's in Tioga.

The best brisket was at Smitty's.

BTW, I know a lot of people rave about the sausage that they sell in the Lockhart area, but I don't really care for it. Does anyone else feel the same?

BBQ should NEVER be sauced. As Ray Green from North Main BBQ once told me, "the only reason to use sauce, is to hide a mistake"

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My only experience with Salt Lick was awful. It was a chopped beef sandwich and it was pure fat, no flavor. Bad enough to make me not want to risk trying it again.


Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.

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I have to start off by blasting Salt Lick, its pretty avg/bad compared to many of the great ones around.

Here's my list:

1. City Market, Luling

2. Louie Muellers, Taylor

3. Williams Smokehouse, Houston

4. tie Kruetz and Smitty's, Lockhart

5. Thelma's, Houston

6. Coopers, Llano

7. Littles, Dickinson

8. Gonzalez Meat Market, Gonzalez

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I will always hold to Rudy's for their turkey, sausage, and sauce. Plus I can fill my gas tank as well as my belly.

I also second Thelma's in Houston. Anywhere that fills my baked potato with a pound of chopped brisket is thumbs up in my book.

Uhhhh huh


Edited by tetsujustin (log)

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I don't really have a favorite because I would rather gather with great friends and do it ourselves! I know this, Dickey's in Buffalo is NOT good - had to stop there yesterday during my 13 hour transport back to Houston from Dallas! :angry:

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For me, it's a tie between:

City Market, Luling (mostly because of the delicious brisket - but their mustardy sauce is definitely the best)

Smitty's, Lockhart (probably the best barbecue i've ever had). Also, I don't love barbecue sausage but theirs tastes much less processed than other central TX snausage.

And then Cooper's in Mason. Much better than Llano and better atmosphere.

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Ummm . . . To me, great brisket needs no sauce. I was disappointed last time I went to City Market in Luling. (That was in July or so.) The brisket wasn't as tender, juicy or smokey as I have had there and I had to add salt.

Anyway . . . The last word in brisket that I have wrapped my chops around was . . . hold onto your blue jeans . . . At a little place in Pahoa, Hawaii (Big Island outside of Hilo) called Big Jake's. What I had was slices from a little brisket flat with a "red ring" almost all the way through and the juice was running as he sliced it for my sandwich. Sauce would have been criminal.

My own brisket is better than just about anybody's that I buy out. But I have never been able to duplicate Big Jake's. I think I may need to make a trip in the name of research.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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First of all there is a difference between "barbeque" and "real barbeque".

If you don't already know the difference, well, your opinion on the subject doesn't really matter until you do - except, though, as to what you simply like.

Note: barbeque NOT cooked in a pit is NOT real barbeque. Start from there...

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First of all there is a difference between "barbeque" and "real barbeque".

If you don't already know the difference, well, your opinion on the subject doesn't really matter until you do - except, though, as to what you simply like.

Note: barbeque NOT cooked in a pit is NOT real barbeque. Start from there...

Why don't you give us a run down on "real BBQ"

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What? No County Line? How ca this be a serious discussion of Texas BBQ without County Line?

Although, when taken seperately, Salt Lick ties with Stubb's, IMHO for best sauce. Just to throw that info out there.


Screw it. It's a Butterball.

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First of all there is a difference between "barbeque" and "real barbeque".

If you don't already know the difference, well, your opinion on the subject doesn't really matter until you do - except, though, as to what you simply like.

Note: barbeque NOT cooked in a pit is NOT real barbeque. Start from there...

Salt Lick is cooked in a brick oven, John Mueller's is cooked in a pit. I think perhaps what is more important though is the fuel used, hardwood oak being essential.

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Sorry, County Line belongs nowhere in this discussion.

What? No County Line? How ca this be a serious discussion of Texas BBQ without County Line?

Although, when taken seperately, Salt Lick ties with Stubb's, IMHO for best sauce. Just to throw that info out there.

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Not sure if any of you have been, but I there are these two hole-in-the-wall joints that, in my opinion, have some of the best pit-barbeque around.

