Food + Drink

Take a Texas Barbecue Roadtrip

Does your idea of a good vacation involve smoked brisket, sausage links, and beef ribs? We’ve got the perfect thing for you—a road trip through the Lone Star State, stopping at Legends of Texas Barbecue author Robb Walsh’s favorite spots.

 

1. Clark’s Outpost

101 Highway 377, Tioga, TX

People used to drive for hours to eat the famous barbecue at Clark’s Outpost in the tiny town of Tioga, north of Denton. The place is not what it used to be, but the pork ribs are still good and so is the ham. The side dishes and desserts are the main attractions these days. There are green salads, baked potatoes, french fries, and corn on the cob, among many other vegetables. An appealing array of elaborate desserts is also offered, including bread pudding, Dutch apple pie, and a chocolate meringue pie that’s over a foot tall.

2. Neely’s Sandwich Shop

1404 E Grand Avenue, Marshall, TX 

The Brown Pig, made with chopped barbecued pork on a bun with mayo and shredded lettuce, is the signature sandwich at Neely’s Sandwich Shop, and it’s become so iconic that most people mistakenly call the restaurant Neely’s Brown Pig. When the place was founded in 1927 as Neely and Sons, the chopped pork sandwiches sold for just fifteen cents each. Hickory is burned in the restaurant’s steel barbecue pit, so the pork butts, briskets, and hams are all wood-smoked. Bill Moyers, a Marshall native and Neely’s fan, called it “the best sandwich between here and China.”

3. New Zion Missionary Baptist Church Barbecue

2601 Montgomery Road, Huntsville, TX

This combination Baptist church and barbecue joint has been called the Church of the Holy Smoke. You sit down and eat family-style at community tables in a little church hall. A Southern Pride stainless-steel oven has replaced the old-fashioned steel pits, but the tender East Texas–style ribs and brisket are still passable. Above all, save room for the wonderful homemade sides and desserts.

4. Martin’s Place

3403 S College Avenue, Bryan, TX

Third-generation pitmaster Steven Kapchinskie runs Martin’s Place, which is named after his grandfather, Martin Kapchinskie, who opened the business in 1924. The barbecue joint was owned by Steven’s father, Albin Kap- chinskie, until his death in 1980. The restaurant is frozen in time because, as Steven explains, “if I change anything, I have to get a building permit, and then I’d have to redo everything to code. Even if I just bought a new stove, I’d have to get a vent hood.” Ask for a tour of the ancient pits.

5. Leon’s “World’s Finest” In & Out B-B-Q House

5427 Broadway St at 55th, Galveston, TX

This is a good place to grab some ribs to go for lunch on the beach, but if you want to sample some awesome sides, sit down at one of the eight tables. The potato salad is the best you’ll ever have at a barbecue joint.

6. Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que

2404 Southmost Road, Brownsville, TX 

Lovingly described by Lolis Eric Elie in his book Smokestack Lightning, Vera’s is the last of the old-school barbacoa joints that cook foil-wrapped cows’ heads in a pozo (pit) over mesquite and ebony coals. The best time to go to Vera’s is at 8:00 or 9:00 A.M.—the heads slow-cook on the pit overnight—as the fresh, hot barbacoa meat is shredded first thing in the morning.

7. Lum’s Bar-B-Que

2031 N Main Street, Junction, TX

On the way out to Big Bend, I usually stop in Junction for a rib plate or a brisket sandwich at Lum’s. It’s a grocery store with a few tables inside and a really lovely picnic area outside. The meats are smoked cowboy-style over mesquite. Rumor has it that smoked goat ribs have been available, but I’ve never seen any. There are some enticing-looking cream pies, however.

8. Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Q

604 W Young Street (Highway 29), LLano, TX

No Hill Country tour is complete without a stop at Cooper’s in Llano, George W. Bush’s favorite barbecue joint. The meat is cooked cowboy-style over mesquite coals, and you order it straight from the pit and then take it inside to pay for it. The sirloin steak and pork chops are awesome, if you get them at the perfect time. The brisket is also excellent. The barbecue sauce here is bolstered with brisket juices and is truly outstanding.

9. The Salt Lick

18300 FM 1826, Driftwood, TX

When I was a student at the University of Texas, the Salt Lick had an all-you-can-eat family-style special for six or more people. These days my friends are more interested in the fabulous garden walk and idyllic country setting than in seeing how many ribs they can eat, but going out to the Salt Lick is still one of my favorite Sunday drives.

10. Zimmerhanzel’s BBQ

307 Royston Street (Highway 95), Smithville, TX 

Dee Dee Bunte’s maiden name is Zimmerhanzel, and her family owned the building in which she and her husband, Bert Bunte, first opened this barbecue joint about three decades ago in the charming old railroad town of Smithville. The couple tried to retire some years ago, but the townsfolk just wouldn’t leave them alone. You might say that Zimmerhanzel’s was coaxed back to life by popular demand. You’ll see why when you sample this joint’s assortment of crusty ribs, tender brisket, and coarse-ground Czech sausage with natural casings.

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You’re all set for the tastiest road trip of your life—be sure to bring your appetite! For more barbecue wisdom, check out Legends of Texas Barbecue.

Robb Walsh

Robb Walsh

Robb Walsh is a food editor, food critic, radio commentator, cookbook author, and three-time winner of the James Beard Award. He resides in Galveston, Texas.
Robb Walsh

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