Barbecue in Texas has a rich and long heritage, with each point of the compass offering a unique take on slow-smoked goods. Houston, the most populous city in the Lone Star State, is home to dozens of BBQ joints that draw inspiration from all directions. With so much deliciousness to choose from, it can be difficult to actually decide on a restaurant to visit. In this article we’ll try to help out by sharing our top 10 picks for the best BBQ in Houston. Check out the orange-highlighted boxes for helpful tips about signature dishes and unique offerings!
Houston BBQ draws inspiration from a number of nearby areas. Just like ‘Central Texas’ barbecue, Houston is big on beef. That means almost all BBQ joints serve brisket, and several also offer giant ‘dino’ beef ribs. What you won’t find is sauce on beef. Salt, a bunch of pepper, and smoke are all you need to create an amazingly rich bark. And if it’s cooked correctly, the fat should give you all the moisture you need.
Pork ribs are also common in Houston, and the addition of a tomato-based sweet BBQ sauce seems to be acceptable at some spots. You will also come across all sorts of sausages in addition to Tex-Mex and Cajun-inspired dishes. The variety of options is one of the best parts about eating BBQ in Houston – while pitmasters in the area absolutely nail brisket, they also have a whole lot more to offer.
Our Top 10 Best BBQ Joints in Houston
10. Gatlin's BBQ
As two-time winners of the Houston Press Best Barbecue award, Gatlin’s BBQ is no stranger to creating unique, inspired barbecue dishes for local fans and tourists alike. The restaurant was opened in 2010 by Greg Gatlin, and turned into a family affair when his parents were brought on board to lend their culinary expertise.
Gatlin’s BBQ strives to encompass the melting pot that is Houston into their menu, reflecting it in the variety of dishes available. From tender brisket smoked over hickory for at least 12 hours, to dirty rice, creamed corn, and collard greens side dishes, Gatlin’s BBQ mixes Texas-style barbecue with Southern flavors and hospitality. The restaurant itself is a wonderful blend of modern and rustic décor, with a bright, airy feel that makes the wait for food that much more comfortable.
When Life Gives You Lemons – With plates piled high, you’re unlikely to be hungry for dessert after eating at Gatlin’s BBQ – but that doesn’t mean you should miss out! Grab a slice (or two!) of the lemon pound cake; super light, sweet, and tangy, this melt-in-the-mouth treat is the perfect finish to your meal.
9. Burns Original BBQ
Open since 1973, this barbecue joint has a long tradition of East Texas-style food done right. The focus here is on friends and family, with a bright atmosphere and dining suitable for everyone. Relaxed and casual, walking into Burns Original BBQ is like coming home.
While all of the slow-smoked meats are delicious, the Burns signature Original sauce is what really makes this restaurant pop. Smokey, not too spicy, and not too sweet, the sauce brings the taste of Texas to the plate, and is available for purchase to enjoy at home. This BBQ restaurant has a menu that may appear simple, but every item is high quality and chock-full of flavor. With huge helpings of delicious sides too, there’s no walking away from Burns Original BBQ hungry.
Fully Loaded – The must-taste item at this friendly restaurant is the loaded baked potato, which comes with a choice of one or two of the meats prepared in the smoker. Piled high with toppings, the perfectly cooked potato and meat combination is the perfect meal for sampling everything good Burns Original BBQ has to offer.
8. The Brisket House
Open since 2010, this relatively young restaurant serves food that belies its age. The experienced pitmasters at The Brisket House take great pride in their product, slowly smoking meats for a minimum of 16 hours over long-burning oak wood. Each cut is prepared carefully, rubbed with a unique blend of spices that give the meat the signature Brisket House flavor.
The Houston Press praised this restaurant highly, stating that it has “Brisket Done Right.” The attention to detail is considerable, encompassing the handcrafted sides and desserts, homemade for authenticity, and extending to the décor, the friendly atmosphere, and the desire to give every diner an enjoyable and unforgettable experience.
What a Plate – For brisket-lovers, it’s imperative to get the Brisket House Special. Sample up to four different meats at once, served with a slab of cheddar cheese, half an onion, a whole pickle, and a slice of bread. This delicious dish is served on butcher paper for a unique dining experience.
7. Goode Company BBQ
It’s unusual for a larger company to make a Top Ten list, but Goode Company BBQ works hard to ensure that every plate of food is the same high quality you’d find in a smaller restaurant. The company is family owned and operated, first opening in 1977 with the determination to create homemade and handcrafted meats and other dishes that will satisfy a hungry barbecue enthusiast.
The Goode Company appreciates the hard work and continued effort it takes to create amazing food, and it shows in their dedicated and friendly staff. The restaurants are no-frills, casual establishments but are full of charm and incredible food. Goode Company BBQ uses mesquite wood when smoking meats, creating an undeniably strong signature flavor for the restaurant.
Don’t Forget Dessert – While the smoked meats and varied sides are all fantastic, Goode Company BBQ is undoubtedly famous for its delicious pecan pie. Be sure to pick up at least one serving, if not an entire pie, to enjoy later.
6. Jackson Street BBQ
Jackson Street BBQ is the product of two high school buddies who never stopped dreaming of opening their own barbecue restaurant. That dream was realized in 2015, after the pair spent time perfecting their unique flavor and plentiful dishes. The atmosphere inside is stellar, as the duo wanted to create a restaurant with something for everyone for all ages. As such, Jackson Street BBQ is less traditional than some others on the list, but by keeping things modern they have attracted the attention of all different kinds of diners.
