Two days of Texas BBQ, Luling, Lockhart, Austin. and Houston

Nancy and I got to Texas, went to Rainbow Lodge (see discussion) on a Friday night, and then drove west to eat barbecue Saturday and Sunday. We hit four Top 50 places and one other, with a side ice cream break.
Our first stop was my favorite from way back when, the City Market in Luling. The brisket and sausage were just as great as I remembered.

Not a great photo.

The sausage – regular sausage, no additions – was breathtaking, and the brisket was first class.

We made a quick stop at Smitty’s, mainly because Nancy is appalled by the open fire right by the line. It was underwhelming.

That night, after a break for an !!k walk through Austin, we went to Terry Black’s. I’d solicited Daniel Vaughn’s recommendation for a place to go on a Game Day (at home vs UT) with manageable lines. Great brisket, very good sausage, but not so good ribs. And Black’s has a wonderful new development in line management.

That’s dinner for 3 – we treated a nephew who’s at UT (thus the sandwich).
The next morning we went, again on Daniel Vaughn’s recommendation for a place for breakfast, to Valentina’s Tex Mex on the south edge of Austin. Great place. Daniel suggested I order the Real Deal Holyfield breakfast taco, so I did. Nancy ordered the potato egg, and cheese tac with brisket, and I ordered one with chorizo.

Wow! Here’s a close up of the brisket, which was delicious

and here’s the chorizo

Everything was superb. the Real Del Holyfield was a kaleidoscope of flavors, each bite a different mix of flavors. The physical space could use some work, I admit, especially on a cold morning, but I loved it.
Then an early dinner Saturday with family at Pinkerton’s in Houston.

Another big hit. More great brisket, extraordinary turnkey, and the pork ribs were much better than those at Black’s --actually good. Ribs are not a Texas strength, frankly. Texas brisket on the other hand, is the standard, and is their beef sausage. A great trip. I wanna go back.
I posted reviews of each place on my Blog (johntannersbbqblog) with a lot more detail.


wow John, truly impressive! I can’t eat bbq day-over-day like that any more. Anyhow, my experience is there’s enough variation day-to-day, even brisket-to-brisket, that it’s hard to pick a preference between the hill country restaurants you visited. Also, I was shocked how underrated hill country ribs are, simply prepared with salt, coarsely ground pepper and no sauce. In fact, now we always keep a bag of 16 mesh pepper in the pantry.

i’ve never been willing to brave the franklin line. my brother recently played a poker tournament there and managed to order in advance, thinking I have to give that a try.



My husband is an alum of both UT-Austin and UT-Houston. He’s going to cry tears of joy and sadness (for not being there anymore) when I show him this post.


Vinous pleasure. –
“i’ve never been willing to brave the franklin line.”

The last I heard, you could make an appointment to pick it up, but 3 pounds was the minimum order. You need a group for that. I’m not good with lines. Terry Black’s innovation makes it a lot easier
Oh, and Nancy gets a Lifetime Real Trooper Award for putting up with it.

you definitely married well John! No way my wife goes for that much bbq but to be honest, tough for me to eat bbq two days in a row these days.

Three pounds…maybe with the help of your nephew? the first time I went to lockhart I stopped at all three places…could it have been three pounds? maybe. But that was 30 years ago when I could eat like nobody’s business.

I’ve heard houston has evolved into a fantastic, diverse eating city. we have nephew there, thinking a visit is is in order.

btw, great photos!



Thanks for the report John. I used to say I’d burned out on (Central) Texas Q. That was a decade or so ago and it still holds. I still don’t find it very compelling, but I appreciate your report. City Mkt/Luling was my overall fave back then, Black’s for brisket, mainly, although I did like their simple sausage. I haven’t been to any of the newer ones in Lockhart or Austin.

I have only been to The Pit Room and Gatlin’s in Houston, never Pinkerton’s, Blood Bros., or the one up in Tomball. I found Killen’s over-rated but I only went to pop-ups before he took over the old schoolhouse and settled in.

Very true. But also true, to a lesser extent, of other large cities except maybe Ft. Worth. The touristy thing is BBQ, Tex-Mex, Steak still, I guess. But foodies can and should go far beyond that.

actually, I never thought of houston as a great bbq city but maybe I have that wrong.

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The scene here has changed a lot in the last 5 years but I’ll leave that judgement up to you.

Truth is one other I’ve not been to, although I went to the original in … uh, Brenham?

Houston is amazingly diverse, the 2d most diverse city in the US after Los Angeles, and the food options are infinite. I spent a fair amount of time there doing voting rights work on behalf of East Asian and Latino citizens and loved the food, although often others would order and I’d have little idea what I was eating in the Korean and Vietnamese places . There was a lot of, “don’t order that, he’s Anglo and won’t like it” to which I always responded “yes I will.”

And the barbecue scene has picked up in Houston in recent years, as it has all across Texas. It was pretty good when I was working there, but nothing like the great places in Lockhart and Luling – and Lexington

I thought of going to Truth in Brenham on the ay back to Houston, but our big breakfast at Valentina’s ruled that out.


I just found out that both Valentina’s Tex Mex and Vera’s Backyard BBQ, re: both of which I blogged recently, are the Top 2 on Texas Monthly’s Best 15 Tex Mex Bites list as wells the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ list. Just sayin’.


Indeed I did. Most men marry up, but I married WAY up

I was told by a friend that the minimum order at Franklin was 3 pounds. That requires a crowd to eat it all. I suppose they may have changed.

There are flights every day! He should look at the posts, especially the City Market in Luling and Valentinas, for additional photos that capture two parts of Texas. And Vera’s Backyard in Brownsville