Every five years, Texas Monthly magazine publishes their list of the Top 50 Barbeque Joints in the World (of course, all 50 are in the great state of Texas).
Last week, they published the list (without rankings, which won’t be published until the issue hits newstands on May 23). However, via their twitter feed, we learned that Austin’s very own Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbeque) is number 1 for this go around (rounding out the rest of the Top 4, in alphabetical order: Louie Mueller Barbecue, in Taylor; Pecan Lodge, in Dallas; and Snow’s BBQ, in Lexington).
Every five years or so (since 1997), this magazine dispatches a team of trained eaters to travel around Texas incognito, ingesting huge amounts of barbecue. Their goal is to visit as many of the state’s approximately two thousand barbecue joints as possible in order to come up with a list of the fifty best. At each joint, the eaters sample at least three meats, a couple of sides, and a dessert. In areas of high barbecue density, they may visit as many as nine places in a day. Immediately after each visit, our eaters fill out a detailed score sheet. The final score considers intangibles like setting, service, and history, but mainly it is based on the meat. The brisket score counts the most. This time, eighteen places from the 2008 top fifty made it onto the list. (The joints with asterisks are ones that were featured on the list in 2008.)
Of course, with any list like this the fun is in debating the deserving ommissions, and the “how the hell did that place make the list?”
Smitty’s Meat Market, Lockhart — Lockhart has long been considered the BBQ capital of Texas (more on that later in this post), based on the strength of their Big Three Q joints (Smitty’s, Black’s, and Kreuz Market). While Black’s makes a well-deserved return to the list, the omission of Smitty’s is a slap in the face to the tradition of smoked meats in Central Texas.
I’ll be the first to admit that the quality and consistency at Smitty’s has slipped over the last several years. And, if I’m in Lockhart, I’m much more likely to find myself at Black’s. I would no longer put Smitty’s in my Top 5, or probably not even in my Top 10. But to exclude them entirely for the Top 50? Insane.
Micklethwait Craft Meats, Austin — Much like Franklin’s, John Mueller’s, and La Barbeque, Micklethwait’s is a recent addition to the Austin BBQ circuit. And I fully believe, having eaten several times at each of the Austin Big 3, that had Micklethwait been opened a few months earlier, it would have been in the top 50 as well.
How the Hell Did They Get on The List?
Lamberts Downtown Barbecue, Austin — WTF? Not only is Lambert’s not a BBQ (they are a restaurant that also serves BBQ in addition to a bunch of other things), but the BBQ they do serve? Average at best. Their shrimp and grits? Amazing. Good, if not overpriced, oysters.
Is Austin the New Lockhart?
Up until about 3 years ago, I wouldn’t have put a single Q joint in Austin on this list. But with the well-deserved praise that Franklin has brought to the Capital City, the competition has stepped up. La Barbecue and John Mueller Meat Company, each with their own ties to Franklin’s are easily just as good (and in the case of the hot guts at each of the Mueller sibling’s trailers, even better) as Franklin’s…but without the ridiculous 2-hour wait.
I’m an old school BBQ purist and devotee to the German-influenced style of smoking meats that is the trademark of Central Texas BBQ, and I have to admit that the Austin Big 3 are easily better than the Lockhart Big 3. Not collectively, but each of them is better than any of the three in Lockhart.
And then you throw in the superb meats at Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, Micklethwait Craft Meats, Live Oak, and Blue Ox? Each, in their own right, some of the most perfectly smoked cow and pig I’ve ever shoved down my pie hole? And I’m going to go ahead and proclaim that Austin has indeed supplanted Lockhart as the true Mecca of Texas BBQ.
My BBQ Quest
Once the list came out, I decided that my goal would be to hit all 50 Q joints on the list within a year. I started this quest on Friday by hitting John Mueller’s Meat Company. It wasn’t the best meat I’ve ever had from John’s pit — but it was still better than anything 99% of the BBQ world could ever produce on their best day.
I’ll start a new post with my review of John Mueller’s once the actual rankings are posted.
What’s your favorite Q in Texas? Thoughts on this year’s list?
Below the fold is the list of 50, listed alphabetically by city.