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.
Demeris Bar-B-Q slathers meats and fingers with a plethora of tasty barbecue-sauce-laden menu items. Serve a family or a family of squirrels with the barbecue dinner, which pairs one, two, or three sauce-smothered servings of beef, sausage, chicken, ribs, chicken breast, or jalapeño sausage with a choice of two sides ($10.25+). A half-pound patty naps between comfy layers of cheddar cheese, bacon, an onion ring, and a sourdough bun inside the Hoffy burger ($6.95–$8.45, at the Shepherd Drive and Northwest Mall locations only), and butter, sour cream, cheese, and chives shower a hearty baked potato ($4.45). Escort a saucy selection with a side of jalapeño corn, barbecue baked beans, or seasoned green beans ($1.70 each). The mississippi-mud ice-cream pie helps patrons cool down their spice-slathered taste buds without sky diving with their mouths open ($4.60).
You can tell a good barbecue joint when one of its menu sections is titled simply "Meat." These meats slay the bland and defend the savory. Smoked for hours in a solid brick pit (originally built in 1934), Pizzitola's beef brisket melts into your plate, while the chicken turns buttery soft beneath skin cracked and crisped. The rough-textured sausage, made as it has been for years by two Czech brothers in Cistern, sidles up well against pinto beans and mustardy potato salad. The family-style meal includes a full pound of sliced (or chopped) beef brisket, half pound of sausage, half pound of sliced pork, half of a chicken, a side of barbecue sauce, and one pint each of pinto beans, potato salad, and coleslaw.
Gil’s Bar-B-Q's cuisine creators dish out a mélange of barbecued meat that can be read about on the straightforward menu. Flavorify mouths with a sweet sampling of Gil’s slow-cooked meats—including beef, chicken breast, sausage, ham, turkey breast, and pork ribs ($3.75+)—are doused in a cascade of Gil’s scrumptious barbecue nectar. The kitchen staff delicately bakes each meat in a wall-sized wood-burning pit to sizzle a juicy delicacy and stamp it with smoky flavors and a “Made by Gil’s” tattoo. The dinner plate (starting at $4.95) presents patrons with one meat and a choice between two sides such as coleslaw crafted from Gil’s family recipe or onion rings that accost the palate with flaky goodness. Guests can complete dining fests with a number of Gil’s other taste-bud-enticing items such as salads, burgers, wings, and desserts. Patrons can settle into the laid-back diner outfitted with green-backed booths and an eclectic mesh of pennants tacked along the walls to prevent them from tickling nearby ceiling fans.