Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Texas >
May 24, 2001 05:34 PM

Best BBQ in Texas

  • t

I'll nominate The Country Tavern (btwn Kilgore and Tyler) and the Salt Lick BBQ (in Driftwood, just outside Austin)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There is suppose to be a place in Huntsville near an old church that is fantastic. Or at least several years ago it was there. Any help out there?

    30 Replies
    1. re: T-daddy

      The church is called New Zion. It's in Huntsville not too far off the interstate. The one time I was there, the meat was fair to good. Definitely not in the top 10 in Texas, IMHO.

      I'm glad you brough up Country Tavern, a much unheralded rib place. As a transplanted Sounthern boy, their ribs are the most reminscent of Dreamland and Interstate BBQ.

      As for the Saltlick, I have to disagree completely. But that's the fun of arguing barbecue.

      1. re: Carter B.

        Right on, Carter. Anyone who's eaten at the Salt Lick in the last few years and thinks that it's one of Texas' best must me missing out on the truly great 'que spots here in the barbecue belt.

        T-daddy, please give a try to Cooper's in Llano, Louis Mueller in Taylor, Black's and Kreuz in Lockhart and the City Market in Luling. IMO, these are some of the serious contenders for seriuos Texas barbecue. I'll be sure to go by the Country Tavern and give those ribs a try.

        1. re: Greg Spence

          Far be it from me to suggest that I have the kind of encyclopedic knowledge of texas barbecue that would qualify me to nominate a best, but Bob's Smokehouse out side of san antonio provided me a transcendental brisket experience. Having never been to Kreuz Market, or Louis Muellers I am obviously missing a couple of major barbecue benchmarks, but nevertheless. I had never before, nor ever since, experienced brisket as tender, long smoked, unpretentiously delicious, with fat as velvety and un-greasy as Bob's. Not to mention superlative sauce, (which never touches the meat before it emerges from the smoker). I think this place has gotten relatively little in the way of mentions during the various barbecue discussions that crop up on this board (you texans sure are singleminded!), and have always wondered why. What gives? Have i missed the barbecue boat? I have a lot of trouble imagining better brisket than Bob's.

          1. re: Seth

            Seth you may have missed the boat, I live in San Antonio and have been to Bobs on the East side and the one on the northside both are run by his daughters last I heard (Bob has passed away). Bobs made honarble mention in the infamous Texas Monthly article (may 1997 I think) that listed the top 50 BBQ joints in Texas. For San Antonio Bobs is probably one of the best and Rudy's is totally overated (good smoked turkey breast and cream corn), I have to agree with Spence the best are Kreuz, Coopers and Louie Muellers, also remembering nothing is carved in stone. In my opinion Bobs doesn't hold a candle to these establishments. Try them out and you may be opened to a whole new world of BBQ. After reading the article I tried these places and found out what really good Que taste like. I Also am not a walking encyclopedia of BBQ knowledge but I am working on it. Smokey trails

            1. re: Patrick

              Really interesting topic. I've done my best to eat my way through Texas and have been to virtually every place mentioned in this thread with the exception of Cooper's in Llano. Having said that I have several friends (whose opinions I trust) that insist it is the best anywhere. For what it's worth:
              1. Maurice's Western Kitchen (terrible name) in Glenrose (75 miles south of Fort Worth appropriately in the middle of nowhere) has legitimate 30 hour brisket with a deep red streak that only the Luling City Market can approach. (Value judgment: I like the Luling Market better than Kreuz. In fact Kreuz only smokes it's brisket for a fraction of this time.). There is another place in Glenrose that has a state wide reputation called Hammond's but I thought it was nowhere near as good as the Western Kitchen. Certainly not as flavorful or fall apart tender.
              2. Clark's Outpost in Tioga (70 miles north of Dallas) without question has the smokiest brisket on earth. They claim to smoke the meat for four DAYS! Is it the best? No but the Dallas Morning News ranks it higher than Sonny Bryan's on Inwood Avenue or any other place in the Dallas Metroplex. For what's it worth the wood in this joint is darker than the wood in Sonny Bryan's yet the darkest wood of all is that room at the Luling City Market where the Q is smoked.
              3. I didn't like the Salt Lick ten years ago. Great atmosphere. But not really good Q.

