The 17 Best Barbecue Joints in Houston, According to Local Pitmasters

Bottled beer, beef brisket, and (vegan) burnt ends.

Top Chef Houston had an entire episode paying homage to our city’s brisket. Three local chefs made it to the 2022 James Beard Award shortlist thanks in part to their game-changing smoke techniques. Two hometown heroes are competing in the current season of Food Network’s BBQ Brawl, and one made it to the finals on the last season. It’s official—the Houston barbecue scene is finally receiving the national attention it very much deserves.

Like any good Lone Star city, our pitmasters don’t play games when it comes to the Holy Trinity of BBQ: Brisket, Ribs, and Sausage (AKA Texas Hot Guts). You’ll find ace versions all around town, but the real backbone of our bbq clout is the fact that Houston is one of the most—if not, the most—diverse cities in the country. Our culinary influences go well beyond that of just Texas, and our BBQ landscape? It’s just as dynamic, with imprints spanning from traditional African American and Creole cuisine of the Gulf Coast and the Czech and German cooking in Central Texas to exciting mashups from Korea, Mexico, India, and Vietnam.

As we speak, there’s a bonafide barbecue revolution taking place in the Bayou City, with a cresting wave of modern barbecue joints building off the momentum sparked by longtime local legends like Pizzatola’s and Dozier’s (established 1935 and 1957, respectively, and both still smokin’). Today’s pit bosses mix classic barbecue techniques—think aggressive dry rubs and low-and-slow, pecan and oak wood-smoking—with wide-ranging flavors and influences to create newfangled smokehouse wonders that are completely unique. We’re talking Barbacoa Street Tacos on beef tallow tortillas, Vietnamese style Smoked Beef Rib Flat Rice Noodles, fiery Thai Red Curry Sausage, and a Whole Hog experience that you kinda just have to experience for yourself.

This barbecue revolution comes despite the rising cost of product (particularly beef), staffing shortages, and supply chain issues, just a few of the major roadblocks our favorite smokehouses are smacked with today. To put it simply, they could use our support now more than ever; and with so many worthy spots, it’s hard to know where to start.

So, we asked Houston’s finest pitmasters for the inside scoop on the city’s best ‘que purveyors in 2022, from sturdy standbys to tomorrow’s prodigies. Follow their expert leads and get ready to meat-sweat at these clutch Houston BBQ joints—and maybe pack a change of clothes, too, because you know your shirt’s not making it through this journey untarnished.

JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ

Independence Heights

The basics: Chicano-style BBQ is the specialty at this groundbreaking pop-up. The birria tacos are the standout, plump with fall-apart Birria de Res, crisped up on the griddle and served with consommé for your dipping pleasure. You can easily take down a few of them, but you may want to save room for other delights like Cheesy Carnitas and Smoked Brisket. JQ's Tex Mex BBQ
What the pitmasters say: “There’s something about a pop up that makes me giddy and JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ just does it for me. Perhaps it’s the fact that I can’t just walk into a BBQ joint and eat his food anytime I want, but his brisket birria tacos are hands down the best tacos in town... when you can get ‘em.” - Vince Boisaubin, Feges BBQ
“Love his take on Tex-Mex BBQ. His birria tacos are [fire emoji, fire emoji, fire emoji]” - Quy Hoang, Blood Bros. BBQ
How to book: Follow JQ’s Facebook or IG to see where they’re popping up next, or visit ‘em at the Rice Village Farmers Market every first and third Sunday.

Fainmous BBQ

Arts District Houston

Knoxville-inspired hickory smoke and savory vinegar based sauces are at the forefront of this Tennessee-style outpost from husband and wife team James and Karen Fain. The duo first gained loyal fans in Meyerland before opening up shop in the artsy Sawyer Yards district in 2020 and keying in on what sets them apart: smoked vegetarian and vegan options. Feast on dishes like Mama’s Backyard BBQ Cauliflower, Chickpea Salad, and Spinach Casserole alongside meaty staples like badass Pulled Pork, Ribs, and Smoked Whole Chicken.
What the pitmasters say: “Fainmous BBQ is one of my favorite local places, it's solid BBQ. The Fains are from Tennessee, so it’s slightly different than what everyone else is doing. I always get the pulled pork and the sides remind me of my grandmother's cooking. Gotta finish it off with peach cobbler.” - Patrick Feges, Feges BBQ
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, order take-out and catering online, grab local delivery via Clover, or get nationwide delivery via Goldbelly.

