Here’s a few tried and true tips for making sure you look like a local rather than an amateur as you venture out to the Texas BBQ Trail:
1. Throw your dining etiquette out the window! Most authentic Texas BBQ joints don’t believe in plates or forks. Or barbecue sauce for that matter. (Hide your surprise to appear less like an amateur…BBQ pitmasters equate using sauce on their brisket like putting Heinz 57 on a filet mignon…the highest insult.) Meat comes served on large sheets of butcher paper. You will be expected to eat it with your hands. I promise it tastes better this way. Come prepared with clean hands and bring wet naps for post-chowdown.
2. Carry cash. Many smaller joints do not take credit cards. While they usually have ATMs on premise, you don’t want to wait in line for cash AND barbecue.
3. Get there early! While the infamous lines at Franklin’s BBQ have been reported in every blog, newspaper article, and online review, BBQ restaurants are experiencing a surge in popularity across the board. Barbecue is one of the ‘trendy’ foods right now, and people are lining up across the state. When planning your itinerary, make sure you plan to hit the more popular spots first. On the weekends, arrive before opening time if you want to assure that you will get your first taste without the wait. As the day goes on, especially after 12:30 or so, expect delays. But sometimes the lines, with people from all over the country and a cold Lone Star, can be half the fun! And give your food time to settle.
4. Skip the bread. Bread is not a highpoint of Texas BBQ. Most places only offer slices of white bread, compliments of SaraLee. Conserve your stomach space and save it for the good stuff. Another tip: IF you are on a mission to try multiple BBQ places in one day, ordering in moderation is key!
-1/4lb. of beef brisket: tasting for 3 people
-One pork rib each.
-One half-link of sausage to share. Don’t miss out on the Jalapeno-Cheddar!
-If it’s a place known for their beef ribs like La Barbecue or Black’s…well you might as well toss in the towel now. Or make friends. One beef rib can easily be sampled by 4-5 people. Plan on getting a to-go box and saving it for a sandwich tomorrow. Which brings me to my next point…
5. Bring to-go containers. I mentioned no plates and no forks, right? Well that usually means no plethora of to-go boxes either. And while the butcher paper works great as a temporary plate, there’s no guarantee the juices will stay inside the paper no matter how carefully you craft it into a seemingly perfect replica of Rubbermaid. Bring plastic containers or heavy-duty Ziploc bags to store your goodies. It might even be a good idea to bring a Sharpie to mark where each is from…after a while all the briskets, while not created equal, do start to look the same.
6. Eat something sweet. While we recommended skipping the carb-laden loaf of bread, your taste buds do need some variety! Like having crackers to cleanse the palate between wine tastings, your taste buds will thank you for indulging in a little sugar between heavy doses of red meat. I recommend the Smoked Peach Cobbler at Brisket Boy’s BBQ or a slice of Buttermilk Pie at Micklethwait’s Craft Meats.
7. Be responsible. I know, I know, what a boring piece of advice that no one wants to hear! But the truth is, while a day of BBQ tasting is an exciting way to spend time with good friends or family members that don’t get on your nerves, many choose to enhance the experience with a cold adult beverage. And while nothing brings out the flavor of Texas BBQ like Texas beer (Lone Star or Shiner anyone?) please drink responsibly. If you know your group likes to indulge, or if no one likes to organize, you should check out our Texas BBQ Trail tour. We take you to all the best BBQ spots, give you scandalous family feuds and local lore along the way, and you don’t have to be bothered with the planning or the responsibility of being behind the wheel. So load up a cooler and come join us! Tours run every Friday and Sunday beginning at 10:00am.