Getting out of my Uber in front of the Long Center last Sunday and seeing the crowds gathering to eat some of the best barbecue in Texas gave me a slight feeling of overwhelm. The 8th annual Texas Monthly BBQ Fest was the biggest one yet, with over 4,000 meat lovers in attendance.
Thirty BBQ joints from around the state–all featured in Texas Monthly’s latest list of the top 50 BBQ joints in Texas–were offering samples of their meat. The prospect of having all-you-can-eat brisket, ribs, and sausage from the best pitmasters was both exciting and intimidating. Especially when I realized I only had four hours to try them all!
Snow’s Tops the List of the Best BBQ Joints in Texas
Upon arrival, I headed straight to Snow’s, recognized as the current best BBQ restaurant in Texas. I realized this was the most popular strategy when I saw a line of at least 30 other people already waiting for the famous Tootsie Tomanetz, pitmaster of Snow’s, to serve brisket and pork ribs. Tomanetz, who confessed she feels grateful and honored to be on the top of Texas Monthly’s list, is as sweet and adorable as everyone says she is.
Pitmaster: Tootsie Tomanetz
516 Main St., Lexington, Texas – Website
➡️ Keep reading: “Snow’s BBQ Ranks as Best Barbecue (and Line?) in Texas”
Austin’s own Franklin Barbecue took second place on the list this year. But according to Texas Monthly, “Franklin has ceded its number-one place on our list to Snow’s, but that’s not a knock on it so much as a reflection that Snow’s is currently smoking hot.”
Despite this fact, the line to Franklin was even longer than to Snow’s. The festival was a great opportunity to have a slice of this famous fatty brisket, since the restaurant is still closed after catching fire. Aaron Franklin told me he is planning to reopen in a few weeks.
Pitmaster: Aaron Franklin
900 E. 11th St. – Website
Besides Franklin, Austin was represented by five other barbecue restaurants at the festival.
la Barbecue, part of the festival since 2012, was serving brisket, chipotle sausage, and pulled pork with house-made sauces.
Pitmasters: Brendan Lamb, Francisco Saucedo
2027 East Cesar Chavez St. – Website
Terry Black’s Barbecue
Terry Black’s Barbecue prepared specialties, like bacon and michelada sausage with pineapple tahini, just for the festival. Brisket was the only item served from the regular menu, so festival attendees were fortunate to try the novelties.
Pitmaster: Michael and Mark Black
1003 Barton Springs Road – Website
Micklethwait Craft Meats
Micklethwait Craft Meats, among the top 10 of Texas Monthly’s list, served beef and pork ribs, three different types of sausages, and brisket.
Pitmaster: Tom Micklethwait
1309 Rosewood Ave. – Website
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew offered traditional Texan brisket, along with flights of three types of sausages, and cookies as sweet treats. Catherine Stiles shared that she sees Texas Monthly BBQ Fest as “a great way to connect with all our friends and just have a good day celebrating BBQ!”
Pitmasters: Lance Kirkpatrick
6610 N. Lamar Blvd. – Website
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ was at the festival for the first time, with samples of brisket, pork ribs, and barbacoa tacos.
Pitmaster: Miguel Vidal
11500 Manchaca Road – Website
Three hours later, in my meat-inspired frenzy, I forgot all about my anxiety and intimidation. The meat was delicious, the crowds cheerful, and the lines much shorter than I expected. Even getting the fatty brisket from Franklin took only 20 minutes, which was a breeze in comparison to the four hours one usually has to spend in line at the restaurant.
Daniel Vaughn, BBQ editor at Texas Monthly, offered insight to this one-of-a-kind event:
“Even with more attendees than ever, the event seemed less cramped. I think the layout and the fact that we had 30 barbecue joints to choose from helped. I was also happy to see all the creativity. Where else are you going to get all the brisket you can eat along with duck sausage topped with smoked foie gras?”
Here’s a little bit more of what you missed, if you didn’t make it out to Texas Monthly BBQ Fest this year. If you love barbecue as much as I do, mark your calendar to get a ticket for 2018.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What is your favorite barbecue joint in Austin?