The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Barbecue Joints

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KIDDING. But seriously, the fried chicken here is outstanding. Get that.
For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2011 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had hefty competition from other Houston bars and restaurants.

Note: Many entries are excerpted from previous Best of Houston® entries, as many previous award winners have maintained the same standards of quality that garnered them awards in the first place. Go 'cue.

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10. Thelma's Bar-B-Que

You judge a barbecue joint by its smoked meat. And the best comes from a real pit. The old cinder-block pit in Thelma's on Live Oak -- before it burned down -- should have been declared a historic landmark. The design was brought to Houston by the legendary Joe Burney of Beaumont back in the '20s. Harry Green, and other Houston barbecue legends who learned the trade from Burney, built pits like this in several Third Ward locations. When Harlon's bought Green's old location on Almeda, the first thing they did was to take a sledgehammer to the cinder-block barbecue pit and install a stainless-steel contraption. The new stainless-steel barbecue ovens, with their gas and electric heating and automatic operation, are convenient for restaurant owners, but the barbecue they produce doesn't measure up to the old-fashioned pit 'cue at honest-to-God joints like Thelma's. And although the meat and sauce at its new location on Southmore aren't as good as they used to be, it's still a solid bet.

9. Burns Bar BQ

On Saturday afternoon, Burns Bar BQ is party central in Acres Homes. The crowds line up when the place opens, and they never let up until the ribs are gone. Burns Bar BQ serves their ribs well done under a sweet and subtle glaze of sauce and smoke. They're the best in the city. Patriarch Roy Burns grew up in Midway, Texas. He sold barbecue from a smoker on the side of the road until arthritis slowed him down. He opened his original barbecue joint more than 20 years ago at 8307 DePriest and brought in some family members to help out. His brisket falls apart on the way to your mouth; it's as soft and wet as pot roast. If you judge it by the standards of white barbecue, then you won't get it. Beef that isn't falling apart simply isn't done enough according to the black East Texas aesthetic. Carolina barbecue is whole-hog, slow-smoked to stringy mush; the black East Texas style does the same thing with beef, which was always cheaper and more plentiful in Texas. Put some of Roy Burns's falling-apart brisket on a bun with barbecue sauce, pickles and onions, and think of it as Texas's answer to a Carolina pulled-pork sandwich. Suddenly, you'll understand. Its new location on 7117 N. Shepherd isn't as good as the original (see: Thelma's, for the same story), but it's still a Houston institution.

8. Triple J's Smokehouse

Like both Thelma's and Burns before it, Triple J's is now on its second location at 6715 Homestead Road, just north of Kashmere Gardens and right outside the Loop. Triple J's isn't just popular for its East Texas-style barbecue, though, as good as it is. This joint also serves some pretty fine links of spicy Cajun boudin and smoked turkey. Around Thanksgiving time, orders for that juicy turkey -- which Triple J's will also deep-fry for you -- keep the joint busy around the clock.

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18 comments
EatinGoodInTexas
EatinGoodInTexas

Ummmm, Texans generally don't like anything Hickory smoked; a touch of Pecan or the naturalness of Oak, and that is all for Texans.  So the fact that Pizzatolas is hickory smoked explains a lot of the dis-satisfaction.

MadgeManicurist
MadgeManicurist

Anyone try that new Stockyard BBQ on Westheimer near Voss?

Guest
Guest

Where is Lyndon's?

DeathBreath
DeathBreath

Rudy's.  What a fucking joke.  Yes, if you like overpriced BBQ, then head to Rudy's.  This is some of the worst-tasting BBQ I've ever had the misfortune of tasting.  It sounds like someone has a Corporate BBQ palate.  I think I will stick with Texas Monthly for my BBQ recommendations since the Houston Press has delivered nothing. 

duh
duh

how is Blake's not even in the top 10? fail.

MadMac
MadMac

Thelma's? Really? I've been three times, each time it was a fist fight to give this rude ~ahem~ woman my money. Each time the brisket was burnt outside and dry inside. Then again, so was the "restaurant." The last time My co-workers and I placed a $100 take out order. She screwed up the sandwiches but refused to make it right. I'd rather hit a Pappas joint. The food's no better but it's not supposed to be that hard to spend money. Really.

Djhawkinstx
Djhawkinstx

Family owned and operated great food all around I love the warmth and friendly customer service you get when you walk through the door

Michelejones14
Michelejones14

Dear HP ~ Your decision to include Rudy's (my all-time fave of the one's I've tried) heartened my trust in your list. That trust quickly plummeted at the site of Pizzatola's - worst I've had. Guess I'll have to sample the entire list and judge for myself - not a bad task :-)

markbrawley
markbrawley

Gatlins is the only place that remotely rivals the best BBQ in the state.  It is hands down the best in Houston

csoakley
csoakley

Gatlins sides are amazing. Their ribs fill the void left by the demise of Williams Smokehouse (R.I.P.) Why do all the great ones have to go up in smoke (literally)?

No
No

We did a central Texas barbecue tour this summer and hit 10 spots in three days (thank god it was a team effort, but yes we all had the meat sweats on the drive home). Gatlins is hands down the best brisket!

Eric S
Eric S

No Luling City Market, no Goode Company. Looks perfect to me. 

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

"Corporate BBQ palate" makes it pretty clear to me that you didn't read the rest of the post past Rudy's...  ;)

csoakley
csoakley

Everyone rips on Luling City Market (yes, I know about the backstory with the original) but I can't get enough of that sauce they use. Is there anywhere else in town that has a mustard-style sauce like LCM?

Wuwu
Wuwu

In the last 30 days I have been to both Luling and Hickory Hollow.  Have to say both are terrible and the fact that people actually support them is a total joke.  I agree with Rudy's and Brisket House on the list however Brisket House has been up and down over the last 3 trips I have made.  Gatlin's have not been but everyone I speak with says without a doubt some of the best in the State. 

Chow and Ciao, The Wu!

Michael Enak
Michael Enak

I don't think DB read any of it. Probably just looked at pictures and then spouted off.

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