Smokin’ Z’s BBQ

Bayou Vista

The basics: Down near Galveston Bay, Smokin’ Z’s quickly racked up a following for its Central Texas-style BBQ. Aside from their solid versions of the traditional stuff, husband and wife duo Zaid and Mallory Al-Jazrawi offer bold riffs on just about everything ‘cue-related. Expect Not Yo Madre’s Chorizo Sausages, Pork Belly BLTs, Panang Curry Boudin, and even a Smoked Cheesecake.
What the pitmasters say: “If we consider Pearland Houston, then this “Houston suburb” should also qualify. Simply because Zaid and wife Mallory have put their hearts and souls into bringing top notch Texas bbq to a region that is greatly underserved. That is very hard to do and by all accounts they are doing an incredible job. They deserve a bigger spotlight.” - Joseph Quellar, JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating (outdoor) or call 832-586-6160 for pre-orders of 5lbs or more.

Gatlin's BBQ

Garden Oaks/Oak Forest

The basics: This family-run fan favorite from pit boss Greg Gatlin underwent a bigger, better facelift when it moved from 19th to its new location on Ella. Current kitchen master and Executive Chef Michelle Wallace (who you can catch on this season of Food Network’s “BBQ Brawl”) is not just keeping the ship afloat, she’s elevating it to a whole new level with specials from Sausage, Chicken, Shrimp & Crab Gumbo to Smoked Oxtails. Order the trio of Smoked Ribs (there’s a short and meaty baby back varietal, a St. Louis-style spare rib, and a giant beef number) to engage your inner-caveman as you gnaw ‘em straight down to the bone or keep it slightly more civilized with a fully loaded "Kitchen Sink" Sandwich, Biscuits & Gravy, and giblet-laden Dirty Rice so filthy you’ll need a cold shower afterward.
What the pitmasters say: “There are few bridges to the BBQ of a bygone era left in Texas.
None of them have been able to bring that style of BBQ into the current landscape better than Greg, his family, and Head Chef Michelle Wallace. Their importance to the History of Houston BBQ should never be understated.” - Joseph Quellar, JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ
“The breakfast! Brisket tacos! Chicken and waffles! And the Sink sandwich—so good. Southern hospitality and BBQ at its finest. Their breakfast program is delicious. Especially the made-from-scratch biscuits.” - Don Nguyen, Khói Barbecue
“All three have flavorful and out the box product offerings that distinguish these joints in their own right as doing BBQ uniquely and consistently. Not only is their BBQ awesome, but the pitmasters are also as well! We are honored to be in their company!” (On Blood Bros., Feges, and Gatlin’s) - Karen Fain, Fainmous BBQ
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Blood Bros. BBQ


The basics: What started out as a pop-up between brothers Robin and Terry Wong (Glitter Karaoke) and best friend/chief smoker Quy Hoang has turned into a long-lasting barbecue love affair. These blood brothers opened their brick-and-mortar location in Bellaire in 2018, taking inspiration from their Chinese and Vietnamese roots to create next-gen, outside-the-box barbecue that challenges everything you thought you knew about smoked cuisine. Today, they’ve got another spot in Vegas and a James Beard nom for pitmaster Quy under their belt. Try the inventive specials like Brisket Burnt End Steamed Buns, Gochujang Glazed Pork Ribs, Smoked Turkey Banh Mi, and Thit Nuong Pork Belly.
What the pitmasters say: “Pitmaster Quy and the Wong brothers gave a voice to grossly underrepresented minorities in BBQ and allowed those cultures to shine. They have received many important and well deserved accolades in the process. Quy being James Beard nominated proves this.” - Joseph Quellar, JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ
“I could eat green curry boudin balls at Blood Bros. week-in, week-out and die happy.” - Vince Boisaubin, Feges BBQ
“All three have flavorful and out the box product offerings that distinguish these joints in their own right as doing BBQ uniquely and consistently. Not only is their BBQ awesome, but the pitmasters are also as well! We are honored to be in their company!” (On Blood Bros., Feges, and Gatlin’s) - Karen Fain, Fainmous BBQ
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or skip the line and order catering (48 hours notice, 5lb minimum) online.

Roegels Barbecue Co.


