9 Texas Barbecue Culinary Crossovers You Have to Try
These mouthwatering meaty mashups are known to sell out.
Texas is huge, like, annoyingly so. If you live in Central Texas it takes forever to leave state lines. But, the sheer size of the state also means that a lot of people live here, making it incredibly diverse — despite the cowboy stereotype. Luckily for those of us who love to eat, there’s been an exciting new wave of legit Texas barbecue joints serving smoking hot culinary crossovers and masterful mashups that are teeming with global inspiration and cultural pride. Get ready to taste fall-off-the-bone tender ribs and melt-in-your-mouth juicy brisket with the vibrant, punchy flavors of Mexico, Asia, and the Caribbean because these pitmasters and chefs are bringing a sizzling barbecue experience that you’ll only find in Texas.
We’ll preface this by saying that 225° BBQ is officially out of control. A glance at the truck’s Instagram page reveals an awe-inducing mix of solid Central Texas barbecue, Jalisco-style birria tacos, Tex-Mex specials, and street-style sides like elote topped with chopped brisket and crunchy corn puffs. Then, owner/pitmaster Rene Ramirez takes it to another level with over-the-top creations like “baseballs” — bacon-wrapped chicken thighs stuffed with brisket, jalapeños, and cream cheese — and gargantuan beef dino ribs served to stick out of birria ramen like a cartoon baguette in a grocery bag. The joy behind 225° BBQ’s eclectic offerings is obvious and well, we’re here for it.
At Khói Barbecue, Don and Theo Nguyen blend traditional Texas barbecue with flavors inspired by their Asian heritage as well as Houston’s diverse food scene. You can get in on the action at one of Khói’s monthly pop-ups — dates are announced on the duo’s Instagram page along with incredible teaser images like the brisket bún bò huế, a glistening bowl of lemongrass- and shrimp paste-spiked smoked beef short rib broth filled with vermicelli and a slab of skillfully smoked brisket. Or, the bánh xèo, a savory crepe that serves as the perfect vessel for smoked brisket, beef rib, and barbacoa, punctuated with aromatic greens and sweet-and-sour nước mắm. (Pssst, a brick and mortar location is in the works!)
Excuse the pun, but Blood Bros. BBQ is on fire. Killer barbecue combined with creative fervor has earned the restaurant both glowing praise from top food publications and a legion of loyal fans. Owner/pitmaster Quy Hoang, fellow owners Terry and Robin Wong, and their staff release a lengthy daily menu (with some rollover) of everything from a pork belly banh mi to gochujang-glazed ribs to their take on a cheesy gordita crunch. And Sunday’s specials, or should we say “Especiales de Domingo,” are largely Tex-Mex and Mexican. How does one even decide? You can eeny-meeny-miny-moe it or stick with the classics which, unsurprisingly, Blood Bros. BBQ also nails. Smoked brisket, ribs, and housemade sausage are available every day.
Take the informal, drinks-after-work vibe of a Japanese izakaya and sprinkle in a little Texas flair — that’s Kemuri Tatsu-ya. The barbecue served at this fun and funky mashup, from the folks behind Austin’s Ramen Tatsu-ya, is a welcome departure from typical Texas barbecue joints. Try the Berkshire pork ribs with a carrot-ginger glaze and tangy yuzu crema, and (barbecue purists, avert your eyes) brisket with a sesame-pecan and serrano limón miso. Of course, it wouldn’t be an izakaya without yakitori and kushiyaki, and here, the skewered meats and veggies are grilled over binchotan charcoal and Texas wood. Try the beefy ’shrooms made with dry-aged ribeye and koji butter-marinated black pearl mushrooms.
North Texas just got a little hotter, thanks to the addition of Willie Meshack’s BBQ to the Plano dining scene. At the family-owned-and-operated restaurant, pitmaster Robert Plaza is serving a solid selection of well-executed Texas barbecue including brisket and pork ribs alongside smoked jerk chicken, sauces, and sides inspired by wife Yolande’s Trinidadian roots. Try meat by the pound or sandwiched between fluffy fry bread with a side of fried plantains.
Valentina’s brand of barbecue is often given the label of being a mashup or “the best of both worlds,'' but to those raised in South Texas, it’s just what we ate growing up. Pitmaster/owner and San Antonio-native Miguel Vidal delivers this regional amalgam unlike anyone else, as evidenced by the ever-growing line. The mesquite-smoked brisket, pulled pork and chicken, fajitas, sausage, and ribs are fantastic and worthy of devouring a la carte or in a hearty sandwich with smoked barbecue sauce, pickles, or slaw. But, we absolutely love the warm, handmade flour tortillas and housemade salsas from the trailer’s “Mex” menu. Try the smoked brisket taco with sea salt lime guacamole and tomato serrano salsa, or the indulgent Real Deal Holyfield breakfast taco made with fried egg, potatoes, refried beans, and bacon with the option to add smoked meat.
Loro is the culinary collaboration between Austin’s James Beard Award-winning chefs, Aaron Franklin (Franklin Barbecue) and Tyson Cole (Uchi, Uchiko). Grilled and smoked meats accented with flavors borrowed from Southeast Asian and Japanese cuisines are the focus at this casual Asian smokehouse. The smoked bavette (hanger steak with shishito salsa and pickled onions) is a popular pick as is the smoked brisket with chili gastrique and Thai herbs, which is available after 4 pm. And while meat is the focus of the menu, don’t miss the snacks and veggies — or the boozy slushies for that matter. Bonus: Loro has expanded to include locations in Dallas and Houston, with more on the way.
Deciding to paint your restaurant a shade of pink somewhere between bubblegum and salmon is a bold move, but hey, what else would you expect from the guys serving Southeast Asian curries with Texas barbecue? Curry Boys BBQ is a joint effort between Andrew Ho and Sean Wen (of Pinch Boil House) and Andrew Samia (of South BBQ). The most popular dish is the brisket smoke show — oak-smoked Prime brisket served with a luscious green curry — but The Missing Link, smoked pork sausage in Penang curry, is a sleeper that shouldn’t be missed.
Fredericksburg, best known for its small-town charm and rich German heritage, is now home to the Korean-inspired Eaker Barbecue. Owner/pitmaster Lance Eaker was serving barbecue out of a truck in Houston before his wife Boo joined the operation and the couple moved to Fredericksburg. Boo’s Korean heritage has inspired many of the flavors now found on the menu, like the mesquite-smoked gochujang pork ribs that are torched right before serving. Bright kimchi and a cooling Korean cucumber salad are the perfect accouterments for fattier meats like the delicious Prime brisket and pulled pork. Don’t forget to try the kimchi fried rice!