5 great Central Texas-style BBQ joints outside the Lone Star State
BBQ's recent surge in popularity has helped break down geographical barriers, so that you can now enjoy an expertly smoked slice of moist Texas brisket without having to chase it with a side of 100-degree heat. Here are five BBQ joints from across the country whose wares are heavily influenced by the salt and pepper simplicity of the Central part of the Lone Star State's love of beef. And while not everything about these places is Texan, you won't want to mess with their brisket.
Pitmaster: Billy Durney
First memory of TX BBQ: "I was smoking meat for awhile, then on a trip for my previous career I went to Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX. I stepped one foot inside, and I knew my whole life had been changed."
Why Central TX-style: "It's just the work ethic. I always took pride in a strong work ethic. We don't take shortcuts and people out in Texas don't take shortcuts. It's also the simplicity of using salt & pepper and making a really great oak fire. The simplicity, but the amount of difficulty and long hours that it takes. That's also what I feel the New York experience is about."
Favorite TX BBQ joints: "Louie Mueller Barbecue. It's easily the Hall of Fame of BBQ. It's what a BBQ place should be like."
How many briskets: 140 per week, plus over 200 of their signature beef ribs.
The rub: Salt and pepper
The wood: Oak
The smokers: Four 11ft reverse flow smokers that keep the fire a healthy distance from the meat.
How they honor the Lone Star State: With an interior that looks like an old Texas honky tonk without being gimmicky. And a soon-to-be framed American flag that used to hang outside Louie Mueller in Taylor. And by serving Shiner beer.
Owner: Barry Sorkin
First memory of TX BBQ: "I had a friend who went to UT, and he was in town in Chicago. It was maybe 15 or 20 years ago. We went to a BBQ place in Chi, not a very good one. And he sat down and asked where was the brisket. To me, that was Jewish food. That dried tasteless stuff that my Mom used to make? Why would that be here? So he talked me into going down to Texas, and my first stop was Louie Mueller. That's the enduring image of the quintessential BBQ place."
Why Central TX-style: "We never really set out to be a TX BBQ, it just so happened that it's my favorite style. We also do KC-style baked beans, Memphis ribs, and Carolina pulled pork, but the TX-style brisket and sausage are our best sellers."
Favorite TX BBQ joints: Louie Mueller, Smitty's, Black's, Cooper's in Llano. Then in the new generation, Aaron Franklin.
How many briskets: On a busy Saturday, 90-100.
The rub: Mainly salt, sugar, pepper, paprika. Plus garlic salt, onion powder, dried ginger, and a lot more. "Louie Mueller might be the best brisket on the planet, but I didn't want to copy it."
The wood: Oak and apple
The smoker: Southern Pride, wood-burning with gas assist
How they honor the Lone Star State: Flying in sausages from Rudy Mikeska's Bar-B-Q in Taylor, TX.
Brooklyn, NY; New York, NY; Washington DC
Established: 2007, 2011, 2014
Founder: Marc Glosserman
First memory of TX BBQ: "BBQ has been part of my life predating any type of memory. My father grew up in Lockhart, and so, when I was really just a baby visiting my grandparents, Kreuz Market -- and TX BBQ in general -- was pretty much an obligatory stop on the way. I can't recall any family event in Lockhart that didn't have BBQ from Kreuz or Black's."
Why Central TX-style: "That was what I grew up with. On the East Coast BBQ is a term that was synonymous with grilling. Brisket and spare ribs and salt and pepper rubs, that didn't exist in my upbringing other than in TX. I wanted to bring it to New York, because there wasn't really anywhere to get it."
Favorite TX BBQ joint: "My absolutely sentimental favorite spot and inspiration for Hill Country is Kreuz Market. My father is very close friends with Rick Schmidt, the second generation that owned Kreuz. They were classmates at Lockhart [High School] and grew up together. I've known the family, grew up with them, they've known me since I was a kid. I used to go there when it was in the Smitty's location."
How many briskets: 40-50 per weekday, 60 on the weekends
The rub: Kosher salt, coarse black pepper, cayenne
The wood: Post oak imported from Texas
The smoker: Indirect heat Old Hickory
How they honor the Lone Star State: Regular live music, brown butcher paper as plates, and sausage flown in from Kreuz Market.
Pitmaster: Scott Holmes
First memory of TX BBQ: "When I first went down to Austin to meet my wife's parents, they picked us up with a cooler of beer and drove us out to The Salt Lick. It was just the whole experience. The trees, the fact that it's BYOB, the big pit. I'd never been properly introduced to that type of BBQ before, I just thought it was the coolest thing around. I went home and bought a smoker."
Why Central TX-style: "I think it's the greatest BBQ there is. There's a lot of TN-style BBQ here, drowning in sauce. It's just not that good. My wife and I did competitions for four years, but everything's sauced. It's overly sweet. It's got tons of MSG. There's something primal about that simplicity and using it on that smoker with a real wood fire. It touches people."
Favorite TX BBQ joints: Anything in Lockhart. Franklin BBQ. LA Barbecue.
How many briskets: 14 per day
The rub: Salt pepper, cayenne, garlic, onion powder
The wood: Mostly Gamble oak from the mountains of Arizona
The smoker: Custom R&O off-set smoker made in Granbury, TX
How they honor the Lone Star State: By giving a taste of burnt end to every customer.
Cook: Tiffani Faison
First memory of TX BBQ: "I was an army kid so we moved around a lot. When we lived in OK, we'd take road trips for BBQ to Dallas and Austin. We would do this trip every year where we'd go to Six Flags, then a huge BBQ crawl."
Why Central TX-style: "There were some decent places in Boston, but there wasn't any BBQ that I really loved. It's what I wanted to eat when I got homesick. And it's also about doing really great meat. Letting the meat shine through. TX-style is the best way to do it, not by mopping it with sauce."
Favorite TX BBQ joints: Franklin BBQ for brisket. Black's for beef ribs. The Salt Lick and Kreuz's for sausage. "But really it's like choosing your favorite kid."
How many briskets: 20-25 per day
The rub: Salt and pepper
The wood: Oak
The smoker: Custom J&R smoker, barrel and carousel, can hold 1,100lbs of meat
How they honor the Lone Star State: A massive framed photo of a man enjoying BBQ at Louie Mueller in Taylor.
Dan Gentile is a staff writer on Thrillist's national food and drink team. He lives in Austin, TX, the BBQ capital of the known universe. Follow him to extra-moist brisket at @Dannosphere.