If the Aue family didn’t put Texas on the map, they at least made it tastier. Max Aue founded the town of Leon Springs, Texas in the 1800s. Years later, his son Rudolph founded Rudy’s, a country store and barbecue joint that eventually spawned more than 30 outposts throughout Texas and the American Southwest. Each one of them possesses a 100% oak-fired BBQ pit that slow cooks tender slabs of meat, adding a smoky flavor and tender texture to every bite. St. Louis pork ribs, lean and moist brisket, and jalapeño sausages are a few examples of the succulent morsels that emerge from the wood-fired pits straight to the plate. Classic sides such as potato salad and corn on the cop prove delicious accomplices, while banana pudding and peach cobbler grant every meal with a sweet and satisfying coda.
It's hard to pigeon-hole the cuisine of Texas into just one style of food. The large state is home to people from a wide range of cultures, and its cuisine reflects these Mexican, German, Creole, African, and Native American influences. In order to show off the true flavors of Texas, Texas Mesquite Grill's owner, Austin Yates, opted to serve everything from rib eyes hot off the mesquite grill to sizzling enchiladas to chicken-fried steak.
Whether it's a Texas quail kissed with a chipotle glaze or fish tacos flecked with a creole sauce, no dish truly evokes the flavors of Texas until it's paired with a beer, so Texas Mesquite Grill serves up 21 different beers on draft. The bartenders even make a version of their classic margarita with a splash of Corona, creating a beachy drink that's more refreshing than a tall glass of water with salt poured into it.
JJ's Cluckers satiates poultry-loving palates with an extensive menu of flavorsome fowl served in a fun and family-oriented setting. Warm up incisors with pickle chips—battered and fried dill slices served with ranch dressing ($5.25)—before treating taste buds to sauce-soused wings ($7.99 for 10 bone-in wings). Liquid wing enhancers range from the silky-smooth honey barbecue to the hotter chipotle to the scorching code 5150, which provides an epicurean experience akin to hacky sacking a lava rock with your tongue.
Texas Rib Factory’s sugarless barbecue sauce gilds the edges of beef brisket, juicy ribs, and sausage. Inside the deep fryer, catfish and chicken take on a crispy, golden-brown hue, ready to be paired with southern sides such as fried okra and housemade potato salad.
When husband-and-wife team Otto and Annie Sofka first founded Otto's Barbecue and Hamburgers in 1950, they never dreamed barbecue would become the meat and potatoes of the family's livelihood. The small corner grocery store specialized in canned and boxed goods—that is until Annie started cooking up hamburgers at the request of hungry regulars. As the popularity of Annie’s burgers grew, the store’s shelves were cleared out to make room for tables and chairs to accommodate the growing lines of customers. Within two years, the Sofkas were officially in the burger business. By the ’60s, they were ready to add old family barbecue recipes to the menu, and Otto’s has been a favorite pit stop for Houston barbecue lovers ever since.
Three generations have now manned the kitchen at Otto’s, satisfying customers as varied as George Bush Sr., Liberace, and George Foreman with barbecue that has been smoked in a hickory grill for 18 hours. Chefs pair seven meat choices, including beef brisket, slow-smoked pork ribs, and sausage links, with a range of homestyle sides and giant stuffed potatoes, creating full meals that showcase the flavors of the South better than an art installation built from chicken-fried steaks. The chefs at Otto’s also serve up their own line of bottled sodas, ensuring enough frothy root beer, orange soda, and cream soda to wash down the saucy eats.
The cuisine team at Brisket Bar-BQ grills up a menu chock-full of down-home barbecue fare. Ravenous guests can quench hunger with a brisket barbecue sampler ($10.25) or a plate of shred-ready ribs ($9.25), each of which arrives with a choice of two sides—beans, potato salad, coleslaw, Cajun rice, fries, mashed potatoes, or corn. Brisket Bar-BQ also concocts succulent barbecue chicken and turkey baked potatoes buttressed by a blend of butter, cheese, sour cream, bacon, and chives ($7.25), plus hearty homemade chili ($4.45), which is emphatically ladled into large, hand-warming bowls.