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Texas Monthly’s BBQ rankings, fair or not?

Are Texas Monthly’s barbecue rankings fair? Can you compare a joint open just one day a week to places open six and seven? And a related, but more complicated fairness question: With so much of Texas Monthly’s overall business plan — events, tours, dinners, merchandise — now tied to barbecue, can the magazine look beyond its self interest when it comes to smoked meat? After gurgling below the surface since the release of the latest Top 50 list last month, these issues erupted into full view this week when Ronnie Killen went public to the Houston media. He later elaborated…
 - 06/23/2017
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Food, music at Opie’s BBQ make the Posse happy

Our lunch of brisket, ribs, sausage, pork loin & turkey at Opie’s BBQ in Spicewood, with tater tot casserole and butterbeans. The last time Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins visited Opie’s BBQ, on an Easter Sunday four years ago, he was too late for the brisket. In the world of Texas barbecue, that’s called disappointment. So Wilkins was very happy on a recent return visit to the Spicewood joint when we ordered a full platter of brisket, ribs, sausage, pork loin and turkey. The meats are terrific at Opie’s BBQ, but don’t miss the homemade banana pudding either. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas…
 - 06/20/2017
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Ronnie Killen says he’s selling brisket for no profit

Snake River Gold brisket at Killen’s Barbecue in Houston, which goes for $30 a pound. Seeking to improve quality, barbecue maestro Ronnie Killen recently changed brisket suppliers and is now paying so much for raw brisket that he doesn’t make any money on the final, smoked product. “If it means selling brisket for no profit, then that’s what it means,” Killen said on the Houston Chronicle’s BBQ State of Mind podcast Wednesday. “I don’t care.” Killen operates the popular Killen’s Barbecue in suburban Houston. He said on the podcast that he now pays $9.35 a pound for brisket supplied by…
 - 06/15/2017
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Impressive return to Winners BBQ in Cedar Hill

Selection of smoked meats at Winners BBQ in Cedar Hill, sliced brisket, sausage, baby back ribs & chopped brisket. The Posse gathered recently at Winners BBQ in Cedar Hill, anxious to see if my impressions from a visit a few weeks earlier would hold. Owners De’Andre and Maegan Jackson had just opened their second location three weeks earlier when I dropped in the first time in late April. Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper & I visited their Plano location in early April. We were very impressed. That led to my visit to Cedar Hill and then our gathering of 10 Posse members several weeks…
 - 06/06/2017
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The making of Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ list

Without a doubt, it’s the most anticipated and influential list of its kind in Texas and beyond: Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ joints. It boosts business for those places that make it, and generates endless discussion among barbecue fans everywhere. If you have any doubt about the appeal of the list, just Google Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ, or check your Facebook and Twitter feeds over the past couple weeks. Or, view all the coverage the Posse has devoted to the list over the same span. Or, look at the longer lines at many of the top-ranked joints. A new…
 - 06/04/2017
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When it comes to BBQ, a picture is not worth a thousand bites — or even one

Posse member Tom Fox photographs a tray of BBQ at Louie Mueller in Taylor. A barbecue blogger last week weighed in on his role in assembling the latest Texas Monthly list of the Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas. Actually, the blogger, Jimmy Ho, didn’t weigh in. “I did help contribute to the list,” he wrote, but he added, “I am not going to write about any of the places I visited on my blog.” (I’m guessing that maybe his arrangement with Texas Monthly prohibited him from using his work for the magazine on his own blog, but that’s just…
 - 06/01/2017
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4-T’s Bar-B-Q, a sweet spot in Forney

Lunch plate of ribs, brisket & sausage were perfectly cooked and seasoned at 4-T’s Bar-B-Q & Catering in Forney. I had a great lunch at 4-T’s Bar-B-Q and Catering in Forney, a half-hour or so East of Dallas. Newly-named to the Texas Monthly Top 50 list, it was my first trip out to Forney and it sure won’t be my last. Pitmaster Mike Thomas has been smoking meat in Forney for almost seven years and he’s really got things dialed in. I ordered the two meat plate ($11.49) with moist brisket and sausage and I added two ribs ($2 each). All three meats…
 - 05/31/2017
2M Smokehouse brisket

Top 10 brisket joints for Texas Monthly

Briskets on the smoker at 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio. With all the hullabaloo over the online release of Texas Monthly’s Top 50 barbecue joints early this week, the print edition of the magazine still contained a nice surprise when it arrived Thursday: a list of the top 10 brisket joints in Texas. While seven of them are also among TM’s overall Top 10, three are not, including 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio. Regular readers will remember that Chris Wilkins and I raved about 2M after our first visit there earlier this year. I even argued that it might be the…
 - 05/28/2017
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Big expansion for Hays County Bar-B-Que

The pits burn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Hays County Bar-B-Que in San Marcos. Jessie Miranda, the general manager at Hays County Bar-B-Que & Catering in San Marcos, is old school. The joint doesn’t use temperature gauges to judge the doneness of its briskets. It’s all about how the meat looks and feels to the touch. “The only thing we probe is poultry, sausage and sometimes a pork chop,” he said. Miranda is also old school in his approach to competition: Bring it on. “We got room to go,” he said. “There’s plenty business for everybody.…
 - 05/25/2017
Snows BBQ