              I've actually done a driving trip where within seven days I ate at the following places and had their ribs:
              1. Lem's in south Chicago
              2. Arthur Bryant's and Gates in Kansas City (lunch and dinner)
              3. Interstate, Memphis
              4. McClard's in Hot Springs, Arkansas
              5. Clark's Outpost, Tioga, TX
              6. Dreamland Drive In, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

              Best atmosphere: Dreamland
              Best ribs: McClard's (On this trip-hot off the pit, not the next year when they had been left warming.)
              Best french fries: Arthur Bryant's (fried in pure lard)

              I have been told that until I go to Cooper's I still have not had good Q.

              1. re: Joe

                I agree that the City Market and Kreuz are both contenders for the heavyweight belt. I think that one of the reasons that there continues to be controversy about Kreuz is that Kreuz does smoke for a shorter time at a higher temperature. What results is different than most other barbecue in that you get a little less smoke but a lot more flavor, in the form of roasted fat.

                Now, most people think that as a general rule, the low and slow method is the only way to get true barbecue flavor. In fact, it's the method I use at home with terrific results. Now anything over 24 hours seems a little silly to me as the desired result can be had in 12 hours with the right technique.

                Still, there's room for different techniques as long as wood fire provides the heat and smoke. And that different technique that the use at Kreuz has found a big place in the heart (if not the arteries) of many Texans and in more than a few from other parts.

                1. re: Greg Spence

                  I have been to Kreuz three times including once where a friend of mine and I sat in our car and ate from two piles of butcher paper contained marbled beef-one from Kreuz and one from Luling. We both felt that Luling's texture was more "fall apart" while the intensity of flavor was deeper than Kreuz. I remember actually holding two pieces of brisket up and looking at the red streak and noting that Luling's was deeper.
                  But I liked the atmosphere of the rooms at the OLD Kreuz market better than Luling. (I have not been to the "new" Kreuz market.) Having said all this I honestly believe that the brisket at, perhaps a half dozen places in Texas are better than Kreuz. I've read all the posts below and know that it's considered the Holy Grail but I just think it's merely very good BBQ served in a tremendous amount of tradition with a heap of atmosphere. I would actually draw an analogy to Hammond's which Jane and Michael Stern popularized a number of years ago. It was two miles from the Western Kitchen but, sitting in my car eating sandwiches from both, it was not as good. More atmosphere, greater reputation but not as good.
                  Over Kreuz in my opinion: Clark's Outpost, Sonny Bryan's on Inwood Avenue(only the original), Luling City Market, Maurice's Western Kitchen and a place about 40 miles west of Houston off of the interestate whose name I can't remember but it had a wall of clippings from Texas Monthly, Houston magazine and other places proclaiming it Texas' best.
                  Still, probably Cooper's (according to my friend) is better than all of these.

                  1. re: Joe

                    I'd never argue that the Luling City Market brisket isn't a great piece of 'cue. I'd also never try to tell you that there's less smoke on Luling's brisket than on Kreuz. My argument is that the red ring is merely an indicator, not a true test.

                    You've got to order fatty brisket at Kreuz and you have to try a pork chop there. It's not the same as other 'cue in the barbecue belt and IMO, it's better. We'll probably settle on friendly disagreement over this one. I'd never call another 'cue lover's opinion wrong, unless they insist on bringing up the Salt Lick, or they judge the joint in question on anything that doesn't come off the pit.

                    I love the City Market. I just prefer that roasted fat thing that you get at Kreuz. A friend of mine calls it "beef crack" and I'd agree. I can't stop eating it even when I'm so full I'm in pain.

                    As for the holy grail of barbecue, I hope I never find it. After all, the quest must always continue... that's half the fun.