The first place I found was this place called Bubba's in Ennis. The brisket alone was worth the trip there. That and the fact that they actually know how to cook a steak works well in their favor. I pass by this place all the time on my trips from Dallas to Houston, but this was the first time I stopped there. I will be making this stop all the time now.

The other joint is a place called Ernie's in LaPorte. It's a total dive where you get your food served on sheets of butcher paper and cheap paper plates. The pulled pork was great as was the brisket. I plan on dropping in here again on my next trip down to Houston.


Gear nerd and hash slinger

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People should take pics of the brisket wherever you go. Then we'll be able to see the depth of the smoke ring, marbling, char and rub used. I'll do this when I go to John Mueller's BBQ next. I believe I'll have a chance to go to Louie Mueller's next weekend as well.

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John Mueller's BBQ

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The money shot. Pork ribs and brisket.

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That was actually my friend's plate. I eat my brisket plain, no sauce, but his plate was more photogenic.

Louie Mueller's BBQ in Taylor is the classic. John is his grandson and he opened his restaurant about five years ago. They had a family feud of some kind -- barbecue feud, how Texas! -- but after Louie passed away a few years ago they patched things up.

John Meuller's is located at 1917 Manor Rd. Right next to Hoover's Cooking and El Chile.

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I stopped by Louie Mueller's BBQ in Taylor on the way to the Texas Mushroom Festival.

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I wonder if that sign advertising the availability of wi-fi is a joke, to trick city-slickers.

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Beef ribs, brisket, sausage, potato salad.

Overall, just a tab better than John Mueller's. It's the best barbecue I've ever had, though my experience is still limited. We were lucky and got an excellent, very moist cut of brisket. Beef ribs are one of my favorites. They're so huge, like brontosaurus ribs!

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55051060_0e2b8a6b01.jpg

Beef ribs, brisket, sausage, potato salad.

Overall, just a tab better than John Mueller's. It's the best barbecue I've ever had, though my experience is still limited. We were lucky and got an excellent, very moist cut of brisket. Beef ribs are one of my favorites. They're so huge, like brontosaurus ribs!

see now that's why you never degrassier your bbq sauce. It looks so much cooler when you take a picture.

I thought it was a cup of beer at first. really weird looking beer.

As much as I like the size of beef ribs, I've never really had a good rack of them. I've never had it so that the flavor is even near as comparable with pork ribs. It usually has a taste with less of a pronounced flavor to me, whereas pork (when done right) is just chew after chew of mouthwatering goodness.

Then again, maybe I've just never had it where someone's cooked it correctly. We'll see.

Maybe you should start another discussion for this but, how was the mushroom festival? What kinds were out?

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see now that's why you never degrassier your bbq sauce. It looks so much cooler when you take a picture.

I thought it was a cup of beer at first. really weird looking beer.

Haha, you're right, it looks really cool. Louie's sauce is much thinner than John's. It's really difficult to use. I like to mix it with the sides like potato salad or coleslaw. John's sauce was better.

As much as I like the size of beef ribs, I've never really had a good rack of them.  I've never had it so that the flavor is even near as comparable with pork ribs. It usually has a taste with less of a pronounced flavor to me, whereas pork (when done right) is just chew after chew of mouthwatering goodness.

Then again, maybe I've just never had it where someone's cooked it correctly. We'll see.

Aside from being a bit chewier and not being as fatty, I think it has more flavor than brisket. Neither Mueller seems to do pork ribs right, or at least it's tough and dry to me. Not sure if there really is a "right" way to do it. The salt and pepper rub and deep smoke rings make it quite flavorful, but I prefer pork ribs to be cooked with a sauce so that the meat becomes very tender. RO's Outpost in Spicewood makes an excellent sauced-up rib end platter.

Maybe you should start another discussion for this but, how was the mushroom festival? What kinds were out?

As requested: Texas Mushroom Festival 2005, Report.

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Kent, what do you think about theTexas BBQ page list?


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.

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