A New Best Barbecue Restaurant in the World Has Been Crowned

Texas Monthly has updated its Top 50 Texas Barbecue list (and therefore the top barbecue spots in the world).

Central Texas barbecue has a focus on meat, especially brisket. You may get onions, peppers or pickle slices, and white bread as an accompaniment. Put your meat on the bread between bites. It’s all served on butcher paper most often.

Usually you take a tray and get meat from one staff member at a barbecue restaurant. A different server handles sides. Meat is sold by the pound. If there’s sauce, it’s for dipping only.

This is the first update to the list in 5 years, and unfortunately there seems to be less care put into it than past efforts — to wit, Kreuz Market is listed as the top spot in Lockhart, though Kreuz has fallen substantially in quality over the years.

Kreuz is definitely within the pantheon of classic Central Texas barbecue. It’s one of the four Lockhart barbecue joints, and a split-off from Smitty’s Market. They proudly display proper barbecue etiquette on the wall in case you don’t know better:

But the meat is often overcooked, and comes out very inconsistent from visit to visit. It’s not nearly as good as when I visited for the first time five years ago. Somehow it makes list list despite this acknowledgment,

Only the brisket is unpredictable, often coming in dry and under-smoked.

Meanwhile Black’s in Lockhart doesn’t make the list, though it’s clearly superior to Kreuz. And the substantially-inferior (not worth visiting) Terry Black’s in Austin does.

According to this list Franklin Barbecue has been supplanted at the top spot by Snow’s. You can make the reasonable case, though my guess the reason is controversy.


From My Visit to Franklin Barbecue Earlier this Month

Has Snow gotten substantially better, or Franklin declined? My take on Franklin is that it’s fantastic, but not so much better than the next best nearby options to be worth waiting in line for hours.

I did recently make the trek on a Wednesday morning with friends who were leaving Austin never having tried it. Tailgating, with good friends, the line is a feature not a bug. But it’s not 3 hours’ better than other options.

And that even factors that La Barbecue and Micklethwait can run out of food, and have lines. I’d rather make reservations at the best sit-down barbecue in Austin Lambert’s, a proper restaurant (sometimes known as ‘fancy barbecue’) with full bar.

I’ve been fortunate to go to Franklin for a private dinner of frequent flyers, and had reserved the teenager whose line-sitting service was put out of business.. the day before he was supposed to sit for me.

But you don’t have to go to Franklin to get great meat, or all the way to Lexington for Snow’s, you can go to Stiles Switch or even the Black’s outpost up by UT (no lines, the meat comes out of Lockhart each day, it’s not as good but I’d never make my own barbecue when I can order food to be picked up from there with no lines).

And a huge congratulations to Lockhart Smokehouse and to Pecan Lodge in Dallas, for making the list. I’ve never been to Cattleack Barbeque in Dallas, though, and even if this is a flawed list coming in at number three is a feat.

I still like Smitty’s in Lockhart for out of town guests. They’re not on the list, but it’s Old Central Texas Barbecue personified. You walk in and a hundred years of smoke cover the wall.

Equally notable are some of the spots that didn’t make the list. I do think Black’s in Lockhart is unfairly overlooked, I like it better than the respectable Luling City Market which is included. But justified omissions certainly include Salt Lick which while a pretty spot in Driftwood doesn’t actually make good barbecue.

At the end of the day I’m just fortunate not to have to think that Hill Country Barbecue in DC or Blue Smoke in New York is the best that barbecue can get.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. @Gary – Have to disagree, Terry Black’s is WAY better than Black’s (than both Austin and Lockhart locations). To say it’s not worth visiting is crazy. Glad to see their efforts finally recognized. Also happy to see Valentina’s and Truth make the list. Both excellent!

  2. I work remotely but my coworkers in Dallas were disappointed that Cattleack made the list…it’s very close to the office and always a hit, even with the lines before notoriety. But then the Dallas BBQ market is seriously lacking compared to the hill country.

  3. You made me hungry. When I had a project in Austin, I visited about a dozen places around. Lockhart was always worth the drive!

  4. If you’re in Chicago, you can’t beat Smoque. It is AWESOME. Amazing brisket, and their sauce (while not needed) is fantastic too.

  5. @Gary – I’d agree that the list is a little lacking. I’m honestly suprised Pecan Lodge made the list. I’ve tried it twice and can’t say I was impressed. It’s good, but not as good as Lockhart’s in South Dallas.