                    1. re: Greg Spence

                      IMO, Cooper's is not as good as it's cracked up to be. Very hot smoke, pretty much direct grilling, and a creosotey flavor that may remind you of the ashy off-tastes that often form when you cover meat on a charcoal grill for more than 30 minutes but less than an hour. And at the Luling City Market I have experienced great, crispy hot guts, but only tough, overcooked brisket.

                      On the other hand, both the brisket and the shoulder at Kreuz are the closest things to heaven.

                      1. re: sluglord

                        I did order "marbled" beef but obviously I'm going to have to revisit Kreuz and try it again. Have either of you been to Clark's or do you even know if the Western Kitchen in Glenrose is still there? It's been six or seven years since I was in Glenrose while Clark's I've been to recently.

                        1. re: Joe

                          Been to Clark's. It's okay--the quail is fine--but nothing like its outsize reputation.

                          I've heard there's even a restaurant near the L.A. airport that imports all of its meat from Clark's.

                          1. re: sluglord

                            Believe it or not but that might actually be true. One time when I was there I had them pack two pounds of brisket so I could carry it to Shreveport which is probably about 250 to 300 miles. They put it in Cry-o-vac. I was told it could survive, I believe, several days! Anyway, when we opened it up it tasted the exact same way it did at the restaurant. However, minus the atmosphere and the small town it did not taste as good. Still incredibly smoky but not as good. Probably Kreuz is better than Clark's but I honestly prefer the Luling Market over it as well as the sandwich at the Western Kitchen. But the Western Kitchen has been several years and, if memory serves me correct, the owner then was probably around 60 or so and looked like he had been eating his own Q for decades!
                            I really don't remember the name of the restaurant west of Houston, Hintze sounds familiar but it was about 50 or 60 miles out.

                            1. re: Joe

                              Try Black's BBQ in Lockhart. They are in a class by themselves well above Kruez and City Mkt..

                    2. re: Joe
                      Phil Wronski

                      Was that place west of Houston Hinze's Bar-B-Que in
                      Sealy? I was there in February and I think it's a
                      wonderful place but not as good as Kreuz. Best sides
                      and pies (except for a chocolate meringue at McLary's
                      in Arkansas) I've had with excellent 'que.

                      1. re: Phil Wronski

                        Probably was Hinze's, in both Sealy & Wharton. Great brisket, large servings, best desserts, above-average sides. Service at the Wharton location on US59 is terrible. Austin's Smokehouse in Eagle Lake is excellent also. Great desserts there too.

                      2. re: Joe

                        Hinze's BBQ in Wharton, Texas along side highway 59 I believe is the restaurant that you may be thinking about. If it isn't, I think it's the better than Kruetz's, but then again I also believe Salt Lick in Driftwood is better than Kruetz's as well.

                        1. re: Joe
                          linda cooper

                          Hi, I just read your reviews of barbecues in Houston.
                          My son is getting married in Houston in April. We are looking for a fun, comfortable & nice atmosphere to have the rehearsal dinner. Which place would you recommend? There will be many out-of-town guests.

                          1. re: linda cooper

                            Linda, I've used Central BBQ many times for catered events and they are the finest people you'd ever want to deal with. It's been 2-3 years since I've used them but the food was excellent and they were so accomodating. They have the best bread pudding I've ever eaten and I'm from Louisiana. They used to have 2 or 3 locations but I know the one in Pearland is still there. They are NOT fancy.


                          2. re: Joe

                            Perhaps a bit further than 40 miles? Joel's in Flatonia is super. Just off I-10 on the north side, they do their thing quietly and with love....

                        2. re: Joe

                          I have eaten lots of q in my day, but I think the "old Kruez" is the best. I went to school in Lockhart and walked across town to eat lunch at Kruez at least once a week. At that time, the only seats were the long benches with the butcher knifes chained to the walls. Years later, they put in the air conditioned dining room. Never used it, never will.

                          Now, my next trip to Lockhart will tell me if Kruez is really that good or if it was the nostalga. Not sure what to expect at the "new" Kruez but if I were abettin, I bet Kruez is still the best in Texas .. er the world. Tom

                          1. re: Joe

                            I was going to Louie Mueller's in Taylor but I asked a local if there was someplace else in Town without the big crowd or better if possible. He said try the hole in the wall next door. Incredible Q! They gave me half a loaf of bread with the plate and said here you might need something to go with the sauce.

