For barbecue enthusiasts, the only thing that comes close to eating barbecue is talking about eating barbecue. Comparing lists of places to visit, arguing about which restaurant serves the best version of this or that meat, listening to podcasts where other people talk about barbecue: these are the experiences around which obsessives share their fandom.
The latest: Southern Living magazine's list of the South's top 50 barbecue joints, compiled annually by contributing barbecue editor Robert Moss.
Texas restaurants take nine of the 50 spots on the list, including four of the top 10 — the most of any state.
One Dallas restaurant makes the cut: Cattleack Barbeque, which comes in at No. 11.
Austin joints bear the most Texas names on the list, including Franklin Barbecue, Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ, and Micklethwait Craft Meats.
Just a one-hour drive from the Capital City, Snow’s BBQ in Lexington comes in at No. 2; Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor is No. 3; and Kreuz Market in Lockart is No. 29.
Other Texas joints include Tejas Chocolates & Barbecue in Tomball, Corkscrew BBQ in Spring, and Two Bros BBQ Market in San Antonio.
No. 1 on the list: Scott's Bar-B-Que from Hemingway, South Carolina.
"The overall dining experience is important: the physical setting, the aroma from the pits, the sauces and dishes served alongside," Moss writes to explain his criteria. "Whether it's a bare-bones take-out stand or a full-service restaurant with a wine list and clean restrooms, each place needs a spirit and flair that’s all its own."
About Cattleack, he notes that the restaurant began as a post-retirement hobby for Todd and Misty David but has grown into an acclaimed barbecue destination. "Cattleack's brisket, with its tangy, peppery bark and superb texture, stands toe-to-toe with the best in Texas," he says.
Moss has shuffled the Texas restaurants around a bit from last year by adding Two Bros., moving Tejas into the top 10, and ranking Snow’s over Louie Mueller.
Overall, Lewis Barbecue, a Texas-style restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina, from former La Barbecue pitmaster John Lewis, moves from eighth to fifth. North Carolina’s Skylight Inn ranks fourth, and Scott’s Bar-B-Que repeats at the top.
Naming “snubs” on a list that covers such a broad geographic region probably isn’t fair. Let’s just say Moss might want to consider Truth Barbeque (Brenham and Houston) and 2M Smokehouse BBQ in San Antonio for next year’s edition.