The basics: Helmed by married duo Russell and Misty Roegels, this cult favorite brings the heat with its righteous fat-capped Brisket and Beef Rib, both of which come smoked beneath a gorgeous, crusty, jet-black bark. Said brisket was an instant hit, earning the smokehouse a spot on Texas Monthly’s “Top 50” list back in 2017. The hype has continued since, thanks to specials like the Thursday-only Smoked Pastrami Reubens that always sell out. Pick your poison and pair it all with Misty’s homey sides such as Potato Salad, Collards, Texas Pinto Beans, Macaroni and Cheese, and Bourbon Banana Pudding, because that’s a side, right?
What the pitmasters say: “Like a fine wine, the food’s gotten better and better over time. The pastrami sandwich is a must get. Russell and the crew are awesome people.” - Don Nguyen, Khói Barbecue
“My kids love it and they're extremely picky eaters, especially when it comes to BBQ. They also absolutely love Russell and Misty, so they like to go and visit with them.” - Robin Wong, Blood Bros. BBQ
“Roegels Barbecue for their pork ribs and house made sausages. You can taste the hard work and dedication in every bite.” - Scott Moore Jr, Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, call 713-977-8725 for take-out and pre-order catering on the website, or get nationwide shipping via Goldbelly.

Corkscrew BBQ


The basics: Once a pink & black trailer, this now-bigger pink-and-black brick-and-mortar is co-owned by BBQ hotshots Will and Nichole Buckman. With a silky, perfectly-rendered cap and crusty, blackened bark, the Smoked Brisket here is one of the finest specimens in all of Houston. Venture out to Spring to grab some, then blissfully destroy it alongside stupendously blistered Pork Ribs, Housemade 3 Cheese Queso, Smoked Beans, and snappy Sausage Links.
What the pitmasters say: “Corkscrew Barbecue for the Texas Trinity done just right. Second to none customer service.” - Scott Moore Jr, Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue (as also confirmed by Chef Ara Malekian of Harlem Road and Quy Hoang of Blood Bros.)
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or order take-out and catering online.

Blind Barber
Photo courtesy of Travel Texas

There’s more to Texas than just great barbecue, folks. Breathtakingly diverse landscapes, like Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas, offer a natural respite for outdoor enthusiasts while the San Antonio River Walk is a 15-mile oasis for the urban explorer. No matter your interests, the Lone Star State is a vacation destination unto itself waiting to be explored, so, plan accordingly.

The basics: Over in the oldest town in Tomball, this sweet and smokey chocolate and barbecue joint is absolutely killing the game. As the name suggests, Tejas started as a small bean-to-bar chocolate business and eventually expanded into smoked meats when it realized the area’s barbecue scene was lacking. Today, it’s regarded as one of the best spots around Houston for slow-smoked, USDA certified 100% all-natural Prime grade Brisket (don’t forget the burnt ends) alongside other standouts including Pork Belly and Ribs, Chile Relleno Sausages, and daily specials like Barbacoa Tacos, Pastrami Beef Ribs, and Tejas Cheesesteak Wraps. Yes, you can get truffles and chocolate bars to-go, too.
What the pitmasters say: “I love Tejas for their creative sausages and chocolate.” - Quy Hoang, Blood Bros. BBQ
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or get Tejas shipping.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

The basics: Trained first in Switzerland, then later by some dude named Wolfgang Puck, chef Ara Malekian developed an affinity for Texas barbecue after years traversing the global restaurant scene. Enter his smokin’ hot, slow-and-low BBQ emporium, set on the outskirts of town in a rustic shack off Harlem Road. There, Malekian applies French techniques to his ‘cue, infusing Smoked Chicken, Brisket, and Pork with the staves of vintage oak wine barrels, incorporating fat drippings into everything from a stupendous Pulled Pork Shoulder to Baked Beans, and finishing dishes with homemade butter, naturally. We cheered him on in last season’s BBQ Brawl finals, and we’re cheering him on still.
What the pitmasters say: “Chef Ara is a legend and has represented Houston multiple times on national television. Watch him work for five minutes and his experience in the fine dining world becomes clear. His style and execution helps elevate HouBBQ gracefully.” - Joseph Quellar, JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ
“The best thing about going to Harlem road is getting to enjoy things you can't get in other places—Lamb Chops, Duck, and Octopus. The second best thing is sharing a cup of Armenian Coffee with Ara and catching up.” - Robin Wong, Blood Bros. BBQ
“Harlem Road is one of my favorite places to go because I’ve never hung out with Ara and had a bad time. He is a great friend and puts out some damn good ‘cue. His lamb chops are my favorite!” - Brett Jackson, Brett’s Barbecue Shop
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating or call 832-278-2101 for take-out.



