The last time Texas Monthly released its list of the 50 best barbecue joints in Texas was 2008. During that five-year interim, a lot has changed. Namely, the Austin-based magazine now boasts its very own barbecue editor -- the only publication anywhere to have a single person devoted to the cuisine.
That barbecue editor is Daniel Vaughn, the much-discussed and highly respected former barbecue blogger who's noted for two fairly amazing accomplishments as of late: First is his book, The Prophets of Smoked Meat, which is the debut title under Anthony Bourdain's line of books for publishing company Ecco.
The second accomplishment is driving more than 10,000 miles for that book as well as for Texas Monthly's latest barbecue guide. Indeed, between Vaughn and longtime food editor Pat Sharpe, the team covered an accumulated 33,168 miles and visited 658 places across the state before deciding on the final 50.
Those top 50 joints are ranked in no particular order, but that hasn't stopped the feeding frenzy over which towns and cities got the most mentions -- nor has it prevented a rash of hurt feelings.
"It's a subjective list composed by a few people," responded infamous pitmaster John Mueller, grandson of Texas legend Louis Mueller, whose newest barbecue joint opened in Austin this past February. "I was going to say jackasses, but I'll be nice."
Mueller did concede, however, that his fellow Austin pitmasters on the Texas Monthly list were worthy competition: "I've eaten at 4 out of the 5 in Austin and they deserve to be there."
Along with Austin, the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and the greater Houston area also garnered five spots on the list.
In Houston proper, Rice University graduate-run Gatlin's BBQ and old-timer Virgie's Bar-B-Que made the cut. Newcomers CorkScrew BBQ (in Spring) and Brooks Place BBQ (in Cypress) both got well-deserved nods and the often-overlooked Leon's World's Finest BBQ was spotlighted in Galveston.
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Those who've long bought into the myth that Houston doesn't "do" good barbecue may be shocked to see so many local joints on the list -- but they shouldn't be.
"This is, perhaps, a surprise for some people who aren't familiar [with] Houston barbecue," wrote local barbecue expert J.C. Reid, a co-organizer of the recent successful Houston Barbecue Festival. "But for those of us who know and celebrate Houston barbecue, it's no surprise at all."