Holy smokes!

30 top Texas pitmasters descend on Austin for 2017 Texas Monthly BBQ Fest

30 top Texas pitmasters descend on Austin for 2017 TMBBQ Fest

TMBBQ Boots
Shorts — and boots — are de rigueur at the TMBBQ fest. Photo by Robert Gomez

Let’s get one thing straight. Meat sweats are totally a real thing. So when presented with a dazzling array of brisket, sausage, and ribs at the Texas Monthly BBQ Fest on Sunday, November 5, we advise you to drink lots of water, slow your roll, and take time to savor what the state’s top pitmasters have to offer.

Held on the front lawn of the Long Center, the annual meat-a-palooza is an extension of the monthly magazine’s “Top 50 BBQ Joints in Texas," a comprehensive list that names the best smokehouses in the state (and we would argue the nation). In addition to the promised food coma, the event has lawn games; live music from The Peterson Brothers Band; and performances by Texas songwriters Willis Alan Ramsey, Bruce Robison, and Carrie Rodriguez.

To celebrate the fest's eighth year, event planners are upping the ante. “Not only is this the biggest festival we’ve ever had, with 30 of the country’s best barbecue joints in attendance, it’s also full of new energy,” says Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn. “Fifteen of the pitmasters will be smoking meats at the festival for the first time. What hasn’t changed is that the event remains the single most affordable statewide barbecue road trip, and it comes with all the brisket, and none of the driving.”

Among the smoke wizards in attendance this year are list mainstays like Austin’s Franklin Barbecue and Lexington’s Snow’s BBQ. In addition to Franklin, Austin will also be represented by Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, la Barbecue, Micklethwait Craft Meat, Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, Terry Black’s Barbecue, and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ.

Dallas-Fort Worth entries include Lockhart Smokehouse and Heim.

San Antonio is also beefing up its presence with 2M Smokehouse and The Granary ’Cue & Brew in attendance. Other Central Texas spots including Hays Co. Bar-B-Que in San Marcos and Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor will also be there to help you put on those winter pounds.

Some of our favorites from the list offered us a preview of what to expect. 2M Smokehouse owner Joe Melig says they will be offering prime smoked brisket alongside house serrano and Oaxaca cheese sausage and pickled nopales for general ticket holders, and smoked barbacoa for the lucky VIPs. The Granary chef and owner Tim Rattray will be serving brisket, pulled pork, brisket pastrami, and pork belly. And Miguel Vidal, owner of Valentina’s, will be paying tribute to his family’s gatherings with mesquite-smoked barbacoa with fresh salsa and homemade tortillas. Stiles Switch pitmaster Lance Kirkpatrick was a little more coy, but promises some “fun surprise twists.”

For those new to the festival, Texas Monthly's restaurant critic and food editor, Patricia Sharpe, offers this sage wisdom: “Come hungry! The samples of barbecue can be very generous and I’ve seen people stagger off with enough food in their bellies for two days. The temperature’s supposed to be around 85 — so wear short sleeves and sunscreen and maybe a hat.”

But you won’t get to show off your finest haberdashery if you don’t act soon. Tickets are highly coveted throughout the state and always sell out.

The full TMBBQ Fest lineup is as follows:
2M Smokehouse (San Antonio)
BBQ on the Brazos (Cresson)
Bodacious Bar-B-Q (Longview)
Cattleack Barbeque (Dallas)
Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (Austin)
CorkScrew BBQ (Spring)
Evie Mae’s Pit Barbecue (Wolfforth)
Franklin Barbecue (Austin)
The Granary ’Cue & Brew (San Antonio)
Hays Co. Bar-B-Que (San Marcos)
Heim Barbecue (Fort Worth)
Hutchins BBQ (McKinney)
la Barbecue (Austin)
Lockhart Smokehouse (Dallas)
Louie Mueller Barbecue (Taylor)
Micklethwait Craft Meats (Austin)
Miller’s Smokehouse (Belton)
Pinkerton’s Barbecue (Houston)
Pody’s BBQ (Pecos)
Roegels Barbecue Co. (Houston)
Smolik’s Smokehouse (Mathis)
Snow’s BBQ (Lexington)
Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ (Tyler)
Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew (Austin)
Stillwater Barbeque (Abilene)
Tejas Chocolate Craftory (Tomball)
Terry Black’s Barbecue (Austin)
Truth Barbeque (Brenham)
Tyler’s Barbeque (Amarillo)
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ (Austin)