    Granary in San Antonio is pretty good, although its more hipster than true BBQ joint. I’m kind of suprised Coopers in New Braunfels didn’t make the list. I guess they are a chain, but I’d consider it better than a couple that are on the list.

    In term’s of Austin itself, if I only had time to try one, which one is the best combo of wait/quality? I realize that’s a loaded question, but I’ve never been able to justify the Franklin’s wait.

  6. Same question as Andy. Sounds like Lamberts in Austin or Smittys in Lockhart (if I want to rent a car).

    Great post Gary!

  7. For Austin I think you’ve got Franklin, La barbecue, Micklethwait.. Stiles Switch is a good option that’s a little less slammed with people. Lambert’s isn’t in the same league for barbecue, but it’s very good, and you can make reservations (don’t rely on OpenTable for availabiltiy, and if you show up at 530pm there’s open availability for the patio). Or drive to Lockhart, no line except on holidays.

  8. Here’s a blast from the past: I grew up near Lockhart in the 1950s, and we used to go to Smitty’s for BBQ. At the time there were sharp knives chained to the long benches, used by customers to cut their BBQ (which we then ate with our fingers).

    If you enter Smitty’s through the left door, you can still see the long benches with evidence of the knives, although the latter are long gone.

  9. Is Franklin in Austin also a long wait (which for me is over 20 minutes). Micklethwait too?

  10. Hey this is a travel blog… the world doesn’t revolve around Texas. Though maybe you could spin it as a way to relive a Soviet-era experience, standing in a long shuffling line for indifferent food

  11. BBQ is American and has a history going back to African American slaves.

    The top in the world? I guess if you consider dry, sauce-less meat cooked over scrub brush Mesquite 🙂

    Seriously Texas has Ok BBQ but it’s like Mexican food or Pizza. It’s regional. KC, Carolina, Memphis, etc. all have different types and different favorites.

    I guess my big questions is are any of these on the airline miles dining programs like Johnny’s BBQ in KC? It’s may not be the worlds best but at least we get AA miles there, often. http://johnnysbbqkc.com/

  12. “Typical American mentality thinking that the world only revolves around the US.”

    Typical non-American mentality thinking that the world doesn’t. 😉

  13. Hard8 is crappy. Not good at all.

    Louie Mueller is #1. Blacks should make the list. Salt Lake should be omitted. Franklin had an off day when we tried but Louie Mueller has always been consistent.

  14. Overall great analysis and insight.

    Agree with one poster that louis Mueller is the best. All around. Everything. And that’s where all this bbq craze truly started. Give me Mueller in Taylor any day and I will be happy.

    Snows is hit or miss. Can be great. But can also be last week’s reheated. Didn’t finish my meal last time there. Hugely disappointed. Either way, the best bbq joint in the world shouldn’t be hit or miss.

    Order Franklin frozen. Just as good reheated. Honest.

    Terry black in Austin IS worth the trip. Better all around meal than any in Lockhart. Less smoke on the meat though (neighbors whine). Also one of the few good places you can have bbq for dinner (styles, Coopers too).

  15. On a recent Texas BBQ sojourn, I thought Black’s giant beef rib in Lockhart was the best meat I ate. The City Market in Luling was the most atmospheric, with good food, too.

  16. Also, putting mediocre Cooper’s (in Llano) on the list and not Blacks’s is, well, BBQ malpractice.

  17. Try Augies on Broadway in San Antonio. Brisket is consistently good. BBQ sauce is so good I drown rather than dip!

  18. @Rob

    If you’re going to knock the designation at least put up another contender.

    I’ve traveled and all around the world and the US does have the best BBQ in my opinion. Pretty sure Anthony Bourdain backs this up as well. Whether or not Texas has the best in the US is a matter of opinion and debate. I personally prefer the smokey Texas-style over Kansas City, S. Carolina, and Memphis. There are plenty of beef-driven countries out there, especially in Asia and parts of S. America, but their methods of cooking are not like low and slow American BBQ.

    +1 for Terry Black’s deserving its spot on this list.

  19. Us folks over in Houston were proud of our showing on the list this year, even if central Texas is still the clear winner. You should come try Corkscrew in Spring, it’s fantastic!! (though I might be somewhat biased since it’s 5 minutes from the house.) I definitely need to make a BBQ pilgrimage to Austin sometime soon…

  20. I assume you know that Hill Country is from NYC. It also has a Brooklyn location and is very good. (I haven’t tried the D.C. location.)

    The best barbecue in NYC is Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook, Brooklyn. If you haven’t gone, you should definitely try it.

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