A Dozen Brisket Sandwiches

The best black East Texas barbecue within an hour of downtown

First, a little advice: Black East Texas barbecue is heavy on the sauce -- ask for yours on the side if you aren't going to eat it right away. Don't complain about crumbling brisket; just order it in a sliced or "chipped beef" sandwich. Don't worry if it doesn't look pretty, the meats are supposed to be charred on the outside and falling apart. And don't forget to get some ribs for appetizers.

Little's Bar-B-Que, Highway 3 and 27th Street, Dickinson, no phone. Little's roadside trailer in Dickinson turns out a sliced brisket sandwich worth going out of your way for. But it's also an easy stopover between here and Galveston. Little's trailer is generally out between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays. But if you don't see him when you drive by, Little says, you should stop by his house on Avenue D -- everybody else does. Just don't bother him after 8 p.m. (he needs his beauty sleep) and never on a Sunday.

Two Brothers Smokin' Oak Kitchen, 3001 Ennis, Houston, no phone. So you want to try good old-fashioned black East Texas trailer-by-the-side-of-the-road barbecue, but going outside the Loop is out of the question? Leroy Wilson is just the man for you. Wilson smokes meat seven days a week (generally noon to 8 p.m. weekdays, noon to 10 p.m. weekends) and sells tasty sandwiches and ribs out of his trailer in a parking lot on Ennis near Texas Southern University. The ribs are firm and meaty. The chipped beef sandwich is the way to go with the brisket. Sides are available on weekends.

Stop by and visit Eugene and Cora James next time you're northbound on Highway 59.
Stop by and visit Eugene and Cora James next time you're northbound on Highway 59.

Burns Bar BQ, 8397 De Priest, Houston, 281-445-7574. In the good old days, Roy Burns used to set up a smoker and sell barbecue on the side of the road. But he settled down under some pine trees in Acres Homes 12 years ago, and he's been cooking there ever since. Burns has a cinder-block pit, but when business is hopping on Saturdays, the old portable pits get fired up, too. Burns's is a favorite Acres Homes neighborhood hangout, especially on weekends. The brisket falls apart on the way to your mouth, so it's best to get it on a sandwich. The wet and smoky ribs are among the best you'll find in Houston. Mashed potato salad and beans are the most popular sides.

Williams Smoke House, 5903 Wheatley, Houston, 713-680-8409. A couple of months ago, they installed a rotisserie at Williams's. It's not one of those newfangled stainless-steel contraptions; it's just a motorized belt that fits inside the existing pit. You can tell the difference when you bite into the brisket. It was good before, but now it's incredible. The chopped beef sandwich here costs more than the sliced because it contains more of the crunchy end pieces. The ribs are always excellent.

Reid's Bar-B-Que, 4101 Clover, Houston, 713-734-9326. This tidy little eatery will take you back in time. Judging by the worn paneling and faded posters on the wall, nothing has changed since James and Eddie Reid started turning out barbecue here 32 years ago. The ribs are stellar, and the brisket is thick-cut and tender. Get some beef links and squeeze the meat out of the casing onto a hunk of white bread for a real old-time East Texas experience. And don't miss Eddie's homemade pies. Find this gem down south near the intersection of Scott and Reed Road.

Kozy Kitchen, 1202 Lockwood Drive, Houston, 713-673-7830. Opened in 1946 by the Rosemore family, Kozy Kitchen is the last of the Fifth Ward's once famous black barbecue joints. It's a no-nonsense place with plastic forks and Styrofoam plates. There's no tea, and don't bother asking for peach cobbler. But the brisket is smoky and tender. Order an "in and out" sandwich, a mix of inside and outside cuts. The beef links are wonderful. Don't forget to douse your links with the homemade hot sauce provided, but put your thumb over the top and shake up the bottle first. This may be the only place you'll ever see barbecued veal.

Leon's "World's Finest" In & Out B-B-Q House, 55th and Broadway, Galveston, 409-744-0070. There are eight tables at this converted roadside stand on Galveston Island. The electric-knife-cut brisket is sliced thick, so opt for a chopped sandwich. The ribs are succulent, and the sides are incredible. Stop in and grab some smoked meat to eat at the beach, but don't forget the green beans, turnip greens or Leon's stepped-up rice. The potato salad is among the best in East Texas.

Ruthie's Pit Bar-B-Q, 905 West Washington, Navasota, 409-825-2700. Ruthie's son, Louis Charles Henley, is the jocular pit boss at this ramshackle East Texas joint in Navasota. His ribs are excellent, his pork shoulder is sublime, and his Elgin sausage is smoked for several hours until it gets really dense. He also makes a mean brisket sandwich. The restaurant is in an old house, where you can read a magazine while you wait for your meal. Mutton ribs are served on Saturday afternoons, but you'll be lucky to get any -- there's a waiting list for them.

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