NYT on TX BBQ
New York Times showcases 5 smokin' Houston spots in hot new 'Best Texas Barbecue Restaurants' list
The New York Times has shined its spotlight on the new faces of Texas barbecue. In an article titled “The 20 Best Texas Barbecue Restaurants From the New Generation,” the paper considers restaurants that opened after 2011 and are serving more than the traditional brisket and ribs with cole slaw and potato salad. List author Brett Anderson visited Texas seven times in two years to compile the list, according to the Times.
The greater Houston and Austin areas lead the way with five restaurants each. Dallas-Fort Worth has three spots, and San Antonio claims two. The other five restaurants span the state, covering Beaumont, Marfa, Weslaco (near McAllen), and two towns near Lubbock: Slaton and Wolfforth.
Houston's searing spots
Houston is represented by Blood Bros. BBQ, the Asian-influenced restaurant in Bellaire; Brisket & Rice, an Asian-influenced restaurant in Northwest Houston; Gatlin’s BBQ, the staple Black-owned restaurant featured in Netflix’s High on the Hog documentary series; Ray’s Real Pit BBQ Shack, a Black-owned restaurant in Third Ward; and Truth BBQ, the Washington Avenue restaurant ranked third in the state by Texas Monthly.
Each entry gets a brief profile and suggestions for what to order. Anderson's recommendations include gochujang-glazed pork ribs at Blood Bros., barbecue fried rice at Brisket & Rice, the fried chicken biscuit at Gatlin’s, smoked oxtails at Ray’s, and burnt end boudin at Truth.
In the companion essay, Anderson dives a little more deeply into his Houston selections by highlighting Brisket & Rice, a restaurant that’s operated in a Phillips 66 gas station on FM 529 since 2022. He praises its brisket, describing it as “juicy, with a tight, salty crust, and best eaten … over rice, with a drizzle of tomato-based sauce.”
“This is the epitome of Houston barbecue. We don’t care if the nerds show up,” Houston Chronicle barbecue columnist J.C. Reid tells the Times about Brisket & Rice.
Austin and Dallas mentions
The Austin-area representatives consist of Distant Relatives, known for incorporating flavors of the African diaspora; Japanese-influenced Kemuri Tatsu-ya; farm-to-table food truck LeRoy and Lewis; and Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ, which just opened its new location in Buda last month. Anderson also includes Barbs-B-Q, a restaurant in Lockhart that only opened at the end of May but whose three female owners boast serious resumes.
The Metroplex is represented by Goldee’s Barbecue, ranked number one on Texas Monthly’s list; Smoke ‘N Ash Barbecue, which has earned acclaim for its use of Ethiopian flavors; and Vaqueros Bar-B-Q, which serves barbecue-influenced takes on Mexican dishes such as cochinita pibil and birria tacos. Similarly, San Antonio is represented by two Mexican-influenced spots: 2M Smokehouse and Burnt Bean Co., the restaurant in Seguin whose owners Ernest Servantes and David Kirkland earned nominations for Best Chef: Texas in this year’s James Beard Awards.
Leading the way in the “New Generation”
Some guidance for the criteria used to identify the members of the “New Generation” comes via Anderson's companion essay. Titled “Texas Barbecue Is the Best It Has Ever Been. Here’s Why,” he explains that Texas barbecue has evolved beyond its Central Texas, European-inspired roots to include a more diverse set of influences.
“It is a malleable cuisine, one that is open to newcomers and includes the traditions, notably Black and Mexican American styles, that have long thrived here,” he writes. “The new Texas barbecue gives voice to a population that has been diversified by new arrivals from other states and countries, and to a cultural dialogue between rural and urban artisans; much of it nods to American barbecue’s origins in the live fire cooking of Indigenous people and enslaved Africans.”