Snow’s BBQ, well deserved No. 1 for Texas Monthly

Early Saturday morning light hits the smoker area as pitmaster Tootsie Tomanetz works at Snow’s BBQ in Lexington. So we missed — widely — when we predicted last month that Killen’s Barbecue in suburban Houston would be No. 1 on Texas Monthly’s list of the Top 50 joints in Texas. But we applaud — loudly — the magazine’s decision this week to put Snow’s BBQ on top. In all the years the Posse has been touring, breakfast at the Lexington place on a Saturday morning remains our favorite trip. “It’s the ultimate Texas BBQ experience: great food, great people and the…
 - 05/22/2017
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2M Smokehouse video: Living the BBQ dream

2M Smokehouse video: Owners Esaul Ramos, left, and Joe Melig at the counter of their San Antonio restaurant. Esaul Ramos, co-owner and pit master at 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio, has some advice for anyone who thinks they might want to smoke meat for a living. “Don’t get into barbecue unless you really, really love it,” Ramos told the Posse recently during a visit to his joint when we also taped a short video in his smokehouse. With a mattress propped against a nearby wall, Ramos explained how he and partner, Joe Melig, literally camp out there during their long…
 - 05/21/2017
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Forget Texas, go to Smokey D’s for ribs

Lunch at Smokey D’s BBQ in Des Moines, Iowa. Clockwise from top left, Texas toast, pork ribs, turkey, sausage and brisket. I’m a Texan, so it has taken me a few days to get up the courage to write this. The best pork ribs I’ve ever eaten weren’t cooked in the Lone Star State. No, they were cooked about 950 miles north of ATX in Des Moines, Iowa, at a place called Smokey D’s BBQ. Sherry Jacobson and I stopped there in the middle of a recent Monday afternoon while driving to Minnesota. “Oh, yeah,” I said after taking a…
 - 05/14/2017
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New look for Micklethwait Craft Meats, same great brisket

Three-meat plate with fatty brisket, a big pork rib, and knockwurst sausage & sides at Micklethwait Craft Meats. Micklethwait Craft Meats, the excellent barbecue joint near downtown Austin, had a new look when we stopped there for lunch this week. “Gussied up” was the term that immediately came to mind, though it might be a tad high brow for a trailer operation. But it sure looked nice. The space leading to and under the service windows is now covered with pea gravel and several large concrete pavers, and a new planter near the main seating was ready for some greenery. Before,…
 - 05/11/2017
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At Cattleack BBQ, we go behind TV action

Cattleack BBQ owner and pitmaster Todd David points out the menu items to customers. You might have seen a news story that Cattleack BBQ is going to be featured on a new Food Network show called Incredible Edible America with the Dunhams, starring comedian/ventriloquist Jeff Dunham and his wife Audrey, a food blogger. Each show is centered around one city and the one of the shows is about Dallas. The series premieres June 5, but we don’t know yet exactly when the Dallas episode is scheduled to air. I was asked by Cattleack owners Todd and Misty David to attend…
 - 05/06/2017
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No ghosts, just good BBQ spirit at Stiles Switch

Lunch at Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew in Austin, including sausage, pork ribs, brisket, beef rib, smoked fried chicken wings and sides. There’s a lot of history swirling around Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew in Austin. It’s located in what was the city’s first shopping center, built in 1951. And the space now occupied by the joint was the movie location for the pool hall in Dazed and Confused, the 1993 comedy that made Matthew McConaughey famous. “All right, all right, all right.” But if you’re a railroad fan, particularly one who might be partial to ghosts, there’s an even…
 - 04/30/2017
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Finding BBQ truth, wisdom in the land of sauce

A clock showing the legendary pitmaster hangs on the wall at Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque in Kansas City. When in Rome, the saying goes. And that’s exactly what we did recently in Kansas City. We went to Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque. While the food didn’t sync with my Texas tastes, the atmosphere was wonderful at this classic joint on the edge of downtown. Of course, when talking about Bryant’s, sooner or later, Calvin Trillin’s 1972 Playboy article gets mentioned. Trillin, from Kansas City, wrote then: “It has long been acknowledged that the single best restaurant in the world is Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque at 18th…
 - 04/28/2017
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Winners expands its BBQ dream from Plano to Cedar Hill

Two-meat plate with brisket & baby back ribs, baked beans and mac & cheese at Winners BBQ in Plano. Two years ago Maegan and De’Andre Jackson took a leap of faith and opened Winners BBQ in east Plano. They had shared the dream of opening up a BBQ joint since college, where they met as students at Iowa State. De’Andre grew up cooking barbecue, his dad was a backyard pitmaster who cooked for the neighborhood, then got into catering and eventually opened a restaurant. Growing up in Garland, De’Andre was an All Big 12 defensive back for the Cyclones with aspirations to play…
 - 04/25/2017
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Fargo’s brisket might be best BBQ value in Texas

