Houston's Best Barbecue Spots
Where there's smoke, there's often good meat, at least in Texas, and Space City has some smoking-great places to indulge in Texas 'cue, including these top spots.
Photo By: Kimberly Park
Helmed by Grant Pinkerton — a young, untrained pitmaster who realized his dream of smoking meats and quickly earned fame among Houston's major players — this quaintly attractive Heights restaurant boasts an honest menu with a lot of heart. Chopped beef sandwiches heaping with meat are served on fluffy jalapeno buns, and you can (and should) get your pork ribs glazed for a finger-licking finish.
Harlem Road Texas BBQ
At Richmond's Harlem Road BBQ, Swiss-born chef Ara Malekian —who sharpened his chops under the direction of Wolfgang Puck — presents his take on Texas 'cue in a no-frills setting. Fatty brisket, sausage and beef ribs are slow-smoked and incorporate a distinct flavor from being cooked over wood from vintage oak wine barrels. Sides and desserts are classic and well-executed, but here, the meat is unquestionably the main attraction.
Pitmaster and owner Leonard Botello IV first started smoking meats in small-town Brenham, serving meats and gooey mix-and-match sides at Truth. Now, the robust, earthy flavor of Central Texas-style 18-hour smoked brisket is available within Houston city limits at his Washington Corridor hangout. The whole truth is that the menu features all of the Brenham staples including tender house-made sausage, juicy duroc pulled pork — a bright pink contrast to some of the darker proteins — and pork ribs, shiny and thick to the touch. Pro tip: Save room for Botello’s mother’s banana caramel cake, a multi-layer concoction made extra festive with caramel drizzle and Heath Bar crumble.
As one of the pioneering restaurant families in the city, the Pappases have brought world-class 'cue to the greater Houston area for over 50 years. Consistency is key at their various locations, known for their meats cooked over hickory and mesquite on-site and their sides made fresh daily. The chopped-beef baked potato is a house favorite: An oversized Idaho russet is dressed in butter and sour cream and finished off with a generous topping of crisp bacon bits and shredded cheddar.
You'll find the signatures of athletes, movie stars and even politicians on the wall at this acclaimed barbecue restaurant in Pearland where Ronnie Killen also runs a burger bar, steakhouse and Mexican restaurant. There's always a crowd out front during the day, with eager diners making their way through the cafeteria-style line dig into trays piled high with meat. The pork belly burnt ends, with their crisp char and eye-catching glaze, are equal parts smoky and sweet, while the sticky, moist beef rib glistens on its bark and makes for a monstrous lunch with a couple of sides. At the end of the meal, two things are certain: Dessert should be ordered, and Killen's old-fashioned banana pudding is the way to go.
Husband-and-wife team Will and Nichole Buckman run this quaint Old Town Spring restaurant where beer and wine flow like barbecue sauce and the patio is both child- and pet-friendly. Saucy brisket sandwiches are made extra messy by adding a helping of coleslaw on top, and the sticky pork spareribs are good to the bone.
The Pit Room
This Montrose hangout combines the two foods all Houstonians love — barbecue and tacos — and does it enormously well. In addition to beef and pork ribs, housemade Czech-style sausage and a pulled pork-smothered Frito pie generously dusted with cheddar cheese and diced raw onions, the menu boasts meaty tacos with traditional fixins like tangy salsa verde and a dollop of cool sour cream, presented in flour tortillas made with smoked brisket fat. Because ... why not?
Led by couple Patrick Feges and Erin Smith, active regulars on the Houston BBQ circuit, this counter within the Greenway Plaza food court delivers the intoxicating aroma of smoked meats to the power-lunch crowd during the workweek — and only then. Between 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, breakfasters and lunchgoers can indulge in Feges' featured specialties, such as pig wings and beef belly burnt ends, or staples like ribs and brisket. The meats are accompanied by Smith's alternative takes on sides, as in the creamy, Indian-inspired yogurt-based coleslaw spiced with cumin and coriander.
Pappas Delta Blues Smokehouse
It's no surprise that the Pappas family knows how to deliver good food and great hospitality, but Delta Blues raises the bar in barbecue, from the table-service setting with cushiony seats to the thoughtfully prepared drinks, including craft cocktails like the boozy strawberry habanero mule, which is tart and packs a punch. The chicken-fried prime rib eye dressed with gravy is a Texas tradition and is best paired with buttery mashed potatoes and creamed corn dusted with cracked pepper.
The Goode Co. name has been synonymous with great barbecue for over 40 years, and today it means even more: a slew of seafood and taqueria locations, plus a festive live-music destination, Armadillo Palace, that features a cantina next door. At the four barbecue joints, the smell of mesquite-smoked meats — slow-cooked for hours on end and carefully tended to by trusty pitmasters — still reel people in. Barbecue sandwiches are hearty, with meat piled thick on a hunk of cheesy jalapeno bread, and the Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie is iconic as far as Texas pastries go.
Roegels Barbecue Co.
This family-owned and operated restaurant, where husband Russell handles the meat and wife Misty serves up the sides, is a mainstay for smoked sausage, brisket, whole barbecue chicken and trusty sides like mac 'n' cheese, but opt for one of the featured daily specials and feast on something truly epic. The overstuffed Reuben — available on Thursdays — combines smoky brisket with crunchy slaw slathered in Russian dressing on toasted rye, and is definitely a monster worth facing down.
Ray's BBQ Shack
It's a family affair at this Houston staple in the Third Ward where co-founder Ray Busch still reigns as pitmaster, delivering hickory-smoked meats and spicy smoked boudin in paper-lined baskets. Raw onions and tart pickles provide a crunch between bites of fatty beef rib, but the crunch you'll get from the famed gilded deep-fried corn on the cob is unparalleled.
No longer do Inner Loopers have to hightail it to the burbs for a taste of the classic 'cue made famous at Brookstreet BBQ's original Sugar Land location. At the Montrose outpost, a menu of beef brisket, pulled pork, two types of sausage (one with jalapeno and one without) and much more is available for dine-in, delivery and, even better, takeout from a drive-thru window. Mixed meat plates are complemented with traditional sides like sweet and savory ranch-style beans or chunky potato salad and a piece of golden challah toast, but for a meal of epic proportions, opt for the Stonehouse Feast, which will feed your whole herd.
Tejas Chocolate & Barbecue
This Tomball "craftory" — which started as a bean-to-bar chocolate shop — aims to satisfy 'cue cravings with its top-notch menu of quality cuts. As a bonus, it provides a solution to the age-old conundrum of sweet versus savory by making its award-winning handcrafted truffles available under the same roof. At the tiny house on Main Street, you can indulge in tender chile relleno links enveloped in warm tortillas drizzled in salsa, or smokey barbacoa boudin served with saltines, before making a stop at the truffle counter to select some treats from the neat rows of confections.