The 8th Annual Texas Monthly BBQ Fest took place this weekend at the Long Center in honor of their June BBQ issue where the staff names the Top 50 BBQ joints in Texas with a heavy emphasis on the Top 10. Luckily, this year, the sun wasn’t blazing and 90 degrees like last year (which gave me sun poisoning on my first day back to living in the state of Texas). I also might have had something to do with the fact that I waited in line for Franklin’s for 45 min in the heat on that hot pavement. Anyway, this year’s weather was much more bleak (although still warm), and it felt much better and easier to indulge in heavy, fatty, meats on the lawn. With over 30 restaurants out there, and only a few hours to attack, my first stop was, again, Franklin’s. While this was not my plan, I scored big time as my friend @TheSmokingHo was behind the table with Aaron taking photos, so he snagged me a plate of brisket and pulled pork. I usually skip pulled pork as I’m a ribs, brisket, and turkey kinda gal but this jolt of pepper was a great way to kick it off. My brisket was the most lean I’ve ever had from Franklin’s BBQ which I did know was even an option here. When I had my first sit down meal at the restaurant during SXSW, I didn’t know what hit me. It was the richest, moistest, bark-iest brisket I’d ever had, it kind of knocked me out for a day— but in a good way, of course. While I really enjoyed that, this leaner option I had at the festival was still flavorful with a good seasoning around the edges and just a tiny layer of fat. This caused me to rethink my whole philosophy about what makes the best BBQ brisket.
I’ve realized that it can be pretty rare to get the same consistency out of a brisket every time you go back to your favorite spot. While you can request a preference of fatty or moist vs. lean, it really depends what part of the brisket is being cut off for you (is it the end or middle?), who is cutting it, how long it was cooked that day, etc. Because I will say I have had “my favorite” BBQ at one spot one day and then when I’ve gone back at night, it hasn’t been the same. That being said, after eating at 10 of these spots today, some of the brisket really all started to taste the same, but when something stood out, it REALLY stood out among the rest. BBQ is an art and so much blood, sweat, and bones really goes into perfecting the perfect meat for our state. You never know what you’re going to get, but when you get that rich, juicy piece of brisket, you forget everything else that is going on in the world, for at least a second.
- 2M Smokehouse (San Antonio) – Beef Barbacoa tacos and brisket. It’s always fun to see some of the creative options besides the standard brisket, ribs, sausage situation. The tacos were rich and spicy as hell, and the brisket was comforting and good enough to make me want to drive to SA to check out the spot now. Especially that chicharron macaroni.
- la BBQ (Austin) – I haven’t been to la BBQ since I moved back to Austin. This was the moistest, fattiest brisket I had all day, and also made me dance a little. Thank you for having some pickles to off set the meat!
- Franklin BBQ (Austin) – I really loved trying a leaner piece of Franklin’s and STILL thinking it was legit. Lean brisket that still tastes tender and not dried out is hard to find.
- Tejas Chocolate Craftory (Tomball) – This was the most creative and most fun selection of the day. One plate got you Pastrami Burnt Ends with Mustard, Brisket, a mini Danish Pork Rib, Carrot Souffle , and a Chocolate Mousse Panna Cotta situation. A whole meal in one WITH dessert. In case you are wondering, yes I loved the meat as much as the fact that there was dessert there. Pastrami seasoning is always fun with BBQ especially when it’s fall of the bone style meat.
- Valentina’s Tex-Mex (Austin)– Valentina’s is one of my favorite restaurants in Austin. Their flour tortillas are the best I’ve ever had and they make them fresh to order. I tried their ribs for the first time here which ended in approval and the brisket was moist and standard.
- CorkScrew BBQ (Spring) – The burnt ends here were memorable and the rib was pretty tender ******************At this point, all the meats I tried after this, started tasting the same, but I kept pushing **********
- Pinkerton’s (Houston) – I’ve read great things about this Houston joint, and I have to say I am so happy with the options this year as there was NO dry meat. However, at this point, I think I overdid it and hit a meat wall. While the meat was cooked well, the rub was not as peppery compared to everything I had already eaten.
- Bodacious BBQ (Longview) – They had boudin: a soft, beef sausage stuffed with rice.
- Truth BBQ (Brenham) – No. 10 on the magazine’s list. If only they had brought their chocolate cake I had read so much about! Can’t wait to go here.
- Cattelack Barbeque (Dallas) – They had some pastrami brisket, sausage, and actual bologna!
The Texas Monthly BBQ Fest is a fun family-friendly event where all the best pitmasters in Texas come to us in one day! With 4 hours of meat eating activity, you’re bound to be full the rest of the day. This year was such an improvement from last year with open picnic table seatings with umbrellas vs. long communal tables under a tent, the Peterson Brother’s performed, and all of the meat was superb!! This event is the best way to eat around the world of Texas BBQ in just a few hours without having to drive anywhere.