Monday, October 18, 2021

Quick Thoughts on Texas Monthly's Top 50 List

A few of y’all have asked my opinion on Texas Monthly’s new Top 50 Barbecue list and I’m happy with it. Like the Olympics or the World Cup, this is a time that I look forward to every four years.

To be fair, I’ve been off my game for a few years (how old is my kid?) and spend most of my time in New Mexico and Idaho nowadays rather than traveling around Texas sampling barbecue. There are a total of 21 spots on the top 50 that I have not visited and 5 of those I’ve not even heard of (Distant Relatives, Mimsy’s, Dayne’s Craft Barbecue, Smoke-A-Holics BBQ, Eaker Barbecue).

The Top Ten is about what I expected. I’ve got to think 2M was just outside the top ten. I’ve had Burnt Bean Company and Goldees at the top of my to do list and REALLY wanted to get there before this list broke and made them famous. It was expected that they’d be near the top.

Truth BBQ is good and it was a given that they’d be high. But they’re one that I’m just not as high on as everyone else. You could make a case for Top Ten, but Top Three? Not in my opinion. And I’ve been told LJ’s is the spot the Brenham locals go. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to visit LJ’s and just…always end up at Truth… Shame on me.

It was also expected that Snow’s and Franklin would fall a bit. Franklin is still my number one, but I understand their drop in context with the list. Texas Monthly really prioritized “new ‘cue” over the more traditional places. That is, if things like cachete pop up on your menu, or you’re fusing Texas barbecue with Mexican or Asian flavors, or if you’ve got specialty hand crafted sides on the menu – you’re going to get bonus points. Take a look at one of my favorites, LeRoy & Lewis for someone that does ALL of these things.

Aaron Franklin raised the whole of Texas barbecue by giving out all of his secrets. From just his books and how to videos, you can learn to make near-Franklin quality meats and that’s exactly what pitmasters are doing. So there a lot of places you can go to find high quality brisket that emulates Franklin’s methods. Now the editors are looking to go beyond that and that’s what you’re getting with a lot of the new guys in the Top Ten.

Anywhooo… Glad to see Butters in Mathis on the list (speaking of people emulating Aaron Franklin). He’s putting out the best barbecue in the Coastal Bend and is miles ahead of Smoliks who somehow made this list last time.

Glad Slow Bone is on there. They’ve been really underappreciated.

It was a given, but glad Feges made the list. I’ve been a fan since they were doing pop ups. He knows meat and both locations have such a great, unique menu. Feges is my favorite in the Houston city limits.

Good to see 1701 on there as they’ve become a known commodity in Beaumont and FINALLY brought good Central Texas style barbecue to the land of links. And this list spans the state with El Paso’s Desert Oak and Marfa’s Convenience West on the list. Certainly worthwhile selections.

I think they visited 400 or so places in making this list, so they did their research and have places from every region in Texas including a good number in the valley. HOWEVER it is interesting to see DFW and the non-Austin Central Texas area beat out Austin and Houston in their number of spots. Daniel Vaughn does have a DFW bias. Which makes it surprising that Pecan Lodge was left out. People have always been higher than me on Pecan Lodge, but Texas Monthly was pretty infatuated with them as they really brought a barbecue spotlight to Austin.

Speaking of DFW, I’m bummed to see Heim didn’t make the list. They’re one of my favorites in the Metroplex, but ambitious expansion probably cost them consistency and a spot in the Top 50.

Sorry, B/CS – No Fargo’s or 1775 here. I expected Fargo’s to fall off, but thought 1775 had a shot of making it.

Aside from Heim, all of my other favorites made the list. I’d liked to have seen Reveille Barbecue Co. on the Top 50 as they are great, but it’s hard to stand out when you’re basically a carbon copy of Tejas. But still, no real quarrels from me on the list as a whole.

Mimsy’s is one that I listed as new to me. And they’re in a barbecue desert of Crockett! Bummed they weren’t around 6+ years ago when I frequented East Texas and dined on their (mostly) subpar barbecue options.

This list has my mouth watering and would love nothing more than to take a week off and seek out the 21 spots I’ve not done (and revisit a few favorites). But that’s not in the cards. I definitely need to find an excuse to hit Goldees and Interstellar at some point. I already have plans for a trip to Burnt Bean. It just now looks like the line will be a little longer when I get there.


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*All Grades Are Based Solely on the Quality of Texas BBQ Offered at the Joint. We Aren't Looking for Burgers or Catfish!

My Grading Scale:

A = This is some of the finest BBQ you'll find anywhere. It is worth a roadtrip in itself along with any required wait.
B = This is very good BBQ, even if it is over an hour away, consider making the drive.
C = This is just average BBQ but it's worth a stop in a pinch.
D = This is a poor example of Texas BBQ. Even if it's the only place around, skip it. Apologize to any non-Texans that have eaten here.
F = This is not only a bad Texas BBQ, it is probably not suitable for human consumption.

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