Plenty of states are ripe for a barbecue road trip, but in Texas you could fill an entire summer vacation with them. From Beaumont to El Paso, from Mercedes in the south to the Panhandle in the north, the challenge isn’t building an itinerary but limiting it. A good place to start is Austin—no other U.S. city has as many truly great joints. These eight stops offer some of the best brisket and hot links in Texas. Just be prepared to never be happy with mediocre barbecue again.
Vaughn is the barbecue editor at Texas Monthly and author of The Prophets of Smoked Meat.
Valentina’s Tex-Mex Barbecue; Austin
La Barbecue; Austin
Louie Mueller Barbecue; Taylor
Southside Market; Elgin
Smitty’s, Kreuz and Black’s; Lockhart
City Market; Luling
Hays Co. Bar-B-Que; San Marcos
It doesn’t look like much, in a converted used-car salesroom alongside an Interstate 35 service road, but it serves some of Texas’ best barbecue. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but snag a giant beef rib over the weekend if there’s one left. House-made sausage, brisket and ribs are all phenomenal as well.
Freedmen’s Bar; Austin
Barbecue is lunch food across Texas, but this place back in Austin is one of the few that serve it for dinner. It’s also hard to find a joint that does the rest of the meal well too, but the smoked jalapeño pimento cheese, smoked beets and smoked banana pudding are delicious divergences. And don’t miss the sausage of the day.