If straight-forward Central Texas ‘que is what you’re after, this fresh-faced BBQ pop-up is something you’ll want to consider. It uses just salt, pepper, seasoned post oak, and a little bit of magic via a 500 gallon Backline Fabrication smoker to create well-prepared classics, from Brisket, Ribs, and Turkey to Cheesy Texas Sausage, Buttermilk Biscuits, and Cheesy Taters.
What the pitmasters say: “Bar-A-BBQ just started popping up in Montgomery. They are doing a very good job of cooking traditional central Texas BBQ. The brisket is very moist and has a great bark and he makes his own sausage too, which isn't very common for pop up BBQ places. The cheesy potatoes and homemade biscuits are great sides.” - Patrick Feges, Feges BBQ
How to book: Follow Bar-A-BBQ’s Facebook and IG to see where they’re popping up next.

Feges BBQ


The basics: Husband-and-wife team Patrick Feges and Erin Smith have been fixtures in Houston’s restaurant scene for some time, honing their skills everywhere from Underbelly and Southern Goods (Feges) to Plonk! and Blacksmith (Smith), before they joined forces to open this Greenway Plaza food court spot in 2018, then a second, bigger and more family-friendly location in Spring Branch. Go for next-level staples including Ribs, Brisket, and Whole Hog with Mop Sauce and Hot Fat Cornbread alongside unconventional BBQ dishes from Curry Lime Smoked Chicken Wings and Cracklin Nachos to Spicy Korean Braised Greens and Moroccan Spiced Carrots.
What the pitmasters say: “I also enjoy visiting Patrick Feges over in Greenway. It's always good to sit down with him over a great meal and talk shop.” - Robin Wong, Blood Bros. BBQ
“Beautiful, family friendly space in Spring Branch. Don’t miss the rib tips and the whole hog.” - Don Nguyen, Khói Barbecue
“All three have flavorful and out the box product offerings that distinguish these joints in their own right as doing BBQ uniquely and consistently. Not only is their BBQ awesome, but the pitmasters are also as well! We are honored to be in their company!” (On Blood Bros., Feges, and Gatlin’s) - Karen Fain, Fainmous BBQ
How to book: Stop by for first come or get catering and shipping online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Truth BBQ


The basics: Before the world was turned upside-down, everything felt right when owner-pitmaster Leonard Botello IV brought Brenham’s finest barbecue joint to H-town, landing a spot inside the loop in an unprecedented move. No longer barren of brisket, Washington Avenue now draws enthusiasts near and far. Hit it up to snag fatty, 18-hour-smoked Brisket and succulent and crisp Burnt Ends, peppery Pork Ribs, and sides from old-school Tater Tot Casserole to a Corn Pudding that you absolutely need in your mouth right now. Pro tip: DO NOT, under any circumstances, skip dessert.
What the pitmasters say: “My go-to for taking friends from out of town. Everything is done so well here. And the dessert game is strong.” - Don Nguyen, Khói Barbecue
“Truth is one of the best BBQ restaurants in the state. Everything they cook is done at such a high level. And those cakes are so good!” - Patrick Feges, Feges BBQ
“Thank goodness there will always be Truth and Feges and the other top quality BBQ joints in town.” - Joseph Quellar, JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Khói Barbecue


The basics: Vietnamese Thịt Nướng Pulled Pork, lemongrass- and garlic-crusted and smoked in banana leaves. Smoked Beef Rib Panang Curry, hit with local microgreens for good measure. Smoked Yard Bird Rice (Cơm Gà) with yuzukoshō. When brothers Don and Theo Nguyen announce their next Viet-Tex pop-up creation on social media—Khói translates to “smoke” in Vietnamese—Houston food-lovers pay attention. It’s Mutt City barbecue at its finest. Cheer on Don on this season’s “BBQ Brawl,” and visit them at a pop-up to get some damn good Viet-Tex ‘Q.
What the pitmasters say: “These days, there’s no shortage of great BBQ in Houston, but I get most excited about pitmasters putting out creative BBQ at pop-ups around town and Khói BBQ is one of my favorites. They serve some phenomenal Vietnamese-inspired Texas BBQ. The flavors and techniques are always perfectly executed and incredibly inventive.” - Erin Smith, Feges BBQ
How to book: Follow Instagram and Facebook for upcoming pop-ups.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Dozier's BBQ
Robert Jacob Lerma | Dozier’s

