Wednesday, January 18, 2006


"Vegetables are not food. Vegetables are what food eats."
-post by Ricky at The BBQ Forum

No food is the subject of more "best" or "top 10" lists in Texas than barbecue. And for barbecue fans, no subject is more controversial than naming the best barbecue.

The best barbecue joints in Texas are in rural areas -- not in Houston. Rural barbecue joints do not have to deal with air pollution codes that prevent the construction of a good pit. If you are stuck in Houston, however, where can you get the best barbecue? My answers are inherently subjective, and they depend on the type of meat being barbecued.

Best brisket - Thelma's. Thelma's is a shack just south of Chinatown. The line is terrible, but that is because the food is so good. Nobody else's brisket comes close to Thelma's. It is black and crispy on the outside and moist and juicy inside. The smoke flavor is great. Thelma also fries a mean catfish.

Beef ribs -- Pappas BBQ downtown. My friends disagree with me on this one. They say Pappas' sauce is too sweet. They are reluctant to say the best ribs could be made by a chain operated by a local restaurant dynasty. But these ribs are really good -- large, meaty, and cooked perfectly. Plus, I like the sauce, even if it is sweet.

Pork ribs -- Williams' Smoke House in Acres Homes. These pork ribs have a great, spicy rub and a crispy exterior. A lot of people say the best pork ribs are at Pizzitola's near Shepard and I-10. Pizzitola's has an overwhelmingly white crowd, and Williams has an overwhelmingly African-American crowd. Most of the white folks who love Pizzitola's probably have never been to Williams's Smoke House, so they do not know any better. If they tried both, they would know that the ribs at Williams' are meatier and have more flavor than the ribs at Pizzitola's.

Other items -- Goode Co. on Kirby. The brisket at Goode Co. is decent, but not especially goode. Their pork ribs are ok, but not great. But Goode Co. does excel with other items. They have the best barbecue side dish in town -- Austin baked beans. They also have my favorite barbecue sausage and possibly even the city's best smoked turkey breast. (Of course, how many real barbecue joints cook something so healthy as turkey breasts?) Plus, Goode Co. has a really tasty barbecue sauce. Goode Co. wins a lot of "best barbecue" polls in Houston. I suspect that has a lot to do with its locations in West U and Memorial. Most people in West U and Memorial would not be caught dead at Williams' or Thelma's or any other barbecue joints in more "economically depressed areas." For economically affluent parts of Houston, however, Goode Co. probably is as good as you can get -- and much better than Luther's, Otto's, Luling City Market, Demeris, or any other of the many mediocre barbecue restaurants in the city.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thelma's is your favorite brisket??? I guess taste is very very subjective. Thelma has the sweetest sauce in the world!!! It is full of cloves and brown sugar and I cannot stand sweet bbq. Why would you want to cover the great taste of a slow smoke meat with something that taste like dessert. And especially after you have spent so much time getting the meat smoked.