One of the great things about full-day barbecue tours is the time it allows for important, spirited debates about important issues.
Some of the topics we've addressed: Is it ever worth making a special stop at a joint that advertises on a highway billboard? (No.) Should you make an impromptu stop at a place that has "Soulman" in its name? (Probably not. They're trying too hard.) Can "great" sausage ever truly compare to "great" brisket? (No. We need a new grading system for sausage.)
On our East Texas tour last weekend, we got into a new hot topic.
"Someone needs to call out Texas Monthly on its Top 50 BBQ joints" one Posse member said as we were driving back to Dallas after eating at five places. Four of them were Texas Monthly Top 50 picks in 2008, the last rankings. Two cooked with wood (Stanley's in Tyler and Baby J's in Palestine) and two with gas (Stacy's in Jacksonville and Cripple Creek in Athens).
To us, there was no comparison. In taste, the guys with the gas-fired smokers didn't come close to the guys using all wood.
"They should have separate lists," someone said of Texas Monthly.
"They shouldn't include the gas guys," another said.
"They should at least tell you when the place uses gas," another said. "What does it take to walk to the back of the joint and check out the pit?"
None of the criticisms were uttered lightly. We consider Texas Monthly's once-every-five-years ranking the bible of Texas barbecue. And, we love going to Lambert's in Austin. We just don't consider it a true BBQ place.
So, Texas Monthly, consider yourself called out.
Photos by Chris Wilkins & Jeff Haynes