                            1. re: Joe

                              I really like Clark's Outpost. Great feel. BBQ can be different and equally as good to me. Not sure it is the best in the state but it is definitely good and worth checking out.

                              1. re: taldeac

                                I would agree that's it's worth checking out especially if you live in DFW. It's does not compare to Lockhart but it's better than anything in DFW. There smoked trout is "the bomb".. I buy it for salads.

                        3. re: Greg Spence

                          What happened to the Salt Lick? I last ate there in September 1991, before leaving Austin. My tastebuds are more discriminating now, but it did seem good back then. Maybe it was the joy of a short roadtrip with a cooler of beer.

                          1. re: chuck

                            Chuck, my guess on what happened to the Salt Lick is that it became too popular. Instead of everything being smoked on the open pit in the old, original building they now use several indirect heat models to take up the slack. They've added several bulidings to handle the crowds and it gets so busy that they have to hire Sheriff's Deputies to direct traffic and help contain the masses.

                            The result is consistent inconsistency, generally bad brisket and nothing much good except the cole slaw. It's gone from being a sleepy local place to being a barbecue banquet hall. Oh, and expect to wait.

                            And no, there's nothing wrong with indirect heat, but when you mix in open pit stuff you add to the inconsistence. Also, I don't think they've got a pitmaster who's mastered either type pit.

                            1. re: chuck

                              Just ate there for the first time. A real treat. I like it better than the County Line for the atmosphere. People are there to have fun and eat good BBQ.

                            2. re: Greg Spence

                              Black's in Lockhart is the place for barbecue. It's south of Austin via Hwy. 183.

                              1. re: Greg Spence
                                Mary L Marquis

                                That's Right! City Market in Luling serves the best
                                barbecue you ever dreamed of tasting.

                                1. re: Greg Spence

                                  IMO Kreuz's is the most consistent of these mentioned, but ideally you need to get there between 11 and 12:30 PM. After that the meat can be dry.

                              2. re: T-daddy

                                New Mt. Zion is amazing... True Texana...

                              3. b
                                Brian Lindauer

                                I disagree. I don't like the Salt Lick at all. My hands-down favorite is Cooper's in Llano.


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Brian Lindauer

                                  I agree with both of your comments. The Salt Lick may be the most overrated in terms of food but it does have wonderful ambience especially for a visiting Yankee like myself. But for the bbq itself I'd take the Llano Cooper's, the Luling City Market and Maurice's Western Kitchen in Glenrose. Clark's Outpost in Tioga is the smokiest.

                                2. Cooper's in Llano is very good all-round; however, the "Big Chop" is to die for. I got one to snack on during a trip to Colorado and it took almost two days to eat!!

                                  1. What about County Line in Austin & San Antonio or Bodacious in various towns in NE Texas? I know these are chains, and in the case of County Line aren't particularly cheap, but every time I've been they serve up some pretty good fare. Many years ago there was a place in Nacogdoches called Wagon Wheel- had the best brisket sandwiches I've ever eaten, at least in those days, which admittedly were kind of fuzzy. I appreciate some of the comments about Salt Lick. I've never been, had planned to go, but won't now.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Forrest A.

                                      best b-b-q is in the fort worth texas area. starting with the best,1. angelo's 2.cousin's 3. railhead 4. hickory stick 5. sonny bryans

                                    2. n
                                      Northern Okie

                                      Any dedicated chowhound with a nose for BBQ has to make the pilgrimmage to the Country Tavern near Kilgore. I haven't been there in probably ten years but still dream about the ribs and memories of the sauce bring tears to my eyes. Beyond the great food is the experience itself. Chances are you won't get a menu, just a waitress who'll stride to the table and ask, "Everybody havin' ribs?" Rumor has it Larry Hagman used to have the stuff shipped in to the set of "Dallas" by helicopter. Perfection.