Dozier's BBQ


Cookin’ on the pit since 1957, this historic meat market and smokehouse got a glow up in 2021, unveiling a new 2,200 square foot deck with a stage for live music, sun sails, and a super cool mural by artist Wiley Roberston. It’s a great place to chill, but the real reason to go is pitmaster Jim Buchanan’s damn perfect Brisket. It’s served straight-up or tucked into Grilled Cheese and Texas Twinkies. Plus, he now offers weekend dinner service specials, featuring plates from Smoked Brisket and Pimento Cheeseburgers to Ma’s Meatloaf and Mac’ and Cheese.
What the pitmasters say: “My Favorite place to visit is Doziers in Fulshear. I am a sucker for the old school meat market vibe. Jim Buchanan and his team do a fantastic job of making high quality craft barbecue, while also keeping the traditions of a small town barbecue joint. Their new patio is also a really cool addition.” - Griffin Bearicks, GM Feges BBQ Spring Branch
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating, call 281-346-1411 for take-out, or mail-order through the website.

Nomad Barbecue


The basics: Pop-ups are increasingly popular these days, and young guns like Nomad Barbecue are exactly why. After stints at The Pit Room and Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue, and forming Reveille Barbecue with Michael Michna up in Magnolia, barbecue enthusiast James McFarland returned to his career in oil and gas, but he wasn’t ready to fully say goodbye to the smoke. So, he created Nomad with wife Jessica, taking over kitchens and hustling around town to put out “Underground BBQ” like Buffalo Barbacoa Street Tacos, Elote Links, and Pastrami Beef Ribs brined in IPA. With a new move to a brick-and-mortar, you can expect big things from this slightly more stationary nomad.
What the pitmasters say: “Nomad Barbecue is stretching the boundaries with innovative sausages and dishes that take you for a walk on the dark side of the moon.” - Scott Moore Jr, Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
“Nomad BBQ is putting an awesome new spin on traditional Texas barbecue. Pitmaster James McFarland has just moved into a brick and mortar with Misfit Outpost and putting out great food. Nomad is constantly showing off creativity and talent, most recently with their 'Unhappy' meal featuring a black Diablo burger, black fries and a 'misfortune' cookie. Nomad is also very creative with their house-made sausages, as seen with their Diablo Sausage and French Press Links. We’re always looking out for new and exciting specials from them, especially on their brunch menu.” - Zaid Al-Jazrawi, Smokin’ Z’s BBQ
How to book: Follow Nomad’s Facebook and IG to see where they’re popping up next, or order catering.

The basics: East Texas style ‘que is on full display at this underrated smokehouse from husband-and-wife team Sharice and Steven Garner. The duo garnered fans catering in 2014, opening up shop a year later and eventually moving Southern Q to a bigger location on West Richey Road. Come here for flavor bombs like Spicy Boudin and Fire Crackers, Smoked Jerk Wings, Collards and Cajun Rice, Peach Cobbler, and Sunday-only Oxtails with a side of real deal Southern hospitality.
What the pitmasters say:
“Southern Q Barbecue for their house made boudin and collard greens. Their soulfulness shines bright right when you walk in the door.” - Scott Moore Jr, Tejas Chocolate + Barbecue
How to book: Stop by for first come, first served seating.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

Xin Chao


The basics: This modern Vietnamese kitchen is not a traditional barbecue joint in any way, shape, or form. However, co-owners Christina Ha and Tony J. Nguyen (two of the aforementioned James Beard recognized chefs) do marry Vietnamese classics with smoke in a way that is equal parts genius and delicious. Take the Smoked Beef Rib Flat Rice Noodles, for instance, where 44 Farms Texas beef ribs get smoked and served atop crispy rice noodles to soak up all the meaty juices (you’ll fight whoever your sharing this with for the last bite, trust); the beautifully balanced Texas BBQ Fried Rice; or a Smoked Duck Salad with jackfruit and ginger fish sauce vinaigrette that proves salad is an absolute showstopper.
What the pitmasters say: “They may not be BBQ first, but they are creating smoked dishes in a unique and creative way. Chef Tony Nguyen has truly risen to the occasion and is putting his culture and heritage on his back. Chef Christine Ha needs no introduction. The food world is blessed to have her. She was my absolute biggest inspiration to step into the kitchen back in 2012. Both of these chefs along with Quey being nominated for James beard awards means the world is taking notice of the cultural shifts in food and BBQ.. and I’m here for it.” - Joseph Quellar, JQ’s Tex Mex BBQ.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations
Brooke Viggiano is a Houston writer who always saves bits of meat candy for later. Follow her @BrookeViggiano or @brookiefafa to see what other bits of candy she keeps around.