Texas barbecue is flourishing. The pace at which new joints, and more specifically great new joints, are opening is staggering. I’ve spent the two years since we published our 2017 list of the Top 50 barbecue jointstrying to keep up by taking frequent road trips to every corner of the state. Now, no matter where you are in Texas—even on the Llano Estacado—you’re not far from great barbecue.
There has never been a simple definition of Texas barbecue. Cooking methods, wood types, and seasonings vary across the state. And now things are getting even more complex. Motivated by the competitive barbecue scene and inspired by the foods they eat out or at home, pitmasters are enlivening their menus with ingredients and cooking styles from all over the world. New spots in the Austin area are serving brisket banh mi, barbecue gumbo, and kimchi instead of pickles. A single joint in Houston does all those and more. Even in Waco you can find a bowl of brisket ramen. Moroccan-style carrots and Armenian coffee share the stage with Tex-Mex touches like pico de gallo sausage, barbacoa, and elotes. But don’t worry. The chopped-beef sandwich isn’t going anywhere.
This is the second time we’ve done a midterm barbecue report that focuses exclusively on new barbecue joints. We launched it in 2015because the level of activity in the Texas barbecue scene had gotten so intense that it seemed wrong to make readers wait to hear about the worthy rookies until we released our next Top 50 list, which comes out every four years. (The next one is due in 2021.)