The menu itself is quite simple, but packed with barbecue favorites such as brisket, ribs, and chicken. The sides are worth mentioning too, with dishes available for vegetarians, and classic salads and baked potatoes which can be customized to the diner’s preference.
Cheers! – For those of you who love to eat their barbecue with beer, you should definitely head to Jackson Street BBQ. They have 14 different beers readily available on tap for you to sample until you find that perfect match.
5. SouthernQ BBQ and Catering
Created by a husband and wife team, SouthernQ BBQ opened its doors in 2009 and has been going strong ever since. Hugely popular with the local crowd, there is often a wait but service is prompt and the staff are always friendly and welcoming. There’s a real family friendly feel to the place, with the restaurant standing as a cosy joint filled with traditional Texas charm and décor.
Steve was in charge of creating the signature SouthernQ BBQ rub, which is lovingly applied to the cuts of meat an entire 48 hours before low and slow smoking over their wood burning pit. Sherice added a selection of delicious side dishes, taking inspiration from Southern flavors. The two together create a unique menu with great variety, including homemade sausages, southern greens, and Cajun rice.
The Big One – The dish to try at SouthernQ BBQ is absolutely The Big Poppa, a loaded baked potato piled high with three meats – chopped brisket, homemade sausage, and a rib. Not to mention the butter, sour cream, chives, cheddar cheese, and real bacon!
4. Killen's Barbecue
Killen’s is located just outside of Houston in Pearland. It’s a bit of a drive – but as you might expect – totally worth it. This smokehouse is named after Le Cordon Blue-trained chef Ronnie Killen, and the menu reflects his culinary background. While you can definitely go the traditional route by ordering a BBQ platter, you might also want to check out their short rib tamales, Korean sticky ribs, or BBQ boudin balls.
While Killen’s has only been around since 2013, it has become incredibly popular in a short amount of time, with celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger and J.J. Watt heaping praise on this smokehouse. And yes, it makes Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list with a score of 4.5.
‘Dino’ Beef Ribs – Just look at the photo – there’s not much more that needs to be said. A single beef rib is pricey, but absolutely huge! It’s tough to find big beef ribs like this outside of Texas, so take advantage of the opportunity if you are visiting from out of town.
3. Pinkerton's Barbecue
What makes Pinkerton’s Barbecue truly special is its owner, Grant Pinkerton. From a young age, he was passionate about fire and food, a winning combination when it comes to creating delicious barbecue dishes. With no formal training of any kind, Grant has used a combination of traditional family recipes and his own original flavors to create the signature taste only found at Pinkerton’s.
The menu is super simple – just meat, sides, and desserts. Nothing fancy or over-the-top, just high quality food made from scratch every day. Though the restaurant can certainly be a great family location, the bar is open until 12 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, giving Pinkerton’s diners a more adult experience.
Once It’s Gone, It’s Gone! – Pinkerton’s, on occasion, offers up limited-time-only meats available for purchase. Cuts like pork belly, prime beef tenderloin, and cabrito (roast young goat) have all been smoked to perfection by Grant. If you manage to catch one of the specials, make sure you try it before it’s all gone.
2. CorkScrew BBQ
It’s not always easy to get a plate at Corkscrew BBQ – hugely popular with local crowds and super busy, this restaurant has an average ‘sold out’ time of 4pm. Getting in line early and being prepared to wait a little while is essential to get some of that delicious, made-from-scratch food. It’s worth the wait – the menu has something for everyone, including those who eat a vegetarian diet.
Corkscrew BBQ was started as a catering company by Will and Nichole Buckman, a husband and wife duo. After creating incredible barbecue food for church gatherings and charity events, they were persuaded to open a restaurant, and they pride themselves on their backyard BBQ atmosphere. Nothing they serve is gas-grilled; instead all meats are smoked with red oak wood to create their signature flavor.
Both Cuts? – The meat to try is definitely the brisket, which is slow-smoked, tender and moist. Whether you choose the ‘lean’, less fatty cut or the ‘moist’, more marbled cut, both are excellent and will have you coming back for more.
1. The Pit Room
One of the youngest top restaurants, opening their doors in 2016, The Pit Room has demonstrated in a short time that they have the flavor and quality it takes to reach the number one spot. With two custom made barrel-style offset smokers in the pit room, each carefully selected, top-quality cut of meat is smoked over post oak for a traditional flavor that permeates deep.
This restaurant offers the best of two worlds, with Houston-style barbecue served alongside Mexican classics. Portions of tender beef brisket and ribs that fall off the bone are plated with made-from-scratch tortillas, chips and queso, and elote (Mexican grilled corn). If that doesn’t tempt you, how about three different kinds of homemade sausage? All handmade daily for fresh, authentic food.
Move Over, Beef – At The Pit Room, you must try the pork ribs. Each serving offers rich, smoky flavor and a moistness that causes the meat to fall off of the bone. Try them with a side of mustard potato salad or chicharrones with house hot sauce.
Summing Things Up
With a huge variety of meats, sides, and combinations of flavors, there is something to everyone to try in the Houston barbecue scene. While brisket is king in Texas, there’s no shortage of BBQ variety. And be sure to save room for dessert, too!
We hope you enjoyed our best BBQ in Houston top 10 list. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below! Also be sure to check out our previous Kansas City top 10 list for more barbecue travel tips.