Brisket, chicken, pork ribs & sausage at Fargo’s BBQ in Bryan, a favorite stop for the Posse. Frugal isn’t a word I’d use to describe the Posse. When we see something at a joint that looks good, we order it, whatever the price. But as we’ve journeyed the Texas BBQ trail the past couple weeks, I’ve been struck by brisket prices: $22 a pound at Franklin Barbecue, $24 at LeRoy and Lewis, the excellent new trailer joint in south Austin, $20 or so at several other places. Fargo’s BBQ co-owner Belender Wells shows their new barbecue sauce.(Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ…
 - 04/21/2017
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Killen’s will be #1 on Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ list, the Posse predicts

Diners wait for Killen’s BBQ to open on a Saturday morning in Pearland, a suburb of Houston. Be bold. That advice from an old boss recently ran through my head here at Posse HQ as we contemplated stepping off the barbecue cliff. We took the step. Yes, we are predicting that Killen’s Barbecue in suburban Houston will be No. 1 on Texas Monthly’s highly anticipated list of the Top 50 BBQ joints in Texas, displacing the legendary Franklin Barbecue in Austin. It shouldn’t take long to know whether that call is indeed bold or just plain boneheaded. The list will…
 - 04/19/2017
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The beef cheeks at LeRoy and Lewis in Austin, Yes!

The beef cheeks stole the show during lunch at LeRoy and Lewis in Austin. All the Argentine reggae on my playlist lately has put me in a very “vibra positiva” state of mind. So do the great beef cheeks at LeRoy and Lewis, the new truck and trailer joint in south Austin. Saturdays, the place serves more traditional smoked meats. We went on Good Friday. No line. What a treat in barbecue crazy ATX! This story of discovery begins early that morning. Posse member Michael Ainsworth messaged me that he was on the road to San Antonio from Dallas. “You…
 - 04/14/2017
TMtop50

Prediction: Franklin Barbecue won’t be No. 1 on Texas Monthly’s new Top 50 list

The BBQ world is anxiously awaiting the release of the 2017 Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ list next month. If Blackie Sherrod were writing this column, he would call it Scattershooting while wondering if Geddy Lee still loves Texas barbecue. . . Sherrod, of course, was a legendary newspaper columnist. After he died last year, his obituary in The Dallas Morning News began: “Blackie Sherrod, the greatest Texas sportswriter of his generation or any other, now and forevermore, died Thursday afternoon at age 96.” Kevin Sherrington, a good wordsmith himself, wrote that. Sherrington tells me Blackie’s food tastes tended toward…
 - 04/12/2017
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Video surprise at Stiles Switch BBQ in Austin

With the launch of the new Posse website, we’ll be doing videos including interviews of Texas pitmasters along with “how to” cooking videos. On our trip to Central Texas last week, we shot two of the top pitmasters in the state, Esaul Ramos of 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio and Lance Kirkpatrick of Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew in Austin. We plan to have those interviews posted over the next week or two. When shooting video at a busy BBQ joint you must be prepared for the unexpected, as happened when Gary and Lance were talking about the ever-exploding Austin BBQ scene.…
 - 04/10/2017
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Is 2M Smokehouse turning out the best barbecue in Texas?

Our lunch of brisket, pork ribs, sausage & turkey at 2M Smokehouse. The first thing you see in the pit room at 2M Smokehouse in San Antonio is, of course, the giant smoker. Built by Texas barbecue legend John Lewis, it is named El Mexicano. Next, you notice the big-screen TV, hanging on one wall. Not far away are two outdoor chairs, and a mattress propped against the wall behind. “Our landlord owns a mattress store next door so he gave us a good deal,” Esaul Ramos said. 2M Smokehouse is open Thursday through Sunday, so Ramos and his partner,…
 - 04/08/2017
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Keep an eye on J.Leonardi’s, Cedric Griffin’s new trailer joint on Austin’s Eastside

Cedric Griffin gets ready for a Thursday morning opening at J.Leonardi’s Barbeque in east Austin. Barbecue and football have a lot in common, says Cedric Griffin, the former University of Texas star and NFL veteran who recently opened a trailer joint on Austin’s Eastside with partner Jerome Faulkner. “It’s a mental game,” Griffin explained, referring to cooking and playing ball. “Getting up and preparing yourself every day to be consistent. We have to be consistently good. We have to do our thing and cook our food to our taste.” J.Leonardi’s Barbeque (the J is for Jerome and Leonard is Griffin’s…
 - 04/06/2017
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Inflation watch: Franklin’s barbecue and Austin home prices on same track

All sold out at the original Franklin Barbecue trailer in Nov. 2010. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse) Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins sent me a photo the other day from a trip we made to the original Franklin Barbecue in November of 2010. It shows the front of Aaron Franklin’s little trailer in Austin and his barbecue prices at the time. “Sweet memories,” Wilkins said in his email subject line. Indeed. Franklin then sold his terrific brisket for $13 a pound. Now it’s $20 a pound, a nearly 54 percent increase. Ribs were $11 a pound then; now $17, also a…
 - 11/11/2016
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